She said the second edition will include all the restaurants from the first edition, plus new restaurants such as Saffron, Kitchen, One, Bangkok 54 Cafe, Piola and CholaNad.
Neal said her experience in the food business and her love of traveling inspired her to write a food guide.
“I find it very useful to have a guide because when we travel we want to eat at really good restaurants,” she said. “And since we are considered such a foodie town and have so many great restaurants and food artisan venues, I considered it a good idea to have one about the Chapel Hill area.”
Neal grew up in Southern Mississippi but came to Durham to attend Duke, where she met her husband, Bill Neal.
After graduating, they opened up La Residence in Chapel Hill. The restaurant received national recognition, and Neal stayed on as manager after her late husband left to open Crook’s Corner with Gene Hamer.
After selling La Residence in 1992, Neal co-hosted the radio show “Better Living” and became the food editor for Raleigh-based Metro Magazine. She also published a cookbook called “Remembering Bill Neal.”
“After I left actual restaurant work, I became a food journalist,” she said. “And that required me to try all of the restaurants in my area.”
Neal said she attributes Chapel Hill’s vibrant food scene to a combination of talented chefs and an abundance of local farms.
“One reason the food community is different here than in Raleigh is because in Raleigh, the whole county is full of suburbs,” she said. “There are no farms left.”
Neal isn’t the only one who has recognized Orange County for culinary excellence.
Among other local accolades, Crook’s Corner and Lantern chef Andrea Reusing were both recognized by the James Beard Foundation last May.
And Caffe Driade, a coffee shop on East Franklin Street, was named as one of “America’s Best Coffee Bars” by Food and Wine Magazine this month.
Hamer said he thinks the area has developed a lively food community because of the positive relationship between farmers and chefs.
“A lot of the farmers come around to the back door and say, ‘I’ve got this. You want it?’”
Laura Murphy Frankstone, the illustrator for the first and second edition of the “Food Lover’s Guide,” said she thinks it is the partnership among local vendors that sets Chapel Hill apart.
“It’s the combination of the individual brilliant chefs, the farmer’s market and the people who are interested that make it all happen.”
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