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Iconic restaurants in Raleigh

Discover the eateries that define Raleigh's culinary scene with their unique flavors, history, and charm.

December 18, 2023
 min read
Last updated:
Feb 14
A view of the Raleigh skyline.
When you set foot in Raleigh, you're not just walking into North Carolina's capital; you're stepping into a hotbed of culinary craftsmanship that's as rich in history as it is in butter. This is a town where every restaurant plate tells a story, where the chefs are as much local celebrities as the politicians, and where the menus are as thoughtfully curated as a museum exhibit. Let’s tuck into the restaurants that aren't just feeding the hungry masses but are stitching themselves into the fabric of this vibrant city.

Angus Barn

With the crackle of a wood-fire grill in the background and the unmistakable aroma of aged steaks wafting through the air, Angus Barn stands as a beacon of Raleigh's dining scene. This storied steakhouse, with its rustic barn-like decor, has been a gathering spot for meat lovers since 1960. Here, every detail from the crisp linens to the expertly crafted wine cellar that boasts over 20,000 bottles, echoes a commitment to quality and service. The experience is indulgent, yes, but it's also familiar and cozy, like a well-worn leather booth that invites you to linger a little longer over your prime rib.

Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern

Second Empire combines the grandeur of a historic setting with the thrill of modern gastronomy. As you traverse the rooms of the Dodd-Hinsdale house, each with its own character and tale, you're embarking on a culinary journey through time. The cuisine here is a nod to the complexity and subtleties of global flavors, all while sourcing from the fertile lands of North Carolina. From the first sip of your meticulously crafted cocktail to the last crumb of a dessert that's almost too pretty to eat, a meal here is a symphony for the senses, conducted by the maestros of the kitchen and the grace of the attentive staff.


A tribute to the classic American diner with a sophisticated twist, Poole's serves up nostalgia in a modern package. The infamous macaroni au gratin, a dish so decadent and beloved it practically has its own fan club, is a case study in comfort food done right. This downtown gem, with its chalkboard menu and local art-adorned walls, isn't just dishing out food; it's reviving classics with an edge. The brainchild of Chef Ashley Christensen, a James Beard Award-winner, Poole's reverberates with a passion for seasonal ingredients and the joy of bringing people together around good food and lively conversation.

Beasley’s Chicken + Honey

Beasley’s isn’t just a restaurant; it's a statement on how Raleigh does fried chicken. Picture golden, crispy, perfect poultry that’s been bathed in buttermilk, with a hint of honey to make it sing. But it's not just the chicken that'll get you; it's the entire ambience — the polished concrete floors, the communal tables, and the chalkboard menu that beckons with promises of comfort food galore. Every bite feels like Sunday dinner at your grandma's, if your grandma had a killer instinct for crunch and was a little avant-garde with her sides.

Clyde Cooper's BBQ

Walking into Clyde Cooper's BBQ, you're hit with a smoky fragrance that's the stuff of Raleigh legend. The BBQ here is a legacy, steeped in a vinegar-based sauce that's tangy and addictive, a perfect complement to the tender, slow-cooked pork that's been the star of the show since 1938. The walls are lined with photos of patrons from decades past, and the sense of tradition is as palpable as the stickiness on your fingers. Cooper's is a no-nonsense spot that serves up paper-plate dining with a side of history.

The Pit Authentic Barbecue

The Pit presents an upscale take on the down-to-earth tradition of North Carolina barbecue. It's where the hickory-smoked pork butt is so succulent, it practically falls off your fork, and the sides — from collard greens to mac 'n' cheese — are crafted with a reverence for the old ways but a gaze set firmly on innovation. This is the kind of place where first-timers become regulars, and regulars are treated like family. The lofty ceilings and brick walls of the former meatpacking warehouse add to the ambiance that's both industrial and intimately Southern.

Bida Manda

When you step into Bida Manda, you're not just entering a Laotian restaurant; you're stepping into an embrace with a culture rich with flavor and warmth. Named after the Sanskrit words for father and mother, Bida Manda is a celebration of family, both the one you're born into and the one you choose. The decor, with its bamboo sticks and warm lighting, is a homage to Laotian homes. Here, the sticky rice is the heart of every meal, the papaya salad is a riddle of sweet and spicy, and the cocktails are as adventurous as the dishes they accompany.

Brewery Bhavana

Raleigh's Brewery Bhavana is a marvel, a place that blossoms with the unexpected delight of a flower shop, the contemplative quiet of a bookstore, the communal cheer of a brewery, and the aromatic allure of a dim sum restaurant. It's an establishment that refuses to be boxed into a single identity; instead, it's a chameleon that adapts to the needs of its patrons. Whether you're here for the plush bao, the hoppy serenade of a fresh IPA, or simply a nook to lose yourself in a book, Bhavana is a testament to the city's innovative spirit.

Oakwood Pizza Box

Nestled in the historic Oakwood neighborhood, Oakwood Pizza Box is a testament to the timeless appeal of a perfectly baked pizza pie. This cozy pizzeria, with its inviting, no-frills ambiance, has quickly become a beloved fixture for locals craving authenticity and simplicity. Each pizza, from the classic Margherita to more inventive creations, is a canvas of locally sourced ingredients, hand-tossed dough, and the kind of love for food that turns a meal into an experience. It's not just about the pizza; it's about celebrating community, one slice at a time.


Mandolin takes the farm-to-table concept and elevates it with a pitch-perfect Southern accent. The freshest local produce stars in dishes that are both innovative and deeply rooted in Raleigh’s culinary soil. Chef Sean Fowler's plates are like a love letter to North Carolina, celebrating the state's bounty with an artist's touch and a farmer's eye. Whether you’re here for a special date night or a casual brunch with friends, the experience at Mandolin is one of connection — to the land, to the community, and to the simple joy of a meal that was made with intention and care. So there you have it, the spots that are the beating heart of Raleigh's food scene. These establishments are more than just places to eat; they are where memories are made, where comfort is served by the forkful, and where the city's soul is as palpable as the scent of barbecue on a warm summer's evening. Pull up a chair, Raleigh's iconic eateries are ready to serve up a plate of home.
*Prices fluctuate based on season and day of the week.

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