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Make sure your trip to Chapel Hill doesn't go by without a visit to this trendy restaurant with a great big taste. Don't be fooled by the almost strip-type store front a few blocks from the UNC-Chapel Hill campus on Franklin Street. From the window, there's not much to look at -- and it would be easy to pass this place by in favor of the many other area restaurants -- but you'd be making a big mistake. Once you step inside, you'll immediately understand why many locals rate this restaurant as the #1 choice for dining out.
And it's not just the locals raving about this place -- take a look at the "press" page from the Lantern home page [link below]. Recently rated by Gourmet Magazine as one of America's top 50 restaurants, the excellence of food, wine, atmosphere and service certainly all live up to the reputation. Don't let the name "Asian" in the descriptions of the types of food [Asian, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Chinese] fool you into thinking this is just another run of the mill oriental type dive. The originality and diversity of the menu will amaze you. The restaurant uses fresh, mainly organic food -- often from local sustainable farms -- and focuses their menu on seasonable items.
Space is limited and the restaurant fills up quickly so arrive early or slip into the back where the Lantern bar serves up an incredible mix of unusual and delicious cocktails. Or choose a glass or bottle of wine from their extensive wine menu. The Lantern has become perhaps best known for their Hibiscus Petal ... this Hibiscus-infused vodka with fresh lime juice and Thai basil is a favorite.
The Lantern has a great website and a fantastic newsletter/mailing list for advance notice of special events such as their Lantern Table -- A dinner series focusing on local farms and food producers. The dinners take place throughout the year, showcasing farmers and products as the seasons progress. Because these dinners are designed to highlight the local bounty they include a variety of cuisines and non-Asian influences.