About CROOK'S CORNER
Crook’s Corner on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill is “sacred ground for Southern foodies” (said the New York Times). A destination for locals and returning alumni, Crook’s is known best for its “sumptuous take on Southern comfort food” (Garden & Gun).
The James Beard Foundation named Crook’s Corner an “America’s Classics” meaning by their definition that Crook’s has “timeless appeal, beloved for quality of food that reflects the character of their community.”
When you arrive, expect delicious food in a casual setting (recognized year after year among best in the area): a cozy dining room wrapped with local art that changes each month. Also, a bar with some of the best wines by the glass in the Triangle (Indy Week), North Carolina craft beers, terrific sweet iced tea and Counter Culture coffee, precise top-notch standards and craft cocktails with Alley Twenty Six craft tonic. A bamboo encircled patio with artist’s Clyde Jones’ critters, centered around a Bob Gaston created garden fountain, opens whenever weather permits.
For dinner, find on the menu seasonals that come and go and classics like Grilled Steaks with long-simmering bordelaise, the singular Bourbon Brown Sauce (sometimes with Chef Bill Smith’s father’s recipe for Jerusalem Artichoke Relish) and exceptional French fries. Sides that combine to make a meal, like Hoppin’ John and Collards and Black Pepper Cornbread. Also the best Banana Pudding anywhere. Bill Smith and staff produce many other heirloom recipe interpretations and new inventions for your culinary enjoyment. The seasonal Maseca-crispy Fried Oysters (months with an “r”), house-cured Corned Hams on occasion, Green Tabasco Chicken and Cheese Pork! (a Southern schnitzel) are favorites that come and go depending on the season. Crook’s always offers amazing desserts. All lovingly prepared, southern comfort, with carefully sourced ingredients.
If you’ve heard Crook’s is the “Home of Shrimp & Grits” that’s because the founding Chef Bill Neal elevated this homey breakfast dish (still served nightly) on the Crook’s menu years ago. Neal also pioneered Southern cuisine with fresh local ingredients, cooked with a French sensibility. Crook’s offers his Mt. Airy Chocolate Soufflé Cake and Jalapeno-Cheddar Hushpuppies and an Autumn favorite Persimmon Pudding. Neal was here for the first ten years and Chef Bill Smith has cooked here ever since.
No lunch, but Brunch is served on Sundays.
Barbecue is a favorite topic here. Local wood-fired ‘cue is brought in for the Barbecue Plate. And on Carolina ‘Cue Wednesdays from October through April, Crook’s features a guest ‘cue from a favorite road-trip destination in North or South Carolina. Guest ‘cues so far include Skylight, Scott’s, Bums, Wilbur’s, Little richard’s, Stamey’s and other great BBQ Houses that Crook’s keeps reaching out to discover.
Bob Gaston’s life size Pink Pig hovers over the entrance and marks the entrance or exit to Chapel Hill on Franklin Street depending on which direction you’re driving. An easy landmark to see to alert you that your destination has been reached. It’s lucky no one has stolen the Pig in some time.
Parking’s good: Three free parking areas for you to use. Behind the restaurant is our parking lot off Merritt Mill Rd. Also after 5:00 or anytime on Sundays our patrons have permission to park next door at Passport Motors, or across the street at Al’s Garage. These are ample spaces, but there’s also a large free parking deck next to the Hampton Inn a block away, between Crook’s and Cat’s Cradle.
Finally, check the note below about the building itself, some more history, and beyond that links to such things as A Brief History of Crook’s by noted author Randal Kenan. Also, a weblink to the Crook’s Corner Book Prize, the only literary prize in the US sponsored by a restaurant—meaning Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill.
Hope to see you soon. Thank you for your friendship and patronage!
ABOUT THE BUILDING AND MORE HISTORY: In the late 1940's, Rachel Crook ran a fish market and cafe where Crook's currently stands: at the corner of West Franklin Street and Merritt Mill Road just before the West End of Chapel Hill ends and turns into the town of Carrboro.
In 1951, at this intersection, Rachel Crook was murdered. The case was never solved. Since then the Crook's building has served as a taxi stand, bait & tackle shop, pool hall and then, for years stood deserted. In 1978, Cam Hill (a local boy & former Town Council Member) remodeled the dilapidated building and opened a BBQ house recalling it Crook’s Corner in honor of Ms. Rachel.
Soon after, in 1982, Bill Neal and Gene Hamer thought this the perfect venue to pursue Southern cuisine. Neal wrote several acclaimed cookbooks, including Bill Neal's Southern Cooking and Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie and placed Crook's on the culinary map.
Bill Smith has continued the tradition and excelled, being twice named in the final five for JBF’s Best Chef Southeast and authoring two cookbooks: Seasoned in the South and Crabs & Oysters.
Gene Hamer has kept everything working for the past 34 years, including curating the art for the gallery, hosting the Crook’s Corner Book Prize, tending the Crook’s Corner garden with Seth Hand, and initiating Carolina ‘Cue Wednesdays.
"We count ourselves lucky to have had and have good people working here, some for a long time," Gene Hamer explains. "And two great chefs - Bill Neal for the first 10 and Bill Smith ever since.
SOME INTERESTING LINKS:
SFA / Randall Kenan: “A Brief History of Crook’s Corner” https://www.southernfoodways.org/randall-kenans-history-of-crooks-corner-sfa14/
SFA / Kate Medley: “The Life and Legacy of Bill Neal” https://www.southernfoodways.org/film/they-came-for-shrimp-grits-the-life-and-work-of-bill-neal/
CROOK’S CORNER BOOK PRIZE: http://crookscornerbookprize.com
610 West Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Tuesday - Sunday at 5:30pm
10:30am - 2pm