It's been more than a half-century since the first Char-Grill opened its doors on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, but not much has changed at this beloved local chain. Whether in the original cinderblock building or one of the 10 locations that have been added since, people still approach the counter to jot down orders, pass them through the window, and then look on as cooks grill half- and quarter-pound steak patties over charcoal flames.
In addition to the signature smoky-flavored burgers, Char-Grill also fires up grilled chicken, chili dogs, and pulled-pork sandwiches. Milkshakes and fries add to the eatery's classic feel, helping land it on USA Today's list of 51 Great Burgers and reminding guests of simpler times when hamburgers were used as currency.
Locally owned and operated, Aversboro Coffee and Catering fills cups and refuels craniums with espresso drinks, smoothies, coffee, and fresh-baked goods. Kick-start a chest engine with an espresso drink, such as the vanilla latte ($3.65 for a regular), caffe latte ($3.25 for a regular), or chai latte ($3.50 for a regular), or coast calmly through one of many thick, berry-infused frozen smoothies ($3.90 for a medium, $4.10 for a large). The coffee shop also celebrates bagged botanicals with a variety of tea, such as vanilla bean, white tea pomegranate, and organic green, all of which provide a warm, consoling core for any mug-coddling palm ($1.65 for a cup).
The chefs at 5th Avenue Grill man a grill that sizzles happily beneath quarter-pound patties of Angus beef. Guests quiet hunger pains that roar as loudly as a juvenile windstorm's rock band as they tear into made-to-order treasures nestled between warm buns. As eager fingers plunge salty fries into sweet ketchup pools, guests sip bubbly sodas to wash down savory bites and fuel talk of founding a fantasy sesame-seed league. Chatter floats through the dining room from around the restaurant's gleaming tables.
For the hibachi chefs at Mitchikia Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi, playing with their food is a requirement. Over the heat of the traditional teppanyaki grills, their knives slice through seared steaks and shrimp, sending food flying with spatulas and catapults made of carrot sticks. In addition to the entertaining hibachi dinners, the kitchen prepares a host of Japanese-influenced dishes, in addition to freshly constructed maki rolls and sushi.
Entering the warm, inviting environment of Swift Creek Coffee House is like sleepwalking into a dream and being met at the gates of horn and ivory with a cup of steaming hot joe. The coffee house's friendly caffeine-dispensing agents are always alert and ready to prepare favorite espresso-based drinks, ranging from cappuccinos ($2.65+) to frappes ($3.50+) to experimental super-soldier lattes. Otherwise, start the day by stimulating senses with custom coffee roasts such as Jamaican Me Crazy or Swift Creek's own house blend ($1.45+). Fresh muffins ($1.85), mini scones ($1.85), cinnamon rolls ($1.99), and glazed donuts ($0.89) await sleep-encrusted eyes, ready to be dunked or combined into edible busts of yourself as you see fit. Swift Creek also stocks afternoon pick-me-ups and rewards for cleaning one's room in the form of scrumptious, made-from-scratch cookies from Sweet Carolina Gourmet.