Raleigh offers tons of awesome things to do, but no trip would be complete without trying some of the best restaurants in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. Whether you’re looking to grab lunch out or to have an awesome night out with dinner in Raleigh, you’ll be delighted to know that Raleigh knows food!
Top Restaurants in Downtown Raleigh
The best Raleigh restaurants in downtown cover a wide variety of cuisine from the traditional Eastern Carolina BBQ to more unusual delicacies like bone marrow with coconut oxtail jam and crispy pork belly soup. No matter what you’re craving, there’s a restaurant for it!
As you read through the list, it’s worth noting that it features the best places to eat in Raleigh, but the order is certainly debatable based on your palate. Near the top of the list, you’ll find more of the classic Raleigh foods and restaurants which you can’t miss, but you won’t want to skip some of the more creative foods in Raleigh further down the list!
1. Brewery Bhavana
If you’re looking for one of the best downtown Raleigh restaurants, look no further than Brewery Bhavana. This unique restaurant is the combination of a flower shop, bookshop, brewery, and dim sum restaurant which has helped land it on on Bon Apetit’s 2017 Best New Restaurants of the Year, Forbe’s 10 Coolest Places to Eat in 2018, and Conde Nast Traveller’s 2019 15 Most Beautiful Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries around the World lists.
The dim sum at Brewery Bhavana will impress you so much that you might not even make it to the entrees. With seafood dumplings and scallion pancakes served with bone marrow and coconut oxtail jam, you’ll find no shortage of creative small plates to try!
Keep in mind that this stellar restaurant is popular so make sure to make reservations early. Weekend evenings book up sometimes a month in advance. If you haven’t managed to get a reservation, you can pop in the bar and hope to grab a first come, first served space.
Visit Brewery Bhavana’s website for more information.
2. Beasley’s Chicken & Honey
Fried chicken is a southern staple, and Beasley’s is the go to place for fried chicken in downtown Raleigh. In fact, depending when you go, you may find an hour+ wait at this casual eatery! Try their fried chicken in a number of different ways from hot chicken to chicken biscuits or even chicken and waffles.
While their menu is mainly focused on chicken dishes, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to try Chef Ashley Christensen’s version of this favorite southern food. And of course, they also serve a delicious brunch on Saturday and Sunday!
Visit Beasley’s Chicken & Honey website for more information.
Hands down one of the best restaurants in downtown Raleigh is Poole’s Diner. This small restaurant sits in a historic building featuring a classic diner bar top with a menu full of creative seasonal options.
No matter which direction you choose to take the meal, you’ll want to make sure to order a Macaroni au Gratin for the table (or have it as your main dish). This fancy spin on mac and cheese is the most famous dish on the menu and for good reason – it’s delicious! It will keep you wanting to come back again and again.
Visit Poole’s website for more information.
4. The Pit
One of the most popular foods in Raleigh is barbecue. (After all, it is in the south.) If you’re looking for the best place to get barbecue in Raleigh, stop in the Pit. It proudly serves authentic whole-hog, pit-cooked BBQ with a wide range of tasty southern dishes from cornbread and pimento cheese to fried green tomatoes, mac & cheese, hush puppies, and collard greens.
You’ll also get the chance to taste a variety of barbecue sauces at the Pit. That’s right, you’ll learn the difference between the vinegar based eastern-style NC barbecue sauce and the western-style NC barbecue sauce, which is the more traditional ketchup based sauce.
Visit The Pit’s website for more information.
5. Fiction Kitchen
One of the best vegetarian restaurants in Raleigh, Fiction Kitchen, offers delicious menu items for vegans and vegetarians that even carnivores will crave! As one of the few options in Raleigh with a 100% vegetarian kitchen, you’ll want to stop here if you’re looking for vegetarian food in Raleigh. While the restaurant is small, the food is amazing.
They offer dishes that are purely vegetarian, like Risottos and Peanut Noodle Bowls and then a few with “mock meat”, like Crispy Fried “Chicken” and Waffles and an Eastern Style BBQ “Chicken” Plate. No matter what you order, you can’t go wrong!
Visit the Fiction Kitchen website for more information.
6. Bida Manda
When you think of amazing food in Raleigh, you likely don’t envision a Laotian restaurant and bar. But from creative cocktails to delicious culinary treats, there’s a reason Bida Manda makes the list of best restaurants in Raleigh!
Their menu offers a wide variety of tasty Laotian delicacies and a dining room that has every detail attended to. If you’re wavering on what to try on the menu, try the coconut-based Pork Belly Soup or the traditional Green Papaya Salad.
Visit the Bida Manda website for more information.
Another creative and delicious menu is topping the charts at Garland. This Indian and Asian restaurant in downtown Raleigh offers a funky space with dishes made from locally sourced ingredients with a Southern flare. You’ll find a number of sharing plates as well as lager plates, but you won’t want to miss the Cauliflower 65!
The chef at Garland, Cheetie Kumar, is a two time James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for best chefs in the Southeast and really brings the tastes from her home country of India to the table in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Visit the Garland website for more information.
8. Crawford and Son
Crawford and Son is the first restaurant in Raleigh opened by Scott Crawford, a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist. It features rotating menu items with a creative twist, located in the historic Oakwood district of downtown Raleigh.
The dishes served at Crawford and Son range from the familiar favorites to more exotic pairings that will delight your tastebuds. Best of all, with the rotating menu, you’ll find lots of new delicious options to try each time you return!
Visit the Crawford and Son website for more information.
If you’re in the mood for Middle Eastern food in Raleigh, head to Sitti which offers authentic Lebanese food. This beautiful restaurant serves up fresh Middle Eastern flavors from shawarma and kabobs to hummus and baba ghanouj. If you have kids with you, they also have traditional flat breads, like pizzas, to please even the pickiest of eaters.
The charm of Sitti extends beyond just the extensive menu to the large open space, communal dining table, and one of the best outdoor patios in Raleigh.
Visit the Sitti website for more information.
10. MOFU Dumpling Shoppe
Continue your Asian food tour in Raleigh at MOFU Dumpling Shoppe! This beautiful restaurant was opened by the winners of season 6 of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race to reflect their ideals of culture, family, inclusiveness, and community.
You’ll find the menu features a number of go-to Asian dishes, like dumplings, curry, and pho. And, the ambience in MOFU is amazing offering an industrial feel with large windows and even garage doors that open up to the street. It’s a top-notch dining experience in Raleigh!
Visit the MOFU Dumpling Shoppe website for more information.
11. City Market Sushi
Looking for sushi in downtown Raleigh? City Market Sushi is the place to go. This Raleigh restaurant is nestled into the cobblestone streets of City Market and serves up fresh and creative sushi along with a wide variety of sake.
Choose from a selection of traditional sushi rolls, nigiri, and sashimi or try their softshell crab sliders or calamari. If you are not a sushi eater, you’ll find a few items of interest on the menu, but they do mostly cater to the raw fish eaters out there!
Visit the City Market Sushi website for more information.
12. Wye Hill Kitchen and Brewing
If you’re looking for a downtown Raleigh restaurant with a view, this is it! Situated a couple blocks from the central downtown area, Wye Hill offers great views of the Raleigh skyline while serving up small batch craft beer, delicious cocktails, and food. It’s particularly a good place for Sunday brunch!
If getting the perfect view is important to you, make sure to call ahead or go online to make a reservation asking for a table with a view. Fortunately, much of their patio offers stunning skyline views making it likely that even without a reservation you’ll get one, but why leave it to chance?
Visit the Wye Hill website for more information.
Alternative Dining in Raleigh, NC
While there are plenty of restaurants in downtown Raleigh, you may be looking for something a bit more unusual. Stop by one of the two food halls in Raleigh, NC to have a wide selection of foods at your fingertips. Choose from one kiosk or order things from all of them!
Morgan Street Food Hall
For a complete dining experience in downtown Raleigh, stop by the Morgan Street Food Hall. This food court style building features 18 different local food vendors selling everything from sushi and curry to macaroons and ice cream. You’ll also find a bar onsite along with a large dog friendly patio.
This food hall experience is unlike any other restaurant in downtown Raleigh. You can grab quick bites from each of the stalls or order a full meal. If you have picky children in tow, you’re sure to find something they want to eat, and everyone can have something different!
All seating is first come, first served but people are constantly coming and going making it a lively atmosphere.
Visit the Morgan Street Food Hall website for more information.
Transfer Food Co.
The second food hall in Raleigh to pop up, Transfer Food Co. is located in the historic Carolina Coach Garage and Shops. Here you’ll find 11 food vendors serving up a wide variety of tasty delicacies. Order from one or many of the food vendors and then find some open seating inside or on their giant courtyard.
Transfer Food Co. also operates as an event space and offers co-working spaces. So if you’re in the market for alternative settings, stop by Transfer and check it out. It’s also located next to Burial Beer Co, which offers up some delicious beer made famous in Asheville, NC.
Visit the Transfer Food Co. website for more information.
Experience Other Restaurant Week & Beyond
While all of these top Raleigh restaurants fall into the $$ category with meals typically being under $30 per person, eating out in Raleigh can be expensive. Fortunately, there are other ways to try some of the best food in Raleigh, North Carolina without breaking the bank.
Try to catch Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week or the Triangle Restaurant Week or one of the other events centered around food in downtown Raleigh. During these events, many of the best restaurants in Raleigh run specials so you can taste more delicious food at a lower price point.
Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week
The Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week is typically put on by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance offering the chance to support some of the best restaurants in downtown Raleigh. It’s the perfect time to try new restaurants or even just new menu items.
Triangle Restaurant Week
Triangle Restaurant Week is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence that includes many of the most renowned restaurants in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and surrounding areas.
During Triangle Restaurant Week, participating restaurants offer special three-course menu options and fixed pricing. This gives residents and visitors alike time to indulge in the area’s finest cuisine at a more affordable price. Best of all? No reservations, tickets or passes are required.
Pricing throughout the week is set at $15 for a 3-course lunch, and $20, $25, $30 or $35 for a 3-course dinner, depending on the Raleigh restaurant. Price is for each person and does not include beverages, tax or gratuity.
Raleigh International Food Festival
Another awesome opportunity to try a wide variety of cuisine in Raleigh is to hit the Raleigh International Food Festival. This outdoor festival is put on once per year by NC Vibes and offers the opportunity to taste food, desserts, beer, and wine all while enjoying bands and dances from around the world.
Raleigh Food Truck Rodeos
If you’re not familiar with food truck rodeos, you’re missing out. These events bring over 40 food trucks and restaurants to downtown Raleigh multiple times per year. They are free to attend and offer all types of food trucks to try (food is not free!) and plenty of seating setup along the sidewalks.
Find the date of the next downtown Raleigh food truck rodeo!
Get to Know More of Downtown Raleigh
Knowing the top restaurants in Raleigh is key to having an awesome trip to the city and also helpful for locals simply looking for where to go to dinner in Raleigh! After all, there is so much good food to eat!
Plan more of your trip to Raleigh with these additional resources:
- 20 Amazing Things to Do in Downtown Raleigh, NC
- The 10 Best Bars in Downtown Raleigh, NC
- Where to Stay in Raleigh: Top Areas and Hotels
Explore More of North Carolina
Get more out of your time in North Carolina with adventures to some nearby locales. From the mountains to the beaches, you’ll find endless opportunities to explore this beautiful state.
- Raleigh to Asheville Road Trip: See the Best of North Carolina
- How to Spend One Perfect Weekend in Asheville, North Carolina
- 10 Fun Things to Do in the Outer Banks for a Perfect Vacation
- The Best Hotels in the Outer Banks, NC
- Everything You Need to Know about Visiting Jockey’s Ridge State Park
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