My parents were in town from Illinois a couple of weeks ago and they wanted to try some local Chapel Hill cuisine while they were in town. We had heard that Mama Dips (408 West Rosemary Street Chapel Hill, NC) had some of the best fried chicken in the area, so we figured it was worth giving it a shot. My parents had been there in a prior trip to the Triangle, but had failed to order any of Mama Dips’ specialty fried chicken. So we all loaded in the car in search of a tasty classic Southern meal.
Mama Dips is the nick name of the restaurants founder and chef whose real name is Mildred Council, who opened the restaurant in Chapel Hill in 1976. According to several sources it was opened with only 64 dollars, 24 for change and the remaining 40 was to buy the actual food. From these humble beginnings in food came an institution that has lasted until this day as a major destination for comfort food lovers in the area. Mama Dip herself has gone on to create her own cookbook and has gained relative fame in The Triangle area for both her fried chicken and her collard greens.
Mama Dips definitely had the down home country style down, complete with a wraparound porch which among several tables I am pretty sure included at least one rocking chair. The inside was a simple dining area with a kind of country kitchen motif, as is common in similar restaurants in the area. It was definitely comfortable enough, and our server was friendly and fairly efficient.
I am personally a huge lover of the fattier, less dry dark meat so I naturally chose to give the dark meat a try, while Julia went with the white. For my sides I went with two starches, macaroni and cheese and potato salad. The batter on the chicken was good and rich and was fairly well seasoned, but I couldn’t quite figure out what all of the fuss was about. I think that both Julia and I expected the “best fried chicken in the Triangle” to really knock our socks off, and well, it just didn’t. I suppose I was hoping for something with a little more seasoning and maybe even a little more spiciness. I am biased toward the spicier chicken as Popeye’s chicken is huge up North even though it is Louisiana style chicken. Don’t get me wrong though, it was definitely good chicken, but it just didn’t excite as much as it seems to excite others. The sides were also pretty good, but again I felt they left something to be desired, and I failed to get their specialty collard greens.
Overall I would say Mama Dips a try because I kind of feel like there is something that I am not quite getting about what is so great about their homestyle fried chicken. As I said, it was good chicken ,just not great chicken, and it maybe related to my own personal preferences for how I think fried chicken is cooked best. Feel free to let me know why I am wrong or let me know what other non chain fried chicken places are great in the area.