Must Eat Restaurants in Raleigh Food Guide Featured Image

23 Must-Eat Restaurants in Raleigh

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There are almost too many must-eat restaurants in Raleigh, which is why this will always be a growing list. With award-winning cuisine scattered throughout, building a guide to Oak City’s finest eats was a monumental task.

And that’s why we’ve reached out to some of North Carolina’s best food photographers and bloggers. With a mixture of places visited by us and them, we’re confident that your next Raleigh restaurant experience will be a good one after you read this guide of course!

This post is a part of our series on Raleigh, where we’ve covered free things to do there, day date ideas, sunflowers, and more in this awesome North Carolina city. We originally created this on July 12, 2019, and kept it updated, as of October 14, 2019.

Must-Eat Restaurants in Raleigh, NC

Note: Our food guides are always expanding, so if we left something off, it’s because our stomachs are only so big! Let us know if there is a place we missed and we will try it out for our next meal in Raleigh.

Bida Manda

Website | 222 S Blount St

Best Restaurants in Raleigh NC Bida Manda Image

Bida Manda means “Mother and Father” in Sanskrit and its familial atmosphere will quickly put you at ease. This Raleigh restaurant serves up Laotian heart and soul along with some amazing dishes. With incredible attention to detail and obvious passion in every plate, a meal at Bida Manda lets you reconnect and reignite. 

A must-order is their Pork Belly Soup and the folks at Bida Manda are happy to split bowls. That way, no one is fighting over noodles.

Driftwood

Menu | 8460 Honeycutt Rd #112

With an open kitchen and bright airy windows, you’ll find Southern food and a homey vibe the moment you walk into Driftwood Southern Kitchen. This Lafayette Village restaurant takes classic Southern dishes like fried green tomatoes up a notch with goat cheese and pepper jelly.

Their must-nom double-stacked fried chicken sandwich comes topped with pickled green tomatoes and avocado ranch. The cocktails, just like the rest of the menu, mix Southern ingredients like moonshine and whiskey with exotic ingredients, including Thai chiles, cardamom, and chocolate stout.

We’re not done with Lafayette Village by any stretch but just wanted to share our homage to that foodie paradise with you.

Death and Taxes

Website | 105 W Hargett St

Restaurants in Raleigh Death and Taxes image by Linda Nguyen
Photo Credit: Linda Nguyen.

Linda Nguyen, Girl Eats World

Death and Taxes is the first of many Ashley Christensen restaurants in Raleigh that we’ll mention here. It’s also the only AC place that takes reservations, which I highly recommend. That’s because this swanky, intimate space fills up fast.

Their popular Wood-Fired Oysters are popular for good reason. We voted and unanimously ordered another round for our table. Oh, and don’t skip their Whipped Potatoes and Grilled Octopus, either. The Death and Taxes menu and service are both impeccable, which isn’t surprising, considering the James Beard-winning North Carolinian queen who runs it. 

The Fiction Kitchen

Website | 428 S Dawson St

The Fiction Kitchen Restaurants in Raleigh NC Image

Eastern Carolina native Chef Caroline Morrison serves up the most incredible vegetarian and vegan food in the entire state of North Carolina at the Fiction Kitchen. Her famed meatless smoked barbecue landed her in Food and Wine and 100 percent gets the approval of the NC BBQ fanatics behind this site.

The bright neon green building and funky decor add more flavor to the already delicious meatless options coming out the window. Start off with a tasting plate of housemade vegan nut cheese and tempeh pâté, order at least one plate of pulled “pork,” and round out the night with a slice of decadent vegan cheesecake.

Hummingbird

Website | 1053 E Whitaker Mill Rd Suite 111

Things to do in Raleigh NC Hummingbird Image

Café by day and small plates and artisanal cocktails by night, Hummingbird is a seemingly small* but fierce establishment, just like its namesake. Hummingbird serves a variety of elegant dishes in a retro environment.

Here, you can sip on a gorgeous cocktail with a hint of rosewater, slurp Chef Coleen’s charbroiled oysters, or licking bourbon caramel from your sticky bun off your fingers.

Also, while the dining room appears to be small, there is additional seating in the back and patio!

Poole’s Downtown Diner

Website | 426 S McDowell St

Andrea Updyke, Just is a Four Letter Word

Dinner at Poole’s Downtown Diner is a must for Raleigh locals and visitors. This mainstay has enjoyed many lives since opening in 1945 and Chef Ashley Christensen is leading its current incarnation, which is nothing short of delicious. Poole’s combines a retro aesthetic and an elevated classic menu with locally sourced farm-to-table offerings. 

It’s dine-in style every day starting at 5:30 pm, but don’t delay as reservations are not available and the tables quickly fill up. The bar opens at 5:00 pm so you can come early for the drinks and stay for the legendary, melt-in-your-mouth macaroni au gratin. Poole’s also offers a Sunday brunch, which is a can’t-miss.

Whiskey Kitchen

Website | 201 W Martin St

Whiskey flights and elevated Southern-inspired bites are exactly what you’ll find inside the casual-yet-sophisticated Whiskey Kitchen. Choose from over 400 specialty whiskeys and sip with friends while sitting outside on the patio.

If you’re a newbie to whiskey, stop by between 7:00 and 9:00 pm on Tuesdays for complimentary whiskey tastings. And if you want to sample, whiskey flights are $10 on Wednesdays.

We mentioned Whiskey Kitchen and a few more of these Raleigh restaurants in our day date guide to the city!

so.ca

Website | 2130 Clark Ave

Raleigh Food so.ca Image by Courtney Osgood
Photo Credit: Courtney Osgood.

Courtney Osgood, Courtesy of Court

You’ll find love at first bite at so.ca. Tons of Latin restaurants in Raleigh specialize in one country’s cuisine (Mexican, Argentinian, etc.), but you don’t often see a place featuring various regions. At so·ca, you can experience Latin-inspired dishes from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and elsewhere.

From apps to entrees, there’s truly something for everyone! If you can’t decide, go with the decadent crab-stuffed avocado. And if you’re looking for a refreshing cocktail, try their La Fiore Contessa.

Just be warned. It’s so good that you’ll forget there’s alcohol in it! But no matter what you order at so·ca, the options won’t disappoint. 

Mandolin

Website | 2519 Fairview Rd

Places to Eat in Raleigh NC Mandolin Image

Mandolin offers fine dining in a bistro setting and dishes with local ingredients, even sourcing from their own farm in North Raleigh. Whether you’re joining Chef Fowler for his $9 gourmet burger night or the Pan-Seared Tilefish, you’re bound to experience sophistication.

Dishes not only highlight the protein but all elements on your plate. Located in the Hayes Barton neighborhood, Mandolin is a Raleigh restaurant offering a literal fresh take on Southern food.

Beasley’s Chicken + Honey

Website | 237 S Wilmington St

Raleigh Restaurants Beasleys Chicken and Honey Image

I guarantee that if you drive through Downtown Raleigh and see a line of people waiting outside of a restaurant, you probably just passed Ashley Christensen’s Beasley’s Chicken + Honey. The rest of the menu doesn’t disappoint, but many people come for the exquisitely prepared Chicken and Waffles.

Of course, the rest of the menu doesn’t disappoint, as their Pot Pie attests—served in a milk gravy with a cornmeal crust. Simply put, Beasley’s is Southern chicken and grandma’s sides elevated to serve today’s foodies. But once you step inside, you’ll see that it’s not that simple here.

Chef Christensen will also be in attendance at Chow Chow in Asheville, which we covered here.

Transfer Co. Food Hall

Website | 500 E Davie St

Best Breakfast in Raleigh NC Benchwarmers Bagels Image

Inside of the historic Carolina Coach Garage and Shop, Transfer Co. Food Hall houses a fantastic collection of vendors and restaurants. You can stroll through, grab a Dank Burrito, and swig on some Burial Beer.

At Transfer, you also have a chance to slurp on fresh NC seafood at Locals Oyster Bar and get your dunk on at Captain Cookie & The Milkman. Stop by in the early morning for a bagel from Benchwarmers, which is the love child of Raleigh’s famed Jubala Coffee and Boulted Bread.

MOFU Shoppe

Website | 321 S Blount St

Restaurants in Raleigh NC MOFU Shoppe Image by Mariska Ramondino
Photo Credit: Mariska Ramondino.

Mariska Ramondino, My Chefs Apron

MOFU Shoppe is not your typical Asian restaurant. This trendy yet relaxed atmosphere invites you in with an impressive bar located at the center of its beautifully rustic, loft-like open space.

And if you go on a pleasantly warm evening, renovated garage doors covering the whole entrance open up to the streets of Raleigh. The menu’s exciting options include plates fused with American and Asian roots, with gluten-free and vegan options available, too.

In case you can’t decide, you have to try the General WOO Brussels Sprouts or the Pork and Chive Dumplings. Of course, the friendly and knowledgeable staff will happily help you pick. The restaurant also offers a unique selection of drinks, including Beets By MOFU—a home cocktail made with black pepper vodka.

We also visited MOFU Shoppe, Transfer Co Food Fall, and a few more spots during our Taste Carolina Food Tour in Raleigh. You can read more about that experience here!

Papa Shogun

Website | 111 Seaboard Ave #118

Raleigh NC Fusion Food Papa Shogun Image

Papa Shogun in Seaboard Station is definitely one of the most unique restaurants in Raleigh. Here, Japanese and Italian cuisine meet to form an unlikely menu pairing. Chef Tom Cuomo mixes fresh pulled mozzarella with Japanese flavors in his Kombu Garlic Bread with shiso and togarashi seasoning.

Another favorite is the Kombu Gnocchi, which floats like a cloud above mushroom dashi. Yaki Onigiri was a personal favorite of mine while living in Asia, but Papa Shogun’s addition of roasted peppers and fresh mozzarella to the rice balls and Italian red sauce accompaniment takes it to a whole new level.

Crawford and Son

Website | 618 N Person St

Raleigh Food Crawford and Son Image by Meghan Grant

Meghan Grant, I’m Fixin’ To Blog

Crawford and Son in Historic Oakwood offers dishes that are familiar, yet fresh and creative. The energetic environment has a welcoming vibe with beautiful interior decor. The menu always impresses, especially when there are heirloom tomatoes present.

Dishes are beautifully presented with tasteful details. I recommend asking the server what they would order and then sharing dishes. That way, you get to sample around.

Plus, it always brings friends closer together when sharing and experiencing the same food. And whatever you do, save room for dessert. You won’t be disappointed!

Big Ed’s City Market

Website | 220 Wolfe St

Raleigh Attractions Big Eds City Market Image

Quirky, kitschy, All-American, is what you’ll get at Downtown Raleigh food staple Big Ed’s Restaurant. Big Ed’s has called its City Market location “home” since 1989 and was founded in 1958. Founder Big Ed developed the recipes that the restaurant uses today while preparing meals for workers on his farm.

Customers are treated to some of the most delicious red-eye gravy, all-you-can-eat fluffy and buttery biscuits, blackstrap molasses, and more Southern classics that stick to your ribs. There’s nothing like a farm-fresh breakfast and Big Ed’s makes sure even Raleigh’s city folk can enjoy some down-home cooking.

Sola Coffee Cafe

Website | 7705 Lead Mine Rd

Best Breakfast in Raleigh NC Sola Coffee Cafe

Solas is everything you want in a café. For starters, they serve quality local fresh coffee, but there’s also a toast menu that will make you go insane and plenty of #instaworthy corners and murals. Whether you’re stopping by to catch up with a friend over a Chicken & Pesto sandwich or splitting a bag of their hot mini doughnuts, Solas is a foodie must-stop to fuel up.

Don’t forget to take a selfie with the “I believe in Raleigh” mural.

Morgan Street Food Hall

Website | 411 Morgan St

Places to Eat in Raleigh NC Morgan Street Food Hall Image

First of all, do NOT call Morgan Street Food Hall a “food court” because it is so much more than that. No, this is a place for the community to come together and dine. Morgan Street packs some of the best local restaurants into its brick and mortar location with indoor seating and a kickass outdoor patio.

Here, you can dine on delicious buttery rolls from Shark Tank alums Cousins Maine Lobster, dig into home-style cooking from Iyla’s Southern Kitchen, enjoy freshly prepared Mediterranean from Sassool, or eat the best-fried seafood from Oak City Fish and Chips. It’s more than a collection of eateries. Morgan Street Food Hall is a true cross-meal experience.

Wye Hill Kitchen + Brewing

Website | 201 S Boylan Ave

Chana Lynn, Raleigh Whats Up

Wye Hill Kitchen + Brewing is located at Boylan Bridge where the Boylan Bridge Brewpub formerly resided. The patio has been nicely revamped and the interior was given a nice makeover. The result is more open space and a cool, comfortable retro vibe. New beers are being brewed and the kitchen’s tasty new menu features “chef-driven bar food.”  

There is a range of creative food options, including multiple vegan dishes. Put together a fresh space and Raleigh skyline views and you have one of the most awesome restaurants in Raleigh!

Zanyu Noodles

Website | 8450 Honeycutt Rd Unit 112

Restaurants in Lafayette Village Raleigh Zanyu Noodles Image

Zanyu Noodles packs spice, flavor, and love into Chef Michael Bongiorno’s dishes that take me back to our travels through Southeast Asia. Located in the foodie heaven of Lafayette Village, Zanyu is a casual noodle bar serving dishes from Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Bongiorno spent 15 years as an executive chef for Hyatt International cooking and learning across the globe, including extensive time in Asia. Dig into any of the noodle dishes (especially Khao Soi), but don’t miss out on their amazing Pork Belly Buns with marinated cucumbers.

Oakwood Café

Website | 300 E Edenton St

Things to do in Raleigh NC Oakwood Cafe Image by Courtney Renee
Photo Credit: Courtney Renee.

Courtney Renee, Aspire Oneself

Downtown Raleigh’s Oakwood Cafe is an Argentinian-Cuban restaurant that’ll seat and serve you quickly, especially during the busy lunch rush. This place serves empanadas, soups, yuca, tostones, sandwiches, wraps and much more for an affordable price. I ordered their delicious spinach and cheese empanadas and after eating one, I wanted three more!

Another favorite from their menu is the Cuban Steak Sandwich served with spicy sauce. If you’re looking to try something quick and affordable in Raleigh, definitely check out Oakwood Café.

41Hundred

Website | 4100 Main at North Hills St

Restaurants Raleigh nc 41Hundred North Hills Image

41Hundred is located inside of the sleek Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel and goes far beyond the expectations of a hotel restaurant. The casual vibe here meshes nicely with the sophisticated dishes that pair with their house-aged bourbon.

Whether you’re checking in for a night or looking for great North Hills restaurants, 41Hundred is the perfect place to start. And to keep things interesting and focused on local, the menu changes seasonally.

Raleigh Beer Garden

Website | 614 Glenwood Ave

Top Restaurants in Raleigh NC Raleigh Beer Garden Image

With the Guinness World Record for the most unique beers on tap, Raleigh Beer Garden is a definite must-visit. With so much talk about their beer (psst. 200 of those taps come from North Carolina), you might think there’s no room for food.

But think again, because there’s a nice menu to choose from. Whether you pair Maple Bourbon Bacon with your Porter or indulge with a Smoked Brisket Sandwich, Raleigh Beer Garden has you covered. Three floors plus a stellar outdoor section means there’s plenty of space for everyone to gather together and bond over amazing brews and bites!

STIR

Website | 4242 Six Forks Rd Ste 100

North Hills Restaurants STIR Image

Fresh oysters, delicious craft cocktails, and artisanal ice are what set STIR apart from other Raleigh restaurants. Newly opened in North Hills, STIR invites foodies to experience what a difference artisanal ice makes in a drink.

Hand-cut using purified water, mixologists use the freshest ingredients and creative inspiration to make every sip an experience. The menu at STIR demonstrates the same kind of focus on detail, sourcing ingredients from farms and vendors within 100 miles of Raleigh and every bite is made from scratch each day.

Final Thoughts

Again, a very special thanks to the amazing people who helped us with this Raleigh restaurant guide. Please click through to their sites and read their amazing stories and guides. And another thing…after putting this together, I don’t know about you but I’m hungry for more!

Since Raleigh’s burgeoning food scene is always growing, we have plenty of work cut out for us. It’s going to be fun adding to this list of must-eat restaurants in Raleigh. As we do that, don’t worry because we’ll be sharing what we find with you.

What are your favorite restaurants in Raleigh? And if you’ve never eaten there,  among the places to eat that we mentioned, where would you go first?

5 thoughts on “23 Must-Eat Restaurants in Raleigh

    • Carl Hedinger says:

      Thank you, Ashley! Definitely going to keep those two in mind as we expand our efforts. Have a wonderful day!

  1. Jason Cooper says:

    Lovely list. Definitely missing out on some of the more quality spots around town. The best restaurant in town for excellent food and impeccable service is surely Second Empire Restaurant & Tavern. One of the longest running restaurants still standing. Daniel Schurr’s food and presentation is beyond anything you will ever eat on the east coast. I will proudly say this is the best restaurant in town!

    • Carl Hedinger says:

      Thanks, Jason. Will definitely keep these in mind as we continue to grow this list of awesome restaurants in Raleigh!

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