April 23, 2024


Food & Travel Enthusiast

The 19 Best Restaurants in Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh has quickly become a foodie haven. With numerous award-winning chefs and a diverse community, the city is rich with innovative restaurants, tried and true offerings, and food from around the world. Whether you’re looking for a hearty breakfast before hiking the lush North Carolina wilderness or grabbing a decadent dinner before attending one of the city’s numerous arts events, this list has you covered.

U.S. News editors researched dozens of review sites, including restaurant, dining and travel industry review sites, to come up with this selection of the best restaurants in Raleigh. Check out the top places to eat in this North Carolina destination to find what every traveler needs: a great meal – or three.

(Note: Some of the following restaurants may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. New policies may be in place, including requirements for proof of vaccination, capacity restrictions, reservation requirements or mask mandates. Check the establishment’s website before your visit.)

The Best Restaurants in Raleigh:

Exterior of Angus Barn.

(Courtesy of visitRaleigh.com)

Price range for entrees: $31 to $107

Angus Barn, originally built in 1960, has long been known in Raleigh as a “beef-eaters haven.” With close to 20,000 steaks served here every month, it’s not hard to see where this restaurant gets its nickname. Guests of this fine dining establishment can choose between nine different cuts, each perfectly cooked and accompanied by classic steakhouse sides. Over its more than 60-year history, Angus Barn has grown to serve more of the Raleigh community, offering seafood dishes and even some vegetarian-friendly options. While many recent guests compliment the perfectly cooked steaks, the service at Angus Barn stands out to them even more: Patrons ranging from solo diners to 25-person groups rave about the attentiveness, professionalism and friendly demeanor of the staff. This spot is highly recommended for special occasions and has a dress code to match; visitors are asked to wear at least business casual but encouraged to dress as nice as they’d like.

Price range for entrees: Lunch $14 to $17; dinner $18 to $35

For a taste of Southern-influenced seafood fare, be sure to check out Glenwood Grill. This farm-to-table restaurant focuses on locally and regionally sourced fare inspired by the coastal Carolinas and American South. Recent visitors praise the stellar service and deliciously fresh food. Glenwood Grill also boasts a hefty wine selection, ensuring the perfect pairing with any of its flavorful dishes. Patrons call this fine dining establishment a great spot for a date night or special occasion meal. While Glenwood Grill doesn’t offer many vegetarian-friendly dishes, seafood and meat lovers will find plenty of options. Lamb dishes were particularly favored by recent travelers.

Exterior of Second Empire in the evening.

(Courtesy of visitRaleigh.com)

Price range for entrees: $26 to $43

Located in downtown Raleigh, Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern can be found in the historic Dodd-Hinsdale House. This beautifully restored home was originally built in 1871 in the Second Empire Victorian style for Mayor William H. Dodd and was later owned by its second namesake, the Hinsdale family, for more than 80 years. Today, the house has been restored and renovated into one of the area’s most unique fine dining restaurants. Visitors will find the home’s original exterior, heart pine flooring, masonry walls, doors and windows. The inside of the house maintains its original charm but has been transformed into two main dining rooms. Guests looking to enjoy the exceptional food in a more casual environment can also visit the Dodd-Hinsdale House’s Tavern or Atrium Room.

The chef-driven menu changes seasonally and features gourmet dishes made from fresh seasonal ingredients. Recent diners rave about the imaginative culinary offerings from appetizer to dessert and everything in between. Guests of the restaurant also speak highly of the exceptional staff and welcoming atmosphere. Second Empire Restaurant recommends but does not require reservations for all visitors, unless you wish to partake in the exclusive Chef’s Table. This personalized experience allows a small group to dine in the kitchen with chef Daniel Schurr and includes a customized menu with wine pairings.

Plate of BBQ chicken with various sides in the background on a red and white checkered tablecloth at Big Ed's.

(Courtesy of Big Ed’s)

Price range for entrees: $10 to $15

Big Ed’s has been a staple of downtown’s Raleigh City Market since 1989 and it’s not hard to see why. Travelers say Big Ed’s country breakfasts are comfort food at its best with large portions and farm fresh ingredients. This casual eatery boasts “country cookin’ classics” in all three of its locations, but head to the City Market location to enjoy the farm country ambiance of its roots. Recent diners do warn that Big Ed’s doesn’t take reservations, so you’re likely to see a line when you arrive. But there’s no need to worry – guests say the line moves fast and the service is great despite the crowds.

People dining and the sign at Morgan Street Food Hall.

(Brian Strickland/Courtesy of visitRaleigh.com)

Price range for entrees: $8 to $20

If you’re visiting Raleigh with a large group that can never agree on where to eat, head over to the Morgan Street Food Hall. Situated in downtown Raleigh, this food hall introduced the concept of cross-meal ordering – when meals from different restaurants are shared in a communal space – to the Raleigh food scene. Patrons of the food hall are particularly impressed with the variety of cuisines available and praise the complex’s ability to satisfy a wide range of tastes. With 20 different vendors in the 22,000-square-foot repurposed warehouse, guests can find everything from popsicles to curry to burgers.

Head to Bella’s Wood Fired Pizza and Tapas for some Neapolitan-style pizza or try Wicked Taco to sample fresh Tex-Mex cuisine made from locally sourced food. Taste the other side of the world with Asian-inspired dishes from Boba Brew, The Bowls, The Katsu or Raleigh Rolls. Recent visitors say Morgan Street Food Hall does not disappoint but warn that timing can be tricky: Lines can be different sizes at different vendors, so some patrons struggled to time their orders with large groups. Morgan Street Food Hall is also a great option for COVID-concerned travelers due to an abundance of outdoor seating.

Car's parked at Char-Grill as the sun goes down.

(Michael Robson/Courtesy of visitRaleigh.com)

Price range for entrees: $3 to $11

In a city brimming with innovation, Char-Grill shows us why sometimes it’s best not to mess with a good thing. This old-school burger joint has been serving up cheap and delicious flame-grilled burgers since 1959, and people cannot get enough. With its 10 locations, visitors can find a Char-Grill in every corner of Raleigh. The original location is in the Glenwood South neighborhood on Hillsborough Street less than a block from Glenwood Ave, one of Raleigh’s major thoroughfares. Guests visiting this takeout-only brick-and-mortar spot can expect a small menu offering classic options you won’t soon forget. Locals say Char-Grill has been providing quality food since its inception, and recent travelers rave about the steakburgers and milkshakes. Be warned, though – the milkshakes, which come in either chocolate or vanilla, are so thick you’ll need a spoon with your straw. Even though Char-Grill keeps it simple, visitors say it will blow you away.

Price range for entrees: $13 to $20

Vegetarians and vegans can delight in the delicious offerings from Fiction Kitchen. Located downtown, this top Raleigh restaurant provides diners with entirely vegan cuisine from a 100% vegan kitchen. Travelers praise the Carolina-style meatless barbecue, a difficult find in Raleigh. Fiction Kitchen also caters to a variety of dietary restrictions with many gluten-free, nut-free and soy-free dishes. Recent diners compliment the food, from appetizers to mains to dessert, but warn that Fiction Kitchen can get busy so you’ll likely want to make a reservation. When you’re enjoying your vegan cuisine, be sure to pair it with one of the vegan cocktails.

Dish at Bida Manda.

(Courtesy of Peter Taylor)

Price range for entrees: Lunch $15 to $29; dinner $17 to $38

Though Southern cuisine holds a significant spot in Raleigh’s foodie culture, this gem of a restaurant will make you forget all about such fare as it transports you to the other side of the world. Bida Manda is a Laotian restaurant and bar inspired by Laos’ diverse food and culture – the country’s cuisine is a blending of Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cooking with some French influence as well. Recent visitors praise Bida Manda’s unique, flavorful offerings and exceptional service. The delicious Laotian food can be paired with one of the restaurant’s handcrafted cocktails made with fresh juices, herbs and infused syrups. Bida Manda is a popular dining spot, so make a reservation ahead of time to avoid long waits. Guests warn that reservations typically need to be made several weeks out.

Price range for entrees: $30 to $48

Situated in a shopping center, Saint Jacques is an unassuming eatery that is easy to overlook from the outside. Once you step inside, diners say the quaint and inviting atmosphere will surprise you, making clear why Saint Jacques is a favorite Raleigh spot for celebrating special occasions. The high-end restaurant boasts classic French cuisine made with North Carolina ingredients. Though the establishment has several local partners, its menu will whisk you away to France with many dishes carrying distinctly French names. Recent visitors praise the top-notch service and authentic offerings. Prices are on the higher end, but many guests deem the price tag worth it for the perfectly prepared dishes and attentive waitstaff.

Plate of food at Neomonde on red placemat.

Price range for entrees: $9 to $13

Neomonde Mediterranean’s humble beginnings as a wholesale bread company might surprise you when you visit it today. Founded by the Saleh brothers in 1977, the family-run business has grown over the past four decades and now offers restaurants in several locations where visitors can enjoy authentic food from the mountainous region of northern Lebanon. Neomonde – meaning “new world,” to represent the Saleh family’s fresh start in America – offers a casual deli atmosphere with generous portions and a small Mediterranean grocery where visitors can find staples of Middle Eastern cuisine. Visitors to the Raleigh restaurant recommend trying one of its platter options to get a sample of the many wonderful dishes on the menu. Favorites of recent guests include the fresh hummus, baklava and house-baked pita.

Exterior of Sitti.

(Courtesy of Sitti)

Price range for entrees: Lunch $13 to $16; dinner $16 to $45

Sitti brings the authentic Lebanese roots of Neomonde to downtown Raleigh. The restaurant started as a partnership between the Saleh family and Raleigh restaurateur and developer Greg Hatem, who named the restaurant to honor Lebanese grandmothers (called “sittis”). While guests will see some similarities to the offerings at Neomonde, Sitti offers a more distinct restaurant setting and menu. Patrons say the family-friendly atmosphere and large communal dining table in the center of the restaurant make for a bustling and welcoming dining experience. Recent guests also praise the extensive menu and large portions. The sitti rice, which can be ordered as an appetizer or side, is a particular favorite of visitors. The menu also contains vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free offerings, so this spot can accommodate dietary restrictions.

Plate at Gonza Tacos.

(Michael Robson/Courtesy of visitRaleigh.com)

Price range for entrees: $12 to $17

With an abundant list of accolades, Gonza Tacos y Tequila consistently proves it does tacos and tequila right. Gonza offers a casual atmosphere with Day of the Dead-themed decor and spacious seating both indoors and alfresco. Guests will find a dinner menu brimming with Colombian-Mexican cuisine and an extensive drinks list that includes handcrafted Latin cocktails and a wide variety of tequilas and spirits. Gonza is a favorite among locals, as many visitors talk about visiting this place again and again. Travelers are big fans of the flavorful and well-proportioned meals, saying the vegetarian-friendly options are a particular standout compared to restaurants with similar cuisine. To top it all off, recent guests cannot stop raving about the amazing service. Enjoy Gonza’s delicious offerings in both north and downtown Raleigh.

Price range for entrees: $19 to $45

For travelers looking to experience Raleigh’s Southern hospitality, Winston’s Grille is the place to go. Described by recent guests as upscale casual with a down-home vibe, this locally owned and operated restaurant offers affordable fine dining with a comfortable and elegant atmosphere. The menu boasts numerous delectable choices prepared from scratch using fresh seasonal ingredients from a variety of local vendors. Winston’s also offers a selection of gluten-free and vegetarian options on its menu. Recent diners praise every part of their experience at Winston’s, from the service to the appetizers and dessert. If you’re planning to visit, you may consider a reservation: Though they aren’t required, guests say this popular spot can be difficult to get a table at on busy nights.

Band plays at Irregardless Cafe.

(Courtesy of visitRaleigh.com)

Price range for entrees: $15 to $30

Irregardless Café was Raleigh’s first vegetarian restaurant and has been a staple of the city’s restaurant scene for more than 45 years. This eatery offers farm-to-table brunch, lunch and dinner sourced from local farms around the Triangle – the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill region of North Carolina known for its proximity to three major research universities. The menu boasts an impressive seasonal selection of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Recent visitors enjoyed the scratch-made vegan dishes and performances by North Carolina musicians. Live music can be enjoyed throughout the week – and it’s fitting entertainment, considering the Irregardless motto: “Real food. Real music. Real good.”

Roll of burger sushi at The Cowfish.

(Denny Deaton/Courtesy of The Cowfish)

Price range for entrees: $15 to $23

Raleigh, North Carolina, may be a foodie haven full of innovative ideas and new twists on old classics, but perhaps no restaurant is quite as unique as The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. Owners Marcus Hall and Alan Springate pride themselves on the weirdness of this bizarre spot. From technicolor walls to large aquariums to the “Burgushi” – a sushi roll crafted from burger ingredients – The Cowfish offers patrons a fun and innovative dining experience with a menu that can satisfy a staggering range of eaters. Guests rave about the versatility and freshness of the offerings, calling this a go-to spot for large groups of picky eaters, especially since the menu caters to vegetarians alongside sushi and burger fans. Just like the food at The Cowfish, the drinks menu is the perfect blend of a sushi restaurant and a burger joint. Visitors looking for the burger experience will find a variety of craft beers from local breweries and hand-spun milkshakes; for guests enjoying sushi, premium sakes, wines and cocktails are available for pairing. The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar can have long waits due to its popularity, but diners compliment the waitlist service and recommend visitors make the time for this restaurant.

Plates of BBQ and sides at The Pitt.

(Courtesy of The Pit)

Price range for entrees: Lunch $11 to $22; dinner $11 to $42

Barbecue is abundant in Raleigh, but authentic whole-hog, pit-cooked barbecue can be harder to find – and The Pit offers visitors exactly that. Located in a beautifully restored 1930s meatpacking warehouse in downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District, The Pit sits just a few blocks from Nash Square, one of the two remaining park squares dictated by the first plan of the city. Visitors warn that parking can be difficult in this area, so restaurantgoers should budget time to find a spot. Diners will find a large menu full of traditional barbecue offerings and Southern sides, but The Pit takes North Carolina barbecue a step further with its barbecue tofu – vegetarians need not miss out on this fantastic destination. If you’re a meat eater, be sure to try the pulled pork to get a taste of the delicious pit-cooked barbecue produced with entirely North Carolina free-range pigs. As recent guests say, The Pit is the place for you if you like Carolina-style vinegar barbecue.

Price range for entrees: $7 to $17

Barry’s Cafe is a family-oriented restaurant with a diner feel and an abundance of firefighter decor. This eatery has been serving the Raleigh-Cary community for years with both food and a dedication to supporting emergency responders since 1994. Owner Barry Doyle even established a nonprofit foundation called Feed the Firefighters, which provides food and beverages to firefighters and emergency personnel. Restaurantgoers will find classic American breakfast and lunch options served all day from a menu that is almost entirely adaptable for gluten-free diners. Recent visitors praise the welcoming staff and personal feel of Barry’s Cafe.

Price range for entrees: $15 to $45

Fans of oysters should look no further than 42nd St. Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill. This landmark restaurant has roots in Raleigh dating back to the 1930s, when it first opened as a grocery store offering oysters and draft beer. While that version of 42nd St. was a favorite among locals for decades, the restaurant didn’t become what it is today until 1987. Now one of Raleigh’s premiere seafood restaurants, 42nd St. has recent patrons praising its culinary offerings and deliciously fresh oysters. Diners enjoy the fresh shucked oysters as well as the specially designed drink menu, which offers wine pairings to match. If you’re not a fan of oysters, don’t count out this option: The restaurant also serves shellfish, seafood and steaks as well as a gluten-free menu. Travelers recommend making a reservation to avoid lengthy waits for tables.

Three pizzas at Poole'side Pies.

(Lauren V. Allen/Courtesy of Poole’side Pies)

Price range for entrees: $13 to $35

Fayetteville Street is one of the must-see destinations for travelers in Raleigh. Known for its artistic and unique businesses, this district also houses many award-winning restaurants. Poole’side Pies is the perfect combination of both. This Neapolitan-inspired pizza joint owned by chef Ashley Christensen boasts a whimsical swimming pool theme that is beloved by guests. Diners can enjoy the thin-crust pizzas crafted from local flour, house-made mozzarella and organic Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes or select from a variety of southern Italian-inspired dishes, including house-made pastas. Recent visitors rave about the perfectly cooked crust, standout desserts and refreshing cocktails.

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