As some of you may know I moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina in July 2020. I would say I do not suggest moving to a new city, in a new state amidst a pandemic, but sometimes you do what you gotta do. Since then I will be honest I have not spent a lot of time in Chapel Hill. With school being virtual I spent some time with family and friends in other states to help with the loneliness of not being able to go to class and make new friends easily.
A few weeks ago I came back and am staying here now and plan to get a job and establish myself a bit more. This means I needed to start exploring and finding the best gluten-free options around. Because cooking for myself all the time gets old after while. So here is my first find in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Al’s Burger Shack is a Chapel Hill local restaurant serving American style food. They specialize in the standard burgers, fries and shakes. They offer gluten-free buns, and their fries are Celiac safe as well. They also source most of their food from within North Carolina, which I think is so admirable and just awesome.
Currently the state of North Carolina is in their Phase 3 of opening businesses. Restaurants are allowed to be at partial capacity, but many in the area have decided to stick with take out and delivery. That is the case for Al’s Burger Shack.
Al’s Burger Shack has 2 locations in the Chapel Hill area. One is on historic Franklin Street, the other is in Southern Village. Due to not allowing customers in the restaurant, I cannot say much as far as environment. I will say there is a decent amount of parking near the Southern Village restaurant. The whole area around there is pretty fun and I imagine it being a cool place when we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic.
As mentioned earlier Al’s Burger Shack specializes in burgers and fries. Thankfully for me, they offer a gluten-free bun and the fries are the only thing made in the fryer making them truly gluten-free. I have enjoyed Al’s a few times and each time I got the Kenny J Burger without the spicy pimento. I have been adding more spice into my life and cooking, but still can’t handle the spiciest of foods. I honestly picked it because of the Cheerwine BBQ sauce. Cheerwine is a North Carolina based cherry soda made with real cane sugar and it is delicious. When I saw they made a sweet BBQ with Cheerwine I knew I had to try it.
All of the times I have had Al’s I have enjoyed the burger very much. I personally don’t own a grill, and don’t cook a lot of red meat at home although I enjoy it. So often I like the experience of getting a hamburger when I’m out, or you know when someone else is cooking for me… which is rarely ever anymore…
The fries, like I mentioned, are safe for individuals with celiac because they are the only thing made in the fryer. I have enjoyed them, but I also think that they would be much better fresh. With take out, it takes me about 15 minutes to get home and then my fries are cold and it is sad. So I am definitely missing the experience of eating fresh food, in a restaurant, with my favorite people.
They also make milkshakes as well. I often don’t get milkshakes out because everyone adds cookies, or other fun things to the milkshakes and I don’t often trust that they clean their machines well enough. At Al’s they only offer chocolate or vanilla and use ice cream from a farm in Hillsborough, NC. The milkshakes are thick, and delicious and a fun treat for sure.
As far as ordering, currently you can order online or by phone. I do have to say that the online order is better than others as you can modify your order easier, and they have a check box for individuals with celiac. I appreciate the flexibility in the online ordering system because it takes away a bit of the anxiety with eating out, which I think is heightened when you cannot talk to the proper employees in the restaurant. In my experience I have had no problems eating here.
Overall, I wish the pandemic was over and I could truly enjoy a fresh burger and fries at Al’s Burger Shack with friends. Until then, I will continue to buy gluten-free burgers from them and enjoy them safely in my apartment in Chapel Hill. It seems like the restaurant is a favorite of the locals, as there have always been many people waiting for take-out when I’ve picked up my food.
Al’s is one of the few restaurants I have found that has gluten-free menu options, and therefore I will continue visiting while I live here. At this point in time I have never had any issues with gluten after eating at Al’s and feel that they are trying to take the correct precautions to keep the gluten-free customers safe. I personally always enjoy when I can eat a hamburger with a bun like everyone else and appreciate restaurants that make that possible.