It has been exactly 4 years since Ethan and I moved to North Carolina, to say we fell in love with this state is putting it lightly.
We love being so close to the gorgeous mountains and even closer to the beach, not to mention, Raleigh is pretty great. It is the capital and is growing everyday. There is an emerging beer and food scene like no other. There is ALWAYS somewhere new opening.
I have always described Raleigh as a big small town. Everywhere we go, we know someone. We still get the small town feel, knowing the owners of the local shops and shaking their hands when you make a purchase, but we have the big city perks like, museums, concerts, and variety of stores.
I get asked so often when I tell people that I am a food blogger (which is very rare) about my restaurant reviews. I don’t like to review restaurants, but I have no problem telling you where I think you should go eat!
Let me know if you think I left any off the list or if I should try somewhere new!
Ashley Christensen is the girl boss of all girl bosses, especially in Raleigh, NC. This is her original restaurant and stands to be my favorite. She uses extremely local ingredients and creates dishes in thoughtful ways to showcase them. I recommend getting the pimiento cheese, a salad, and splitting the mac and cheese au gratin. There is really no reason to get an entree, but if you must, I would choose the local fish option, while my husband will get the Roasted Chicken with Double Stock Gravy every.single.time. They are only open for dinner and don’t take reservations, my tip would be to show up at 5 or to show up later, around 8, to not have to wait for a table.
This is our go-to spot for Italian food. We never go anywhere else. It does have a small dining area, so reservations are definitely recommended. I have taken out of town guests and in-town friends to this gem. It is tucked away in a strip mall and is very unassuming, but once you know about it, you won’t forget. A little tip: When you make your reservation, you can also request that they save you an order of the mussels, you want them to do this, just trust me. Other than that, order whatever you want on the menu, it is ALL spectacular, seriously, all of it. You won’t be disappointed.
Just take one look at these arepas, these are perfect for lunch, dinner, or just a mid-day snack. It is like a Venezuelan version of Chipotle. You walk through the line, choose an arepa, bowl, or salad and start loading up with your favorite toppings. They are constantly cranking out these arepas fresh. The red sauce is my VERY favorite and I always switch up the toppings. This is right next to one of our favorite bottle shops, Bottle Revolution, we usually take our food over there or eat on the outdoor patios in the back with a brew from next door. We eat here so often during hockey season or before a show at PNC. They are super accommodating with dietary restrictions and allergies.
4. Pho Far East
Another small dining area gem tucked away in a strip mall, I’m apparently a sucker for those. When there is a line out the door for lunch filled with people from all walks of life, you know you have found the right place. The pho here is pho-nomenal, come on.. I had to do it, just once! Seriously, I don’t order pho anywhere else, because I know there is no way it will hold up to this standard. If you love pho, or have never had it, I hope you stop in here. They serve you a big plate with fresh basil, jalapeños, sprouts, and limes to garnish your bowl just the way you like it. I am sure everything else on the menu is good, but to honest, I have no idea and don’t plan on ever finding out.
5. Bida Manda
This Laotian restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, but does close during the two services. If you go at night it is a little darker and the atmosphere is awesome. It is one of my very favorite date night spots. The cocktails are spectacular and the food is even better. The pork belly soup is out of this world amazing and so is the papaya salad. One of my favorite things about this restaurant is the levels of spice. You can specify how you want it and they will make it really spicy, which is what I am looking for. We have brought many friends and out-of-town guests here to try Laotian food and everyone has loved it.
Sitti is open for lunch and dinner and is a perfect option for either one. They have private tables and long family tables. The atmosphere in here is amazing, it is filled with people enjoying delicious food and laughing with their friends and family. I love it. I have a really hard time not getting the Sitti Tasting every time I am here, but I have branched out to the kabobs, the salmon!!, the falafel, and Ethan gets the steak, which he claims is one of the best in Raleigh. Everything is delicious. They have fresh made pita bread for the complimentary appetizer and it is SO hard to not fill up on that. My advice? Go with a group and convince everyone to order something different.
This old “barn” is the Raleigh staple of Raleigh staples. When you are traveling and mention you are from Raleigh, people always ask, have you been to the Angus Barn? This spot is so special to me, I celebrated my 21st birthday here, our first brewery opening and have celebrated countless other things here, it is just a special spot. You can go in jeans and a t-shirt or a suit, you will see both. It is near the airport, so you could stop in for cocktails and the complimentary cheese & pickle bar in the Wild Turkey lounge (the open at 3PM) or go all out and stay for dinner. They have amazing steaks, salads with homemade bleu cheese dressing, and the famous chocolate chess pie. The wine list is the best in the area and you can request a private wine cellar tour from your server after your meal. They have a country store, a cigar lounge, really they have thought of everything. My very favorite time to go is Christmas, it is gorgeous. I have never seen anywhere more decorated for Christmas, they have little elves, gingerbread cookies, and so many Christmas decorations that I think it gives the North Pole a run for it’s money. This Raleigh staple is here to stay and is where I will continue to celebrate all of my special occasions in life.
This restaurant/bar is in the old Raleigh Times newspaper building and is actually 3 buildings that connect. There is a bar and plenty of seating in each building. This is one of our favorite spots. The food is always great and so are the beverages. It is right in the heart of downtown Raleigh and is perfect for walking around or stopping in for a snack in the middle of the day. My favorites are the Cuban sandwich, the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, and the Chopped Salad (in a wrap, add chicken and ranch.) They have a great rooftop bar which gets super crowded at night. If you are looking for a local pint and great food, check this spot out. Oh, and the Bloody Mary is pretty spectacular AND you can order a sidecar of beer, it’s perfect.
If you have been around my blog for awhile, you know this Texas girl couldn’t wait to find a great Mexican food spot. This is it. The margaritas are killer. The chips and queso are on point and if you don’t like chips and queso you are doing life wrong and I’m not sure we can be friends… Other than those two things, I always choose something different on the menu and am never disappointed. The decor in here is so unique and the restaurant has a great ambiance. This is another hole-in-the-wall, small dining area space, but it is worth it. They are open for lunch and dinner and close in-between services, so you have 2 chances to check this spot out.
10.Clyde Cooper’s BBQ
Clyde Cooper’s BBQ, you can’t come to NC without trying some NC BBQ and this is where you should get it. They recently moved from their original location, but the food has not changed a bit. It is downtown, so parking is a little tricky, but you are going to want to walk some after you stuff your face with the best pulled pork sandwich and a zillion hush puppies anyway, so don’t worry about it. It is cash only, so don’t forget to bring your cash!
11.State Farmer’s Market Restaurant
Raleigh is so lucky to be home to the State Farmer’s Market and this restaurant. It is my mom’s first request after landing here from Texas. The breakfast is amazing and they serve it for lunch! You can get homemade bisuictis and molasses, country ham, grits, chicken pastry, chicken fried steak, mac n cheese, pretty much any homestyle comfort food. You can then walk it off, while perusing the Farmer’s Market. This is one of the best spots in Raleigh, I usually come for breakfast and so does the rest of the town, so expect a little wait.
The original location of Krispy Kreme. It’s a Raleigh staple. You can find Krispy Kreme nation wide now, but the OG resides in Raleigh and is still cranking out hot, fresh, glazed donuts and turning the light on! Come walk around the historic Oakwood with a bag of hot donut holes from Krispy Kreme, you will love every second of it.
This is another place that you know you are in the right spot by the line out the door. This one moves very quickly and you stare into cases of all of the best Lebanese food you could ever find. Homemade hummus, tzatziki, baba ghannouj, orzo salads, kale salads, fattoush and a grill in the back grilling up all of the kabobs for pitas or skewers. There is also a market in here where you can buy the pita bread to go or any of the desserts or spices, you will basically want everything. This is maybe my #1 favorite spot in Raleigh, if I had to choose..