Content Produced in Partnership with Visit Raleigh
If the quickest way to a person's heart is through the stomach, then it's obvious that one of the best ways to discover a new destination is through its culinary scene. The theory holds true in the South, especially in Raleigh, North Carolina. Raleigh is a destination so rich with eateries, cocktail bars and confectionary delights that it’s worth a trip just to see how many delicious dinners and drinks you can try in one go. From country breakfasts that'll make any Southern grandmother proud to romantic cocktails hours aplenty, your taste buds will enjoy every minute of your vacation in Raleigh.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not make it the best one, too? Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant in downtown Raleigh is only open for breakfast and lunch, so it takes pride in fueling patrons for a busy day ahead. The diner-style interior is full of Southern charm and bits of Raleigh history. And when in it comes to the food, there’s only one place to start at Big Ed’s: the biscuits. Love songs could be written about the biscuits at Big Ed's — they're that divine. You won’t even need to put butter or jelly on them, because when someone hands you perfection, you simply accept it and savor the gift.
Raleigh has plenty of dinner options serving up unique flavors and combinations. Complete with walls lined in books, Brewery Bhavana is great for a stylish night out and the perfect place to enjoy a delectable rendition of dim sum. Brewery Bhavana, as the name would imply, is also a brewery with a wide selection of beers and large bar. On the restaurant side, there are small plates and large plates that are all great for sharing with your special someone. Reservations — and the crispy pig ears and scallion pancakes — are highly recommended.
The N. Person St. neighborhood also has its fair share of excellent culinary options, including Crawford and Son. This neighborhood restaurant makes its own ice cream in-house and Chef Scott Crawford takes an ingredients-first approach when crafting his menu items. Every Tuesday through Thursday, Crawford and Son offers a Blue Plate Special which changes from week to week and includes entrée and dessert options. When we sampled the Blue Plate Special, the entrée featured braised beef cheeks with a soft duck egg — it was truly a revelation. For dessert, we couldn’t resist the carrot cake trifle with miso butterscotch pudding and cream cheese ice cream. We somehow managed to avoid licking the bowl — but just barely.
William & Company
You'll find this neighborhood bar in the N. Person St. community as well, offering a
wide variety of locally-sourced cocktails. It’s a casual environment with
couches, chairs and outdoor seating if you don’t want to cozy up to the bar.
William & Company features classic cocktails with its own unique spin on
staples, like the hibiscus-blueberry gin gimlet we sipped on while chatting
with the locals.
There are so many breweries in Raleigh (more than 25!) that the city has a Beer Trail where you can download a passport, visit breweries, get stamps and earn rewards. If you only have time for one though, Raleigh Brewing Company is a great option. The taproom is a monument to the City of Oaks, including murals of local landmarks. Even if this is your only stop on the trail, you won’t be disappointed — Raleigh Brewing has a list of core offerings, seasonal brews, session series beers and barrel-aged drinks.
The Raleigh Beer Garden, a three-story indoor-outdoor space, is any beer lover’s heaven, too. Boasting the largest beer selection in the world (according to the Guinness World Records), the drinking experience is divided by each level. On the first floor, you’ll find beer brewed exclusively in North Carolina — an excellent place to order a flight and get a good idea of what the Raleigh area and surrounding North Carolina brewery scene has to offer. The second floor offers a variety of domestic selections, along with beers from around the world. On the final floor, the venue has a rooftop bar with a rotating list of drafts. We're not kidding when we say: you could easily spend hours here.
Perhaps the most unique stop on our self-guided food tour of Raleigh was the Videri Chocolate Factory in downtown’s Warehouse District. The gourmet chocolate can only be described as edible works of art. The retail space we visited provides a glimpse into the chocolate-making process, and the team members running the operation inside are happy to answer your questions and give recommendations as to what kind of chocolate to try. Take our advice: Don’t visit Raleigh without having your own Charlie and the Chocolate Factory adventure at Videri.
If you’re interested in spirits and craft cocktails, Raleigh has an impressive selection just for you. Located underground and styled like a 1920s speakeasy, Watts & Ward is a downtown throwback bar that gets its name from two pieces of legislation in North Carolina predating prohibition that set out to end alcohol sales in the Tar Heel State. You have to be a member to enter (it’s only $1 and can be added onto your bar tab inside) this subterranean watering hole, and inside you’ll find a list of cocktails based around gin, whiskey, vodka and other classic liquors. No matter your spirit, you’ll find a drink that catches your eye.
As one of Ashley Christensen’s — named Chef of the Year by Eater — famed restaurants, Poole’s Diner is an absolute must-try when in Raleigh. If you’re looking for the best scratch-made Southern cooking, this is it. Though the menu can change weekly (and sometimes even daily), Ashley is renowned for her creative interpretation of comfort food. With hearty, rich dishes like the short rib pot pie and the locally-loved mac and cheese (more than 15,000 dishes are sold each year!), it’s easy to see why this innovative restaurant is praised by North Carolina natives.
For more information, visit www.visitRaleigh.com/foodie.