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2023’s Top Restaurant Standbys for the Carolinas

Food insiders discuss the meals that kept them going this year

A bowl of noodle soup, topped with barbecued pork.
A barbecue noodle bowl at King BBQ.
Mike Ledford

In keeping with Eater tradition, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. To kick it off in the Carolinas, Eater asked the group eight questions, ranging from the restaurants they frequented for takeout to the saddest surprises of the year. Responses are in no particular order, and readers are encouraged to leave answers in the comments.

Q. What were your regular go-to destinations in 2023?

Kay West, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering Asheville
La Bodega (32 S. Lexington Avenue, Asheville) is always my answer for a light or full-out graze of pintxos and oxtails on Thursdays. I can almost always grab a seat at the bar, and they carry the Phony Negroni and Athletic IPA for the NA tribe. Little D’s and Tall John’s are great neighborhood spots with stellar food and service, and I need a regular mussels and frites fix from Bouchon.

Eric Ginsburg, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering North Carolina
I don’t get out enough to be considered a regular anywhere, but the spots I returned to most were Standard Beer + Food (205 E. Franklin Street), Ajja (209 Bickett Boulevard), Bonchon (6320 Capital Boulevard), Two Roosters (7713 Lead Mine Road), and Pho Xpress (7841 Alexander Prom Place) — all in Raleigh.

Hanna Raskin, editor and publisher of The Food Section
Bank of America probably has the definitive answer to this question, but I’m guessing the restaurants near the top of my repeat visit list include various locations of Cocoa Cinnamon in Durham, where I set up shop when writing in the Triangle; Bill & Fran’s (11724 SC-34) in Newberry, my favorite stop between the culinary capitals of the Carolinas I cover; and Contrada (28 Wall Street) in Asheville. Also, since the Sunday NYT source closest to my home in Park Circle is the Daniel Island Publix, I’ve bought dozens of bagels from Blondies (245 Seven Farms Drive). (Don’t tell the nice folks there, but I’m switching to Ruby’s if the New York Times ever deigns to deliver to North Charleston addresses.)

Mike Ledford, photographer and Eater Carolinas contributor
King BBQ (2029 Carver Avenue, North Charleston). I’ve been half a dozen times so far, and I’m working through the whole menu and cocktail list.

Stacey Sprenz, photographer and Eater Carolinas contributor
Killer Queen Wine Bar (117 E. Main Street, Durham) and Mike D’s BBQ (455 S. Driver Street, Durham).

Catherine Currin, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering the Triangle
Poole’s Diner (426 S. McDowell Street, Raleigh), Standard Beer + Food (205 E. Franklin Street, Raleigh), Boulted Bread (328 Dupont Circle, Raleigh), and the Raleigh Wine Shop (317 S. Bloodworth Street, Raleigh).

Kayleigh Ruller, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering Charlotte
In Charlotte, scoping out the new-ish spots in NoDa made for many a Friday night, and a night I’d go back to over and over again. Stop 1: Ever Andalo (3116 N. Davidson Street) if I’m feeling fancy, or Salud Cerveceria (3306 N. Davidson Street) if I’m feeling casual. Stop 2: I’ll definitely end up at Bar a Vins or Idlewild, both right next door to the dinner options, for a post-dinner drink.

Matthew Lardie, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering North Carolina
The Cargo District (1605 Queen Street) in Wilmington, North Carolina, became my go-to whenever I was down there. Awesome fusion food at Beat Street, killer sandwiches at Cheesesmith, and amazing pizzas at Salita. After a few beers at Alcove Beer Garden, I could wander over to the Plant Outpost to feed my houseplant addiction.

Timothy DePeugh, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering Charlotte
Humbug in Charlotte for the whimsical cocktails.

Melissa Howsam, editor-in-chief, Raleigh Magazine
To dine, I’m a sucker for Samad Hachby’s Mulino (hard to resist the short sojourn to Tuscany a la poolside patio—or that gnocchi) (309 N Dawson Street, Raleigh); Bhavana nirvana at Brewery Bhavana (218 S. Blount Street, Raleigh); and Mike Lee’s multicultural M Test Kitchen (4 Fenton Main Street, Cary). For spirits, whatever marg spin Lily Ballance and company are concocting at Willco (616 N. Person Street, Raleigh) or anything at Dram & Draught.

Jai Jones, food writer and photographer
Bar George (1956 Maybank Highway, James Island), Beautiful South (128 Columbus Street, Charleston), and Berkley’s (624 1/2 Rutledge Avenue, Charleston).

Barbara Skidmore, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering South Carolina and Savannah
Sea Wolf (106 S. Campbell Avenue) and Huc a Poo’s (1213 US-80) on Tybee Island. La Pizzeria (976 Houston Northcutt Boulevard) and Nick’s German Restaurant (1150 Hungry Neck Boulevard) in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

Parker Milner, food editor, Post & Courier
King BBQ (2029 Carver Avenue, North Charleston), Harbinger (1107 King Street, Charleston), Chubby Fish (252 Coming Street, Charleston).

Erin Perkins, editor Eater Carolinas
Anytime that Dough Boyz Pizza popped up at Graft Wine Shop (700 King Street, Charleston), I was there. The pepperoni pie with a glass of Explosivo vinho verde tinto is a near-perfect combination.