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Restaurants in Raleigh

Sure, being home to renowned universities and acclaimed cultural institutions is nice and all, but these days, Raleigh restaurants are drawing just as many tourists to the city. Don’t believe us? Raleigh’s restaurant scene has been getting attention from foodie publications far and wide, and Raleigh has been named a top food destination by both Zagat and Forbes, the latter of which named the city one of its “Top 12 Global Destinations” in 2017. So book a plane ticket, change into some looser pants, and start planning your culinary adventure with help from our list of the best restaurants in Raleigh, NC.

With so many amazing Raleigh restaurants, it can be hard to craft a short list of the very best spots. After all, what criteria do you use to separate the great from the really, truly great? Still, there are a number of restaurants in Raleigh, NC that stand out in the sea of amazing eateries. Some are noteworthy for their history, others for their culinary ingenuity, but all have earned a spot on your Raleigh food bucket list.

 

 

  • Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern. This downtown restaurant is set inside a historic Victorian mansion, making it the perfect spot for a romantic dinner or a special occasion meal. There’s no place better for wowing out-of-town guests, especially if you end the meal with the chocolate souffle.
  • The Pit Authentic Barbecue. No visit to Raleigh would be complete without some real, Carolina whole-hog barbecue, and that’s exactly what you’ll get at this urban eatery. But while the pit-cooked pork is the main draw, don’t overlook the fried chicken—some swear it’s the best in town.
  • Beasley’s Chicken + Honey. Vying for the top chicken spot is this casual gem from James Beard-winning chef Ashley Christensen. Of course, here you can choose to pair your bird with sides like custard mac & cheese, so the deck might be a little stacked in its favor.
  • 42nd Street Oyster Bar & Seafood Grille. Raleigh’s go-to spot for oysters since 1931, 42nd Street has earned rave reviews for its other seafood dishes too, as well as the hush puppies that are served before every meal.
  • Ashworth Drugs. The rare authentic soda fountain that’s still attached to a pharmacy, Ashworth Drugs has been serving ice cream floats, shakes, and other confections since 1957. Don’t ignore the savory items either: the shop is famous for its bright red hot dogs and pimento grilled cheese.
Best Barbecue Restaurant in Raleigh Clyde Cooper’s BBQ Yes, The Pit might be the best barbecue joints in town, but if we were to factor in atmosphere into the rating, we think Clyde Cooper’s might just edge it out of the top spot. Opened in 1938, it’s the oldest barbecue restaurant in Raleigh, and the vinegary chopped pork is a perfect example of what Eastern Carolina-style barbecue is supposed to be. Add collards, hushpuppies, and the banana pudding to build your perfect plate—but be sure to be cash.
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Best Diner in Raleigh

Mecca Restaurant

 

There’s an old saying among the legislators in Raleigh, that you haven’t truly made it in politics until they know you on a first name basis at Mecca. The vintage, two-story luncheonette has long been popular with area lawyers and lawmakers, partly because of its jumbo burgers and excellent sweet tea, and partly because of the hospitality of late owner John Dombalis, who turned every stranger into a friend by the end of the meal.

Best Mexican Restaurant in Raleigh

Taqueria El Toro

The best, most authentic Mexican food is often found in the most unassuming places, and that’s certainly the case with this tiny, strip-mall spot. The carnitas and the carne asada are both crowd-pleasers, whether piled into tacos, stuffed into burritos, or piled atop a torta. But it’s the self-serve salsa and toppings bar here that really wows customers and keeps them coming back for more. There, diners can accent their plates, not just with homemade salsas and sauces, but with sides like slaw, charred peppers, pickled onions, and other tasty surprises. Don’t forget to ask for a free plate of chips

Best Pizza in Raleigh DeMos Pizzeria & Deli Raleigh isn’t exactly known for its pizza, but with DeMos in the game that could very well change. The dough for their NY-style pies is mixed fresh every day, all day long, and the chefs strive to use fresh farmers market ingredients for their toppings whenever possible. Speaking of toppings, locals rave about the garlic- and shallot-infused white sauce that graces the shop’s white pizzas, though the homemade marinara sauce (slow roasted on the stove for 6 hours) is nothing to sneeze at either.

Best Italian Restaurant in Raleigh

Gravy


Gravy may not be the most authentic of Italian restaurants in Raleigh, but with dishes like duck meatballs in brandy-cherry glaze or gnocchi with leek cream and local oyster mushrooms, who needs authenticity? If you raised your hand at that question, you’ll still find plenty of traditional specialties that have been given a unique twist, including a much-loved lasagna with a beef and pancetta bolognese.

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