City guides

Best restaurants in Raleigh

Explore the culinary marvels of Raleigh as we delve into its top-notch dining destinations that promise a memorable gastronomic journey.

December 15, 2023
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5
 min read
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Last updated:
Feb 8
A view of the Raleigh skyline.

Raleigh's dining scene is as vibrant and diverse as its population, offering a plethora of options that cater to every taste and occasion. Whether you're a foodie in pursuit of the most innovative dishes or someone who finds comfort in the classics, this city will not disappoint. Get ready to discover the places where every bite is an experience and every meal is a celebration of flavors.

Bida Manda

Nestled in the heart of downtown Raleigh, Bida Manda wraps its arms around you with a warm embrace the moment you step inside. Laotian cuisine might not be on every corner in Raleigh, but here it is the star, with dishes rich in both flavor and tradition. The owners, siblings Vansana and Vanvisa Nolintha, pay homage to their roots through a meticulously curated menu. Standouts like the Papaya Salad, bursting with freshness and zest, and the Crispy Rice Lettuce Wraps, with a satisfying crunch, tell a delicious story of their homeland. With each bite, you feel part of their family, part of their journey, welcomed into a world where every flavor tells a tale.

Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern

Dining at Second Empire is like stepping into a Victorian novel with a modern twist. Set in the Dodd-Hinsdale House, a restored 19th-century mansion, it offers an ambiance that is both regal and inviting. Executive Chef Daniel Schurr presents a menu that is as refined as the surroundings, blending classic and contemporary flavors. The Duck Two Ways is a celebration of technique and taste, demonstrating a masterful balance between succulent breast and confit leg. With a wine list that beckons even the most discerning connoisseur, Second Empire doesn’t just serve a meal; it delivers a sophisticated dining escapade.

Gravy

Dive into the heart of Italy with a Southern twist at Gravy, where the allure of homemade Italian cuisine meets the charm of downtown Raleigh. This cozy spot delights with its focus on robust, homemade sauces and pasta that transport diners straight to the streets of Rome, with a touch of local flair. The signature dish, Spaghetti alla Chitarra, is a masterpiece of simplicity and taste, featuring fresh, hand-cut pasta tossed in a rich, meaty gravy that's been simmered to perfection. At Gravy, every dish is a celebration of family, tradition, and the joy of sharing a meal.

Death & Taxes

With a name like Death & Taxes, expectations are high, and this place surpasses them with ease. The restaurant is a love letter to the art of wood-fired cooking, thanks to James Beard Award-winning chef Ashley Christensen's vision. The focus on fire is evident in the Ash-Roasted Sweet Potatoes, where the humble vegetable is elevated to smoky perfection. The space, housed in a former bank, adds a touch of grandeur to the dining experience, making each visit feel like an indulgent treat. The menu is a symphony of charred, caramelized, and earthy notes, each plate a testament to the transformative power of fire.

Crawford and Son

Crawford and Son takes familiar comfort food to new heights with an unwavering commitment to excellence. Chef Scott Crawford's mastery is evident in the careful construction of each plate. The Pork Chop Schnitzel is a standout, with its perfectly crisped exterior giving way to the tender, juicy meat within. The bistro's seasonal approach ensures that the ingredients are always at their peak, telling the story of North Carolina’s rich agricultural tapestry. This neighborhood gem exemplifies a philosophy that food should be simple, beautiful, and delicious, and it delivers that promise with each dish served.

Brewery Bhavana

Imagine a place that combines a brewery, bookstore, flower shop, and a dim sum restaurant. Brewery Bhavana is that magical kingdom where the multiplicity of experiences is matched only by the quality of the fare. The Char Siu Bao, with its pillowy buns and sweet, savory filling, are a must-try. The beers, brewed on-site, range from the delicately floral to the robustly hoppy, each crafted to complement the menu. The ambiance, imbued with the aroma of fresh flowers and the quiet rustle of turning pages, adds a layer of tranquility to the dining experience, making it a feast for all senses.

The Pit Authentic Barbecue

The Pit proudly carries Raleigh's banner in the barbecue realm, serving up a smoky and succulent homage to the state’s pitmaster heritage. Chef and pitmaster Ed Mitchell is a maestro of the pit, slow-cooking whole hogs to perfection using time-honored techniques. The Eastern NC-style chopped barbecue, with its tangy vinegar sauce and hints of spice, is an embodiment of the region's barbecue tradition. The restaurant’s atmosphere, with its mix of rustic charm and urban sophistication, mirrors the melding of old and new that is evident in every dish on the menu.

Caffe Luna

Italian cuisine gets a warm Southern hug at Caffe Luna, where the atmosphere is as sunny and inviting as the Italian countryside. Chef and owner Tony Greco has created a space where each dish, from the Penne Alla Vodka to the Tiramisu, is prepared with a meticulous touch. The pasta dishes, in particular, are a testament to the beauty of well-executed simplicity, with sauces that sing with flavor and freshness. This delightful spot in the historic Montague Building is where every meal feels like a festive gathering, and the hospitality is as genuine as the cuisine.

Mandolin

Savor the bounty of North Carolina's farms at Mandolin, where Chef Sean Fowler’s dishes are a canvas for local produce. The Fried Chicken and Waffles are a love letter to Southern cuisine, elevated by the chef’s finesse and the freshest of ingredients. It’s not just about the perfectly seasoned crust or the tender, flavorful chicken, but also about the sweet, airy waffles that make this dish iconic. Mandolin is a testament to the city's commitment to sustainable dining, and a meal here is as good for the soul as it is for the community.

Poole's Diner

Endearingly retro yet undeniably modern, Poole's gives comfort food a glamorous makeover. Chef Ashley Christensen, a Raleigh icon, has created an institution where the retro-chic ambiance is the perfect backdrop for modern interpretations of diner classics. The Macaroni Au Gratin here is legendary, a creamy, cheesy concoction that has patrons returning time and again. Each dish, from the starters to the desserts, is crafted with a focus on quality and a nod to tradition, making Poole's the kind of place that feels at once familiar and exciting.

Raleigh's restaurant landscape is a treasure trove of flavors, waiting for you to arrive with an appetite and a desire to explore. Each establishment not only serves food but also dishes out experiences that reflect the city's creative energy and warm hospitality. So, gather your friends, pull up a chair, and let Raleigh's best restaurants show you what they've got. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you for the adventure.

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