May 2019

Dear Crook's family,

Happy mid-May in Chapel Hill. One of the many things to love about living in this sweet town is the seasonal change. I am not only speaking of the change in weather that brings bounty to the Farmers' Market, but also of the ebb and flow of population. Every August it is exciting to see the students flood into town, and every May their exodus creates a lovely, peaceful quietude. This is what we are celebrating for the next several weeks at Crook's: the hum of crickets instead of traffic, the ease of parking, and the long hours of daylight for patio dining.

To help you feel the full effects of late spring we have Honeysuckle Sorbet and Soft Shell Crabs on the menu. Bill took Justin flower-picking last week and thus has passed on one of his most iconic springtime creations to the next generation.

The next generation of sophisticated Chapel Hill foodies couldn't be happier. "It's sparklefantastic" said one young diner last night, while another contemplated how this must be what clouds taste like. Yeah, maybe it is.

New this weekend is Lady Edison pork tenderloin - grilled with kohlrabi, apples, rhubarb, and mustard. It will be perfect with a glass of rosé on the patio.

Also, Justin added fried hot-chicken terrine to his charcuterie board along with cucumbers pickled in Wyatt Dickson's Pig Whistle BBQ sauce.

I would like to send out congratulations to two of our stellar staff members who have just graduated from UNC. Kestrel and Alec have worked at Crook's throughout most of their undergraduate studies, and we couldn't be more proud of their hard work here and in school. When you see them wish them luck in their bright futures!

Another member of our staff, Sebastian Eli-York, is off to intern with Massimo Baturo in Italy this summer. We can't wait for updates on life in an Italian kitchen. Buon viaggio, Seb!

You can continue to make reservations on Resy either at our website or through their app.

Thank you for your continued friendship and patronage. As always, you are why we do what we do.


Susie Williamson

April 2019

Dear Crook's family,

As I write this, I am sitting out on the Crook's patio, taking in a beautiful, post-storm day. I hope you have enjoyed it, too. Gene's gorgeous garden is really doing its thing right now--one can practically watch the bamboo shoots growing.

He even let Justin harvest some of the bamboo, which was then pickled and placed on the windowsill behind the bar. 

Food is so beautiful.

Bamboo pickles have not made it onto the menu yet, but there are some new dishes to check out. We have Grilled Asparagus from Lyon's Farm which Justin tops with country ham and a poached egg. It's classic, and heavenly. Also from Lyon's Farm are the first spring strawberries. You will find them in a salad with feta cheese and shaved radishes. 

We have a few new entrees as well. The Pan-seared NC Tuna is served with ramps, spring onions, capers, and olives over roasted potatoes and red pepper purée; and be sure to try the Grilled Chicken Thighs with spring vegetables, pate-a-choux dumplings, and a rich, brown sauce with tomato: 

I have had both; they are delicious.

Even though food is what we do, it's not all that we do. We are incredibly proud to be a part of the Crook's Corner Book Prize, currently in its 7th year. The submission deadline for the Prize is fast approaching. This year's judge is Charles Frazier, author of such literary landmarks as Cold Mountain and Varina. Given for the best debut novel set in the American South, the $5000 prize has helped launch an impressive list of emerging writers. As a special bonus, the winner is entitled to a free glass of wine at Crook's every day for a year. May 15 is the deadline, so if you have an eligible book, be sure to enter it. See more about the prize and submission details at

Another deadline also approaches. We are in the running for Best Southern Food Restaurant in the Triangle for the INDY Awards. Please consider placing your vote for Crook's on the INDY website any time before May 5th. It would be an honor to win a local award like this, and we really want one of those posters! (Remember when Gayle was on it that one time?!!) 

We can't wait to serve you delicious food soon. Come and get it.

Thank you for your continued friendship and patronage. As always, you are why we do what we do.

Susie Williamson

April 2019

Dear Crook's family,

Well, April rolled in with all the beauty and sunshine of spring, (and a nice, light rain to wash that pollen out of the air). Gene is hard at work in the garden to get it ready for another season of outdoor dining. Try to catch him at it one of these days - he knows the names of all of these plants and how to grow them.

Bill took Justin to the Carrboro Farmers' Market this week to meet some growers and makers in the community, and he came back inspired and excited to put some spring food on your plates. Look for that to start happening this weekend and into next week. I will send out pictures as they appear.

There's a lot going on in our community right now:

Justin and Bill along with several other local chefs will be cooking for the NC chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier this Sunday evening, April 7. The "Dudes for Dames" event benefits the NC Junior Chef Competition, and No Kid Hungry in memory of Karen Barker.

FRANK gallery holds their 9th annual 'Off the Wall Gala' at the Sienna Hotel this Saturday night. Your ticket purchase supports their community outreach, and arts education. It may be tricky to go to both, but whichever one you attend, we will be there with you.

I encourage all of you to come by this month to see Jake Brower's lovely paintings. Each one holds a story.

Speaking of stories, please continue to share yours to It has been such a pleasure to read what you have sent in, and I look forward to even more. Here's one of my favorite moments -- someone left a handful of stick-on mustaches on the table along with the server's tip, and we all became instantly more handsome.

Remember to make your online reservations through Resy.

Thank you for your continued friendship and patronage. As always, you are why we do what we do.


Susie Williamson

March 2019

Dear Crook's family,

Having experienced the highs and lows of the basketball variety, it's time to prepare for the next round with fortification of the belly-filling variety. We do that here - strengthen the spirit with the most delicious means. We've added Cottonbell from Boxcarr Handmade Cheese to our cheese plate, and the Bold Salad with its winter lettuce, pickled veggies, and blue cheese will make you sit up straight and declare your love for vegetables. We may long for the bounty of summer at this time of the year, but pickles will carry us through to the end of winter the way they are meant. Our oysters on the half shell are Old Salts from Virginia - small, briny, and delicious.

As I mentioned in the last letter, Crook's turns 37 this month, and I have a special request of you on this birthday occasion-

Tell me a story.

Most of you signed up for this newsletter because you have been to Crook's Corner and you liked what happened here. Tell me about it. I am gathering your stories about Crook's because, considering our age and the colorful nature of our beloved customers, this is a true gold mine. Really that's what life is all about - taking our shared experiences (at Crook's Corner) and creating connections. I'll even give you a couple of options: you can email them to me at or you can use the hashtag #crookscornerstories when you post to Instagram and Facebook. These stories can be happy, sad, contemplative, or bawdy - anything goes - but keep them sharable (and please don't incriminate yourself or anyone else that we love!). Aliases are fine - whatever helps you to be honest, and forthright.

And while you're at it, stop in to create a few new stories.

We are now taking reservations for Mother's Day and Graduation Weekend.

The weather is getting patio-ish. You'd better take advantage of it.

Thank you for your continued friendship and patronage. As always, you are why we do what we do.



February, 2018

Hello Friends,
February is short but it has 3 important events; Mardi Gras, Valentine's Day and Louis St. Lewis's annual art show already up on our walls, transporting the Chapel Hill dining room into a New Orleans state of mind.. 
Maybe you noticed, too, this trending-thing suggesting winter is a good time to cultivate what the Danish call Hygge ("hoo-ga") and the Scottish call Cossagach, which translates to the feeling of being snug, sheltered, or cozy. Comfort food sure does this for everyone; making one happy as a pig in mud and Crook's can give this to you in the form of a delicious cocktail and/or a casual, tasty supper this time of year.

So here are 8 things to help us get Hygge, Cossagach or Southern Comfort. 

1/ OrderBill Smith's Fried Oysters for yourself or to share. Squeeze on some lemon or hot sauce or go full-into the luscious garlic mayonnaise.

2/ Let us make you a Chapel Hill or Frozen Mint Julep. 

3 Have a plate of our signature Shrimp & Grits.

4/ Let the Madeira Sauce cover your first bite of CheesePork!, the Southern Schnitzel made with a pork cutlet dredged in Swiss cheese and pan fried - only served at Crook's. 

5/ Savor the Bourbon Brown Sauce covering your first bite of steak and fries, knowing that many satisfying bites are to follow. 

6/ Hang out at the bar for good conversation, satisfying beverages and delicious food. It's also a good place to watch the game. 

7/ Say yes to dessert: Mt. Airy Chocolate Souffle Cake, with freshly whipped cream. Or warm Persimmon Pudding. Soon to arrive is Bill Smith's favorite Banana's Foster and Whiskey Milk Punch Ice Cream. 

8/ Linger a while and enjoy a Hot Chocolate or Espresso with a side car of whatever you like; a nice bourbon always goes well with both.

Housekeeping note: We are still taking reservations by phone, and always will, but have added an on-line option linked to the front of our website. If there are no OpenTable reservations available, please do call us, as we do save space for walk-ins and often have last-minute cancellations as well. If you're seeking Valentine's Day ressies, call or click quick, they're filling up fast!

So you know, what's on for Valentine's is, by tradition, and by customer request, our full, Crook's Corner menu. Though we do dress-up the desserts with extra cream and candies. 

MARDI GRAS MENU begins February 13. This Louisiana  menu is Bill Smith's and many of you all's favorite. On this exciting menu is both Red Gumbo and Gumbo Z-Herbs. That means, for the red, Andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp and okra. For the green, it means, seven greens/ herbs for good luck and pork and is inspired by Bill Smith's friend the late revered chef Leah Chase of New Orleans. Bill Smith also has Lolis Elie's recipe (Lolis from Treme's) Shrimp Callas. And the Chicken Livers get a special spice-Crook's Cajun Salt. For dessert, we will have Whiskey Milk Punch Ice Cream and possibly, Bill Smith is pondering, Banana's Foster, which is great because when the fire-whiskey-banana-sugary mix hits the pan - it makes the restaurant smell so good. And for all you super adventurous eaters, the ones who showed up for Guts and Glory Week, Bill Smith has what he thinks is his best dish, Ray's Best'O Best Turtle Soup, which we learned was once presidential fare, Jack Hitt told us in Saveur Magazine. I'll post that article on Facebook. Here's the photo, too, that they made with Bill Smith's recipe: 

Thursday, February 22 is the Orange Literacy benefit. Check out their website for this cool event hosted by Randall Kenan, with lots of food writers, including Bill Smith, Andrea Reusing, Kim Sunee, and Jessica Harris. The event is cocktails and a talk from 6-8 p.m. You should go and have dinner with us afterwards. 
Hope to see you soon and thank you for your friendship and patronage,