Open for over 40 years, Mama Dip’s was originally run by its namesake, Mildred Cotton Council. Today her family runs and operates this Chapel Hill homestead. Situated behind the popular Franklin Street of downtown Chapel Hill, Mama Dip’s offers the setting and ambiance of taking a trip down memory lane to your grandma’s house. Once inside, you’ll see you’ve literally taken a step back in time as the décor is also quite dated.
Service was friendly, but incredibly slow. After receiving the appetizer, our entrées made a late debut to the table. As I was facing the window of the kitchen, I saw the plates sitting under heat lamps for at least 10 minutes before they were finally brought to the table. Of course, this meant all (and I mean all) of the items were cold or lukewarm at best. However, the temperature wasn’t the only thing lacking from this meal at Mama Dip’s.
The appetizer of zucchini and broccoli basket ($7.95) sounded enticing enough, but failed to deliver. The zucchini was mushy and extremely bland, made palatable only with a heavy dousing of the accompanying ranch and honey mustard sauces. The fried broccoli and cheese bites were unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before…and I do not care to experience that again. There were bits of broccoli mixed into a thick sludgy mix of Velveeta and what seemed like a copious amount of flour. Overall, the broccoli bites tasted like fried glue nuggets.
As Mama Dip’s is renowned for their southern cooking, particularly their fried chicken, I had to order it. The Chopped Bar-B-Que Pork with Chicken ($15.95) plate came with greens, macaroni and cheese and a biscuit. Everything in this entrée was a miss. The fried chicken was greasy and overcooked without any real coating or dredge to constitute a traditional “fried chicken.” The bar-b-que pork looked like meat paste that had been slopped onto the plate. It tasted like there was some sort of eastern NC style barbeque sauce used, as my cheeks were twinging from all the vinegar. The pork was mushy and dry at the same time. I didn’t know those two adjectives could be used simultaneously to describe something, but I’ve been proven wrong. The macaroni and cheese was greasy with no flavor. It was also evident it was scraped together from the bottom of the pan to desperately make up that last serving before sending it to the dishwasher. The greens were the most sub-par southern greens I have ever eaten. They had a hint of smokiness, but there was no body or depth of flavor to these bitter, unseasoned greens. The biscuit tasted like a hockey puck, the dough clearly had been mixed too much.
At this point, my expectations for the Fisherman’s Catch ($11.95) of fried catfish, okra and tomatoes, fries and cornbread were less than great. Not surprisingly, this dish was bad, too. The catfish fillets looked like they had been dropped on their way to the plate, as the fish pieces were broken and put back together to resemble a filet. The flavor was bland and forgetful. The fries were the standard food service quality, undercooked and cold. The okra and tomatoes tasted like frozen okra mixed in with canned tomatoes. It had the familiar tin-like taste canned tomatoes have when they haven’t been seasoned. The cornbread was incredibly dry and without the slight sweetness offered by many southern cornbreads.
As if getting dessert would somehow be a good idea after this meal, I ordered a slice of the chocolate pound cake ($3.75) to go. I didn’t look at the piece of cake until getting home, but once I did, I realized how dry and disappointing it looked. Lo and behold, the cake was dry, crumbly and although it looked like it was chocolate, there was no distinct chocolate flavor. I’m pretty sure cocoa powder may have just been added to give it the guise of being chocolate pound cake.
I can name at least a handful of chain restaurants who are serving up tastier and better fried chicken than Mama Dip’s. Heck, they’re serving better meals, period. I understand people frequent Mama Dip’s because of its proximity to campus and I’m pretty sure this is the only reason why they’re still in business. However, with both their food and service being subpar, there’s no justification to head to Mama Dip’s based on that reason alone or any reason in general.
Address: 408 West Rosemary Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Tessa Nguyen is a chef and registered dietitian working in the Triangle area. She is an alumna of Johnson & Wales University and Meredith College. When Tessa isn’t traveling and discovering new food spots, she teaches culinary nutrition cooking classes at Duke and works as a consultant in the health and wellness industry. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @