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.
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.
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
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.