A romantic dinner by a roaring fire is best enjoyed in a restaurant and not around the neighbor's emblazoned wicker man. Retain your amorous appetite with today's Groupon: for $25, you get $50 worth of farm-fresh, French-inspired fine dining at La Residence in Chapel Hill.
La Residence's chef Justin Cole satisfies francophiles and farmhands alike with a seasonal menu sourced from local ingredients. A starter of saffron risotto dotted with wild mushrooms, spinach, roasted corn, smoked bacon, and pecorino cheese ($9) commands the attention of taste buds without having to blow an air horn into one's mouth. Seared scallops ($24) face off against braised pork belly on an arena of cauliflower with wild ramps and fava beans beneath a dramatic rain of lobster sauce. Meyer Angus tenderloin in veal sauce ($29) completely erases the memory of what hunger feels like with a hearty retinue of basil potatoes, asparagus, caramelized cipollini onions, and mountain hedgehog mushrooms. Bid the evening adieu on the spacious outdoor patio, which stays open until 2 a.m. Thursday–Saturday, just like the city's trendiest public libraries.
The face of the clock determines just what sort of gathering you'll find at La Residence. On Fridays at lunchtime, crepes leave the kitchen stuffed with sweet and savory fillings, from sriracha-spiced shrimp to bananas and chocolate. But as the sky darkens, a more classical air settles over the dining room. The fireplace begins to crackle, and patio lights flicker on above brick flooring. Chefs prep appetizers of baked brie and warm bruschetta—overtures to an innovative French supper. They fill crispy pot pies with fresh seafood while monitoring pink cuts of filet mignon. Every night finds them experimenting with a different risotto and fish, just as each season heralds a new menu, replete with ingredients from local farms.
Even when dusk has come and gone, the restaurant doesn't sleep. Four nights a week, it becomes a late-night cocktail lounge: Cafe LaRez. Guests sip on mojitos, mint juleps, and French 75s made with gin and champagne. A dance floor beckons to antsy feet, but sitting-room corners and a terrace by Rosemary Street provide space for quieter chats. On some evenings, the restaurant even hosts weddings, amplifying the romance of the occasion with its rose gardens and historical charm. Guests can also opt to dine in an enclosed patio and joy an evening under the stars.
202 W Rosemary St.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516