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A hand holding hot sauce over a plate of oysters.
A table full of St. Roch oysters and more.
Anna Routh

18 Essential Restaurants in Raleigh, North Carolina

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

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A table full of St. Roch oysters and more.
| Anna Routh

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.

New in July 2022: St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar, Irregardless Cafe, the Roast Grill, Cortez

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Angus Barn

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For weddings, birthdays, and 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.

Bella Monica

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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.

Glenwood Grill

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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

Irregardless

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Semantic appropriateness of the word itself aside, Irregardless Cafe was serving globally inspired food before fusion cuisine was the buzzword it is today. With a heavy emphasis on vegetarian and vegan cuisine (nearly two-thirds of the menu is meat-free), the cafe has become something of a Raleigh institution. Mushroom stroganoff, teriyaki tempeh, red-wine braised short ribs, and a paella with shrimp, chicken, mussels, scallops, and lobster butter are just a few of the menu offerings. The popular Sunday brunch has vegan burritos, smoked salmon hash, asparagus omelettes, and more.

Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

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Panoramic views of downtown Raleigh coupled with craft beer, innovative cocktails, and menu items like brewhouse mussels, a Southern saltimbocca with cheese grits, and a taco wedge salad with avocado-cilantro mousse 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.

Cortez Seafood and Cocktail

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With a focus on fresh seafood and small plates, chef Oscar Diaz is at the forefront of a group of Raleigh chefs and restaurateurs who are flipping the idea of what a Mexican restaurant should be on its head. Oysters on the half shell, grilled whole local fish with salsa criolla, snapper ceviche, and more fill out a menu where the bounty of the North Carolina coast meets the flavors of Mexican cuisine.

Hayes Barton Cafe & Dessertery

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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.

Heirloom - Coffee, Tea, Kitchen

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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 sandwich is one of the most popular lunch selections. All can be enjoyed in the 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

The Roast Grill

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Since 1940, the Roast Grill has been Raleigh’s go-to for hot dogs. In fact, when customers walk through the door on West Street (underneath the sign that reads, “Hot Weiners”), that’s about all they can order aside from chips, drinks, fries, baklava, and poundcake. The grilled hot dogs can be topped with a choice of chili, mustard, slaw, or onions. It’s the simplicity and the down-home atmosphere that have led generations of Carolinians to return year after year.

The Fiction Kitchen

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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.

Poole's

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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

Garland

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With multiple James Beard Award nominations under her belt, chef Cheetie Kumar’s playful take on classic Indian and Asian cuisine has earned her a loyal following. Dishes like lamb cheek stir fry, roasted chicken saag, and watermelon peanut chaat are perfect for sharing. 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.

St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar

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Chef Sonny Gerhart’s St. Roch reopened after surviving the one-two punch of the pandemic followed by a kitchen fire. The renovated space has a New Orleans gothic cathedral vibe, and Gerhart once again leans on his Louisiana roots for a menu that includes crawfish hushpuppies, alligator bolognese, and of course, plenty of oysters. The signature Tchoupitoulas Street Special comes with 18 freshly shucked oysters, a quarter pound of North Carolina peel ‘n eat shrimp, blue crab claws, and a myriad of fixings. An innovative cocktail list and plenty of seafood-friendly wines are available. The weekend brunch menu features biscuit sandwiches, a Cajun breakfast complete with beignets and boudin balls, and a standout fried oyster hotcake that sees freshly fried oysters atop a fluffy pancake with chili crisp, spicy Creole cane syrup, and whipped ricotta.

Sausage and rice on a plate.
Creole fare at St. Roch.
Anna Routh

Sitti offers what it calls “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.

Big Ed's City Market Restaurant

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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.

Crawford and Son

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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 a chilled eggplant soup with smoked trout and preserved lemon, almonds, and tarragon, a roasted pork chop with farro and summer squash, and a sweet tea sundae with local peaches, brown butter, and a pecan crumble for dessert. Cocktails, wine, and beer are available, as well as unique non-alcoholic cocktails.

Lee's Kitchen

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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.

Seoul Garden

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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 soondubu (soft tofu soup with beef, baby clams, and shrimp) always pleases.

Angus Barn

For weddings, birthdays, and 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.

Bella Monica

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.

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.

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

Irregardless

Semantic appropriateness of the word itself aside, Irregardless Cafe was serving globally inspired food before fusion cuisine was the buzzword it is today. With a heavy emphasis on vegetarian and vegan cuisine (nearly two-thirds of the menu is meat-free), the cafe has become something of a Raleigh institution. Mushroom stroganoff, teriyaki tempeh, red-wine braised short ribs, and a paella with shrimp, chicken, mussels, scallops, and lobster butter are just a few of the menu offerings. The popular Sunday brunch has vegan burritos, smoked salmon hash, asparagus omelettes, and more.

Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

Panoramic views of downtown Raleigh coupled with craft beer, innovative cocktails, and menu items like brewhouse mussels, a Southern saltimbocca with cheese grits, and a taco wedge salad with avocado-cilantro mousse 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.

Cortez Seafood and Cocktail

With a focus on fresh seafood and small plates, chef Oscar Diaz is at the forefront of a group of Raleigh chefs and restaurateurs who are flipping the idea of what a Mexican restaurant should be on its head. Oysters on the half shell, grilled whole local fish with salsa criolla, snapper ceviche, and more fill out a menu where the bounty of the North Carolina coast meets the flavors of Mexican cuisine.

Hayes Barton Cafe & Dessertery

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.

Heirloom - Coffee, Tea, Kitchen

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 sandwich is one of the most popular lunch selections. All can be enjoyed in the 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

The Roast Grill

Since 1940, the Roast Grill has been Raleigh’s go-to for hot dogs. In fact, when customers walk through the door on West Street (underneath the sign that reads, “Hot Weiners”), that’s about all they can order aside from chips, drinks, fries, baklava, and poundcake. The grilled hot dogs can be topped with a choice of chili, mustard, slaw, or onions. It’s the simplicity and the down-home atmosphere that have led generations of Carolinians to return year after year.

The Fiction Kitchen

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.

Poole's

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

Garland

With multiple James Beard Award nominations under her belt, chef Cheetie Kumar’s playful take on classic Indian and Asian cuisine has earned her a loyal following. Dishes like lamb cheek stir fry, roasted chicken saag, and watermelon peanut chaat are perfect for sharing. 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.

St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar

Chef Sonny Gerhart’s St. Roch reopened after surviving the one-two punch of the pandemic followed by a kitchen fire. The renovated space has a New Orleans gothic cathedral vibe, and Gerhart once again leans on his Louisiana roots for a menu that includes crawfish hushpuppies, alligator bolognese, and of course, plenty of oysters. The signature Tchoupitoulas Street Special comes with 18 freshly shucked oysters, a quarter pound of North Carolina peel ‘n eat shrimp, blue crab claws, and a myriad of fixings. An innovative cocktail list and plenty of seafood-friendly wines are available. The weekend brunch menu features biscuit sandwiches, a Cajun breakfast complete with beignets and boudin balls, and a standout fried oyster hotcake that sees freshly fried oysters atop a fluffy pancake with chili crisp, spicy Creole cane syrup, and whipped ricotta.

Sausage and rice on a plate.
Creole fare at St. Roch.
Anna Routh

Sitti

Sitti offers what it calls “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.

Big Ed's City Market Restaurant

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.

Related Maps

Crawford and Son

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 a chilled eggplant soup with smoked trout and preserved lemon, almonds, and tarragon, a roasted pork chop with farro and summer squash, and a sweet tea sundae with local peaches, brown butter, and a pecan crumble for dessert. Cocktails, wine, and beer are available, as well as unique non-alcoholic cocktails.

Lee's Kitchen

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.

Seoul Garden

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 soondubu (soft tofu soup with beef, baby clams, and shrimp) always pleases.

Related Maps