More than 20 restaurants are expected to participate in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Small Plate Crawl, a new dining event that launches Tuesday and continues through Thursday.
This undertaking marks the expansion of a popular series of events first staged in 2009 in Hendersonville, N.C., by Asheville-based food blogger Laura Huff, or Carolina Epicurean. “It was my way of doing community service,” Huff says. “Restaurants were hurting from the 2008 crash. They really needed a way to get people back at their tables.”
Diners were enticed to visit on typically slow nights with budget-friendly small plates of $3 to $10. The promotion not only lured locals back into their favorite spots but also got them to try new ones.
The Hendersonville event also served to attract food lovers willing to drive for a good deal. One of them was Nichole Livengood, who plays a similar role as Huff in Greenville, S.C. Known there for her work as Gap Creek Gourmet, Livengood helped Huff’s effort to expand the small plate crawl to Asheville. Last March, they added Greenville, which boasts another lively culinary scene.
Now business partners, their success did not go unnoticed. The Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, which supports the annual TerraVita Food & Beverage Festival (Oct. 8-10), signed on as the event’s official sponsor, making it easier for Huff and Livengood to recruit popular eateries. A tempting list of featured menu items—ranging from Crispy Arancini ($3) at Il Palio (which has been closed for renovations) to Beef Tartare Salad at City Kitchen ($10) and Black & White Affogato ($5) at La Dolce Vita Café—is being updated daily.
There is no fee or registration required to participate in the small plate crawl, but diners interested in winning restaurant gift certificates or other prizes need to download a free app and scan designated QR codes after ordering featured menu items. Chefs and bartenders who get the most votes are also are eligible for rewards.
Like the debut event that will soon follow in Charleston, S.C., Huff says the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Small Plate Crawl will become an annual event. “We expect it to be even bigger next year,” she says. “When restaurants see how successful their neighbors were this year, they’ll want to join in.”