If you’ve worked in a newsroom, you probably have a newsroom bar. In DC, it was the Post Pub. In Philly, it’s the Pen and Pencil Club. And in Chapel Hill, that role has largely been served by Linda’s Bar and Grill, an institution just off campus where decades of Daily Tar Heel writers have hung out long into the night.
Earlier today, the Daily Tar Heel reported that Linda’s would be closing later this week after 47 years. A 1996 DTH article noted that the bar was a place “where you go find your teaching assistant and beg them for a better grade or to yell at Daily Tar Heel columnists.” And it’s true: decades of DTH writers and editors made their non-newsroom home at Linda’s, which sits directly across from Polk Place. Immediately after the news was announced those writers – now scattered across the country and writing for news organizations like the Wall Street Journal and ESPN and Indyweek and Citylab – began sharing their memories of Linda’s on social media.
Many of the blogbloggers were college journalists and some of us came up through the DTH. We reached out to DTH writers from across the decades and asked them to share memories of Linda’s. Here’s what they said.
(We’ll add to this post as more come in. If you have a remembrance, email email@example.com.)
The DTH print deadline was around midnight. Most days we’d be racing from mid-afternoon, as soon as classes finished, right up until that deadline to make sure everything was as good as possible. Then we’d walk to Linda’s. Not every night, but often enough. Cramming a few too many people into a booth for beers and cheese fries was a great way to blow off some steam after a long, long day. Nobody cared if you were too loud or looked a bit frazzled. It’s a dive bar—that’s how it’s supposed to be!
One of my roommates was in charge of a comedy festival for the student union, and he booked Jason Sudeikis. This was circa 2011, before Ted Lasso but when he was still on SNL. Sudeikis wanted to go hang out somewhere after his standup set where it wasn’t boring and dead, but also where strangers wouldn’t bother him all night. My buddy asked me where to suggest, and the answer was obvious: Linda’s, of course.
– Will Doran
I still remember my first time at Linda’s, with a big group of Daily Tar Heel colleagues in 1996 (or maybe early ’97), when I was definitely not old enough to be there. It was the first of countless memories made in there, from renting out the Downbar for my 40th birthday (plenty old enough then!), to hosting a music open mic there for four tremendously fun years to all manner of other moments from the mundane (more cheese fries!) to the miraculous (Luke Maye beats Kentucky!) to the wholly unlikely (drinking out of the Stanley Cup!). I can’t imagine Franklin St. without Linda’s, but I’m grateful for the years of effort and love Chris put into it since becoming the owner in 2011, when so many of us worried Linda’s would change from what we knew and loved. What change did come was always for the better … until now. Linda’s will forever be in our hearts.
– Evan Markfield
For four years I was a loyal customer of Linda’s Bar and Grill. I remember the first time going was after a theatre event my freshman year where upperclassmen told us of the loaded tots and the rest was history. I went for student theatre events like cabaret nights and show performances. We held annual award / showcase events there for UNC Student Television too. It was the spot.
I remember the first tots back in the summer of 2020 after being sent home for COVID. My friends and I tried to order take out often since we didn’t have the hang out spot and we wanted to support local businesses during the shutdown. I didn’t have a traditional 21st Birthday because of COVID but bartender Sam Jones brought the famous Linda’s birthday shot outside on the picnic tables in the middle of January so we could still make it special.
My senior year memories of Linda’s stick out the most. We had a standard booth – the one that was the “Make it a Bud Light at Linda’s.” The Carolina Connection radio kids made a routine every Friday after production ended where we celebrated that week’s work. I wondered if the new producers for the show kept up that same tradition after the seniors graduated. We ate spinach dip and loaded tots and drank Carolina Collins every week. My parents and I watched UNC beat Duke in Coach K’s last home game of the regular season. I watched all of March Madness from that same booth. My name and my friends are carved into the table and the seat. At one point there was a Polaroid picture of us put up in a ceiling tile.
I always complained to my mom that Linda’s never had a custom pint glass – I wanted one as a collectable to take with me after I moved away. For graduation she got me an Etsy glass etched with Linda’s Bar and Grill and after graduation dinner we cheered together with that glass.
Linda’s was my spot for four years. The bartenders knew us by name and hugged me and my friend goodbye when we both moved out of state. On my last visit before moving away from Chapel Hill they gave us a knife to carve our names into the down bar. I got to visit once during this past summer when I was in the area to see friends. It felt like nothing had changed as we were welcomed back with a hug. I’m sad to see it close.
– Ava Pukatch
I want to speak to the role that Linda’s has played for another group of people for whom the bar has been a second home during chaotic times — organizers and campaign staffers.
Linda’s has been the place where Chapel Hill’s dynamic community of progressive organizers have gathered on election nights to celebrate our wins, mourn our losses, and remember the community that inspires us to continue working for a better Chapel Hill, Orange County, and North Carolina for all of us. Linda’s is where I’ve hunched over a shared laptop, anxiously refreshing vote returns, and felt less alone. In 2022, it’s where I found out that Democrats had not (yet) fallen into a superminority in the General Assembly — and at the time, toasted what I believed was a mandate for access to abortion in North Carolina (how the times have changed). It’s really a heartbreaking thing to know we won’t be able to return.
– Cora Martin
I was in grad school in the late 2000s, in the Rutland/Dennis era of Linda’s. This was the early days of what’s now called Data Science, and there were limited resources on campus to run statistical programs and no VPN. But there were two booths at Linda’s Upstairs that would connect to campus wifi and let you access those resources. And every Friday between 3:30 and 4 pm, my grad school friends and I would claim those seats, order pitchers of Sierra Nevada or Shiner Bock, and work until heading somewhere for food and then going back downstairs. I exchanged statistical tutoring for beer in those booths on many a Friday.
I’d like to speak to what the place meant to the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies, UNC’s literary and debate societies and oldest student organizations on campus. I’m providing my own thoughts, not speaking on behalf of the organization.
Linda’s was a pillar of college life for two decades of DiPhi members. We used to retire to the restaurant by the dozens after our Monday meetings, compete in weekly trivia, and just stop by casually. Some members from years past carved our name into the well-worn booths, a reminder that many of them were far more at home there than anywhere else on Franklin. At least before the pandemic, it was uniquely good at community building. Its long hours, sharable food, and proximity to campus made it better than anywhere else at bringing people together. There is no clear alternative now.
– Nathaniel Shue
Linda’s loved me (remember those old stickers?)
We lived in an old duplex off of Lystra road before anything was out there – 1992. My roommate worked at the Varsity. One Saturday three of us dropped him off for work and strolled down Franklin Street. Linda’s was opening. Eight hours later we staggered up the street to collect my roommate from his shift and told him we’d been at Linda’s all day. ‘Linda’s sounds good,’ he said, so back down the street we went and stayed until closing.
I’m sure others have done it, but for my undergraduate ass, opening and closing Linda’s in the same day was the height of Chapel Hill bohemianism.
I’ve eaten entire meals that consisted on sweet potato tots, fried okra, and the daily drink special.
Now I’m on faculty, and I’ve made my department hold its holiday party at Linda’s.
– Eric Houck