Exploring the city’s burgeoning raw food scene
Raw food creations have become so popular in Raleigh, there’s now a handful of entire eateries dedicated to preparing and serving uncooked fare. Oyster and juice bars anyone? That’s not to mention sushi joints and salad specializers. The raw food craze is a trend for good reason—raw dishes boost color, flavor, and creativity and are often made with the freshest of ingredients—and, hopefully, it’s a trend that’s here to stay, as these often hand-crafted concoctions can be as good for you as they are tasty.
As Raleigh residents grow even more appreciative of this unique, no-heat food preparation method and seek out both healthier and more adventurous options, we thought summer was the ideal season to try out some refreshing local creations from the city’s network of diverse options. So, if you haven’t caught the crudo or cold-pressed juice bug yet, we sampled some top-notch fare at all-raw and traditional restaurants alike. You may be surprised how many restaurants offer raw dishes. Here, we present to you our favorites.
Living Kitchen’s Sweet Potato Cashew Sushi
555 Fayetteville St.
Living Kitchen can turn even the most serious vegan food skeptic into a fan for life with its beautiful and totally inventive classic dishes recreated solely using plant foods. Juliana Luna, the founder of Living Kitchen who opened her first location in Charlotte, noticed a gap in the restaurant scene for places offering vegan dishes that truly celebrated plant foods rather than offering dishes heavily reliant on meat substitutes and soy products. You won’t find those things in Living Kitchen’s dishes, nor will you miss meat, cheese and refined sugars. Try the ingenious “sushi” made with raw nori, raw grated sweet potato and cashews in lieu of rice, plus fresh vegetables like peppery arugula and sweet red peppers. The manicotti, made of raw zucchini noodles and a cashew ricotta, is another major contender that might be the freshest, lightest manicotti you’ll ever try, but is satisfying nonetheless. Save room for the turtle cake which you’d never know is made of mostly nuts, dates and coconuts and tastes of sweet, tart chocolate.
Mandolin’s Seasonal Crudo
2519 Fairview Rd.
Crudo translates from the Italian to “raw” and the crudo currently on rotation at Five Points hotspot Mandolin is perhaps one of the most beautiful and colorful crudos that you ever will see. The seasonal dish, a top-seller according to Mandolin Chef and owner Sean Fowler, now showcases North Carolina pink snapper, served with rhubarb, dehydrated strawberries, diced cucumbers, edible flowers, fresh mint and basil. The crudo comes dressed with a light fizzy cucumber sauce and topped with granola (yes, granola!) for a slight crunch. It’s a multitude of flavors and textures and it comes together perfectly. You can also expect a cold summer gazpacho at Mandolin soon, or try the spring primavera, topped with a golden egg yolk straight from the restaurant’s farm.
Stanbury’s Beef Tartare
938 N. Blount St.
Start your meal at Stanbury, a rustic city favorite tucked away at the edge of downtown, with the beef tartare. It’s made-to-order using the finest quality local beef, seasoned with coarse grain mustard, capers, shallots, parsley, and topped with a buttery fresh raw quail egg. It’s raw from start to finish, with a perfect melt-in-your-mouth tanginess; somehow, it feels light and hearty all at once. Not quite ready to give completely raw beef and egg a try? Try Stanbury’s seasonally inspired ceviche. Currently composed of local tilefish and shrimp, it’s marinated in citrus and spices for several hours just before serving, bringing to you the tart, tasty Latin flavors of the sea.
Raleigh Raw’s Cold-Pressed Juice and Poke Bowls
7 W. Hargett St.
Raleigh Raw is a small, stylish place located right downtown, a fitting location since the spot’s mantra and mission is to “fuel the hustle” of the city’s spirited residents and professionals. The juice bar and café offers a cadre of cold-press raw juices made from organic fruits and vegetables, as well as original poke bowls and other raw, mostly plant-based creations, including smoothies and lattes. Try the current seasonal juice, Summer in the City, which blends watermelon (even the rind), lime, celery and chia seeds and turns it into a dark pink-hued, invigorating summer beverage. For your main dish, go for the Tuna Rosarito Poke bowl. It’s filled with raw goodness, including avocado, grapefruit, jackfruit sorrel and tomato. Even though the juice shop and café source as much as possible locally, parts of the menu feel exotic, with certain fish species and produce sourced mindfully from other parts of the world— bringing to mind that longed-for Hawaiian vacation.