North Carolina’s capital city of Raleigh has a well-rounded combination of natural beauty, historical significance, and scholarly appeal.
It has various nicknames, including the City of the Oaks and The Triangle, which allude to its arboreal bounty and intellectual prestige, respectively.
The ancient and beautiful oak trees lining neighborhood streets and surrounding the Greek-revival state capital building have been around since before the city’s founding, giving Raleigh a majestic, ancient allure.
Raleigh is also home to many key technical and academic institutions like Duke, UNC, and Wake Forest University.
A diverse and intellectual population from this triangle of lofty universities fuels a rich urban cultural scene with great nightlife and award-winning restaurants.
During my most recent trip to Raleigh, I took advantage of its amazing restaurant scene to fuel my tree-lined strolls by feasting on a variety of brunches in the area.
NOFO @ the Pig
2014 Fairview Rd, Raleigh, NC 27608
Located in the Five Points in an old Piggly Wiggly—hence, “the Pig”—NOFO @ the Pig is a lively, vibrant cafe and artisan market owned by proud Raleigh native Jean Martin.
The enormous, creative warehouse space uses old Piggly Wiggly signs and furniture along with fixtures from NOFO’s original North Fork location to adorn its walls, counters, and lighting.
NOFO serves brunch on the weekends, its menu utilizing local meat and dairy purveyors to craft a menu full of southern comfort favorites like shrimp and grits, biscuits, and fried chicken.
My favorite dish was the Fried Green Tomato Benedict, with NOFO’s pimento cheese, smoked bacon jam, two poached eggs, and tomato relish on a buttermilk biscuit served with fruit.
Beasley’s Chicken & Honey
237 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Besley’s Chicken & Honey is a family-friendly cocktail bar and Southern comfort joint in the heart of downtown Raleigh in a lively modern space with industrial-chic decor.
Owned and operated by James Beard Award-winning chef Ashley Christiansen, Beasley’s Chicken and Honey offers budget-friendly southern cuisine and craft cocktails with national acclaim.
The brunch menu at Beasley’s has a delicious variety of Southern dishes, from biscuits and gravy to a fried chicken benedict.
I went for the Reunion breakfast sandwich with hot honey fried chicken, a fried egg, and cheddar cheese on a fluffy buttermilk biscuit.
901 W Morgan St, Raleigh, NC 27603
Irregardless Cafe is a vegetarian-friendly bar, eatery, music venue, and local artist gallery in one hip, cozy package in North Carolina’s Glenwood South neighborhood.
They display everchanging works of art from local artists and have weekly live music lineups from Thursday through Sunday. Open Table voted them one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the country.
They have a full cocktail bar along with craft beers on tap for weekend brunch, and while they may be known for their vegetarian dishes, they also offer dishes for meat lovers.
I enjoyed their vegan Chorizo Hash with potatoes, brussels sprouts, onions, veggie chorizo, mushrooms, and avocado.
425 Oberlin Rd, Raleigh, NC 27605
Owned by Stephen D. Frabitore, Tupelo Honey originated in Asheville as a high-end southern comfort revival kitchen that has grown into a nationwide franchise with 18 locations, including Raleigh’s Cameron Park neighborhood.
Its fun, hip atmosphere and inventive modern takes on Southern food have garnered accolades from local and national publications.
Open Table voted Tupelo Honey’s brunch one of the best in the nation. I loved their fusion of Southern and Mediterranean flavors in the Southern Shakshuka, with three baked eggs over heirloom grits with goat cheese and scratch-made creole sauce, topped with avocado and cilantro.
320 1/2 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27603
The Rockford is a luxurious fine-dining New American restaurant in Glenwood South. The inviting atmosphere, lovely plating, and high-end food at reasonable prices make Rockford a popular restaurant for date night and celebratory meals. They source all their ingredients locally and offer a selection of local microbrewed beers on tap.
Their weekend brunch has great prices on bloody marys, bellinis, and mimosas. The brunch dishes run the culinary gamut of regional favorites, from chicken and waffles to breakfast burritos. I enjoyed their Loco Moco with white rice topped with an 8 oz burger patty, smothered in rich brown gravy and a sunny-side-up egg.
State Farmers Market Restaurant
1240 Farmers Market Dr, Raleigh, NC 27603
Named for one of Raleigh’s first city-wide farmer’s markets, State Farmers Market Restaurant is located next to the new Raleigh farmers market in Lakewood Estates, offering down-home cooked breakfast and lunch with fresh ingredients sourced from the neighboring North Carolina vendors.
Owned by Gypsy Gilliam and her son Tony, State Farmers Market Restaurant offers no-frills comfort food in a homey, kitschy dome-shaped dining room.
They make amazing biscuits and offer a long list of biscuit sandwiches. They have a wide selection of omelets, country breakfasts, and sweet dishes like pancakes, waffles, and french toast. My favorite dish was the chicken fried steak and eggs with gravy served with grits and a biscuit.
Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant
220 Wolfe St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Located in a quirky, old warehouse space with random antique toys and farm equipment hanging from the rafters, Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant is a family-friendly breakfast restaurant from local farmer and restaurant owner Ed Watkins. Big Ed’s has been a downtown favorite since it opened in 1989.
While big Ed has passed the reigns on to current owners Sam and Lyn Hobgood, it still offers its original menu of farm-fresh favorites from Big Ed’s original family recipes. Their Southern-style dishes use locally sourced eggs and meat. I recommend the local salty country ham with red-eye gravy with an over-easy egg, grits, and a buttermilk biscuit.
Relish Craft Kitchen & Bourbon Bar
5625 Creedmoor Rd, Raleigh, NC 27612
Relish Craft Kitchen and Bourbon Bar is a contemporary Southern-style kitchen, bourbon bar, and Southern specialty food and home goods shop a quick walk from the Brookhaven Nature Park.
They use locally sourced ingredients and local artisans to create decadent, rich comfort food and supply their selection of specialty foods and home goods.
Their eclectic brunch menu has modern takes on southern comfort food, using high-quality ingredients. Instead of buttermilk biscuits, they make sweet potato biscuits, which they use for fried chicken and biscuit sandwiches, and my personal favorite, as the base for a Southern-style avocado toast.
4351 The Cir At N Hills St, Raleigh, NC 27609
Croquette is a fashionable French Brasserie in a romantic, vintage-chic dining space that looks like a classic Parisian cafe in Six Forks.
It’s a great setting for affordable yet high-end French dinner dates and family-friendly Sunday brunch. The extensive menu of French classics is both authentic and beautifully presented.
They have a kids brunch menu as well as a more authentic French brunch menu with more sophisticated dishes like seafood crepes and short rib benedict over polenta cakes.
I loved the classic Quiche Lorraine with ham, bacon, caramelized onion, and gruyere so much that I bought a whole one to-go.
317 S Harrington St, Raleigh, NC 27603
Located inside a giant old warehouse in Downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District, Humble Pie is a refined industrial chic dining room and patio serving high-end new American cuisine, served family-style.
Executive Chef Josh Young creates fresh, seasonal plates sourced from local growers and purveyors.
Sunday Brunch has a small yet eclectic selection of regional American breakfasts at surprisingly affordable prices. For a subtly sweet, delicate brunch dish, I recommend the Cornmeal Waffle with blueberry sauce and whipped cream.
If you want something hearty and flavorful, Humble Pie makes great Huevos Rancheros with pinto beans, chorizo, cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips.
Plates Neighborhood Kitchen
301 Glenwood Ave # 100, Raleigh, NC 27603
Plates Neighborhood Kitchen is a trendy yet friendly global kitchen inspired by the owners’ extensive world travels and culinary explorations.
Located in the Glenwood South neighborhood, Plates Neighborhood Kitchen has received countless accolades, including The News and Observers Best Restaurants Medal and Four-star review, and was voted one of Open Table’s best places to eat outdoors.
Chef David Mitchell uses his decades of experience in a diverse array of cuisines to make authentic food from around the world.
Brunch is served from Wednesday through Sunday at Plates. I enjoyed the Latin-inspired sweet potato hash bowl with roasted bell peppers, fennel, red onions, poached eggs, and chorizo with chimichurri sauce.
Jose & Sons
4112 Pleasant Valley Rd, Raleigh, NC 27612
Owned and operated by the multi-generational Mexican American Ibarra family and led by Mexican Chef Oscar Diaz, Jose and Sons is a contemporary Mexican and Southern fusion restaurant in Pleasant Valley.
Their creative, award-winning dishes and bright, festive, and stylish atmosphere have garnered acclaim from The New York Times and Time Magazine and has been nominated for four James Beard Awards.
For how noteworthy they are in the press, their exquisite dishes are moderately priced. I recommend trying the Pimento queso dip, a unique combination of Southern pimento cheese with Tex Mex-style creamy, gooey queso dip.
Their fried Brussels with orange slices, agave, citrus syrup, and spicy tajin was like nothing I’ve ever had before.
8460 Honeycutt Rd #112, Raleigh, NC 27615
Located in the Six Forks’ lively Lafayette Village shopping distinct, Driftwood Cantina is a hip modern Mexican restaurant and bar using modern techniques to prepare ancient Mexican regional recipes.
They’ve received WRAL Voter’s Choice Awards for Best Tacos, Best Outdoor Seating, and Best Cocktails.
They serve weekend brunch at Driftwood with decadent Mexican versions of classic American brunch dishes. I loved the Tres Leches French Toast with strawberries and orange-scented whipped cream served with summer fruit dusted with spicy, tangy Tajin.
They also make one mean breakfast burrito stuffed with rice, beans, eggs, chorizo, guacamole, salsa, and crema.
701 E Lane St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Smokestacks Cafe is a quaint coffee shop and friendly Oakwood neighborhood cafe one block from Oakwood Park.
The homey interior has a fireplace and large bookshelf with all sorts of board games and a TV playing your favorite sports games, evoking a sense of home away from home. And the home-cooked comfort food just adds to the sentiment.
The menu at SmokeStacks features barbeque, wings, baked goods, salads, beer, wine, and freshly roasted coffee.
Smokestacks has Sunday brunch menus that offer a different selection each week that they publish on their Facebook page, but you can count on 3$ mimosas.
Brigs Great Beginnings Restaurant
8111 Creedmoor Rd Suite 169, Raleigh, NC 27613
Located in the heart of Stonehenge, Brigs Great Beginnings Restaurant is a Triangle favorite, with locations in Durham and Wakeforest, to boot.
They’ve been a neighborhood favorite for hearty American breakfasts, lunches, and brunches since 1988, winning countless awards from USA Today and even the American Egg Board’s Golden Egg Award for creative menuing and promotion of eggs.
They’re famous for their award-winning varieties of Eggs Benedict. My favorite was the Chesapeake Benedict with homemade crab cakes on English muffins, smothered in a horseradish-parsley Hollandaise sauce and served with home fries and fresh fruit.