Food & Drink

Dame’s Chicken & Waffles will try something new when it opens in Chapel Hill

Longtime Durham favorite Dame’s Chicken & Waffles will open a new Chapel Hill location on Franklin Street later this year.
Longtime Durham favorite Dame’s Chicken & Waffles will open a new Chapel Hill location on Franklin Street later this year.

For a different town, expect a different sort of Dame’s Chicken & Waffles.

The popular Durham restaurant is adding its fourth location in Chapel Hill, potentially as early as the end of this year. Dame’s is best known for crispy fried chicken served with waffles and flavored butters called shmears. It might also be known as the brunch place you couldn’t get into for years, with waits stretching well over an hour for weekend crowds.

Dame’s is opening a new location in the former BSki’s on Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street. After a lengthy permitting process, signage went up this month and construction is underway, said Randy Wadsworth, co-owner of Dame’s with Damien Moore. Wadsworth said the restaurant could open by the end of 2019 if there are no delays.

For the Chapel Hill location, Dame’s is trying a new concept. Instead of a sit-down restaurant, this one will be counter service, Wadsworth said, in a move more in line with the rest of Franklin Street’s fast-casual spots. Diners will place their orders at a counter by the kitchen and then wait at tables for the food to be prepared.

“It’s something we’re going to play around with,” Wadsworth said. “It’s the first space where we’ve had the opportunity to try it out. We wanted more grab and go options.”

Those grab and go options could even include a chicken sandwich, seemingly the red hot menu item sweeping the Triangle right now.

Dame’s opened on Main Street in Durham in 2010 and became one of the city’s most popular restaurants, often featured in out-of-town magazine roundups of where to eat. Other locations opened in Cary and Greensboro and in 2018, Dame’s closed its original Durham location to move to a larger restaurant space, leaving the city without chicken and waffles for more than a year.

The Chapel Hill location was announced earlier this year, joining a competitive Franklin Street market that can feel like a revolving door. Wadsworth said he and Moore have had their eye on Chapel Hill for years and are eager to open the doors.

“We wanted to open in Chapel Hill before we opened in Cary,” Wadsworth said. “Hopefully everything will go smoothly from here out, and we can be open well before the year’s end.”

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.