In Winston Salem, North Carolina, old tobacco and industrial smokestacks give way to cavernous, refurbished backdrops with episodic views of public art. The dining scene has a firm foothold in the Southern American realm with nuanced looks all around the region and beyond. The remainder of the cuisine directly reflects the area’s diversity with minute nods to global influences and international cuisine that does not always receive the recognition it deserves.Read More
18 Essential Restaurants in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
From fried seafood to hidden tacos
1. 1703 Restaurant & Catering
Joe and Molly Curran opened 1703 Restaurant in 2000, but chef de cuisine Curtis Hackaday took over the reins of the kitchen in 2012. This Buena Vista bastion of classic French and nouvelle Southern cuisine caters to adventurous and casual diners alike. The ever-changing menu makes it difficult to pinpoint the best items, but the execution of the menu is met with precision and artful plating techniques. Limited indoor seating, outdoor seating, and takeout are available.
2. Bobby Boy Bakeshop
Located in the Buena Vista neighborhood, the bakeshop case says French patisserie but the decor says suburban oasis with coffee service at Bobby Boy Bakeshop. Owners Lucia and John Bobby curate the rotating seasonal pastry menu with delicate tarts, multilayered entremets, croissants, eclairs, and artisan old world breads baked with locally milled flour. The attention to detail is so precise that the iced coffee has frozen coffee as ice cubes. Limited indoor and outdoor seating and takeout available.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Owners Vivián Joiner and chef Stephanie Tyson redefined dining downtown in the City of Arts and Innovation arts district when they opened Sweet Potatoes in 2003. Currently serving a limited menu combined with their takeout outpost Miss Ora’s Chicken, the fried chicken and hot pork rind basket pop and crackle all the way to the table. Spaghetti comes with a drawl topped with smoked sausage, country ham, and chicken tenders. Don’t forget a slice of signature sweet potato pie. Open for indoor dining and takeout.
4. Crafted The Art of the Taco
A bright, urban, hipster vibe with community tables mixed with ironwork and crystal chandeliers, Crafted is quick to tell you that it is a taco joint, and not a Mexican restaurant. The tacos are eclectic with Mexican street food vibes and Southern influences with names like Fedora, Bowtie, and Honky Tonk. The stuffed avocado and vegan-friendly protein options are what make this upscale taco shack stand out. Indoor seating, outdoor seating, and limited online ordering are available.
5. Antojiitos Las Delicias
This walk-up in East Winston epitomizes what it means to be a hidden gem. What appears to be a ramshackle hut is actually a fully operational Mexican restaurant. Everything is cooked-to-order but the tacos reign supreme with over 12 choices of fillings including nopales, chorizo, and al pastor. Limited outdoor seating and takeout are available.
6. Cugino Forno Pizzeria
Serving up Neapolitan-style pizza since 2019, Cugino was one of the first new restaurants to open in the renovated former RJR Bailey Power Plant. This pizzeria imports nearly all of its ingredients from Italy, but makes fresh salads to-order like the Lecce with chickpeas and homemade ranch dressing. For dessert, there’s 12 different flavors of gelato and pistachio-dipped cannoli. Indoor dining, outdoor dining, and delivery available.
Krankies evolved from a coffee roaster and coffee shop housed in a former fallout shelter to a full-service restaurant with hipster vibes and artistic grooves. Coffee continues to be roasted on-site but now the scent in the air is Southern baked biscuits piled high with fried chicken, Texas Pete hot sauce or vegan-friendly options. The same mood translates to the house-made cakes, pies and cookies. Indoor seating, outdoor seating and takeout are available.
8. Young Cardinal Cafe and Co.
The breakfast and brunch at Young Cardinal Cafe is rad and boozy. Make-your-own omelettes, biscuits and gravy, and pancakes bump right up against entrees like the short rib melt, fried hot honey chicken sandwich, and the huevos rancheros. The Miley Citrus mimosa or a mug of millionaire’s coffee spiked with Kahlua and Frangelico round out one of the best meals of the day. Indoor seating, outdoor seating, and takeout are available.
9. Foothills Brewpub
Housed in a former Chrysler dealership showroom, downtown’s oldest brewpub produces over 40 new beers annually. The original brickwork and crown molding provide scenery to the approachable, well-executed pub fare. House-smoked wings, beer cheese-dripped nachos and loaded tots hold their own next to the fish and chips, specialty burgers, and brewhouse Cuban. The house-made beer mustard is the condiment du jour and is available for purchase. Indoor and outdoor dining, takeout and delivery are available.
10. Thai Harmony
Off the beaten path and located on the ground floor of the Liberty Plaza building, mother-daughter duo Aratporn and Nui Ruangrat tag team between the dining room and the kitchen to welcome guests at Thai harmony. The menu melds classic Thai dishes with creative, fresh southeast Asian flare. Kai yang (Thai roasted chicken), goong pad prig (shrimp with coconut paste), and the crispy duck salad are standouts amongst the rest. Indoor seating, takeout, and delivery are available.
11. Mozelle's Fresh Southern Bistro
Owner and proprietor Jennifer Smith took small neighborhood diner Mozelle’s Fresh Southern Bistro and turned it into one of the most popular restaurants in the West End neighborhood. In the shadow of the downtown skyline, diners feast on tomato pie, gourmet bacon-wrapped meatloaf, and sherry-laced shrimp and grits. After nearly 11 years of service, the taste and diminutive stature of this establishment has never changed. Indoor seating, outdoor seating and takeout are available.
12. Forsyth Seafood Market & Cafe
Mother-daughter team Virginia Hardesty and Ashley Hardesty Armstrong serve up fortified seafood classics and update old standards like clam chowder, oyster stew and now have a new, branded food truck. Offering fried fish plates, oyster platters, and hushpuppies since 1984, this family-owned restaurant is focused on eastern North Carolina Calabash-style seafood and its adjacent fresh fish market. The two entities are separate, but market fish purchases can be prepared in the cafe by request. Indoor and outdoor seating, takeout and delivery are available.
The city’s first vegan restaurant, Dom’s, has a refreshing look at plant-based cuisine. What began as an Italian pizzeria named Mozzarella Fellas is now a hot spot for all types of omnivores. Walnut and chickpea chorizo nachos and buffalo cauliflower continuously impress the masses. Italian classics like the baked penne arrabbiata and fried gnocchi go back to the restaurant’s cheesy roots. Currently open for takeout and delivery only.
14. Meridian Restaurant
Executive chef and owner Mark Grohman opened his upscale, globally focused fine dining restaurant in the historic Brookstown neighborhood in 2007. The menu delights guests with fresh, local, organic, and seasonal ingredients to present an array of Spanish-inspired tapas and intercontinental-focused dishes in an atmosphere of casual elegance. The menu changes seasonally, but always features steak au poivre, handmade pasta, and a three-way duck. The world-class cuisine is inspired by the bright flavors of the Mediterranean, as well as classic favorites. Indoor dining and takeout is available.
15. Athena Greek Taverna
In a sea of Greek-owned restaurants serving American fare, Athena shines. The flaming saganaki cheese appetizer shines best as it’s flamed tableside with brandy and brings a whole new meaning to dinner and a show. The family-owned restaurant serves authentic Greek cuisine with English translations and descriptions printed in an extensive menu, including classics such as pastitsio, avgolemono soup and gyro meat platters piled high with accompanying Greek salad. Indoor seating and takeout are available.
16. Mr. Barbecue
Serving hickory-smoked Lexington-style BBQ since 1962, Mr. Barbecue rose from the ashes to reopen after a 2019 fire destroyed the original building. The footprint of the restaurant remains the same, but with an addition of a sleek, new drive-through. The signature fried chicken, chopped, sliced and chunky barbecue subjugate the rest of the menu, but get there early to order the crispy pork skins, because they sell out fast. French fries, hushpuppies and two kinds of coleslaw are standards, but the Greek-style green beans deserve a place in the spotlight as well. Drive-thru service only.
17. Los Juanes
Tucked away in a shopping center on Jonestown Road, Los Juanes is part carneceria, part taqueria, and part bodega. This one-stop shop for tacos, tortas, gorditas, and all of the ingredients to make them at home features a secret menu with menudo, caldo de res, and aguas frescas, but it’s only available on the weekends. Try the mojarra frita or the platillo centroamericano to expand the Mexican horizon. Indoor dining and takeout available.
18. New Sichuan
The location of New Sichuan is a former Biscuitville, but the interior gives no secrets as to what the building’s past may have been. Owners Bao Lin and Min Zhu relocated to Winston-Salem after running another Sichuan restaurant in Durham for eight years. The large menu features Chinese-American dishes like General Tao’s chicken and Mongolian beef but shines with over 30 dishes from the Sichuan province in China. Tongue-numbing peppercorns dance all over the menu in the mapo tofu, dan dan noodles, and dumplings in red oil. Currently, only delivery and takeout are available.