As North Carolina’s state capital and second-most populous city, Raleigh offers visitors and locals plenty to do during their busy schedules.
It’s home to several universities, making it one of the most educated cities in the country. It’s also known for its sheer abundance of oak trees, giving it the nickname “City of Oaks.”
Avid food-lovers can choose from a wide selection of restaurants scattered across the city’s neighborhoods for an exciting dining experience after spending a day at the museum or after a sports game.
You can also find several international options if you prefer a change of pace with your dinner. But, that begs the question: which ones are the best?
The Fiction Kitchen
428 S Dawson St, Raleigh, NC 27601
First up on my list of the top restaurants in Raleigh is The Fiction Kitchen, located on South Dawson Street, near the Raleigh Convention Center.
You can’t miss this vegan restaurant’s bright green exterior. This refined eatery serves quality dishes made from locally sourced vegetarian ingredients, ideal for anyone who prefers healthier dishes.
After starting with their Bao Buns or Mozzarella Sticks, I recommend ordering their Pesto-Stuffed Roast Chicken, Lemongrass Grits, Curry Bowl, or Risotto with a Dark and Stormy, Sazerac, or Cardinal North cocktail.
Then, if you have room for dessert, finish off with their Chamomile Toddy or Green Hot Chocolate.
426 S McDowell St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Poole’s is the next place I recommend for anyone interested in restaurants in Raleigh that offer seasonal comfort food in a retro yet chic setting.
You can find this casual restaurant on South McDowell Street in the Downtown District, minutes away from the Lincoln Theatre.
During my last trip to Raleigh, I started with their Crispy Frog Legs and ordered their Pork Chop, Braised Chicken Leg, Leg-O-Lamb Meatloaf, and Swordfish with their signature Macaroni Au Gratin on the side.
Keep in mind that their seasonal menu may switch up every few days or weeks, so you’re encouraged to stop by often to sample as much as you can.
Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant
220 Wolfe St, Raleigh, NC 27601
If you’re craving a quality Southern breakfast or lunch near the Patterson Green neighborhood, your best option is Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant on Wolfe Street, near Moore Square.
This laid-back, funky restaurant has a nostalgic feel, perfect for enjoying a meal at any time of the day.
My favorite dishes are their Chuckwagon Steak, Southern Fried Chicken, Big Ed’s Deluxe Cheeseburger, and Turkey Pot Pie.
Feel free to enjoy any of these plates with a refreshing lemonade, juice, or hot chocolate to blend your meat with something sweet. If you stop by earlier during the day, you can sample their all-day breakfast menu.
Second Empire Restaurant & Tavern
330 Hillsborough St, Raleigh, NC 27603
Don’t know where to find an elegant setting if you prefer an authentic fine dining experience in Raleigh?
Then, consider booking your next dinner reservation at Second Empire Restaurant & Tavern, located in the historic Dodd-Hinsdale House on Hillsborough Street.
It has a historic, chic circa-1879 aesthetic that enhances its classy setting. I consider this one of the best restaurants in Raleigh for private dining or wedding receptions.
I like their Grilled Carolina Mountain Trout, Pan-Roasted Swordfish, Grilled Australian Lamb Rack, or Mustard Braised Rabbit Leg Meat & Penne Pasta with any of the drinks on their award-winning wine list. After that, try their Empire Chocolate Soufflé.
9401 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27617
Angus Barn is another upscale Raleigh restaurant that I recommend for anyone craving mouth-watering aged beef, nestled on Glenwood Avenue.
It has an extravagant, barn-like aesthetic, combining a rustic setting with a touch of class, enhanced with an extensive wine cellar, lounge, and cigar bar.
Angus Bar is a great place to enjoy quality steak and seafood combinations. I prefer ordering their Maine Lobster Tail, Prime Rib, King-Sized Beef Ribs, or Three-Cheese Ravioli with mashed potatoes or fries.
If you prefer both, consider ordering their Filet and Marinated Shrimp. Don’t miss out on their tempting Hot Fudge Parfait, Root Beer Float, or NC Blackberry Cobbler.
Mofu Dumpling Shoppe
321 S Blount St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Are you having trouble finding Raleigh restaurants offering small plates? Then consider dining at Mofu Dumpling Shoppe, overlooking South Blount Street.
This airy and stylish Pan-Asian eatery offers creative plates and cocktails you can enjoy indoors or to-go. It’s a great place to unwind after exploring the Downtown area.
In my opinion, they serve the best Bulgogi Dumplings, Chicken Satay, Dan Dan Noodles, and Fried Rice in Downtown Raleigh. Keep in mind that some of these menu items are vegan-friendly and spicy.
Try their Vietnamese Coffee Mousse if you have room for dessert after sampling their large or small plates.
2603-151 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27608
Nestled in Glenwood Village, on Glenwood Avenue, Glenwood Grill is your best option if you’re in the mood for contemporary Southern fare in a stylish and sleek setting.
Chef John Wright crafts his dishes with flavors inspired by the coasts of Carolina and the South to give guests a flavorful experience.
I recommend starting with their Lobster Mac & Cheese or Poached Mussels and sampling their Crispy NC Catfish, Seafood Paella, Crispy Duck Breast, or Glenwood Grill Burger.
In my opinion, they taste best with a side of Parmesan Cauliflower or Creamed Spinach. They also have a diverse assortment of wine and beer to pair with any dish.
Beasley’s Chicken + Honey
237 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Nestled on the corner of South Wilmington Street and East Martin Street, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey is another excellent alternative for anybody seeking quality Southern fare in Raleigh’s Downtown District.
You can expect modern takes on classic fried chicken dishes in this contemporary and casual destination if you prefer something simple to eat.
Their best dishes are Crispy Carolina Catfish, Chicken Pot Pie, BBQ Chicken Melt, and Fried Chicken with Honey. Don’t miss out on adding their buttermilk biscuits or sweet potatoes on the side. If you’re in the mood for a dinner cocktail, consider their Parisian Nights or The Porcupine.
137 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Are you in the mood for authentic Lebanese cuisine? If so, consider Sitti for your next international dining experience.
It’s on South Wilmington Street, a short walk away from the City of Raleigh Museum. The restaurant incorporates a modern and artistic ambiance that helps guests relax after a long day of sightseeing.
I recommend sampling their Samkeh Harra, Lebanese Curry, Shrimp Kabob, or Sfiha Pizzette. They also have an annual three-course Triangle Restaurant Week near the end of January for anyone who loves fixed-price dinners.
Consider ordering their kabob, gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian family packages if you prefer taking your food to-go.
Crawford and Son
618 N Person St, Raleigh, NC 27604
Blocks away from William Peace University stands Crawford and Son, a New American restaurant offering quality cocktails and entrees in Pace Street Village.
You can find this restaurant on the corner of North Person Street and Pace Street. Chef Conor Delaney incorporates modern and classic flavors for guests in a stylish environment.
Consider starting with their Caramelized Parsnip Soup and ordering their Hanger Steak, Grilled Ruby Beets, or Roasted Pork Chop with a side of Manchego-Herb Biscuits or Sweet Potato Wedges.
I also recommend their Little Poppy cocktail or spirit-free Snow Leopard. If you’re in the mood for dessert, try their White Chocolate Peppermint Mousse.
Saint Jacques French Cuisine
6112 Falls of Neuse Rd, Raleigh, NC 27609
Saint Jacques French Cuisine is an elevated French restaurant located in the North Ridge Shopping Center on Falls of Neuse Road.
This refined restaurant offers classic French fare using the finest local ingredients. So, if you’re in a romantic mood, book a reservation for their multi-course Valentine’s Day dinner for an unforgettable date.
My favorite main courses are their Scallop Pistou, Cast Iron D’Agneau, Boeuf Bourguignon, and Filet au Poivre.
They offer a wide selection of wines and beer to pair with your dinner, but I like the flavors of their Sunset Boulevard, October Sky, and Unforgiven cocktails. Finally, end your night right with a sweet Smorêve en Chocolat.
218 S Blount St, Raleigh, NC 27601
The best place to sample the city’s best-brewed beer is Brewery Bhavana, nestled on South Blount Street, across the street from Moore Square.
Its stylish vibe contrasts with the dim sum they serve alongside their brews, making it pop out for visitors interested in trying something new.
Consider ordering your meal with a refreshing cocktail or beer on tap for a lively night out. My favorite food options are their Crab Rangoon, Seafood Dumplings, Pork Belly Rice Cakes, and Eggplant Pagoda.
I typically opt for their Golden Espresso Martini or Szechaun Sour whenever I feel like giving my dinner a fun flavor kick.
222 S Blount St, Raleigh, NC 27601
One of the best restaurants in Raleigh for trying Laotian fare is Bida Manda, found on South Blount Street.
This eatery embraces its modern and hip ambiance to attract the hungriest and most curious visitors, from its warm lighting to its sleek wood decor. It also has a cozy bar area.
Start with their Fresh Summer Rolls or Roasted Anaheim Pepper and order a bold-tasting Sweet Salmon Chili, Saffron Crepe, Pad Thai, or Crispy Pork Belly Soup for a night abundant with unique flavors.
I prefer pairing their fare with a Seasonal Sangria or Lilac Lotus cocktail. After that, try their Purple Rice dessert.
Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing
201 S Boylan Ave, Raleigh, NC 27603
You can find Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing on South Boylan Avenue, just a short walk away from Raleigh Union Station.
I consider this an excellent, hip place to unwind if you love craft brews and comfort food. It also has an outdoor patio and an excellent view of Raleigh’s skyline by the train tracks.
I like their Southern Saltimbocca, Bistro Steak, Wye Hill Burger, or Pan-Seared Salmon after a tasty serving of Deviled Eggs or BBQ Fries.
Additionally, they offer many wine, beer, and cocktail options to choose from, including my favorite Beani Martini. They also serve brunch every Saturday and Sunday, where you can customize your own mimosa.
Cortez Seafood and Cocktail
413 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27603
If you’re walking through the Glenwood South neighborhood, one of the top restaurants in Raleigh you should consider for your next night out is Cortez Seafood and Cocktail on Glenwood Avenue.
Enjoy Mexican-influenced seafood dishes prepared by Executive Chef Oscar Diaz in a breezy and tropical setting if you’re eager to dine in a refreshing atmosphere.
Stop by during happy hour for a dollar off their signature oysters. Besides that, I enjoyed their Al Pastor Swordfish, Double Smash Burger Deluxe, Charred Octopus, and NC Snapper Ceviche. Be sure to try any of these dishes with a side of Handcut Fries or Bread + (Sea) Weed Butter.
42nd St Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill
508 W Jones St, Raleigh, NC 27603
Avid seafood lovers don’t want to miss out on the tastiest dishes served at 42nd St. Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill on the corner of West Jones Street and North West Street, in the heart of Raleigh’s North Boylan neighborhood.
I enjoy coming here for dinner because of its casual and vintage vibe, raw bar, and guaranteed food and service quality.
I recommend starting with their Buffalo Fried Oysters or Snow Crab Legs and sampling their Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, Fried Shrimp, VA Sea Scallops, or Baked Shrimp Stuffed Flounder.
Be sure to browse their extensive wine list before deciding on dessert. They also offer a gluten-free menu.
14 W Martin St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Nestled in the heart of Downtown Raleigh, on West Martin Street, Garland welcomes guests to a chic and lively setting as they indulge in quality Indian and Asian fare with a signature Southern twist. Chef Cheetie Kumar prepares each dish using traditional cooking methods for an authentic flavor.
Almost all of Garland’s menu options are gluten-free. I recommend trying their Szechuan Glazed Pork Belly, Vegetable Sambar, Ghee Grilled Lamb Chop, or Vietnamese Caramel Glazed Duck Leg.
You should also consider quenching your thirst with their House-Made Spicy Ginger Beer. Be sure to ask your server about their seasonal options when they’re available.
Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar
With locations on Seaboard Avenue, Falls of Neuse Road, and Corners Parkway, Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar is the best place I recommend for anyone interested in sampling the city’s best gourmet burgers.
It has a hip and buzzy atmosphere, making it the best place for enjoying a night out with your friends and family.
Their Magic Mushroom Burger, Bacon Cheeseburger On Steroids, Smokehouse Burger, and Daddy’s Philly taste great with a side of Onion Rings, Truffle Parmesan Fries, or Mac & Cheese.
They also offer a wide selection of chicken dishes and chopped salads. Don’t forget to try any of these burgers with a Chocolate or Salted Caramel Pretzel Shake.
Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill
Are you craving authentic South American cuisine? Then consider stopping by for a bite to eat at Guasaca Arepa & Salsa Grill.
You can find it on Hillsborough Street and Lake Boone Trail. If you love customizable arepas, brightly-colored dining spaces, and outdoor seating, I recommend stopping here throughout the week for lunch or dinner.
If you prefer building your own bowl, salad, or arepa dish, they offer many options for gluten-free dietary lifestyles, specifically their arepa fillings.
I love their Crispy Chicken Arepas, Shredded Beef Bowl, Braised Tilapia Arepas, and Vegetarian Bowl with a side of chips and salsa or cauliflower rice.
201 W Martin St, Raleigh, NC 27601
After spending your afternoon at Nash Square or CAM Raleigh, the best nearby place to eat for Southern fare is Whiskey Kitchen, located on the corner of West Martin Street and South McDowell Street.
I consider it one of the top restaurants in Raleigh because of its hip and stylish digs and decorative outdoor patio for enjoying the warmest North Carolina climate.
Consider pairing any of their bourbon or rye whiskey with a tasty Fried Chicken Sandwich, Lamb Burger, Cornish Hen, or Smoked Mozzarella Salad with French Fries or Collard Greens. If you stop by for their weekend brunch, consider trying their sweet Monkey Bread.
901 W Morgan St, Raleigh, NC 27603
Last but not least on the list of the best restaurants in Raleigh is the Irregardless Cafe, nestled deep within the Ellington Place neighborhood on West Morgan Street.
This casual and rustic restaurant has live music every night and walls decorated with local artists’ artwork for a more dynamic aesthetic.
Their menu offers several gluten-free and vegan dishes. I enjoy ordering their Mee Goreng, Chicken Royale, Tempeh Tikka Masala, or Baked Shrimp Pasta whenever I book a reservation.
In addition, I like ordering their Life of Pie or Flower Power cocktail for a fruity sensation. They also offer a brunch menu on the weekend.