Raleigh’s Best Bars 2021

In Feature Stories, February 2022 by Raleigh Magazine1 Comment

Share this Post

It’s been a hell of a year—again. And nothing gets us through it better than alcohol. This time bellied up to our fave bars as they welcomed back patrons at full capacity. More than ever we relied on (and appreciated!) our “tender bars” for refuge and distraction. And, to wit, more than ever we are amped to celebrate the best of the best bars dotting our fair city—and keeping our spirits up. For the fourth year running, Raleigh Magazine has honored our 50 best bars—from best new sip spot to finest whiskey bar to top rooftop and more. Now it’s that time again to fete the spirited folks we rely on to keep us afloat, including the top three Best Overall (the highest honor we bestow). Thanks to the thousands of readers and social media followers who cast their ballots—and a huge congrats to our winners. We happily raise our glasses to you (and to putting 2021 squarely in the rearview).

Cheers!

Best Bars 2021

Best Overall

Dram & Draught 

Anchoring the One Glenwood building, Dram is at once sexy and chic while also easily doubling as your go-to comfortable, cool neighborhood bar—so much so that the Raleigh original now has iterations in Greensboro and Durham (the latter opening in 2021 to much fanfare). A fave for its wide whiskey selection, kickass cocktails, well-curated beer list and small-but-interesting wine list, our resident Raleigh Dram has garnered rave reviews—including landingRaleigh Mag’s Best Overall Bar award four years in a row. Cheers to that!Glenwood South, dramanddraught.com

Aunty Betty’s

Some people go to Morgan Street Food Hall for food. Or atmosphere. Those in-the-know choose the side door of the colorful speakeasy tucked in the corner and chill in the artistic ambiance—think moody lighting, vivid murals, colorful couches and scattered plants. A master blend of Raleigh restaurateur Niall Hanley’s and mixologist Greg Ewan’s genius—and named for Hanley’s Irish aunt—the city’s first gin- and absinthe-focused bar has planted itself on our Best Bars list ever since it poured its first drink in 2019. Featuring a gaggle of gins from the world over, plus a smattering of tonic styles, Aunty Betty’s is known for crafting the G&T of your dreams (among plenty o’ other innovative cocktail creations). Time to get twisted. Warehouse District, auntybettysbar.com

Whiskey Kitchen

Don’t be fooled by the rocks that they got… Whiskey Kitchen has been keepin’ it neat since coming on the scene in 2016… what with over 600—give or take—bottles of top-notch whiskeys and handcrafted cocktails. And not to be overshadowed, scents of fab Southern fare (think bangin’ Brussels sprouts, fried chicken, burgers) elevate the experience as they waft through the open kitchen—perfect for when the munchies hit. This, all against an alfresco-esque open-air indoor ambiance of exposed brick, lofty ceilings and garage-door-style edifice fronting the uberpopular light-strung patio—easily explaining how this sup spot has grabbed our Overall Best Bar award for the third year in a row. Warehouse District, whiskey.kitchen

Best Wine Bar

Barcelona Wine Bar

Though it’s not exclusive to Raleigh, Barcelona Wine Bar is undoubtedly one of Raleigh’s fave wine bars (hence its third appearance on our Best Bars list!), thanks to its extensive varietals from across the globe (France, Spain, Italy… the list goes on!)—best served with a loaded build-your-own charcuterie board and seasonal Spanish-inspired tapas. As they say, where there’s wine, there’s a way. Warehouse District, barcelonawinebar.com

Short Walk Wines 

Since running out of wine is our cardio, Short Walk Wines’ primo “short walk” to the bustle of DTR had us at merlot—the perf spot to grab a glass of vino pre-dinner on the outdoor patio or inside cozied up at a bistro table. Or pick up a bottle from the vast and unique global selection to uncork the fun at home—and if you don’t feel like leaving the house, they also offer free delivery in DTR. And grape lovers clearly agree this wine shop is crushing it, as this makes its third Best Bars award win. Moore Square, shortwalkwines.com

Vita Vite

There’s nothing to wine about when you have two locales to belly up to four-time Best Bars winner Vita Vite’s bar for a seasonal variety of reds, whites and bubbles (or for hoppy types, rotating craft brews) and small plates (cheese and charcuterie plate, please!). Downtown, cozy up in the outdoor sofas and porch swing (our fave spot!), or, over in Midtown, cop a squat on the outdoor terrace for some rosé all day (especially come spring). Ah, cloud wine, indeed. Midtown; Warehouse District, vitaviteraleigh.com

Best Bars 2021

Best Cocktail Bar 

Aunty Betty’s 

Tucked into a corner of Morgan Street Food Hall, Aunty Betty’s has become the spot to tuck into before or after a meal since day one. Though especially popular among gin lovers (the colorful speakeasy-style bar boasts a plethora of gins from across the globe, with varying styles of tonic to boot), Aunty Betty’s makes for a great sip spot for all who appreciate an escape via a well-made cocktail. Warehouse District, auntybettysbar.com

The Haymaker

Beyond “The Miracle” that draws lines of holiday hoochers every year, four-time Best Bars winner The Haymaker is an everyday fave for its signature fighters- and ’90s rappers-inspired cocktails like the Smoke Show (a mix of bourbon, fino sherry, maple, pineapple, lime and black cardamom)—not to mention the crowd-fave knockout punch bowls, or, upping the sparkle factor, bubbles on tap. Fizz the season! Fayetteville Street District, thehaymakerraleigh.com

William & Company

Better known as Wilco to regulars, this cozy, laid-back neighborhood watering hole in Oakwood serves up a unique rotating selection of locally sourced, fresh, inventive drinks—plus beer and wine—that are fit for sipping on one of the beloved bar’s comfy couches or outside on the patio into the wee hours of the night. Insider tip: Grabbing a pie from Oakwood Pizza Box while you sip is encouraged. Seaboard + Person Street District, @willcobar

Best Bars 2021
With more than 350 beers on tap, passionate mind Niall Hanley’s Raleigh Beer Garden has the world’s largest beer selection, made official when representatives from Guinness World Records visited in 2015.

Best Craft Beer Bar

Flying Saucer

At Flying Saucer, UFO Club members who’ve dropped 200 different beers down the hatch get rewarded with a plate on the wall or ceiling (aka “Ring of Honor”) to commend their hoppy accomplishment. And while it may seem like a tough challenge, the hundreds of craft beer offerings from the best statewide, stateside (and beyond) breweries make it quite attainable. Fun fact: Don’t miss Tuesday trivia; $4 local beers on Sundays; and $4 Mondays, when “every damn beer on the draft wall” is only 4 bucks. Salut! Warehouse District, beerknurd.com/locations/raleigh-flying-saucer

House of Hops

Eternal hoptimists dig bellying up to this family-owned hops house’s two locations (Glenwood and McNeil Pointe) for its 300-plus bottled and canned beers, 24 rotating drafts, run clubs and trivia nights, and on-site food trucks (Tue.–Sun.)—perfect for some liquid therapy in front of the game, on the patio or over some cornhole. Hoppy trails to you… Northwest Raleigh; Midtown East, houseofhopsnc.com

Raleigh Beer Garden

The local lager legend has held the Guinness World Record for most varieties of beer on tap since 2015—369 total at the time of the record—and has now earned a spot on Raleigh’s Best Bars list for the third time. Drink through them all (#goals) on any of the three live-tree-intersected indoor bar levels—or out in the year-round “garden,” perhaps over a game of giant Connect 4. Winning! Glenwood South, theraleighbeergarden.com

Best Dive Bar

Lucky B’s 

There’s no shortage of good times at “the classiest dive bar in Raleigh.” Otherwise known as Lucky 13’s, this three-time Best Bars winner welcomes all walks of life seven days a week (!) for bar games (think beer pong, darts and Skee-Ball), year-round outside seating, and perhaps the cheapest bevvies in town. You might even get lucky and score a free shirt by winning the behind-the-bar Plinko game (think The Price Is Right). Game on! Glenwood South, luckybsbar.com

Slim’s 

If dark and moody with a divey dose of music is your thing, Slim’s is here for it. The epitome of dive bars, Slim’s has not surprisingly scored a spot on our Best Bars list annually from the start (four-peat!). Maybe it’s the intimate in-house stage (DTR’s oldest music venue, a go-to for DJs and live music alike since ’99). Or the outback patio. Or the upstairs lounge with pool table. Or the wallet-friendly prices and perfect pours. No matter how you spin it, it’s a vibe. And it’s a Raleigh institution. Period. Moore Square District, slimsraleigh.com

The Goat 

They don’t call it The Goat for nothing. This West Raleigh mainstay (and three-time Best Bars winner) is notorious for its daily drink specials, games, friendly bartenders and abundant outdoor seating… and its dollar bill-covered walls and -ceiling—and recently added free hot dogs—add a nice touch. Wash ’em down with a shot of one of The Goat’s many liquors (they’ve been known to occasionally carry a bottle of Buffalo Trace and Blanton’s or two…). Come and goat it! West Raleigh, @the_goatbar

Best Game Day Bar

Carolina Ale House 

Given its location high above Glenwood Avenue teeming with indoor and outdoor TVs and energy to spare on any given local-team game day (you’ve no doubt heard cheers erupting from its third-floor location from the street), this homegrown ale house is a shoo-in as a four-time Best Game Day Bar winner. The daily drink specials don’t hurt… and the shareables (signature Frickles, loaded nachos, beer-battered cheese curds, etc.) are an easy split with your game day crew to soak up the suds and fuel the spirit(s). Glenwood South, carolinaalehouse.com

Players Retreat

Oft pack-ed on game day, this longstanding legendary bar situated about a block from the NC State Bell Tower is a Raleigh institution for Pack, ACC and pro fans alike. Founded in 1951, “PR” (as locals know it) serves up a bounty of bevs, bar food (the burger has reached icon status), a fam-friendly atmosphere—and a hard-to-beat fan-fave patio that truly is the perf perch for sports-ball viewing… no doubt why PR earned a spot on Raleigh Magazine’s Best Bars list for the fourth time in a row. Hillsborough Street Corridor, playersretreat.com

Tobacco Road Sports Cafe & Brewery

Located in DTR’s historic Powerhouse building, four-time Best Bars winner Tobacco Road boasts a slew of screens throughout its two-story space (plus a giant screen visible from the upstairs overlook), making it an ideal spot to catch a game—or to play one in the game room. And no game day would be complete without bites and brews, so pair a house-brewed beer with apps like spicy sausage dip, nachos and wings for some game-time sustenance. Glenwood South, tobaccoroadsportscafe.com

Best Bars 2021
Whiskey Kitchen, Joe Bruno

Best Whiskey Bar

Dram & Draught 

“Registered lubrication” is the name of the game at Dram & Draught, which shook up the scene when it bowed in 2016 to much fanfare. And how could it not with those 300+ whiskey bottles lining the shelves, forcing bartenders to entertain by climbing a sliding ladder to get to the top—a pretty neat touch, if you will. You’ll find some of these whiskies in Dram’s signature handcrafted cocktails, which rotate seasonally—along with other top-notch spirits. And if whiskey’s not your thing, fret not—the friendly bartenders are more than happy to help you find something that strikes your fancy. Glenwood South, dramanddraught.com

Foundation 

Foundation’s cool neon red sign ever-so-appropriately fronts this too-cool-for-school OG (aka legendary) cavelike drinking den—the first craft cocktail bar in DTR—famed for its handcrafted cocktails, housemade syrups and colas, seasonal bevvies, and bangin’ beats. But it’s the vast selection of whiskies (peep social for the whiskey of the week!) that empower the people to vote it a four-time Best Bars winner. Extra fine, indeed. Fayetteville Street District, foundationnc.com

Whiskey Kitchen 

Whiskey business is served straight up (neat or on the rocks!) at one or Raleigh’s best whiskey bars (incidentally also pulling the Best Overall award). Home to over 600 whiskies from around the globe and signature rolled-up garage doors that extend the open-air feel out onto its popular sun-soaked patio, WK is ideal for when the whiskey cravings hit—what with both classic and specialty house cocktails starring its range of whiskies. Warehouse District, whiskey.kitchen

Best Bars 2021
The Willard, Baxter Miller

Best Rooftop Bar 

Highgarden 

High thymes indeed unfurl at the apex of this botanical-dubbed trio born late summer 2021. On the rooftop of the former Solas building—still owned and reimagined by hospitality pioneer Niall Hanley (of Hibernian Hospitality Group fame: think Raleigh Beer Garden, Watts & Ward and more)—Highgarden rooftop lounge adds to his award-winning bar roster, no doubt for its fire pit- and greenery-dotted (natch) open-air vantage point, gorge DTR vistas and totes palatable potables. Pro tip: Take your crew and order the G&T tree. Glenwood South, highgardenraleigh.com

Level7

The seventh floor of AC Hotels North Hills is at the pinnacle of Midtown popularity thanks to Level7—a four-time Raleigh Mag Best Rooftop Bar winner—where surrounding city views serve as the backdrop for curated sips from small-batch distillers, local brewers and single vineyard labels, paired perfectly with European- and Spanish-influenced tapas. The chic space levels up the luxe lounge-y experience thanks to plush couches and cozy tables, both inside and out on the rooftop patio—the primo spot to sip that next ACGT (AC small-batch tonic, Bombay gin, lime wheel, orange twist). Midtown, level7roofbar.com

The Willard 

For booze with views, paradise found. Perched atop the new buzzy AC Hotel Raleigh Downtown sits a sexy, chic double-sided-fireplace-dotted outdoor terrace (and indoor dining space) with unparalleled DTR vistas and classic cocktail pours that pair perfectly with Mediterranean- and Spanish-inspired small plates (and city views, obv). Lean into local nods with a Joel Lane’s Refresher or Willard Gimlet, the latter made with Conniption American Dry gin. And as if it couldn’t get any sweeter, don’t miss dessert. Holy cannoli, indeed! Glenwood South, thewillardraleigh.com

Best Music Bar

C. Grace 

After a decade on the scene, C. Grace has long garnered attention as a top cocktail lounge (early pundits compared it to juggernauts Foundation and The Crunkleton)—and now lands its fourth RM Best Bar award. And for good reason. Lending the feeling you’re about to knock one back with Dracula (read: sexy, mysterious) from the moment you enter, this Moulin Rouge-esque lounge—with its dark, cavernous rooms, dim lamplit corners, vintage decor and little black tables fronting a red velvet-curtained stage—lend the distinct feel of a classic jazz club. The only thing better than the vibe (and the tunes) is the skillful riffs on well-known sips—classics, stiff, fizzy or flavorful. It’s a mood. Glenwood South, cgracebar.com

The Pour House Music Hall

Spinning out good times and sick beats for decades, this 1997-nee three-time Best Bars winner doubles as a record shop by day and dive bar-meets-live music venue-meets-local craft beer/cocktail mecca by night. Rocking a hallowed roster of big names and up-and-comers from all genres that have graced its stage for nearly 25 years, the gritty two-story hall is a local institution for live music—and the go-to for local music lovers. Moore Square, thepourhousemusichall.com

Tin Roof 

Tin Roof serves up Nashville vibes in Raleigh with both local and national acts performing almost nightly—and, yes, you’re encouraged to sing (and dance!) along. Originally started in Music City, the live music bar landed on Glenwood Avenue in 2019 (then winning RM’s Best New Bar!) to much country music fanfare—but rock bands and DJs are known to hit the stage every so often as well. And on Wednesdays, you can belt your own heart out with karaoke on the rooftop. We’ll see you on the dance floor—or on the mic. Glenwood South, tinroofraleigh.com

Best Bars 2021
Trophy Brewing, Brian Strickland

Best Brewery

Trophy Brewing Co.

Naturally, a trophy is in order for this three-time winning craft brewery. Founded in 2013 on West Morgan Street, Trophy has since expanded to three additional locations—Trophy Brewing & Pizza (slice, slice, baby!); State of Beer (you can’t beat a beer and a sammie); and, most recently, Young Hearts Distilling (see Best New Bar)—where spirits are put on the forefront, but the beer is nevertheless a standout. Popular brews include the Trophy Wife, Milky Way and Cloud Surfer—and, lucky for you, you’ve got plenty of spots to sip them. Multiple locations, trophybrewing.com

Crank Arm Brewing

A wheelie good afternoon starts with a bike ride through the city and ends with a refreshingly cold brew at three-time Best Bars winner Crank Arm, where beer love and bike love go hand in hand—er, wheel? Re-tire to the open-air taproom for signature beers such as the Road Hazard IPA, Holy Spokes porter, Speed Check stout or Uphill Climb Belgian golden ale—and you’re gonna wanna grab some cans to-go if only for the ubercool designs from Raleigh-based design firm Saturday’s Gravy. Ride on! Warehouse District, crankarmbrewing.com

Lynnwood Brewing Concern 

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder. And housed in Dock 1053, the “LBC” neighborhood hot spot pours in the votes as best brewery for the third time in RM’s Best Bars history—no doubt just as much for its super-spacious crew- and fam-friendly (including Fido!) taproom, beer garden and open-air barroom with rollup garage doors as for its “locally brewed, lovingly crafted, award-winning beers”—not to mention its next-door neighbor Wilson’s Eatery. Burgers and brews anyone? Five Points, lynnwoodbrewing.beer

Best Bars 2021
Angus Barn Wild Turkey Lounge | Photo by Pam Varela

Best Restaurant Bar

Angus Barn Wild Turkey Lounge 

Whether it’s for the Fowl Mule (made with Wild Turkey American Honey), the award-winning wine selection by certified wine sommelier and three-decade-plus Angus Barn vet Henk Schuitemaker, the succulent steaks, or the can’t-eat-just-one housemade cheese and crackers (you haven’t lived until…)—or even the famous luxe and well-stocked lavatories—Angus Barn’s Wild Turkey Lounge is a shoo-in for Raleigh’s Best Restaurant Bar. Northwest Raleigh, angusbarn.com

Vidrio 

Easily one of the most beautifully decorated restaurants in Raleigh (looking at you, colorful glass orb wall!), Vidrio stands out (and grabs its fourth consecutive Best Bars award) not only for its superb ambiance, but for its creative Mediterranean dishes by executive chef Saif Rahman—think patatas bravas, fresh fettuccine, and harissa-roasted Joyce Farms chicken… not to mention the lengthy global wine, local brews and seasonal cocktail menu (that Mediterranean Mule is dreamy)—helping you drink in the perfect pairing for a seriously decadent meal. Glenwood South, vidrioraleigh.com

Wye Hill

Nothing beats the DTR views from Wye Hill’s expansive, covered (plus heated and AC’d!) year-round patio (arguably the best in town)… but the chef-driven food, cocktails, mocktails and craft brews certainly live up to them (hence this is its third consecutive Best Bars award since opening in 2019). Brewed in-house, Wye’s beers rotate often and pair perfectly with its from-scratch menu, featuring delectable lunch and dinner ops like Everything Brussels (our fave!), Buffalo chicken crostini and Southern saltimbocca—and for brunch, spring for the build-your-own mimosa flight and shrimp and grits. Because, wye not? Warehouse District, wyehill.com

Best Bottle Shop

BottleMixx 

Wine and beer collide at BottleMixx (get it?), and you’re gonna wanna tap into its daily updated beer and wines by the glass, plus a curated selection of bottles to get twisted at home. Or wine-down with frequent wine tasting events, and stay tuned for the Feb. 26 Bhramari Brewery & Food Truck event. And, not to be left out, spirits lovers can get in the mixx with cocktail supplies (think local bitters, ginger beer and more). Cheers! North Raleigh, bottlemixx.com

Crafty Beer, Wine + Spirits

Hey there, hops stuff! Craft brew fans pref to stay brewtiful at this centrally located hoppy house. The hip bottle shop-meets-neighborhood bar (with full liquor bar for your non-beer-drinking friends), Crafty sports 16 taps, 15 wines, and coolers full of the stuff of your frothy dreams. Whether you’re chillin’ over games with friends inside; sipping pints on the patio; catching a game or getting your Sunday funday on with $3 mimosas, half-off select wines and $6 bloodys, Crafty def has something for everyone. Five Points, craftybeerwinespirits.com

Pelagic Beer & Wine

It’s all smooth sailing at Pelagic (an oceanography term meaning of or pertaining to the open sea), where a thoughtfully curated ​​selection of independent craft beer, wine and cider keeps patrons from getting too thirsty. Though small, you’ll oft find its outdoor tables crowded with regulars enjoying a brew or two before grabbing some bottles to take home. To boot: Pelagic donates a portion of its proceeds to ocean conservation and nonprofit organizations in support of the environment. Now there’s nothing fishy about that. Seaboard + Person Street District, pelagicbeerandwine.com

Best Burbs Bar

Bearded Bee Brewing Company

Born out of co-owner/brewer Derek Ayscue’s love of bees, this buzzy Wendell brewery is known for creating craft beers using local ingredients (hey, honey!), supporting the honeybee and local beekeepers, and creating a place for the community to gather—either inside its spacious taproom or out on its beer garden. Aptly named recent brews include the Santa Bae-Bee Peppermint Milk Stout, Honey Come Back Honey NEIPA, and the Up to My Nectar Honey Wheat (made with honey from owner Ayscue’s apiary). Go for the brews. Stay for the trivia, live music and food trucks to round out the sweet experience. Wendell, beardedbeebrewing.com

Olde Raleigh Distillery

Mission “damn good bourbon” accomplished. Since splashing onto the scene in January 2021 via the vision of self-described “whiskey nerd” Brandon McCraney, this family-owned distillery recently rolled out its fourth batch of handmade, tradition-driven artisanal blended bourbon whiskey—with limited releases also slated to occur on the reg. Clearly bourbon lovers have taken note—hence the Best Bars award—no doubt also swayed by its best-in-class bourbon tastings and bite pairings, among plenty of other frothy fun. Pretty neat, indeed. Zebulon, olderaleighdistillery.com

SideBar

Matthew Bettinger’s neighborhood cocktail bar perfectly balances a cool, modern aesthetic with a laid-back vibe—mirrored by its selection of classic and house cocktails, plus staples like a shot of whiskey and a local beer that’s perfect for “after work and always.” Play it safe with a Pimm’s cup or whiskey sour, or get out of your comfort zone with a Where Have They Gone (white rum, Campari, raspberry, lime, Peychaud’s bitters) or Long Story Short (bourbon, Cynar, lemon, Cointreau, grapefruit)—and leave happy every time. Cary, sidebarnc.com

Best Speakeasy

Atlantic Lounge

Past the “No Vacancy” sign that rushes to mind Death Cab for Cutie’s dark lyrics, we’ll happily “follow you into the dark” and down the staircase to Raleigh’s most exclusive 25+ drinking den. Adorned with intimate booths and a long bar, a record player (BYO vinyl!), moody lighting, casual-cool best-in-class bartenders, and a bangin’ rotation of innovative cocktails, this key club (literally—you’re gonna want to drop the $40 membership) is our second-year Best Speakeasy award-winner for a reason. Seaboard + Person Street District, @theatlanticlounge

The Merchant

“Built in 1922 and reimagined in 2021,” Local Icon Hospitality’s (of Virgil’s, The Architect, Little City fame) latest has seen many iterations—from the North Carolina Merchants Association HQ (from which The Merchant derives its name) to ’80s hat shop E.G. Hats to now-defunct F&B hot spots—to now extending the space as an everyday escape from the hustle and bustle with its chic aesthetic and inventive cocktail program (smoke boxes, cotton candy garnishes and noteworthy ingredients come to mind…). While some of the building’s bones are still intact, so are more literal bones via the creepy-cool design touches (think chic skulls), creating a moody atmosphere in which to imbibe. Fayetteville Street District, themerchantnc.com

Watts & Ward

Channel your inner Don Draper as you head down an inconspicuous flight of stairs on Blount Street. In this dimly lit, leather couch- and candle-dotted Mad Men-esque oasis you’ll find Raleigh Mag’s four-time Best Bars winner (two-time Best Overall) with its famed sexy sprawling subterranean 1920s Americana vibe—extending seamlessly to its large patio and light-strung yard a la Paris, where martinis and moonlight mix for a sultry (boozy) scene. Our current potable pick: The Basic B**** (a rummy in our tummy tipple with coffee liqueur, pumpkin spice reduction, and coffee and cocoa bitters that is really not so basic at all). Moore Square District, wattsandward.com

Best Bar Food

Bowstring Pizza and Brewyard 

Converted from an old Gulf Oil storage space for crude oil barrels (we’d tap that—had to), this 2020 scene splasher—named for the “bowstring-trusse” ceilings a la ’20s—with its chill kid- and pup-friendly neighborhood garage bar vibe became a quick local fave for its live music, giant lawn games and large heated patio. … Not to mention it also happens to house some of the best ’za in town via its permanent on-site Pizza Bus, dishing delicioso scratch-made NY-style pies. Our perf pairing: the Buffalo chicken pizza (when available) with a Spiced Paloma—if you can handle the heat. Five Points, bowstringbrewyard.com

My Way Tavern 

Walk my way for killer bar grub—and craft beers, natch. Located just off of Glenwood Avenue, My Way offers a range of apps, salads, soups, burgers, sandwiches and entrees, with faves including the made-to-order mac and cheese and loaded spuds (Buffalo chicken FTW!). Beyond the fab fare, My Way’s claim to fame is its horseshoe-style bar crafted from reclaimed wood from a 158-year old barn in Eastern North Carolina, where you’ll find 22 rotating drafts—many proudly pouring NC brews—as well as 50-ish bottles and cans, and a fully stocked bar. So no matter what you’re craving, you’re sure to find it here. Glenwood South, mywaytavern.com

The Raleigh Times 

Situated in the 100-year-old building that housed its namesake (now defunct) newspaper and spanning almost a full city block with multiple entrances, sidewalk and second-floor seating—and a rooftop patio overlooking DTR to boot—The Raleigh Times has plenty of appeal. But it’s the elevated bar bites that rocked the vote, earning the sip and sup spot its third mention on our annual Best Bars list. Elevated dishes round out a classic menu of bar snacks, sammies, salads and plates imbued with a flavorful Southern flair—best served up with an IPA, pale ale, sour, cider or one of The Raleigh Times’ many Belgian beers, of course. (Psst… you’re gonna wanna get the Times Nachos). Insider tip: Soak up your weekend hangover with fab fare and what is arguably the best bloody in town. Fayetteville Street District, raleightimesbar.com

Best New Bar

The Ark Royal 

You’re on island time now. Serving up “little vacations in every glass,” The Ark Royal is a modern Tiki lounge named after an old ship commissioned in 1586 by Sir Walter Raleigh (who no doubt enjoyed some hooch in his day). Channel tropical vibes through such adventurous—and colorful!—drinks like the Rum Cannonball No. 3, Gin Riki Tiki or fan-fave The Belafonte (frozen—so even better in that Raleigh summer heat), featuring tasty tropical ingredients from cultures and regions around the world that’ll have you tropic like it’s hot. Welcome aboard! Glenwood South, thearkroyal.com

Glenwood Social Club 

Let’s get social. … Owner Matt Kenner and Bunch of Fives Hospitality Co. recently gave Southern Charred a classy upgrade reminiscent of an NYC-style bar and renamed it Glenwood Social Club. Out went the BBQ and axe throwing—in with modern interior details (think dark green walls, leather couches, plush pink seating, marble tables…)and a more refined menu of charcuterie, small plates and pizza. Handcrafted cocktails, beer and wine round out the offerings and make socializing easy-breezy. Glenwood South, glenwoodsocialclub.com

The Avenue

Changing the game on Glenwood Avenue is hip newcomer The Avenue—boasting a hip adult playground of open-air vibes, welcoming outdoor couches and fire pits, and a sexy-chic welcoming aesthetic that caters to the 25+ crowd. Whether sipping a Monday Mule in the new edgy black mule mugs in front of the game, cozying up by the fire, challenging your boo or crew to an oversize game of chess or round of pool, or just drinking in the I-can’t-believe-I’m-in-Raleigh (in the best way) vibes, The Avenue is sure to be your new go-to. Glenwood South, avenueraleigh.com

Young Hearts 

Hooch, there it is. From the team behind Trophy Brewing (nod to Trophy’s Best Brewery grab), Raleigh’s first distillery straight delivers. From its house-distilled botanical-forward spirits (vodka, gin, amari…) to the fab cocktail and food program (pro tip: Book a brunch rezy on the heated second-floor rooftop overlooking Wilmington Street and order the delish vegetarian Biscuits & “Sausage” Gravy with a vodka-fueled Violet Delight to wash it down), Young Hearts has no doubt won the hearts of Raleigh since it bowed in August.Moore Square District, trophybrewing.com

Pink Boot

Getting in just under the wire, this Christmas present—literally opened on Christmas Day—of Jason Howard’s (of The Atlantic Lounge and The Cardinal fame) “smallest, weirdest” bar is Raleigh’s first mini modern honky-tonk. Open seven days a week, the country music-blaring, domestic beer-slinging joint serves up lunch lady pizza, cold brews, kickass cocktails and hot sake (strange but true), and is the kind of place where Howard says Yoo-hoo, vanilla Stoli and Godiva come together in just one of the many “trailer trash” cocktails. Smoky Hollow, @pinkbootraleigh


Previous Years Best Bars 2020, 2019, 2018, 2015

Share this Post

Comments

  1. Pingback: The Best of Raleigh - Raleigh Onboarding

Leave a Comment