Raleigh’s Best Bars 2018

In Feature Stories, February 2019by Lauren Kruchten

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By Lauren Kruchten & Jane Porter

A fireside glass of red at Vita Vite. Craft beer in a plastic cup at The Goat. A whiskey highball in the dark cave that’s Foundation, or a brew with a view at Level7. We don’t have to tell you that, no matter your preference, Raleigh’s bar game is strong. In fact, for our annual Best Bars issue this year, we let you tell us! For four weeks, we opened voting through our website and social media channels in order to get your picks of your favorite bars in a range of different categories—and you more than delivered! Congrats to all our of winners; to those who voted, we say thanks. And now, for the first time ever, we present Raleigh Magazine readers’ picks of the city’s Best Bars. Cheers!

Best Overall

Dram & Draught

Haymaker

Gallo Pelón

Brewery Bhavana

Watts & Ward

Fox Liquor Bar

Best Cocktail Bars

Watts & Ward
200 S Blount St. | wattsandward.com

This classic speakeasy located underneath Blount Street breathes new life into the 1920s. Dim lighting, book-lined shelves and cozy leather furniture take you back in time to the Prohibition era and the laws in North Carolina that banned booze, namely the Watts Act of 1903 and the Ward Law of 1905. Jazzy music of the period sets the backdrop for solid, cleverly named house cocktails that harken back to life in the Roaring ‘20s.

 

Haymaker
555 Fayetteville St. | thehaymakerraleigh.com

With a secluded entrance tucked away behind B.Good on Fayetteville Street, Haymaker can be a little tricky to access, but that only makes it all the more exciting to seek out for its surprising, delicious cocktails and gorgeous, modern decor. The bar takes inspiration from ’90’s rappers and fighters,” with a dark ambiance that sets the tone for high-end drinks with playful, tongue-in-cheek names, such as current seasonals Fernet About Dre, or G Made Me Do It, a nod to owner and Escehlon entrepreneur G Patel. The Haymaker is notorious for its punch bowls o’ booze, which serve three to five people and always deliver a classy good time.

 

Bittersweet
16 E Martin St. | bittersweetraleigh.com

By day, Bittersweet is a sweet spot for a cup of coffee and a baked treat, but by night, the cafè transforms into a luxurious bar serving up fancy, innovative cocktails that are always decorated with the most divine (and sometimes edible) garnishes. What really makes a Bittersweet experience, however, is its dessert selection, and all offerings are made in-house. Pair your drinks with the famous Salty Chipwich Ice Cream Sandwich, an exquisite crème brûlèe made with vanilla-brandy poached clementines or a freshly caramelized banana parfait.

 

Gallo Pelón Mezcaleria
106 S Wilmington St. | gallopelon.com

Located above Centro on Wilmington Street, Gallo Pelón is a mezcal lover’s dream come true, with more than 50 different types of mezcal on offer, as well as four mezcal flight options. The community-driven bar celebrates the artistry behind the production of traditional mezcal, which, for the uninitiated, is an artisanal pit-smoke agave spirit from Mexico, made mainly in the state of Oaxaca. Along with its extensive mezcal list and flights, Gallo Pelón offers seasonal and classic craft cocktails and Mexican-inspired bar snacks, including loaded nachos, corn tacos with marinated pork and fried plantains.

 

Fox Liquor Bar
237 S Wilmington St. | ac-restaurants.com/fox

Ashley Christensen’s solo watering hole has become one of
Raleigh’s most beloved bars for drinking, snacking and generally lounging. The bar’s simple menu features all the classics, but with creative, upscale twists; think a gin and tonic with clove, a vodka soda with a touch of coffee liqueur, or a gimlet made with green chartreuse. Fox wouldn’t be an AC venture without great food, and the delectable bar snacks include buffalo chicken dip, garlic fries, taco-spiced pork rinds and more.

 

Junction West

Best New Bars

Junction West
310 S West St., Suite 110 | junctionwestnc.com

Located just next to Raleigh’s gorgeous new Union Station, Junction West brings an elegance to the Warehouse District with its sleek white bar, natural wood furniture, exposed light fixtures and fun plant decor. Original, exposed wooden beams are an ode to the refurbished building’s industrial past, while large windows lend a fresh light. Eye-catching cocktails, local beer, ciders, wine, live music and a heated outdoor patio means there’s something for everyone, no matter your taste, no matter the time of year.

 

Hummingbird
1053 E Whitaker Mill Rd., Suite 111 | hummingbirdraleigh.com

Light-filled and lovely, this unique Dock 1053 spot offers an all-day menu, with coffee and breakfast in the morning, a delicate lunch menu, delicious hot and cold offerings for dinner, and delectable sweets and small bites to pair with drinks for the late night visitors. Finely crafted cocktails highlight exceptional ingredients, including elderflower, hibiscus tea vodka and gingered grenadine, with names that sing to nature and wildlife. Try the Goddesses and Golfers, which pairs vodka with bubbles, or the Ruffled Kakapo, with bourbon, green apple and vermouth.

 

The Arbor Bar and Garden at Morgan Street Food Hall
411 W Morgan St. | morganfoodhall.com

The Arbor, the indoor/outdoor bar located at the center of Morgan Street Food Hall, is surrounded by food vendors, making it an ideal first or end-of-the-night spot, perfect for meal scouting or people watching, or just the place to grab a drink to accompany your food. The Arbor has a fully stocked liquor selection as well as wine and beer, which facilitates easy pairing with all of the many different food options available to you. There’s plenty of space at the Arbor inside or out on the covered, heated patio to sit with a group of friends, get some work done or read a book while grabbing a drink.

 

The Dogwood Bar & Eatery
610 & 612 Glenwood Ave. | dogwoodraleigh.com

With everything from bubbles, to craft cocktails, to rosé on draft, Dogwood offers a different experience from its sister establishments, downtown’s Anchor and Glenwood South’s Milk Bar. Order up appetizing shareable plates, including charcuterie and flatbreads, alongside seasonal craft cocktails, a creative, refreshing mix ranging from light vodka smashes to personalized takes on classics, such as the Dogwood Old Fashioned, Raspberry Rickey or Peach Margarita. Enjoy your drinks at the lively indoor bar or outside on the wrap-around, heated porch, equipped with cozy seating options to accommodate a big group or a pair.

 

Best Entertainment Bars

Boxcar Bar + Arcade
330 W Davie St. | theboxcarbar.com

Raleigh’s ultimate bar arcade is one of the most entertaining spots downtown, with hundreds of old- and new-school arcade games, pinball machines and air hockey tables, plus a full liquor bar and 24 rotating brews. Daily drink specials make it cheap to go out with friends for an afternoon or evening of fun-filled competition, especially on tournament nights, while free, fresh popcorn comes in clutch when the drunchies hit. Your underage friends or siblings are welcome any time before 9 p.m.

 

Kings
141 Park at North Hills St., Suite 120 | kings-de.com

Bowling meets drinking and dining for perfect nights of laid back, fun-filled entertainment at Kings. The upscale bowling alley in North Hills features a full-service food and drink menu while you bowl, with unexpected takes on snacks like Impossible Cheeseburger Empanadas and Buffalo Chicken Wontons alongside classic cocktails, including martinis, Manhattans and margaritas. The bar is also open to those who opt for games such as darts, air hockey, ping pong and billiards, or for anyone who prefers to just sit back and watch sports on TV.

 

Alamo Drafthouse
2116-D New Bern Ave. | drafthouse.com

This old-timey theater designed to look like a vintage arcade is every film buff’s dream, but it makes for a pretty cool experience for regular moviegoers—and drinkers—as well. The Alamo is one of the only dine-in cinemas in Raleigh, with a full-service bar offering liquor drinks and a rotating selection of local brews. Themed snacks and cocktails are served up alongside curated feature movies as you watch. The Alamo hosts trivia nights and super-fun movie parties, where guests dress up as their favorite film characters and audience participation is encouraged.

 

Players Retreat

Best Game Day Bars

Carolina Ale House
500 Glenwood Ave. | carolinaalehouse.com

Carolina Ale House’s prominent position high above Glenwood South makes it an exciting spot to catch a game with over 50 screens inside and out. There’s a hefty lineup of 72 craft beers on tap, including local brews, as well as specialty cocktails and wine, not to mention an extensive food menu. Carolina Ale House has anything a sports fan could ask for a winning game day experience.

 

Player’s Retreat
105 Oberlin Rd. | playersretreat.net

One of Raleigh’s oldest and most beloved bars, you can find Player’s Retreat packed to the brim on game day. Affordable drinks and chef Beth Littlejohn’s ramped up bar food will keep you in good spirits for hours, while the always friendly staff and vivacious fellow fans make the spot all the more fun.

 

Woody’s At City Market
205 Wolfe St. | woodycitymarket.com

City Market’s cavernous sports bar has been a prime spot for meeting up with friends to watch a game since 1993. With 23 TVs broadcasting virtually any game you and your crew could think of, plus an extensive beer selection from North Carolina breweries and beyond, it’s Woody’s chicken wings that are the most famous for keeping fans happy during game time.

 

Tobacco Road Sports Cafe
505 W Jones St. | tobaccoroadsportscafe.com

As its name suggests, Tobacco Road is a great spot for catching a basketball game, though don’t mistake the spot for being just a sports bar. Using fresh and local ingredients, Tobacco Road puts a high-quality spin on your run-of-the-mill bar food. Beer also has a significant role to play at Tobacco Road, as much of it comes from Tobacco Road’s own brewery, or from other craft breweries in North Carolina.

 

Best LGBTQ Bars

Ruby Deluxe
415 S Salisbury St. | rubydeluxeraleigh.com

Owner Tim Lemuel’s subterranean Sparkle Dungeon is home to dazzling entertainment nightly, with drag pop-ups, safe space open mic nights and all-star DJs who lay down the beats and turn up the vibes on weekends. Themed parties occur aplenty in the underground bar; rock your best looks and dance the night away to the glow of ruby red lights and playful, glittery decor.

 

Legends
330 W Hargett St. | legends-club.com

Sprawling nightclub complex and Warehouse District mainstay Legends is well-known for its premiere drag show performances, as well as its sizable dance floors, luxurious patio, video bar and game room buzzing with patrons each and every night of the week. The neon-lit space also houses The Tuck, Legends’ “gay twist on a speakeasy,” an intimate private bar serving Spotlight Diva Cocktails and tended by one of Raleigh’s many fabulous drag queens. Follow Legends’ social media channels for a password that will gain you entry to The Tuck on Fridays and Saturdays, from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.

 

Flex
2 S West St. | flex-club.com

Make your way down to the basement of Flex for some amusing entertainment on any given night, whether it’s the Trailer Park Prize Night on Thursdays, gogo dancers on Fridays, or some of the best karaoke around Sundays through Wednesdays. The 18+ bar features scattered tables for seating and a small dance floor, as well as a patio space upstairs with wooden benches. Bring cash (no cards are accepted) and if curiosity tempts you to peek inside the urinal housed on an inside wall, you might just find some candy.

 

The District
317 W Morgan St. #117 | thedistrictraleigh.com

We were sad to lose Warehouse District staple The Borough in 2016, but The District has done a spectacular job in stepping up and taking its place. With an inviting entreaty to “come as you are,” The District’s playful cocktails (try the Hot Child in the City, with mezcal and Aperol) and hearty fare are a welcome addition to the Gayborhood. Take in The District’s fun aesthetic—think plush velvet chairs, funky light fixtures, bright wallpaper—with a cocktail or two, or enjoy an exotic glass of wine or a classic beer.

 

Trophy Brewing

Best Craft Beer Bars

Trophy
656 Maywood Ave. / 225 Wilmington St. / 827 W Morgan St. | trophybrewing.com

Trophy’s beers have a well-earned following here in Raleigh, and you can find them at plenty of local restaurants, bottle shops and grocery stores, as well as at Trophy’s three unique establishments around town. Trophy’s production facility on Maywood Avenue houses all of the company’s brewing equipment, along with a taproom and spacious patio. Savor the original Trophy experience at its pizza joint on Morgan Street, which offers plenty of exceptional pies made with fresh, local ingredients and a rotating, seasonal tap list. Over on Wilmington Street, Trophy Tap + Table features Southern-inspired dishes and rooftop views, and on Hillsborough Street, State of Beer bottle shop is also a part of the Trophy Brewing family.

 

Brice’s Brewing Company
1822 Garner Station Blvd. | bricesbrewing.com

On the southernmost edge of Raleigh, it’s a little off the beaten path, but Brice’s Brewing is cherished by denizens of Garner and Raleigh alike for its inventive craft beers, friendly staff and the fun, positive energy that buzzes within its taproom. The two-year-old brewery whips out a broad selection of rotating and seasonal beers, with a core group of six that are always available on tap. While Brice’s specializes in Belgians, it also offers IPAs, saisons, stouts and some truly unique brews as well.

 

Raleigh Beer Garden
614 Glenwood Ave. | theraleighbeergarden.com

Raleigh Beer Garden still holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest draft beer selection contained under one roof, with more than 400 different beers on tap. That’s so many, in fact, that you have to scroll through the menu using your smartphone. Anywhere you turn in RBG’s towering complex, there’s a stocked bar, so if you’re looking for something specific, it’s best to consult with your server. Choose from a variety of seating options—indoor, outdoor, on levels one through three which are intersected by a live tree.

 

Brewery Bhavana
218 S Blount St. | brewerybhavana.com

Head brewer and co-founder Patrick Woodson’s dream realized was recently named one of the coolest restaurants in the world and its brewery is certainly one of the most cherished here in Raleigh. Brewery Bhavana opened last year, and everything about it, from its book-lined walls to its sweet flower and gift shop, still lives up to the hype. Bhavana’s sleek, marble-backed bar is equipped with 40 beer taps—10 core offerings and rotating seasonals—which are brewed at a private production facility on Bloodworth Street.

 

Lynnwood Brewing Concern
1053 E Whitaker Mill Rd. | lynnwoodbrewing.beer

With restaurants and taprooms in north Raleigh and Dock 1053, Lynnwood Brewing Concern is busting out delicious brews from two locations. Lynwood’s dependable, award-winning beers are crafted using flavorful hops, yeast, malted barley and wheat, via innovative brewing techniques to achieve the perfect beer, no matter the style. Lynwood’s signature Once You Go Black IPA won a silver medal at the World Beer Cup for its rich-tasting notes from carafa malt, making it a must-try, and its Kiss My Irish Stout has won national awards too.

 

Vidrio

Best Restaurant Bars

Vidrio
500 Glenwood Ave., #100 | vidrioraleigh.com

With a stunning pastiche of glass orbs covering the restaurant’s two-story wall, Vidrio’s dramatic aesthetic plays up its Mediterranean foodie roots, and a drinks program—offering a selection of 50 wines on tap and more than 300 bottles, plus a diverse beer selection, craft and classic cocktails and extensive spirits list—complements it all to perfection. Post up at the bar and enjoy snacks, small plates, a late night menu and cold and hot dishes. Almost every offering is made using imported olive oil from the Greek village of Glykovrisi, in the Southern Peloponnese, which owner Lou Moshakos calls home, delivering a taste of the island with every bite.

 

O-Ku Sushi
411 W Hargett St. | okuraleigh.com

The Dillon’s premiere sushi restaurant has fast become a favorite among Raleigh residents, with an impressive menu that incorporates a touch of Southern flair, alongside signature cocktails that simultaneously celebrate the unique cultures of Raleigh and Japan. O-Ku’s biggest draw, perhaps, is its “happy hour” on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, when all sushi rolls are half price from 5 to 7 p.m. Paired with Japanese or local craft beer, fun, flavorful cocktails or traditional sake from its warmly lit, fully stocked bar, O-Ku Sushi is the place to go for great drinks and Japanese-inspired cuisine.

 

Parkside Restaurant
301 W Martin St. | parksideraleigh.com

Located in downtown’s Warehouse District across from Nash Square, Parkside occupies the ground floor of a historic building with one of the longest running neon restaurant signs in the state’s history. Parkside’s farm-to-table menu is comprised of upscale bar food along with traditional Southern comfort dishes, such as shrimp and grits, meatloaf and fried green tomatoes. The restaurant’s bar is made from reclaimed barn wood and warm red brick and poplar tabletops create an inviting ambiance. Parkside’s extensive beer list, with more than 25 brews on tap, including local brews and national classics, pair easily with lunch, brunch and dinner offerings.

 

Stanbury
938 N Blount St. | stanburyraleigh.com

This hip hole in the wall, with its menagerie of stickers, drawings and assorted knick knacks, contrasts a “caring, playful, uncomplicated” atmosphere with a menu of high-end dishes. Stanbury’s superb cocktail menu changes weekly, due to the availability of ingredients, so you know your drinks are always fresh. Stanbury’s beer menu is limited but rotates daily, while its worldly wine list offers something for everyone. Enjoy your libations with large plates such as ribeye and tagliatelle, or dabble in some small plate delicacies like grilled quail, swordfish crudo and crostini with butternut squash.

 

Crawford & Son
618 N Person St. | crawfordandsonrestaurant.com

This beloved Raleigh restaurant is known for its creative, decadent dishes but don’t sleep on its inviting bar offerings, either. Crawford & Son’s drinks menu isn’t huge but classic cocktails with a twist—Sazerwax, anyone?—are a fun intro to an evening of wining and dining you won’t soon forget. A curated wine list features mainly French and Californian offerings, perfect to pair with a meal and available by bottle or by glass. You may also choose to enjoy a local beer or spirit-free cocktail with your French-inspired-but-decidedly-Southern cuisine; seared scallops, beef tartare, crispy catfish and butternut squash gratin are all local favorites.

 

The Cardinal

Best Dive Bars

Slim’s
227 S Wilmington St. | slimsraleigh.com

Its discrete entrance is easy to miss, but owner Van Alston’s beloved rock & roll watering hole’s sticker-decorated bar top, upstairs pool table lounge and small-stage-big-sound live shows have been dishing out gritty local vibes since 1999. Downtown Raleigh’s oldest music venue only holds 100 people at a time, so patrons can enjoy up-and-coming acts and well-known favorites in an intimate setting. A large outdoor patio is the perfect counterpart to Slim’s’ long, skinny interior, an ideal spot to hang out for some drinks, have a smoke or catch a breath of fresh air. Live music, low-priced beer and and strong-pour liquor drinks all feature throughout the week.

 

The Goat Bar
5111 Western Blvd

With beer pong, friendly bartenders and a healthy selection of craft beers on tap (served in plastic cups, of course),The Goat is the epitome of a dive bar. The spot at the most western end of Western Boulevard, a one-room space in a building shared with Pam’s Farmhouse Restaurant, is home to a single wooden bar, fully stocked with glowing bottles of liquor and plastered top to bottom with patron-decorated photographs and dollar bills. Enjoy a round of board games, local sports, giant Jenga or a shots wheel, plus frequent liquor specials and $2 Mystery Beers on Sundays.

 

Lucky B’s
609 Tucker St. | luckybsbar.com

If you’re looking for fun, Lucky B’s, also known as Lucky 13’s, “Around the Corner” and “the classiest dive bar in Raleigh,” has you covered. A popular hangout at the corner of Glenwood Avenue and Tucker Street, Lucky B’s’ affordable drinks menu, sprawling collection of pub games, jukebox, karaoke nights and always-open outdoor patio have been guaranteeing a good time since 2005. Daily drink specials mean nights out with friends without breaking the bank, while late-night hot dogs on Fridays and Saturdays make for the perfect soak-up-the-booze snack before heading home.

 

The Cardinal
713 N West St. | facebook.com/TheCardinalBar

The Cardinal combines the best of two great worlds—crazy good hot dogs and exceptional beer—in one small, private nook near Glenwood South. It’s the perfect starting point for a night out downtown, a great lunch spot or a fun weekend drop-in, with a lineup of rotating local taps and classic canned brews to wash down one of their famous, completely customizable hot dogs that come served with an assortment of toppings to choose from. The Cardinal’s spacious front patio provides a stunning view of downtown Raleigh to enjoy while drinking and grubbing with a group of friends.

 

Best Music/Dance Bars

The Pour House Music Hall
224 S Blount St. | thepourhousemusichall.com

Part dive bar, part live music venue, part local craft beer mecca, the Pour House has, since 1997, been the spot to catch a show in downtown Raleigh. Acts cover an eclectic mix of rock, rap, Americana, plus local and nationally touring indie bands. The gritty, two-story venue means ample space for music lovers to jam out with a big group of friends; there’s seating at the bar and upstairs and pool tables provide a welcome distraction while you’re waiting around between gigs. Choose from a selection of 30 rotating NC drafts and be sure to check out Local Band Local Beer nights that highlight homegrown artists and local breweries.

 

C. Grace
407 Glenwood Ave. | cgracebar.com

C. Grace’s underground cocktail lounge takes you away, with exquisite craft cocktails and phenomenal live jazz performances every Tuesday through Saturday night. The dimly lit interior, vintage furniture and candlelit tables spread before a velvet curtained stage sets the scene for a night of delectable drinking—try The Monk’s Breakfast or the Old Pal—and spirited live entertainment, with horns aplenty. Are you in New Orleans or in the 1920s? It’s deliciously difficult to discern.

 

Coglin’s
226 Fayetteville St. | coglins.com

Come with your dancing shoes on, because Coglin’s is all about getting down to your favorite hits from the ’80s and ’90s. Disco balls, flashing neon lights, patient DJs, potent Jello shots—all promise a sweaty, raucous good time, while frosty Coglin Coolers, Slush Puppies and fishbowls mean you may have some trouble remembering it the next day. Hey, every night’s a theme night, and if you didn’t come to Coglin’s to go large, you might as well have stayed home.

 

The Architect
108 E Hargett St. | architectbar.com

Downtown Raleigh’s ritzy bar and social house is a stylish spot for a night of drinking and dancing, with specialty cocktails, craft beer and wine, and on-trend tunes. Secluded booths are perfect for special group events such as birthday parties or work outings, and you can enjoy them with full bottle service for a sophisticated VIP experience. Look up at the ceiling while you’re dancing on the main floor to catch a glimpse of the stars through an immense skylight, or grab a sneaky drink behind the bookshelf at the tucked-away speakeasy The Green Light.

 

Whiskey Kitchen

Best Whiskey Bars

Whiskey Kitchen
201 W Martin St. | whiskey.kitchen

Whiskey Kitchen, the erstwhile downtown headquarters for White Horse Limousine service, has lots of open space, which makes it all the more inviting to drop in for a drink or two. Located across from Nash Square, Whiskey Kitchen’s long and geographically thorough whiskey menu has something for every whiskey lover, including a range of bourbons, ryes, single malts and more. For non-whiskey drinkers, specialty house cocktails, beer and wine are also available. Enjoy your drink at the bar under a dramatic, hand-painted mural, or on the sunny patio.

 

Dram & Draught
623 Hillsborough St. | dramanddraught.com

This old-school whiskey spot stocks more than 300 bottles high behind the bar, which means  bartenders have to climb a sliding ladder to get to the top shelfs—a pretty neat touch. Hand-crafted cocktails are a specialty at Dram, which rotates its offerings in order to capture the top flavors of the season. If you’re not feeling a cocktail, there’s also wine available, plus a selection of North Carolina beers from signature “Dram & Draught” taps. Chill inside at the bar or head outside to the lively patio.

 

Foundation
213 Fayetteville St. | foundationnc.com

Foundation’s cool, neon red sign beckons you downstairs to an underground lair, where you’ll find a vast selection of whiskeys lining the shelves of the exposed brick wall behind the bar. Foundation’s dark ambiance provides an unfussy space in which to enjoy classic and inventive craft cocktails (never served using fewer than three ingredients), plus local beer, wine by the glass or a signature glass of whiskey, with or without a house-made ginger ale, for a little something extra.

 

Blind Barbour
3055 Medlin Dr. | blindbarbour.com

The Blind Barbour’s classic looking wood paneled walls, high wooden booths and a vintage mirror create the backdrop for a superb whiskey lineup. The modern day speakeasy-slash-neighborhood bar boasts more than 150 different whiskeys, including small batch bourbons, reserve ryes and vintages dating from as far back as 1932, plus two of the bar’s own special whiskeys that are house-aged.

 

the Oak, kitchen & bourbon bar
4035 Lake Boone Trail | jmrkitchens.com/oak

JMR Kitchens’ upscale bourbon bar is an inviting spot for a nice lunch or dinner and drinks, featuring a scratch made Southern-fusion menu and more than 60 different bourbons to try. Following recent renovations, the restaurant offers new seating options in its industrial style space, as well as behind-the-bar TVs for catching a game. Exciting bourbon pairing dinners highlight a special lineup of bottles over four courses, and an adopt-a-barrel program means you can invest in a bourbon of your choice as it ages to perfection.

 

Best Rooftop Bars

Level7
101 Park at North Hills St., 7th Floor | level7roofbar.com

For sophisticated after-work sipping and eclectic, tapas-style bites, head to the seventh floor of AC Hotel North Hills. Level7 Rooftop Bar features local brews, single vineyard label wines and the wares of small batch distillers in divine cocktails, all in a modern, open indoor space and a beautifully decorated patio where guests can enjoy the surrounding city views, no matter the weather. Dine on charcuterie, flatbreads or an assortment of small bites for a luxurious date night, girls night out or large gathering with colleagues or friends.

 

Taverna Agora
326 Hillsborough St. | tavernaagora.com

Climb the stairs of the rustic looking Taverna Agora and you’ll be transported to a quaint Greek village. Lush green vines entangle a checkerboard of exposed beams, suspended over turquoise colored tabletops, adorned with fresh flowers. The beautiful, airy downtown space is perfect for enjoying the Taverna’s Greek-inspired cocktails, including a Greek Mule with baklava syrup and sangria made with Greek wine, or a Greek beer. Served alongside Taverna Agora’s extensive Mediterranean menu, this exquisite rooftop spot, winterized for the colder months, is ideal for a memorable lunch or dinner.

 

The Raleigh Times Bar
14 E Hargett St. | raleightimesbar.com

A downtown staple located in a restored, century-old namesake newspaper building, Raleigh Times is a dependable go-to for good food and drinks, with an array of traditional snacks, sandwiches, salads and plates imbued with a flavorful Southern flair. The bar’s innovative cocktails, beer and microbrew selection includes an inventive list of Belgians, sours, wheats, IPAs and almost everything in between. The bar space sprawls across several rooms and two levels, while the outdoor patio is urban perfection on nice days, offering fun views of downtown.

 

Vita Vite Midtown

Best Wine Bars

Vita Vite
313 W Hargett St. / 200 Park at North Hills St. | vitaviteraleigh.com

Vita Vite’s downtown and North Hills locations beam with luxury, from the warm, inviting decor, to small plates of yummy breads, cheeses and chocolates and, of course, exceptionally curated wines. Both Vita Vite locations are fun spots to stop in for a couple of glasses or a bottle between friends, with blends available from all over the world and price points ranging from the affordable to the upscale. 

 

Short Walk Wines
123 E Martin St. | shortwalkwines.com

A wine lover’s dream, this inviting neighborhood wine bar is a prime downtown spot to stop in and enjoy a glass solo or with a friend, or to pick up a bottle on your way home. Short Walk Wines stocks a vast selection of vinos from all over the world, and a helpful staff can assist you in seeking out the best option.

 

Vinos Finos
8450 Honeycutt Rd. #110 | vinosfinosypicadas.com

A cozy wine bar in Lafayette Village, Vinos Finos boasts the largest selection of South American wines in Raleigh, as well as delightful tapas and some pretty tasty Argentine empanadas. The bar’s soft lighting and plush leather seating creates an intimate setting, a great place to meet with friends or take a date for a delicious meal of wine and small plates.

 

Wine Authorities
211 E Franklin St. | wineauthorities.com

With a focus on small, family-owned estate wineries, Wine Authorities is a hip but laid-back spot for all your wine needs and a nonjudgmental space for budding aficionados who’d like some guidance. Aisles are organized by region, with informative placards that give you details on each wine—where it came from, its varietals, tasting notes—plus wine machines from which you can taste wines from 12 different taps. Post up at the wine bar and enjoy a glass, or check out the small, covered outdoor patio.

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