Category Archives: Chapel Hill

Tar Heel 10 Miler Discount Code


The Tar Heel 10 miler is a great local race with a course that showcases downtown Chapel Hill, the UNC Campus and some nice surrounding historic neighborhoods. The 2019 race will take place on Saturday, April 13th. The registration fee is currently $65 but you an  use the discount code THJOHN and save an $5 on your race registration.


I’v run the Tar Heel 10 Miler three times now and I’m looking forward to doing it again in this year. A ten mile race is a great distance to train for especially if you are looking for something a bit longer than a 5k. It is long enough that it’s challenging yet not so far that you need months and months to prepare like you might with a full or half marathon. There is also a 4 mile option if you are looking for a shorter distance race. The course is really nice and you will have lots of support along the way. Keep an eye out for the folks playing the Alpenhorns along the course!


Of course there are some hills, but that comes with the territory when running in a place named Chapel Hill. With approximately 6,500 runners this is a nice size local race with good energy and has become one of the premiere races in the Triangle. It’s one of my favorites and a must do if you area a local runner. Hope to see you out there on the course!

Race Details:
Date: Saturday April 13, 2019
Tar Heel 10 Miler Discount Code: THJOHN (Saves you $5)
Race Website:

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Filed under Chapel Hill, Events, Races

The Magic of The Paperhand Puppet Intervention


If you are looking for something different to do this weekend I suggest catching a performance by the Paperhand Puppet Intervention. This has been on my Triangle bucket list for years and I finally had the chance to catch them last weekend. The group uses diverse styles of puppetry and artistic expression to create shows that inspire and promote social change. Performances feature giant puppets, masks, multi person marionettes, shadow puppetry, and stilt dancing to create magical larger than life characters to tell a thoughtful and entertaining story.


I saw them perform their latest production, The Beautiful Beast, Paperhand’s seventeenth annual summer pageant. The show explores the relationship between humans, the earth that supports us, and “the beasts” of the natural world and how they are viewed through different lenses as both creatures to fear and adore. In addition to the elaborate visuals of the puppets and masks a critical and equally impressive part of each performance is the live original music performed by a six person band right in front of the audience. Not only do they provide a great score to the show, they are also the source of sound effects and provide narration and vocals throughout the numbers.


This year’s production opened at Chapel Hill’s Forest Theatre last week and runs each weekend with shows Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through September 5th. After that the show will move to NCMA in Raleigh (Sept. 9–11) followed by The Carolina Theatre of Greensboro (Sept. 17–18). I highly recommend catching the show at the Forest Theater as the outdoor setting under the trees is wonderful and really adds a lot to the overall experience.


Tickets for the Forest Theater performances are only available at the door and are sold on a first come first serve basis. Seating is general admission with suggested ticket donations of $15 for adults and $8 for children. Nobody is turned due to lack of funds. For more information vist


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Filed under Chapel Hill, Events, Theater

Il Palio in Chapel Hill ~ Italian Dining at its Best


I was recently invited to dine at Il Palio, the four-diamond rated Italian restaurant located inside the beautiful historic Sienna Hotel along East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. The restaurant opened in 1987 but the hotel and restaurant changed ownership back in 2009 and both underwent major renovations last summer resulting in a new modern & open design in the dining room and a revamped menu from the kitchen.

CHeff Teddy

Il Palio Executive Chef Teddy Diggs
(Photo courtesy Star Chefs)

The kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Teddy Diggs who took the reins at Il Palio in early 2014 and oversaw the restaurants renovations. He was recently named one of the top “16 Chefs to Watch in 2016” by the foodservice website Restaurant Hospitality and was previously the head chef of prestigious restaurants in Washington DC and Martha’s Vineyard prior to moving to Chapel Hill. A main element of the kitchen renovation was the addition of a wood-fired grill which helped to reshape Il Palio’s Northern Italian menu featuring wood-grilled steaks, chops and whole fish incorporating flavors indigenous to Italian cooking like “smoke” and “wood” as a result of the grilling process.


Of course being there several fresh pasta dishes as well featuring seasonal local ingredients. But when I say pasta here don’t think of your typical pasta and sauce dishes. The menu features dishes like hand-crafted acorn fazzoletti with roasted local mushrooms and pappardelle with bolognese ragu just to name a few. We started things off with the delicious house made rosemary and sea salt focaccia bread and the nine herb salad was which was amazing. It came with great light lemon dressing and garnished with a tiny edible flower.


Next up we enjoyed the fresh house made fettuccine pasta & porcini mushrooms. It is honestly one of the best things I have ever had. I’m actually not the biggest fan of mushrooms but the way Chef Teddy prepared them they were just so flavorful that I honestly couldn’t get enough of them. And nothing beats freshly made pasta. The dish was a big hit at our table. These particular mushrooms are only in season for a short time so at this point are probably not on the menu anymore until next season, but they were are strong indication of the creativity and skills in the kitchen and how they can incorporate seasonal offerings into incredible dishes throughout the year.


As I mentioned earlier the wood-fired grill stoked with hard woods allows for creative meat dishes that incorporate smoke as an actual flavor. My wife ordered the 6 oz. beef filet with salsa verde. It was cooked perfectly and was delicious. We also shared the Chicken “al Mattone” with herb batuto and baby arugula which was excellent as well.


My wife and I enjoyed the look and feel of the dining room and overall atmosphere at Il Palio. It is an upscale dining experience for sure, but it’s very approachable. Perfect for a special occasion and getting dressed up, but also a great option for just a fun evening out with a great meal (no jacket and tie required).  There are seating options for all occasions, ranging from a private table for two and large booths for group to a large communal “chef’s table” with a view of the kitchen. Service wise the hostess and wait staff were exceptional. Our server chatted with us throughout the evening and sharing welcomed tips about the menu and wine pairings for each dish.


I was happy to see that Il Palio also has a patio area for outdoor dining during the spring and summer months. I don’t need an excuse for a return visit to  Il Palio but I enjoy eating outside this time of year and I’m already thinking about dining there again soon to see how the summer offerings have been incorporated into the menu. I am also looking forward to trying a few more of the many wines from their large Italian collection. I’m not sure just yet what I will order next time for dinner, but one thing I do know is what I will have for dessert. The first thing I will tell my waiter on my next visit is to save me one of the Videri dark chocolate souffles. They only make a handful each night and I hear it is wonderful!

Il Palio
1505 E Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(919) 918-2545
Instagram: @il_palio


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Filed under Chapel Hill, Restaurant Reviews

Hidden Gem: Honeysuckle Tea House in Chapel Hill

Now that spring is here I wanted to share with you about a magical place I came across hidden in Chapel Hill last year. The Honeysuckle Tea House is one of those hidden gems in the Triangle I think everyone needs to visit. It’s like no other tea house I have ever come across. The tea house is a large open air wood frame structure situated on top of four shipping containers tucked away in rural Chapel Hill. It has a great tranquil vibe and is surrounded by several acres of land with 72 raised cedar herb-beds, a green house and and a six acre berry and Camellia farm.

The primary aim of Honeysuckle Tea House is to share with the community the idea of “food as medicine” by serving certified herbal teas, locally roasted Carrboro Coffee, Tinctures, and Honeys, and other local products made on site. In addition to the healthy foods and herbal remedies the tea house hosts numerous Wellness Workshops and serves the community by hosting local musicians weekly with performances every Friday & Saturday evening, 7pm-9pm, and each Sunday afternoon, 2PM-4PM on their outdoor cedar stage (or inside the tea house if it rains). You can view the upcoming music schedule here.

The open air seating area is a relaxing place to enjoy drink or have lunch while taking in the peaceful surroundings. Food wise the menu includes wraps, garden salads and pastries (including some gluten free options). On the day I visited my wife and I shared a gluten free muffin and each had a glass of incredible jasmine herbal iced tea. It was so relaxing sitting up above the gardens and gazing out of the tea house at the blue sky as we slowly sipped away on our cool drinks. I actually felt like I was vacationing at an island oasis half a world away from the hustle and bustle of Raleigh.

A return visit to this teahouse is high on my list of things to do this week now that the weather is perfect for enjoying the outdoors. It makes for a fun afternoon trip from Raleigh if you are looking for a getaway or just want to try something new. The tea house is only open during the warmer months of the year and closes each winter for the season so don’t miss your chance to check it out this spring & summer. It is currently open daily Sun-Thur 9am-9pm and Fri & Sat 9am-10pm. For directions and more information about the teas and other products they offer visit their website

Honeysuckle Tea House
8871 Pickards Meadow Road
Chapel Hill, NC, 27516 (map)


Filed under Chapel Hill, Coffee, Tea

Top of the Hill Distillery – Chapel Hill

Top Of the Hill Distillery - Chapel Hill, NC

Top Of the Hill Distillery – Chapel Hill, NC

Did you know you can buy vodka, gin, and whisky that is made right here in the Triangle? I didn’t either until earlier this year when I visited Top of the Hill Distillery (TOPO) located in the former Chapel Hill News building off Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill. Scott Maitland, founder and owner of the iconic Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery, opened the distillery because he wanted to make spirits from organic ingredients local to North Carolina.

Top Of the Hill Distillery - Chapel Hill, NC

Touring the Distillery

I took a tour of the distillery with several of my foodie blogger friends where I tried samples and learned about how TOPO sources local ingredients to make their organic spirits.  TOPO Distillery is the only certified organic and fully local distillery in the South. They use local, organic ingredients (all obtained within 100 miles of the distillery) and transform the grain to spirits using equipment sourced from a fifth generation German still maker.

Top Of the Hill Distillery - Chapel Hill, NC

Esteban Pouring Samples!

Tours of the distillery are a lot of fun because you get a behind the scenes look at how the spirits are made and you get to sample them. Esteban, our guide was great explaining how TOPO’s spirits are different from other brands on the market. I tried all three of the spirits(Vodka, Gin, and Whiskey). Each was excellent in its own way but as a gin drinker my favorite was the TOPO Piedmont Gin. It is American Dry gin with a natural smoothness featuring botanical  flavors like citrus, cardamom, coriander, and cucumber. It has become my “go to” gin for homemade gin and tonics

Top Of the Hill Distillery - Chapel Hill, NC

TOPO Age Your Own Whiskey Kit

TOPO also makes a great Carolina Whiskey.  It is made using 100% organic soft red winter wheat from Scotland Neck, NC. It won a silver medal in the 2013 San Francisco International Spirits Competition and a silver medal at the Beverage Tasting Institute in Chicago. Top of the Hill Distillery is one of only six distilleries in the United States making wheat whiskey.

Top Of the Hill Distillery - Chapel Hill, NC

Mini Wiskey Barrels

They also sell “Age Your Own Whiskey” Kits that allow you to age 2 liters of Carolina Whiskey to perfection at home! Because of the increased surface area to volume ratio of the two liter barrel, the whiskey ages approximately 12–15 times faster than in a normal 53 gallon barrel. So the aging process only takes about three months and results in an incredible Wheat Whiskey. These make great gifts for the home brewer!

Tom & Esteban of TOPO Distillery

Tom & Esteban of TOPO Distillery

Guided tours and tastings of the spirits are  typically held each week on Thursday & Friday at 6pm and 7pm and Saturday at 4pm and 5pm. Tours must be scheduled in advance on the Top of The Hill website. Tours cost $20 per person but you can typically find groupon and living social deals online offering 50% off. The tours are a fun for locals and out of town guest and a great way to enjoy a visit to Chapel Hill.  Bottles of Top of  The Hills spirits can be found in ABC stores throughout the Triangle and North Carolina.

Topo Distillery
505 West Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Twitter: @TOPOdistillery

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Filed under Businesses, Chapel Hill