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.
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.
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).
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.
Domino's recently reformulated its pizza recipe, which puts the buyer in command of a plentitude of pie-personalizing possibilities. Test the sturdiness of a hand-tossed thin crust with mounds of hearty marinara, ham, chicken, green peppers, black olives, and spinach, or fill a deep-dish foundation with alfredo sauce, bacon, onions, jalapeños, fresh mushrooms, and banana peppers. While delicious design options stretch into infinity like a taffy pull in a black hole, the eatery's specialty pizzas make choosing more manageable. Peruse pies like the MeatZZa Feast, which is piled high with pepperoni, ham, italian sausage, beef, and extra mozzarella, and the Pacific Veggie, a flashy West Coast–concoction of roasted red peppers, spinach, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives, feta, mozzarella, and provolone.
Hibachi dining has become popular across the world, but Fuji Steakhouse's staff members attempt to replicate a Japanese dining experience more thoroughly. They have their guests sit on the floor beneath bamboo screens in private tatami rooms, where waiters deliver tempura, teriyaki, and udon dishes. In the main dining room, the restaurant's Asian prints and wooden-latticework panels pay homage to Japan’s culture, and flames dance on oversized hibachi tables as chefs toss shrimp and steak onto guests’ plates. Another team of chefs mans the sushi bar, like a guitarist manning the stage or a drummer manning an oil drum. There, they enfold ingredients such as caviar and lightly spiced crawfish into 19 specialty rolls.