Between its Southern charm and hospitality and its urban culture and style, Raleigh, North Carolina, is an amazing city. Raleigh is known for beautiful weather, fun museums, and tons of art, but one of its biggest claims to fame is its food scene. With a mix of down-home Southern comfort food and all the culturally diverse offerings of a big city, Raleigh restaurants have every type of food imaginable– and they do it all really well.
In fact, the city has such a variety of amazing dining spots, choosing the top Raleigh restaurants might be impossible– but I’ll give it my best shot. Here are nine of the best restaurants in Raleigh (in no particular order):
1. Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern
Any restaurant that’s located in a gorgeous 17th century house has to be great, right? Maybe not, but Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern’s food lives up to its beautiful setting, and then some. The restaurant, which is located in a restored mansion called the Dodd-Hinsdale House, has two different menus full of scrumptious seasonal dishes from award-winning Chef Daniel Schurr.
Visit the tavern downstairs for a slightly more casual meal, or make a reservation in the restaurant for a special occasion– either way, you won’t be disappointed!
2. Saint Jacques French Cuisine
A favorite of both locals and out-of-towners, Saint Jacques’ is one of the best Raleigh spots for authentic French food. Some must-haves include their foie gras and escargot appetizers (and frog legs if you’re feeling extra bold!). And don’t forget to try Chef Lil Lacassagne’s signature appetizer called the “Coquille Saint Jacques.” However, since Lacassagne grew up in Provence, France, you can be sure that all of his creations will be delicious and authentic.
3. Clyde Cooper’s Barbecue
Clyde Cooper’s Barbecue has been serving delicious barbecue since it was opened in 1938 by a man with $50 in his pocket. Clyde Cooper’s offers traditional Southern barbecue options like collard greens, hush puppies, and brisket, so head over if you’re in the mood for some casual comfort food.
4. Trophy Brewing & Pizza
There are very few food and drink combinations that beat out pizza and beer, and Trophy Brewing & Pizza does the duo proud. The nanobrewery and pizza place serves its own beer, and has a fun and diverse selection.
Not to mention, their pizzas and salads are giant and delicious! Trophy is cozy, casual and always packed with people, and it’s the perfect spot for a late-night bite.
5. Poole’s Diner
Poole’s Diner has been a Raleigh staple since opening as a pie shop in 1945. It has since transformed into a luncheonette-style establishment with a funky, ever-changing chalkboard menu and one of the best mac and cheeses you’ll ever have. Poole’s Diner’s delicious fare from Chef Ashley Christensen comes only from fresh local farms, so it changes with the seasons– and it’s always amazing.
6. Bida Manda
Another local favorite, Bida Manda’s Asian food and beautifully unique cocktails make it one of Raleigh’s best places to dine or drink (or both!). The brother and sister owners opened the Laotian restaurant to pay homage to their parents and their home country. Like other restaurants on the list, Bida Manda uses local ingredients, and its food is completely authentic– it’s based on old family recipes, after all!
7. The Pit
The Pit is another of the best restaurants in Raleigh for authentic North Carolina barbecue, and it’s even been featured in a variety of television shows and “best of” lists. Go to The Pit for melt-in-your-mouth everything, from delicious skillet cornbread to pulled pork to the state’s signature dessert bread pudding. If you’re into bourbon, don’t miss The Pit’s small-batch offerings. If not, opt for some bona fide Southern sweet tea.
8. 42nd St. Oyster Bar and Seafood
If you’re in the mood for seafood, there’s no restaurant better in Raleigh than 42nd St. Oyster Bar. The restaurant opened in 1931 as a grocery store, and (fun fact!) was actually the first Raleigh establishment to serve a beer in a frosted mug after Prohibition ended.
But while the history is really cool, the food is what you should really go for. The extensive menu has a variety of surf and turf options, many with a Southern twist (try the Shrimp and Grits or Fried Green Tomatoes).
9. Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant
If you’re ever in the mood for Southern comfort breakfast food, you should absolutely head over to Big Ed’s. Big Ed’s has traditional Southern options, like grits, gravy, fried catfish, home fries, and more, alongside classic breakfast options, like omelets and hot cakes. And to make their delicious food even more impressive, Big Ed’s uses tons of fresh, local ingredients.
Clearly, Raleigh restaurants have a lot to offer. What are your favorite spots to dine out in the Southern city?