The Rosemary Street property that houses the beloved Mama Dip’s Kitchen is for sale for an eye-popping $3.6 million. The parcel is less than three quarters of an acre and the restaurant is just over 4,000 square feet. According to a listing for the sale, the restaurant equipment is not included in the sale price, suggesting that the future of the restaurant itself is uncertain.

Mama Dip’s: A Chapel Hill Institution

Mama Dip’s was founded by the late Mildred Cotton Council, whose childhood nickname given to her by siblings was the restaurant’s namesake. In her 2018 obituary, WUNC reported that Council opened the famous Southern comfort soul food restaurant in 1976 after George Tate, Chapel Hill’s first black real estate agent, approached her and asked her to take over a failing restaurant on Rosemary Street.

Council started with $40 to purchase food and $24 for change. She made $135 the first day, and the restaurant has nourished thousands of folks since. She received North Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, and was invited to the White House by George W. Bush – and was called the “epicenter of a galaxy of great chefs in the Triangle—in Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, and beyond,” by Professor William Ferris.

Council was born and raised in Chatham County, and moved to Chapel Hill in 1945. She cooked for UNC students in dining halls, fraternities, and in restaurants for many years before opening the restaurant, which has served patrons like Michael Jordan and Dean Smith and has been featured in the New York Times, the Food Network, Good Morning America, A Prairie Home Companion, and on PBS.

A Chapel Hill and Northside neighborhood institution, the restaurant moved to 408 W. Rosemary St. in 1999 and is currently run by Council’s adult children.

What is the future of 408 W. Rosemary Street?

It is unclear. The tax value of the building that houses Mama Dip’s is $198,600, which, given the $3,6 million price tag, suggests that a redevelopment of the property is likely. Just west of Mama Dip’s, a much smaller parcel (.15 acres) was bought for $700,000 in 2021 and the owner plans to demolish the existing home on it and build a four-story building with close to 6,000 square feet and a mix of office and residential.

Like that property, the Mama Dip’s parcel is located in the town’s TC-2 zoning district, which allows buildings at a height of 44 feet at the street and 90 feet at the core.

We will keep an eye on the sale and future plans for the property.

Stephen Whitlow contributed to this piece.

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Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....