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 “pizzakase” to several James Beard semifinalists
1703 Restaurant & Catering
Joe and Molly Curran opened 1703 Restaurant in 2000, but chef de cuisine Curtis Hackaday took over the reign of the kitchen in 2012. This Buena Vista mainstay of classic French and nouvelle Southern cuisine caters to both adventurous and casual diners. All of the menu items' prices end in 3 cents to honor the last two digits of the restaurant’s address. 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.
Bobby Boy Bakeshop
This Buena Vista bakeshop atmosphere gives French patisserie, but the decor says suburban oasis. Owners John and Lucia Bobby had long careers in fine dining before working together in this space. The rotating seasonal pastry case features delicate tarts, multilayered entremets, croissants, and a daily sandwich special made with artisan old-world bread baked and fermented with locally milled flour. The attention to detail is so precise that the iced coffee has frozen coffee as ice cubes.
Mojito Latin Soul Food
Take a trip to Cuba through the bigger-than-life-sized murals, artwork, and cuisine at this food truck-turned-restaurant. Masitas, croquetas, and pork-stuffed Cuban sandwiches rule the menu, alongside plantains in all its many forms and refreshing seasonal mojito cocktails. Don’t miss the open-faced tamales or the empanadas. An order of the flan or the tres leches cakes adds a sweet, melodious note to the end of any meal at Mojito.
Mission Pizza Napoletana
Mission (as the locals call it) is really an osteria masquerading as a pizzeria. Owner Peyton Smith builds a selection of uniqu entree and pizza options, which puts this spot above the average pizza joint. Wood-fired Napoli-style pizza, pasta, Italian-inspired features, local beer, and Italian wine, color the dinner affair here. Make reservations for the prix fixe menu or the “pizzakase” experience, based on the Japanese custom of omakase with custom, personalized off-menu choices to get the full picture of why this place was a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2022.
Vivián Joiner and chef Stephanie Tyson defined dining downtown in the Camel City’s arts district when they opened Sweet Potatoes in 2003. This two-time James Beard semifinalist outpost serves up Southern classics with down-home familiarity and flavorful twists. Don’t miss the basket of fried okra and green tomatoes or the hot pork rind basket that pops and crackles all the way to the table. Spaghetti comes with a drawl, topped with smoked sausage, country ham, and chicken tenders while the meatloaf is smothered in mushroom gravy and topped with tobacco onions. And yes, there is also a killer sweet potato pie for dessert.
Heff's Burger Club
Chef and owner Justin Webster named this business venture after his wife, Heather, as her childhood nickname Heff. This playful joke works its way into every aspect of the restaurant focused on smash burgers and crinkle-cut fries, retro video game machines, pop art, and neon lights greeting customers when they visit. This 2023 James Beard semifinalist for Best New Restaurant quickly gained popularity with its signature burger named Ladykiller. Available with single or double patties, it comes with white American cheese, red onion, shredded lettuce, local pickle chips, and black garlic sauce.
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. Today, the coffee continues to be roasted on-site, but now the vibes in the air come from Southern baked biscuits piled high with fried chicken, Texas Pete hot sauce, or vegan-friendly options. The same mood translates to the housemade baked goods too.
Young Cardinal Cafe and Co.
The breakfast and brunch at Young Cardinal Cafe are rad and boozy. Made-to-order omelets, bodaciously fluffy biscuits and gravy, and breakfast burritos six 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.
Housed in a former Chrysler dealership showroom, downtown’s largest brewpub produces over 40 new beers annually. The original brickwork and crown molding provide scenery to the approachable pub fare. Smoked wings, beer cheese-dripped nachos, and loaded tots hold their own next to the fish and chips, specialty burgers, and grilled bacon pimento cheese sandwich. Don’t miss the coffee, roasted on the premises, or the seasonal desserts.
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 and extensive sushi roll and sashimi lists with a creative, fresh southeast Asian flare. Khao soi Thai curry (any of the curries, really), drunken noodles, and the Beijing roast duck salad are standouts amongst the rest.
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, meatloaf with Texas Pete-spiked collards, and sherry-laced shrimp and grits. After nearly 15 years of service, the taste and diminutive stature of this establishment have never changed.
Forsyth Seafood Market & Cafe
Mother-daughter team Virginia Hardesty and Ashley Hardesty Armstrong serve up fortified seafood classics and updated old standards like fish chowder and crab legs and have a sleek branded food truck that can be seen at Cobblestone Farmers Market on select Saturdays. 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.
The city’s first vegan restaurant, Dom’s, has an appetizing look at plant-based cuisine. What began as an Italian pizzeria named Mozzarella Fellas is now open for online ordering and pick-up at its downtown location. All types of omnivores can order Buffalo cauliflower with
pickled onions and peppers or pimento cheese and chili fries that continuously impress. Italian classics like the kale Caesar salad and the vegan chicken parm sandwich with Calabrian chili-spiked marinara go back to the restaurant’s cheesy roots.
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Executive chef and owner Mark Grohman opened his upscale, globally focused fine dining restaurant in the historic Brookstown neighborhood in 2007. The menu delights customers with local, seasonal ingredients to showcase Grohman’s long-time relationships with area farmers and vendors. Featuring an array of intercontinental-focused dishes, the inspiration behind the plates is the bright flavors of the Mediterranean, as well as classic favorites. The menu changes nightly, but always features steak, handmade pasta, and a duck prepared three ways.
Serving hickory-smoked Lexington-style barbecue 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, drive-thru. 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.
This one-stop shop for tacos, tortas, and piñatas used to be a locals’ secret, but the word is out. Tucked away in the Center Stage Shopping Center on Jonestown Road, Los Juanes is part carneceria, part taqueria, and part bodega. Eat in and enjoy the O.M.G. Nachos piled high with chicken, steak, and chorizo, or get the tacos al pastor to-go and peruse the piñata aisle while waiting. Don’t forget to pick up some goodies from the carneceria counter to get the full taqueria experience.
Owners Bao Lin and Min Zhu relocated to Winston-Salem after running another Sichuan restaurant in Durham for eight years. The location of New Sichuan is a former Biscuitville, but the interior gives no secrets to the building’s past. The menu features Chinese-American dishes like General Tao’s chicken and crab rangoon but shines with over 30 dishes from the Sichuan province in China. Tongue-numbing peppercorns dance all over the menu in the dan dan noodles, dry pot chicken, and Sichuan wontons in red oil.
Kasturi Indian Cuisine
Located in the Pavilions Shopping Center near Hanes Mall, Kasturi offers tried-and-true, north and south Indian cuisine staples, like chicken tikka masala, freshly baked naan, biryanis, lamb rogan josh, and various tandoori specialties that can be adjusted according to spice level. Meatless standouts include a lightly spiced raita, vegetable samosas and pakoras, gobi Manchurian, plus a large number of naan and fluffy, deep-fried bhatura. The dessert menu is especially tempting with rose and cardamom-infused gulab jamun and creamy kulfis.