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Macaroni au gratin at Poole’s Diner
Poole’s Diner/Facebook

18 Essential Restaurants Raleigh, North Carolina

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

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Macaroni au gratin at Poole’s Diner
| Poole’s Diner/Facebook

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.

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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.

(Dine in, Takeout)

red barn The Angus Barn/Facebook

2. 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.

(Dine in, Takeout, Delivery)

3. 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.

(Dine in, Takeout, Delivery)

4. 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.

(Dine in, Takeout)

Glenwood_Grill/Facebook

5. 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.

(Dine in, Takeout)

6. 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.

(Dine In, Takeout, Delivery)

7. 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.

(Takeout only)

8. 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.

(Takeout, Delivery)

Poole’s Diner/Facebook

9. 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.

(Dine in, Takeout)

Garland/Facebook

10. Centro

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106 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 835-3593
Visit Website

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.

(Takeout only)

Centro/Facebook

11. 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.

(Dine in, Takeout)

12. MOFU Dumpling Shoppe

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321 S Blount St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 301-8465
Visit Website

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.”

(Dine in, Takeout, Delivery)

13. 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.

(Dine in, Takeout, Delivery)

14. Crawford and Son

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618 N Person St
Raleigh, NC 27604
(919) 307-4647
Visit Website

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 dine-in menu features rotating elevated American classics, with the new curbside menu offering an abbreviated selection of reheat-friendly dishes. Recent dishes include lobster chowder with salt cod, fingerling potatoes, and celery root, chicken confit with creamy wild rice, smoked maitake mushrooms, and chicken jus, and the always popular sticky date pudding for dessert.

(Dine in, Takeout)

15. Union Special

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2409 Crabtree Blvd #102
Raleigh, NC 27604
(984) 200-3094
Visit Website

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.

(Takeout only)

Union Special/Facebook

16. Lee's Kitchen

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1100 Raleigh Blvd
Raleigh, NC 27610
(919) 521-5957
Visit Website

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.

(Takeout, Delivery)

17. Seoul Garden

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4701 Atlantic Ave
Raleigh, NC 27604
(919) 850-9984
Visit Website

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.

(Dine in, Takeout, Delivery)

Seoul Garden/Facebook

18. Alpha Dawgs Inc

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6209 Rock Quarry Rd
Raleigh, NC 27610
(984) 200-5637
Visit Website

Is a hot dog a sandwich? At Alpha Dawgs the answer might just be yes. All-beef hotdogs and sausages are served dripping with toppings and stuffed into a sort of pizza-bread pocket. The classic Carolina Dawg comes with chili, yellow mustard, and coleslaw while the Southwestern Dawg has pico de gallo and lime crema; all dawgs also come with onions, tri-color peppers, and fried potatoes.

(Dine in, Takeout, Delivery)

1. Angus Barn

9401 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27617
red barn The Angus Barn/Facebook

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.

(Dine in, Takeout)

9401 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC 27617

2. 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.

(Dine in, Takeout, Delivery)

3121 Edwards Mill Rd
Raleigh, NC 27612

3. Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill

4025 Lake Boone Trail # 107, Raleigh, NC 27607

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.

(Dine in, Takeout, Delivery)

4025 Lake Boone Trail # 107
Raleigh, NC 27607

4. Glenwood Grill

2603-151 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27608
Glenwood_Grill/Facebook

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.

(Dine in, Takeout)

2603-151 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC 27608

5. 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.

(Dine in, Takeout)

2000 Fairview Rd
Raleigh, NC 27608

6. Heirloom - Coffee, Tea, Kitchen

219 S West St, Raleigh, NC 27603

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.

(Dine In, Takeout, Delivery)

219 S West St
Raleigh, NC 27603

7. 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.

(Takeout only)

428 S Dawson St
Raleigh, NC 27601

8. Poole's

426 S McDowell St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Poole’s Diner/Facebook

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.

(Takeout, Delivery)

426 S McDowell St
Raleigh, NC 27601

9. Garland

14 W Martin St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Garland/Facebook

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.

(Dine in, Takeout)

14 W Martin St
Raleigh, NC 27601

10. Centro

106 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Centro/Facebook

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.

(Takeout only)

106 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601

11. 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.

(Dine in, Takeout)

137 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601

12. MOFU Dumpling Shoppe

321 S Blount St, Raleigh, NC 27601

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.”

(Dine in, Takeout, Delivery)

321 S Blount St
Raleigh, NC 27601

13. 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.

(Dine in, Takeout, Delivery)

220 Wolfe St
Raleigh, NC 27601

14. 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 dine-in menu features rotating elevated American classics, with the new curbside menu offering an abbreviated selection of reheat-friendly dishes. Recent dishes include lobster chowder with salt cod, fingerling potatoes, and celery root, chicken confit with creamy wild rice, smoked maitake mushrooms, and chicken jus, and the always popular sticky date pudding for dessert.

(Dine in, Takeout)

618 N Person St
Raleigh, NC 27604

15. Union Special

2409 Crabtree Blvd #102, Raleigh, NC 27604
Union Special/Facebook

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.

(Takeout only)

2409 Crabtree Blvd #102
Raleigh, NC 27604

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16. 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.

(Takeout, Delivery)

1100 Raleigh Blvd
Raleigh, NC 27610

17. Seoul Garden

4701 Atlantic Ave, Raleigh, NC 27604
Seoul Garden/Facebook

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.

(Dine in, Takeout, Delivery)

4701 Atlantic Ave
Raleigh, NC 27604

18. Alpha Dawgs Inc

6209 Rock Quarry Rd, Raleigh, NC 27610

Is a hot dog a sandwich? At Alpha Dawgs the answer might just be yes. All-beef hotdogs and sausages are served dripping with toppings and stuffed into a sort of pizza-bread pocket. The classic Carolina Dawg comes with chili, yellow mustard, and coleslaw while the Southwestern Dawg has pico de gallo and lime crema; all dawgs also come with onions, tri-color peppers, and fried potatoes.

(Dine in, Takeout, Delivery)

6209 Rock Quarry Rd
Raleigh, NC 27610

Related Maps