Last year Iowa was set to play an NCAA tournament game in Raleigh if they won against Tennessee. I was very excited as I was going to be in the town anyway, and also spent several hours doing a write up of the area for BHGP. The Hawkeyes rewarded my efforts by promptly losing their game, and never even coming as close as a flyover of the area. Rather than let this work go to waste I asked (i.e. begged) the staff of BHGP to let me reword the article for the game against North Carolina. So, without further ado, I present to you a Hawkeye fan’s guide to the area.
"Hey wait a minute, who’s this guy writing? This isn’t Patrick, Ross, Jacobi or any of the other writers on this site that actually have talent."
OK, you make a valid point. Here is what I can offer you though for qualifications:
- I lived in the Chapel Hill area for 12 years.
- I served as president of the Iowa alumni association for nine of them.
During that time I learned a thing or two about the area, and I am ready to pass that information onto you. Let me start off by saying this is a great area for a game. College football truly takes a backseat to college basketball in this part of the country, and the locals will be fully aware of Iowa’s presence. So I present to you the only guide you’ll need for your visit to this part of North Carolina.
The area is comprised of three major cities: Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh. You will often hear the area referred to as The Triangle. If you’re flying in you’ll notice the airport in the center of this insanity.
These are the three most popular places to visit in the area. There is another city on the map that you can see called Cary. This area is often referred to as Containment Area for Relocated Yankees. (Apparently, some people are still bitter about the civil war.) It’s a large city with almost 150,000 residents. The town motto for Cary is "no plot of land goes undeveloped." However, unless you have a fascination for strip malls you can save this city for another visit.
If you’re spending time in the town in addition to going to the game all you need to know is how to get to Franklin Street. Consider this the ped mall of Chapel Hill. Except instead of a square this is a long street, and comes equipped with more pan handlers as well. Don’t let that scare you away though this is a great place to visit.
University of North Carolina – Yes, I know you’ll be there for the game, but definitely take a stroll on the campus if you like checking out college scenery. There are some pretty cool stone monuments on your left as you enter Chapel Hill on Franklin Street. This is the starting point to the heart of Franklin Street, and a good point to start looking for a parking spot if you’re hanging out.
Top of the Hill – Often referred to as TOPO (pronounced TOP-OH) by the locals this bar/restaurant is a must stop visit if you’re on Franklin Street even if you’re not interested in getting a drink (and you call yourself a Hawk fan). Stepping out onto the balcony there is a wonderful view overlooking Franklin Street. Take a visit even if you only stop by for the view.
Other bar/restaurants of note in the area:
He’s Not Here – One of the older drinking holes in the area, since 1972, it is also home to the blue cup which you are allowed to take with you as a souvenir. One of the stories behind the name of this place is that girlfriends/wives would call looking for their boyfriends/husbands only to be told "he’s not here". Ok, it’s not a very good story, but it is a story nonetheless.
Time Out – After you have been out celebrating Iowa’s win until the bars closed at 2:00 AM you may find yourself hungry. What can you do? There isn’t a Pancheros within sight. Not to worry Time Out is open 24 hours a day every day. If you go I recommend getting the bag of bones. This is essentially a bag of half eaten chicken for only $3. Well, technically it’s not half eaten. It just looks like it. Basically, you’re paying $3 for an experience and a story. In other words, a wise investment. (Side note: This place was featured on Man vs. Food)
Since this site is for Hawk fans let’s get to the most important question of the visit.
"Where are the best places to drink around here?"
Great question, there are a plethora of places to get good beer in the area, but if you’re only in town for a few days the place you must visit is Flying Saucer in Raleigh. For those of you familiar with Old Chicago think of this place as Old Chicago on steroids. The Saucer, as it’s known in these parts, has over 85 taps, and is constantly rotating them. One of the first things you’ll notice upon entry is a ton of plates on the wall and ceiling, and if you look about the entry you’ll see this one:
These plates are part of Flying Saucer’s UFO club. To get a plate one must drink 200 different beers. You can then start over, and get a second plate by drinking 200 more. Some people have several plates. The highest number of plates owned by any one person is 26. That is not a typo.
Feel free to pay a visit to my plate. It’s on the ceiling on the left hand side of the bar #1473 right next to #1472 which has a Wisconsin badger on it. This is my girlfriend’s plate, but feel free to throw spit balls at Bucky. He has it coming.
They only give you credit for three beers a day so don’t bother trying to get your plate in one weekend. However, if you feel like having 200 beers for fun…knock yourself out. Actually, you probably will be knocked out at some point if you attempt this feat.
Special insider tip: If you’re there until Sunday the Saucer has $3.50 North Carolina pints.
"Sounds cool, but where should a Hawk fan go that wants the most bang for their buck?"
If you’re staying through the weekend you’re in luck. There are two beer tours you can visit that run every Saturday at 1:00. Unfortunately, you will need to pick one or the other as they are not close to each other.
This tour is free. Get there just a bit before one, and you will be given a free pint immediately. The tour will then start, and the taps are shut off during this time. Once the tour is over the taps are turned on, and you can drink as much as you can handle for the next hour. Yes, this is free.
Triangle Brewery: This tour costs $3 and cash is appreciated. The $3 isn’t really for them to make money, but rather to keep the riff raff out. It used to be a free tour, but trust me, the $3 is well worth it for a more enjoyable experience. For the first half hour you can drink to your hearts content. The tour will then start, and the taps will be shut down during this time. Once the tour is over the taps are turned on, and you can drink as much as you can handle for the next hour.
Both breweries are a decent drive from Chapel Hill. Allow yourself at least 45 minutes. The tours will be about two hours total including drinking time. One more note, on the tour do not be the dumbass that keeps asking annoying questions. By annoying I mean any question at all. The tour does not end until after all questions are done. So unless you want everyone to hate you, and they will, save your questions for after the tour.
"This is great information. What if I have other goals besides getting drunk during this trip?"
I suppose there are a few Hawk fans like this out there. We will refer to them as the one percenters. Here are some additional points of interest for your trip, and yes there will be more drinking holes listed. I guess you can suspect how most of my 12 years in the area was spent.
First off, if you go to Durham make sure you know where you’re going. There are definitely places you don’t want to run out of gas in. They are far worse than even the seediest area of University Heights. That being said, here are a couple places worth visiting.
Durham Bulls Stadium – Yes, it’s THAT Durham Bulls. It’s a great place to see a ball game, but unfortunately it’s not that time of year. However, if you’re a baseball aficionado it’s worth checking out. It’s also right next to Durham’s tobacco district. This is a traditionally older part of town which has been renovated over the past few years, and has some great restaurants. Officially, you are not a real city unless you have one of these areas. Tyler’s Tap is a good bar in this area which features about 50 taps. (I told you I wasn’t done with bars yet)
Duke University – If you’re a fan of visiting college campuses this is a good one to see. It is a very nice campus, and you can even stop by Krzyzewskiville where all the asshats wait for their tickets to see a bunch of douchebags play basketball.
Too harsh you say? Some of you may not remember the two consecutive years Iowa was knocked out of the NCAA tourney. We will never forget and we will never forgive. That being said take a stop by Duke Gardens if you’re in the neighborhood. This is a very popular spot for wedding photos due to the nice scenery.
Now for the biggest part of the triangle, the city of Raleigh, home to the NC State Wolfpack. While Duke and UNC are better known nationally there are no short supply of Wolfpack fans in the area. In the area they are every bit as popular as either the Tarheels or Blue Devils. While these UNC and Duke have beautiful campuses NC State has the pleasure of being consistently rated one of the ugliest campuses in the country. However, if you are a fan of red brick buildings you may weep to the point of shattering.
Restaurants – There are a ton of great restaurants in Raleigh. Far too many to list in one article. These are a few of my favorites which are unique for different reasons.
Angus Barn – The premier steakhouse in Raleigh. The name barn is not just a catchy title. This place used to be a barn, and makes no attempt to hide it either. A lot of celebrities have visited this place, and you will see plenty of pictures. This was also the restaurant where Peyton Manning’s receipt was tweeted after he tipped the server an additional $200. If you decide to go there to celebrate an Iowa win I highly recommend reservations. It fills up fast, and bring your credit card. It’s a unique experience, but not a cheap one.
The Pit – If there’s one type of food Carolinians take pride in it’s their BBQ. Asking a native their thoughts on the best type of BBQ is like asking their thoughts on gun control. They will have a strong opinion. There are plenty of good BBQ places, but this one is my favorite. It’s relatively new, and was also featured on Man vs. Food. It is more upscale than most of the BBQ shacks, but is very reasonably priced. Reservations would not be a bad idea here either, but you may be able to eat at the bar if the restaurant area is full.
The Roast Grill – Ok, are you getting tired of all these nice places to eat? If so, Roast Grill will be right up your alley. Established in 1940 the Roast Grill is a dive to end all dives. It makes Hamburg Inn look like a restaurant where you have to tip the guy in the bathroom to hand you some Brut after shave. You can find the restaurant here, but it is easy to miss as it is very tiny. Look for this sign.
Hours are 11 AM – 4 PM Monday through Saturday, and that is it. So if you want to visit you’ll need to plan for it. Make sure you bring cash too, as they do not accept bitcoin. Did mention they were on Man vs. Food?
"If I happen to be in Raleigh for the weekend where should I go to celebrate the Hawkeye win?"
Fortunately, there are a lot of places you can go. I already mentioned a few, but if you feel like checking out the area and walking around there are two areas I recommend.
Glenwood Avenue – Similar to Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, but has more high end establishments and caters more to professionals. Glenwood is a long street so click on the map to know exactly which area I’m talking about. There are also some good establishments right off the street too so don’t be afraid to wander a bit the weather should be nice this weekend. In general it’s a pretty safe area as there are a lot of people on the weekend. Parking can suck though so don’t be afraid to search on the side streets.
Fayetteville Street area – OK, this is not an exact map, but it will get you in the general vicinity. A lot of nice more upscale bars here built more for professionals. They don’t tend to have any covers you have to pay, but drinks can be a bit higher priced. One bar I will mention in this area is the Raleigh Times mainly because it was listed as the most popular bar in North Carolina according to foursquare. Personally, I just think it’s OK, but it definitely has a loyal fan base. Very similar to Joe’s Place in those regards, but with better bathrooms. They do have free ramps in this area, but make sure you mark which one you used because they have four ramps in a very close area that look exactly the same. If you forget which ramp you parked in…may God have mercy on your soul.
This should be more than enough to keep you busy for a few days. If you have any additional questions feel free to post in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them. Also, the Iowa alumni club is having a meet up at Carolina Brewery which is on Franklin street before the game. You do not need to be an alumni to attend. All Hawkeyes are welcome here. It starts at 5:00, and the restaurant provides free shuttles starting at 6:15 as long as you buy food. I’ve been told the shuttle will take 30 to 35 minutes to get to the game due to the traffic. Parking will be a pain so allow yourself plenty of time to get there.