It was my first visit to Raleigh, but it was immediately obvious what a young, vibrant city it is. So many neighborhoods have or are currently undoing gentrification. As a result, there are restaurants everywhere. One street, Glenwood Avenue, was literally blocks of one restaurant after another. That said, we do have a few favorites worth sharing.
If you are visiting from out of town, you will need a car to visit most of these or at least an Uber. We stayed downtown at the Raleigh Marriott City Center and our choices of dining experiences were limited within a comfortable walking distance. The farthest we had to drive was under 10 minutes.
If you’re searching for a great steakhouse in Raleigh, Sullivan’s should satisfy everyone’s meat or seafood cravings. Besides, it is constantly showing up on best restaurants lists and with good reason. With the look and feel of an old world steakhouse, the restaurant does not disappoint in any aspects.
Located on Glenwood Avenue, their menu covers a lot of favorites including filet mignon, lobster, burgers, soups, and salads. The side dishes are equally impressive and include baked potato, macaroni and cheese, king crab, gnocchi, and much more. They were even very happy to accommodate this vegetarian.
With an awesome dining experience and great location, reservations would be recommended.
Housed in a repurposed, historic coastal train depot, 18 Seaboard is a top-rated Raleigh restaurant. They are committed to serving contemporary Southern inspired dishes with over 60% of ingredients sourced from North Carolina farms, ranches, fishmongers, and dairies. Some of the most popular dishes include cheese grits, fried green tomatoes, catfish, salmon, and brisket.
The ambiance was really pretty with brick walls, soft lighting, high ceilings, and modern touches. They also have a really nice bar in the front of the restaurant. A word about the service…When the waitress didn’t return to get me a drink, one of my fellow diners went to the bar themselves. Once she realized this, the waitress profusely apologized and actually comped the drink for me.
Caffé Luna is well known for serving Italian cuisine with a Tuscan flair. Located in a majestic historic building in Raleigh, it is a cute, homey restaurant with several different dining rooms. You feel like you’re in a house rather than a restaurant. That said, it does get a little crowded.
We all had pasta because of Caffe Luna’s reputation as one of the best Italian in Raleigh, but I’ve been told their salmon is excellent, too. This is one of the restaurants we walked to from our hotel. It also has a reputation for making you feel like family and I have to say, the service did feel like this.
42ndStreet Oyster Bar
Hearing 42nd Street Oyster Bar was an institution in Raleigh since 1931, of course, we had to visit. A really large establishment, it is a bit touristy, but a lot of fun. Several great options on the menu are the raw oysters – of which there are multiple choices – Manhattan Clam Chowder, Shrimp and Grits, and Crab Cakes.
The restaurant has a commitment to serving the highest quality food and drinks and sourcing local products. When you go by the saying “Seafood Any Fresher Would Still Be in the Ocean”, you have a lot to live up to.
Crawford and Son
Reservations are a must at this popular neighborhood restaurant located in historic Oakwood. They serve straight forward, honest food that ranges from the familiar to the unexpected, so a great place for foodies. But be aware, the menu is very limited with only 5 entrees to choose from. That said, there should be something for everyone, including vegetarians.
A few menu recommendations include the yellowtail crudo, seared swordfish, and chicken confit, along with the warm malted wheat rolls which are a side dish and a must order. They also offer “blue plate specials” Tuesday – Thursday based on what comfort food dish they are craving.
The interior is a rather dark space of gray, brick, and wood and is a bit on the masculine side. It can also be noisy, so might not be the place for an intimate dinner.
Okay, this has to be one of the oddest concepts for a restaurant I’ve seen. It’s a four-in-one-concept establishment; part brewery, dim-sum restaurant, bookstore, and flower shop! Yes, you read that right. And apparently it’s a concept that caught on as it earned a spot on Bon Appetit’s 2017 list of America’s Best New Restaurants.
Located in the historic Moore Square Park in downtown Raleigh next door to Caffe Luna, Brewery Bhavana is open for lunch and dinner. Reservations are highly recommended. In fact, I tried to get in several weeks before we were going to Raleigh and they were fully booked for dinner. The brother-and-sister team behind Brewery Bhavana also own the Laotian restaurant next door, Bida Manda.
The menu looks wonderful and offers tons of vegetarian options, all clearly marked. Some of the favorites are the Seafood Dumplings, Scallion Pancakes, Crab Fried Rice, Lo Mein, and General Tso’s Chicken.
Popping in to satisfy my curiosity at what a four-in-one concept restaurant looks like, I have to say I’d want to go just for the ambiance. It’s a really pretty, ethereal-type atmosphere where you just want to linger. And you can in the flower and book shops under skylights and by fig trees!
The Fiction Kitchen
I did not get to try the Fiction Kitchen and I’m so upset I didn’t, because it’s rare to find amazing vegan/vegetarian restaurants. It is only open for dinner and Sunday brunch and there just weren’t enough nights to hit every restaurant I wanted to. But, it looks and sounds amazing. And while it is vegetarian, it’s regarded as one of the best restaurants in Raleigh. It’s known to offer great food that you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy.
Some of the favorite dishes include Eastern NC Styled BBQ Pulled “Pork” and Crispy Fried “Chicken” with Waffles. Of course, it’s mock chicken cooked in a special combination of herbs and seasoning before frying and serving with fluffy Belgian waffles. Another popular dish is the Mushroom Risotto. There’s also a full bar.
Fiction Kitchen is located in the really cute Warehouse District of Downtown Raleigh. While my friend and I did walk to the district during the day, if going for dinner, I’d probably drive.
And here’s a bonus restaurant for my fellow vegan/vegetarian friends…
This gem which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner was located directly across the street from our hotel. Hence, we actually had more than one meal here. My husband kept going back for the Biblical Breakfast which is artisanal bread served with peanut, almond & coconut butter topped with fig preserves, maple syrup & fresh fruit. For lunch at dinner, you’ll find tons of wonderful options in salads, sandwiches, bowls, and even pizza!
What I loved is that the restaurant is committed to serving 100% organic, plant-based dishes and celebrate living foods. They believe that preparing food is a labor of love and that health, beauty, and art can be served on a plate. A bright, open space with an open kitchen, you can eat in or get food and drink to go. They also serve wine and beer.
Sherry is one of the TriWivesClub and LifeDoneWell co-founders and contributes to multiple blogs. She is a former co-owner of the California Apparel News and had a career in the healthcare industry. Her passions include traveling, real food, the environment, and animal rescue/welfare. She lives a healthy lifestyle and has been a vegetarian since 1987. She and her husband are parents to two rescue pups and reside in Connecticut.