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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: The Editorial Board rates favorite Franklin Street restaurants

An Al's Burger Shack meal is pictured on March 8, 2023.

The best thing about Franklin Street is that there's a restaurant for everyone. From the Mexican cuisine at Cosmic Cantina and Que Chula Tacos & Tequila Bar to the burgers at Al’s Burger Shack or Buns Burgers & Fries, The Daily Tar Heel Editorial Board has taken the liberty of rating some of the most popular and iconic restaurants in the heart of Chapel Hill based on taste, environment and price. And no, this is not an exhaustive list. 

Sutton’s Drug Store

Our rating: 9/10

We all love Sutton's. Not only is it a beloved Chapel Hill staple, but after its precarious state during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all relieved and grateful that Sutton’s remains on Franklin Street. Especially as it touts 101 years of business. We love how unique its menu is, and as one the cheapest options on Franklin, we are always down for some potato munchers, a cherry limeade or a BLT. Supporting Sutton's supports the culture of UNC, so you can feel good about yourself while enjoying the incredible crinkle-cut fries. 

Buns Burgers & Fries

Our rating: 9/10

Buns is Franklin Street’s hidden gem. It not only has delicious food and milkshakes (Vanilla-Cheerwine shake on top), but it also has great vegetarian and pescatarian options, especially for a burger place. Buns gives you more fries than you know what to do with, and we appreciate the ability to create and customize our own sandwich or burger.

Bandido’s Mexican Cafe

Our rating: 9/10

Bandido's chimichangas are great, and that's all we can really ask for. The portion sizes and prices are pretty good, and it's always incredibly lively in the restaurant. Wait times aren't too bad either, even if you are going with an abnormally large group like half of The DTH Opinion desk. But we suggest going on an off time. We believe its margarita pitchers should win Bandido's a Michelin star. Family-owned businesses are the foundation of this town, and this is one of, if not the best (shoutout Antoni Sustaita).

Spicy 9 Sushi Bar & Asian Restaurant

Our rating: 8/10

In terms of best lunch value, Spicy 9 wins it all. The lunch special is only $7 for a huge platter of three varieties of chicken and rice, and the student discount gets all UNC students 15 percent off. Plus, the buy one, get one free sushi rolls can’t be beat. While we have tasted better sushi, Spicy 9 is a versatile option, and if you want something slightly more upscale that won't break the bank or require reservations weeks in advance, Spicy 9 is the way to go. 

Al’s  Burger Shack

Our rating: 7.5/10 

While Al’s is arguably home to one of the better-tasting burgers on Franklin Street, it’s losing points for the overpriced menu. The distance from campus on West Franklin Street make it hard for younger UNC students to justify walking from campus. However, Al's fries and garlic aioli make us believe in love again — and that’s got to count for something.

Cosmic Cantina

Our rating: 7/10

We all agree that Cosmic Cantina’s food is not always gourmet standard — but its cheap prices and availability after 9 p.m. (a rarity in Chapel Hill beside the likes of I Love New York Pizza and Grk Yeero) makes it an establishment that can’t be ignored. The best part? Cosmic doesn’t judge you. It’s seen us at our worst, the times we can barely remember. When the night is dark, cold and bleak, the warm neon glow of Cosmic’s underground cantina welcomes you and wraps you in a warm, maybe stale tortilla — empowering you to find your way home.

Que Chula Craft Tacos & Tequila Bar

Our rating: 6/10

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Que Chula is likely your most expensive option for Mexican food on Franklin Street. We don't think the food is anything special and the space is often overcrowded, so the price doesn’t necessarily have much to back it up. We applaud the staff for always creating a fun atmosphere and we enjoy the margaritas and street tacos, but we had to agree that the food falls short overall. Que Chula is a great place for birthday dinners and celebrations, but if you are in the mood to satiate your desire for Mexican food, look elsewhere.  


Our rating: 5.5/10

There is nothing like shoveling down mac and cheese after a long night out. While it's not necessarily the best food or healthiest option here, it's always open and super reliable. We think we can all agree you aren't going here for the taste, but so what if the food is a little greasy? There’s always going to be appeal in comfort food you can count on, no matter the time of night.

@dthopinion |