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Caramelized butternut squash. lentils, brown butter, and pistachio on a white plate.
Caramelized butternut squash. lentils, brown butter, and pistachios at Crawford and Son.
Crawford and Son

18 Essential Restaurants in Raleigh, North Carolina

There’s something for everyone in North Carolina’s capital city

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Caramelized butternut squash. lentils, brown butter, and pistachios at Crawford and Son.
| Crawford and Son

Raleigh has broken free of its staid downtown dining reputation and now offers one of the most exciting culinary scenes in the state. Continued growth of neighborhoods outside the downtown core have meant new restaurant options beyond the Inner Beltline, while redevelopment in areas like the Warehouse District have created entirely new dining realms in the City of Oaks. From Ashley Christensen’s mini-empire to exciting strip mall finds, there is a tasty treat for everyone in Raleigh.

November 2021: Alpha Dawgs is temporarily closed, awaiting a new location. New to the map is Wye Hill Kitchen & Bar.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Angus Barn

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9401 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC 27617
(919) 781-2444
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Weddings. Birthdays. Business deals. Customers would be hard-pressed to find a moment that hasn’t been celebrated at this Raleigh institution. Since 1960 the Angus Barn has provided generations of diners with delicious steakhouse staples like aged prime rib and filet mignon, shrimp cocktail, and creamed spinach. The restaurant boasts one of the largest wine selections in the state, and its Wild Turkey Lounge not only churns out classic cocktails but also displays what is alleged to be the largest private collection of Wild Turkey commemorative decanters in the world.

2. Seoul Garden

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4701 Atlantic Ave
Raleigh, NC 27604
(919) 850-9984
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Raleigh’s go-to for Korean barbecue, Seoul Garden also has a sister location in Cary. Pork and beef bulgogi, galbi, and shrimp gui can be found on the barbecue menu, alongside favorites like kimchi jigae, bibimbap, and three different types of jungol meant for sharing. Lunchtime diners can choose from menu classics or opt for the lunch-only banchan boxes, but an order of the Combination soon doo boo (soft tofu soup with beef, baby clams, and shrimp) always pleases.

3. Bella Monica

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3121 Edwards Mill Rd
Raleigh, NC 27612
(919) 881-9778
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Mom’s old school meatballs. Baked ziti. Veal bolognese. For more than two decades Bella Monica has served up Italian comfort food classics at its Edwards Mill Road location. Customers can opt for pasta or go for a Neapolitan-style pizza. Fans of classic Italian cuisine will take note of the cannolis for dessert.

4. Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill

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4025 Lake Boone Trail # 107
Raleigh, NC 27607
(919) 322-4928
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As the name suggests arepas reign supreme at Guasaca. With signature flavors like crispy chicken, mechada (shredded beef), and braised tilapia, Guasaca truly celebrates this South American staple. There is the option to skip the actual arepa (a ground maize dough that is griddled, fried, or baked before being filled) and order any of the offerings as a rice bowl as well.

an arepa next to an avocado.
Arepa from Guasaca.
Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill

5. Glenwood Grill

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2603-151 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC 27608
(919) 782-3102
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Inspired by the coastal Lowcountry cuisine of both North and South Carolina, Glenwood Grill offers classics like Charleston she crab soup, shrimp and grits, and crispy North Carolina catfish. The Carpet Bagger is an edible journey into the past — two four-ounce filet mignon steaks, fried oysters, and parsnip mashed potatoes, like something out of a 1950s black and white film.

A light-filled dining room with blonde wood tables and chairs.
The dining room at Glenwood Grill.
Glenwood_Grill

6. Union Special

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2409 Crabtree Blvd #102
Raleigh, NC 27604
(984) 200-3094
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This is Andrew Ullom’s first solo venture after stints at the famous Greenbriar resort in West Virginia, the Washington Duke Inn, and as head pastry chef for Ashley Christensen restaurants. Take-home loaves, pastries, and hearty sandwiches for breakfast or lunch round out the menu. Favorites include Ullom’s sourdough loaves, kouign amann pastry, and the Union Special egg sandwich — scrambled eggs, fontina, hash browns, and romesco sauce on a brioche bun. He recently opened a second location on Fayetteville Street in the heart of downtown that focuses more on the sandwich side of offerings.

7. Hayes Barton Cafe & Dessertery

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2000 Fairview Rd
Raleigh, NC 27608
(919) 856-8551
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Classic American fare like chicken parm, tuna casserole, and filet mignon make up the savory side of this cafe’s lunch and dinner menu, but in reality Hayes-Barton is where Raleigh comes for cake. Choose from over a dozen daily offerings like red velvet cake, hummingbird cake, or banana pudding cake. There are other dessert offerings like pies and puddings, but the cakes are real show here.

8. Lee's Kitchen

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1100 Raleigh Blvd
Raleigh, NC 27610
(919) 521-5957
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Classic Southern home cooking meets tropical Jamaican fare at Lee’s Kitchen. Options include a half rack of baby back ribs, a fried fish sandwich, or smothered pork chops. On the Caribbean side offerings include classics like curry goat, jerk chicken, or oxtail. A mashup order of the two cuisines wouldn’t be out of the question. There are two locations in town (Capital Boulevard in addition to the Raleigh Boulevard location), and catering is available.

9. Crawford and Son

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618 N Person St
Raleigh, NC 27604
(919) 307-4647
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Five-time James Beard Award Semifinalist Scott Crawford set out on his own in 2016 with the first of what will soon be three restaurants, Crawford and Son. The menu features rotating elevated American classics. Recent dishes include apple and turnip soup with butter poached bay scallops, almonds, and tarragon, confit pork belly with braised sauerkraut and apple mostarda, a caramelized butternut squash entree with beluga lentils, brown butter, and pistachos, and a flourless chocolate hazelnut cake with whipped cremeux and marshmallow creme for dessert. Cocktails, wine, and beer are available, as well as unique non-alcoholic cocktails.

10. Centro

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106 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 835-3593
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Downtown Raleigh’s go-to for tortas, tacos, sopas, and more has also launched a weekly subscription service called Centro en Casa. Diners can choose from a selection of Centro classics, including main dishes, appetizers, and desserts, to pick up each weekend. The meals serve four people, and a batch of margaritas that can serve 10 is also available to take home.

multi-colored plates topped with tacos and tortas.
A variety of plates from Centro.
Centro

11. Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

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201 S Boylan Ave
Raleigh, NC 27603
(919) 275-5718
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Panoramic views of downtown Raleigh coupled with craft beer, innovative cocktails, and menu items like brewhouse mussels (house beer, kielbasa, whole grain mustard, tarragon, and Union Special focaccia), a Southern saltimbocca (roasted chicken leg and thigh, cheese grits, bourbon red-eye gravy, and country ham), and a taco wedge salad (iceberg lettuce, chorizo, cotija cheese, tortilla shards, tomato, jalapeño, avocado-cilantro mousse, and chipotle lime crema) easily qualify Wye Hill as one of the newest entries to the list of iconic Raleigh restaurants. The couple behind Wye Hill (Sara Abernethy and Chris Borreson) rescued the former Boylan Bridge Brewpub space after torrential rains caused structural damage that led to the building being condemned, meaning patrons can once again enjoy one of the best urban cityscapes in the entire state while they drink and dine.

12. Sitti

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137 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 239-4070
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Sitti offers what they call “modern” versions of classic Lebanese dishes in an airy downtown space. The Fassoulia, a lima bean stew with garlic, tomato, onions, mushroom, and cilantro served with basmati rice is a vegetarian go-to, while the sfiha (flatbread with ground beef and lamb with za’atar, pine nuts, and diced tomato) pleases the meat eaters.

13. Heirloom - Coffee, Tea, Kitchen

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219 S West St
Raleigh, NC 27603
(919) 297-8299
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Heirloom does it all; coffee, tea, sake, and some of the best Laotian, Taiwanese, and Japanese food in the state. The American South meets Southeast Asia with the lao sausage biscuit for breakfast, and the Taiwanese fried chicken sando is one of the most popular lunch selections. All can be enjoyed in their beautiful space in Raleigh’s warehouse district, or brought home and washed down with a bottle of sake.

Dining room at Heirloom.
Dining room at Heirloom.
Heirloom Brewshop

14. Garland

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14 W Martin St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 833-6886
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Rock guitarist and chef Cheetie Kumar’s playful take on classic Indian and Asian cuisine has won the restaurant numerous accolades and a loyal following. The fried masala chicken cutlet is an India-meets-North Carolina mashup, as is the warm coconut-chili crab dip. The Cauliflower 65 (fried cauliflower sautéed with curry leaves, turmeric, yogurt, pickled and fresh chilies, cilantro, and lime) has been a long-standing customer favorite.

15. Big Ed's City Market Restaurant

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220 Wolfe St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 836-9909
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Since 1989 Big Ed’s has been a staple of downtown’s City Market district, serving breakfast and lunch to generations of Raleigh workers, politicians, and fans of classic Southern home cooking. There’s always a daily blue plate special, and lunch dishes like Big Ed’s meatloaf and the chicken pastry are favorites, but its the all-day breakfast that usually drives traffic. Country ham with red eye gravy, hot cakes (with or without meat), and scrambled eggs with brains are just a few of the historic Southern breakfast plates on offer.

16. Mofu Dumpling Shoppe

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321 S Blount St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 301-8465
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Come for the dumplings (pork and chive and bulgogi are just a few of the offerings), stay for the kimchi tots, lobster fried rice, or the Mofu wings, with “General Woo” sauce or a nuoc mam cham lime glaze, but always served with green goddess-style dipping sauce. Desserts are Vietnamese coffee mousse, Thai bananas foster, and an “Asian churro.”

Dumplings in a steam basket.
Dumplings from Mofu.
Mofu Dumpling Shoppe

17. Poole's

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426 S McDowell St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 832-4477
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Ashley Christensen’s downtown Raleigh footprint may be large, but Poole’s Diner was her first restaurant and remains the heart and soul of her mini-empire. Think superbly executed comfort foods like roast chicken or cider-braised pork shank, along with sides like beluga lentils with melted leeks or herb-scented potato puree. The macaroni au gratin, Christensen’s take on mac and cheese, has earned a cult following.

A big bowl of creamy macaroni and cheese.
The famous mac and cheese at Poole’s.
Poole’s Diner

18. The Fiction Kitchen

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428 S Dawson St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 831-4177
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Fiction Kitchen serves thoughtfully crafted vegetarian and vegan cuisine from a 100 percent vegetarian kitchen in downtown Raleigh. Lion’s mane mushroom dip (in the style of crab dip), the North Carolina peanut noodle bowl, and the crispy fried chicken and waffles (made with mock chicken) have helped make Fiction Kitchen one of the state’s most popular meatless restaurants.

1. Angus Barn

9401 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27617

Weddings. Birthdays. Business deals. Customers would be hard-pressed to find a moment that hasn’t been celebrated at this Raleigh institution. Since 1960 the Angus Barn has provided generations of diners with delicious steakhouse staples like aged prime rib and filet mignon, shrimp cocktail, and creamed spinach. The restaurant boasts one of the largest wine selections in the state, and its Wild Turkey Lounge not only churns out classic cocktails but also displays what is alleged to be the largest private collection of Wild Turkey commemorative decanters in the world.

9401 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC 27617

2. Seoul Garden

4701 Atlantic Ave, Raleigh, NC 27604

Raleigh’s go-to for Korean barbecue, Seoul Garden also has a sister location in Cary. Pork and beef bulgogi, galbi, and shrimp gui can be found on the barbecue menu, alongside favorites like kimchi jigae, bibimbap, and three different types of jungol meant for sharing. Lunchtime diners can choose from menu classics or opt for the lunch-only banchan boxes, but an order of the Combination soon doo boo (soft tofu soup with beef, baby clams, and shrimp) always pleases.

4701 Atlantic Ave
Raleigh, NC 27604

3. Bella Monica

3121 Edwards Mill Rd, Raleigh, NC 27612

Mom’s old school meatballs. Baked ziti. Veal bolognese. For more than two decades Bella Monica has served up Italian comfort food classics at its Edwards Mill Road location. Customers can opt for pasta or go for a Neapolitan-style pizza. Fans of classic Italian cuisine will take note of the cannolis for dessert.

3121 Edwards Mill Rd
Raleigh, NC 27612

4. Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill

4025 Lake Boone Trail # 107, Raleigh, NC 27607
an arepa next to an avocado.
Arepa from Guasaca.
Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill

As the name suggests arepas reign supreme at Guasaca. With signature flavors like crispy chicken, mechada (shredded beef), and braised tilapia, Guasaca truly celebrates this South American staple. There is the option to skip the actual arepa (a ground maize dough that is griddled, fried, or baked before being filled) and order any of the offerings as a rice bowl as well.

4025 Lake Boone Trail # 107
Raleigh, NC 27607

5. Glenwood Grill

2603-151 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27608
A light-filled dining room with blonde wood tables and chairs.
The dining room at Glenwood Grill.
Glenwood_Grill

Inspired by the coastal Lowcountry cuisine of both North and South Carolina, Glenwood Grill offers classics like Charleston she crab soup, shrimp and grits, and crispy North Carolina catfish. The Carpet Bagger is an edible journey into the past — two four-ounce filet mignon steaks, fried oysters, and parsnip mashed potatoes, like something out of a 1950s black and white film.

2603-151 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC 27608

6. Union Special

2409 Crabtree Blvd #102, Raleigh, NC 27604

This is Andrew Ullom’s first solo venture after stints at the famous Greenbriar resort in West Virginia, the Washington Duke Inn, and as head pastry chef for Ashley Christensen restaurants. Take-home loaves, pastries, and hearty sandwiches for breakfast or lunch round out the menu. Favorites include Ullom’s sourdough loaves, kouign amann pastry, and the Union Special egg sandwich — scrambled eggs, fontina, hash browns, and romesco sauce on a brioche bun. He recently opened a second location on Fayetteville Street in the heart of downtown that focuses more on the sandwich side of offerings.

2409 Crabtree Blvd #102
Raleigh, NC 27604

7. Hayes Barton Cafe & Dessertery

2000 Fairview Rd, Raleigh, NC 27608

Classic American fare like chicken parm, tuna casserole, and filet mignon make up the savory side of this cafe’s lunch and dinner menu, but in reality Hayes-Barton is where Raleigh comes for cake. Choose from over a dozen daily offerings like red velvet cake, hummingbird cake, or banana pudding cake. There are other dessert offerings like pies and puddings, but the cakes are real show here.

2000 Fairview Rd
Raleigh, NC 27608

8. Lee's Kitchen

1100 Raleigh Blvd, Raleigh, NC 27610

Classic Southern home cooking meets tropical Jamaican fare at Lee’s Kitchen. Options include a half rack of baby back ribs, a fried fish sandwich, or smothered pork chops. On the Caribbean side offerings include classics like curry goat, jerk chicken, or oxtail. A mashup order of the two cuisines wouldn’t be out of the question. There are two locations in town (Capital Boulevard in addition to the Raleigh Boulevard location), and catering is available.

1100 Raleigh Blvd
Raleigh, NC 27610

9. Crawford and Son

618 N Person St, Raleigh, NC 27604

Five-time James Beard Award Semifinalist Scott Crawford set out on his own in 2016 with the first of what will soon be three restaurants, Crawford and Son. The menu features rotating elevated American classics. Recent dishes include apple and turnip soup with butter poached bay scallops, almonds, and tarragon, confit pork belly with braised sauerkraut and apple mostarda, a caramelized butternut squash entree with beluga lentils, brown butter, and pistachos, and a flourless chocolate hazelnut cake with whipped cremeux and marshmallow creme for dessert. Cocktails, wine, and beer are available, as well as unique non-alcoholic cocktails.

618 N Person St
Raleigh, NC 27604

10. Centro

106 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601
multi-colored plates topped with tacos and tortas.
A variety of plates from Centro.
Centro

Downtown Raleigh’s go-to for tortas, tacos, sopas, and more has also launched a weekly subscription service called Centro en Casa. Diners can choose from a selection of Centro classics, including main dishes, appetizers, and desserts, to pick up each weekend. The meals serve four people, and a batch of margaritas that can serve 10 is also available to take home.

106 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601

11. Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

201 S Boylan Ave, Raleigh, NC 27603

Panoramic views of downtown Raleigh coupled with craft beer, innovative cocktails, and menu items like brewhouse mussels (house beer, kielbasa, whole grain mustard, tarragon, and Union Special focaccia), a Southern saltimbocca (roasted chicken leg and thigh, cheese grits, bourbon red-eye gravy, and country ham), and a taco wedge salad (iceberg lettuce, chorizo, cotija cheese, tortilla shards, tomato, jalapeño, avocado-cilantro mousse, and chipotle lime crema) easily qualify Wye Hill as one of the newest entries to the list of iconic Raleigh restaurants. The couple behind Wye Hill (Sara Abernethy and Chris Borreson) rescued the former Boylan Bridge Brewpub space after torrential rains caused structural damage that led to the building being condemned, meaning patrons can once again enjoy one of the best urban cityscapes in the entire state while they drink and dine.

201 S Boylan Ave
Raleigh, NC 27603

12. Sitti

137 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601

Sitti offers what they call “modern” versions of classic Lebanese dishes in an airy downtown space. The Fassoulia, a lima bean stew with garlic, tomato, onions, mushroom, and cilantro served with basmati rice is a vegetarian go-to, while the sfiha (flatbread with ground beef and lamb with za’atar, pine nuts, and diced tomato) pleases the meat eaters.

137 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601

13. Heirloom - Coffee, Tea, Kitchen

219 S West St, Raleigh, NC 27603
Dining room at Heirloom.
Dining room at Heirloom.
Heirloom Brewshop

Heirloom does it all; coffee, tea, sake, and some of the best Laotian, Taiwanese, and Japanese food in the state. The American South meets Southeast Asia with the lao sausage biscuit for breakfast, and the Taiwanese fried chicken sando is one of the most popular lunch selections. All can be enjoyed in their beautiful space in Raleigh’s warehouse district, or brought home and washed down with a bottle of sake.

219 S West St
Raleigh, NC 27603

14. Garland

14 W Martin St, Raleigh, NC 27601

Rock guitarist and chef Cheetie Kumar’s playful take on classic Indian and Asian cuisine has won the restaurant numerous accolades and a loyal following. The fried masala chicken cutlet is an India-meets-North Carolina mashup, as is the warm coconut-chili crab dip. The Cauliflower 65 (fried cauliflower sautéed with curry leaves, turmeric, yogurt, pickled and fresh chilies, cilantro, and lime) has been a long-standing customer favorite.

14 W Martin St
Raleigh, NC 27601

15. Big Ed's City Market Restaurant

220 Wolfe St, Raleigh, NC 27601

Since 1989 Big Ed’s has been a staple of downtown’s City Market district, serving breakfast and lunch to generations of Raleigh workers, politicians, and fans of classic Southern home cooking. There’s always a daily blue plate special, and lunch dishes like Big Ed’s meatloaf and the chicken pastry are favorites, but its the all-day breakfast that usually drives traffic. Country ham with red eye gravy, hot cakes (with or without meat), and scrambled eggs with brains are just a few of the historic Southern breakfast plates on offer.

220 Wolfe St
Raleigh, NC 27601

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16. Mofu Dumpling Shoppe

321 S Blount St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Dumplings in a steam basket.
Dumplings from Mofu.
Mofu Dumpling Shoppe

Come for the dumplings (pork and chive and bulgogi are just a few of the offerings), stay for the kimchi tots, lobster fried rice, or the Mofu wings, with “General Woo” sauce or a nuoc mam cham lime glaze, but always served with green goddess-style dipping sauce. Desserts are Vietnamese coffee mousse, Thai bananas foster, and an “Asian churro.”

321 S Blount St
Raleigh, NC 27601

17. Poole's

426 S McDowell St, Raleigh, NC 27601
A big bowl of creamy macaroni and cheese.
The famous mac and cheese at Poole’s.
Poole’s Diner

Ashley Christensen’s downtown Raleigh footprint may be large, but Poole’s Diner was her first restaurant and remains the heart and soul of her mini-empire. Think superbly executed comfort foods like roast chicken or cider-braised pork shank, along with sides like beluga lentils with melted leeks or herb-scented potato puree. The macaroni au gratin, Christensen’s take on mac and cheese, has earned a cult following.

426 S McDowell St
Raleigh, NC 27601

18. The Fiction Kitchen

428 S Dawson St, Raleigh, NC 27601

Fiction Kitchen serves thoughtfully crafted vegetarian and vegan cuisine from a 100 percent vegetarian kitchen in downtown Raleigh. Lion’s mane mushroom dip (in the style of crab dip), the North Carolina peanut noodle bowl, and the crispy fried chicken and waffles (made with mock chicken) have helped make Fiction Kitchen one of the state’s most popular meatless restaurants.

428 S Dawson St
Raleigh, NC 27601

Related Maps