Back in the day, downtown Raleigh's dining scene was considered a snore. Not anymore. Today, the best restaurants in Raleigh are located downtown and scattered around the city in some of the hippest districts. Most of them celebrate North Carolina's heritage and locally-sourced foods. From down-home Southern comfort food to vegetarian and vegan options, you'll find abundant choices to satisfy your cravings.
Surprisingly, one of the best restaurants in Raleigh is 100 percent vegan but still thoroughly Southern. Chef-owner Caroline Morrison and her wife, Siobhan Southern, have created a vegan and vegetarian menu with profoundly Southern roots. Think cast iron skillet cornbread with hickory syrup (gluten-free), mock chicken and waffles, and barbecue pulled plant-based "pork" served with hushpuppies, coleslaw, and mashed potatoes. Sides include mac and "cheese" (vegan and gluten-free), organic chickpeas, and crunchy roasted rainbow potatoes with vegan dipping sauces. Fiction Kitchen offers a full bar, including several gluten-free beers, and a dessert menu that features a rotation of vegan cheesecakes.
This nostalgic cafe is located right in Raleigh's Five Points neighborhood and serves delicious food for lunch and dinner. But locals come here for the cakes and pies. All desserts are made in-house and include expected Southern favorites like Key Lime pie, carrot cake, Bourbon pecan pie, hummingbird cake, and red velvet cake. They also thoughtfully offer two flourless chocolate options that are gluten-free. Entrees include fried oysters, beans and rice, meatloaf, and chicken pot pie. This place has a serious old-school diner vibe.
Located in the heart of downtown Raleigh, Chef Sonny Gerhart's St. Roch serves some of the best cocktails, local oysters, and New Orleans-inspired food. After indulging in some oysters or another offering from their raw bar, move on to the main dish menu, including dirty rice with duck meat confit, 'gator Bolognese, barbecue shrimp, or corn and crawfish. The dessert menu is limited, but who wants more choices than beignets? These fried delights are served with bourbon caramel sauce and powdered sugar. St. Roch also offers a full bar and weekend brunch.
Serving both lunch and dinner, the Glenwood Grill is located outside downtown Raleigh between the Crabtree Valley Mall and Five Points. Chef John Wright proudly offers low-country classics like shrimp and grits, lump crab cakes with creamed corn, and North Carolina catfish. Try the Carpet Bagger—two four-ounce filet mignons accompanied by fried oysters. At lunch, you'll enjoy the Carolina she-crab soup, chicken sausage gumbo, a Southern Caesar salad with fried bacon and grit croutons, or fried green tomatoes at lunch. A full bar is also available for lunch. The Grill's Annex offers grab-and-go specials, catering, and catering services.
Smack in the heart of downtown Raleigh is another excellent spot to eat, drink, and gather. In the mood for fried chicken? Beasley's is the place. Order chicken with waffles, fried catfish, chicken pot pie, or pork shoulder meatloaf. Want something else? Beasley's delivers its version of a smash burger, an assortment of other sandwiches, and salads. Sides feature traditional Southern comfort foods like buttermilk biscuits, creamed collard greens, and pimento mac-n-cheese custard. And save room for dessert. Banana pudding, chess pie, cinnamon biscuit bread pudding, and apple pie are all available. PS: They also serve weekend brunch.
This hidden gem is cozy and cute, with a laid-back, down-home vibe—and it's also one of the best restaurants in Raleigh. Open for weekend brunch and weekday lunch and dinner, Relish offers new takes on Southern classics like shrimp and cheese grits, chicken fried steak, fried green tomatoes, killer grilled cheese sandwiches, and an array of mac-and-cheese dishes. Follow those carbo bombs up with a slice of chocolate chess pie (sometimes they serve lemon chess) or banana pudding served in a Mason jar. Tip: A separate menu is available for gluten-sensitive diners, as well as for kids.
The 42nd St. Oyster Bar is a don't-miss place if you love fresh seafood—and it's one of the best restaurants in Raleigh. Most of the oysters, clams, and shrimp they serve are from North Carolina, so they're incredibly fresh. The menu ranges from shrimp and grits to baked oyster dishes. If you're not a fan of the briny bivalve, opt for some Ahi tuna or a New York strip steak. The 42nd St. offers a full bar. And the dessert selection will make your head spin—we're talking Key Lime pie, French silk pie, and old-fashioned ice cream sundaes.
Bloomsbury Bistro is a Raleigh favorite tucked away in the historic Hayes Barton district that follows the founding chef's mantra, "Everything you love about fine dining without the hype."The menu has a New American flair. Select from entrees such as a pan-seared pork chop served with sweet potato puree, chicken pot pie in puff pastry, or a filet mignon accompanied by corn relish and mashed potatoes.Enjoy your meal with a beverage from the full bar and save room for gluten-free espresso creme brulee, flourless chocolate torte, or sticky toffee pudding. Pro tip: Bloomsbury Bistro is not suitable for kiddos.
Chef Josh Young makes it his mission to use locally sourced foods to inform his dinner and Sunday brunch menus. The results are delicious. Enjoy dinner inside or on Humble Pie's covered patio and tiki bar. Order some crispy brussels sprouts anointed with brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. Enjoy a cast-iron burger, blue crab claws, or fried oysters, followed by some chocolate torte or bread pudding drizzled with salted caramel. At brunch, you can munch on a cornmeal waffle with blueberry sauce and whipped cream, breakfast tacos filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, and cheese, or a fried chicken sandwich.
This hole-in-the-wall place shouldn't scare you away because it serves up killer ribs and barbecue. Ole Time Barbecue claims to have served more than a million pounds of barbecue since it opened 20-some-odd years ago. While the menu is barbecue-heavy (barbecue pork, chicken, ribs), they also dish up fried chicken, Brunswick stew, sandwiches, and burgers. Sides include hushpuppies, fried okra, coleslaw, mac-n-cheese, mashed potatoes, and potato salad. Wash your food down with some sweet tea or soda (sorry—no booze served here), and then tuck into some apple or peach cobbler or a helping of banana pudding.