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In the name of full disclosure, I have to tell you that this is far and away my favorite restaurant in Chapel Hill. Before I even moved here, my DH (who was then my boyfriend) and I tried this place out. As I took my first bite of the salty, steamed fish over bok choy and rice I thought I could live here. Then when my teeth sunk into the hot chocolate cake I knew I was going to live here to eat at Lantern whenever I wanted.
I am not the only person who feels this way about this restaurant. After all, the chef here, Andrea Reusing, has won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast. Gourmet magazine names it one of the top 50 restaurants in America. Really, check out the press on this place. It is all over.
The cuisine is a twist on Asian - upscale, modern, integrating local and fresh ingredients as much as possible, with some creative twists. Honestly, the menu hasn't changed much in the 6+ years we've been going here. They do rotate in some seasonal dishes, but overall you can expect to find the same entrees when you come here. That's ok. Because when they did take my steamed fish off the menu for awhile I was not a happy camper. However, they do offer a great variety of specials every night that really shine. So you're not bound to be bored.
This place is not cheap, of course, but it isn't going to be the most expensive spot on Franklin Street either. Estimate a 3-course meal with wine and tip at $75/person (entrees are around $30). You can, of course, go cheaper than this if you cut out the wine and cocktails. But why would you want to? The wine selection is fabulous, staff can always recommend a good pairing, and the cocktail menu is incredibly fun (I am a big fan of the Junebug).
The place is smaller than you might imagine, very intimate, and can be a wait. They do not take reservations for parties under 6 persons. But DH and I have never had to wait too terribly long. Then, we are parents to a toddler so we tend to go out to eat way early (leave the kiddos at home for this trip, parents, way more fun for you). Regardless, there is a swanky, beautiful back bar that serves the full menu and is first-come, first-serve.
Enjoy this Chapel Hill gem!
423 West Franklin StreetChapel Hill, NC 27516