Crawford and Son (Jessica Crawford)

25 Best Restaurants

In Eat, Feature Stories, September 2022 by Raleigh Magazine3 Comments

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This is it, Raleigh. Your inaugural 25 Best Restaurants issue. For the past seven years, we’ve been living, eating and breathing everything Raleigh to keep you in-the-know and serve as the authority on living life in this city. From day one, Raleigh Magazine has unveiled more exclusive announcements, chef previews, sneak peaks, insider info and scoops than any other local resource. We have become your go-to for what’s hip, hot and happening in town.

So we’ve earned our stripes—both via the trust of you, the reader, and that of the hospitality community. Thus we proudly join the ranks of such esteemed publications as Chicago and Boston magazines to heretofore lay claim to naming the top 25 restaurants in Raleigh, including Restaurant of the Year and Best New Restaurant. 

For our premiere, our entire team scoured and devoured the city from end to end to bring you this representative list of the best of the best dining destinations in Raleigh. Spanning cuisines, districts and price points, these are the restaurants that dish the trifecta: fab food, exceptional service and alluring atmosphere… the places you would tell someone they just had to check out on a trip through town—and the places that keep us Raleighites coming back again and again. Dig in!

2022 RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR
Crawford and Son 
Voted one of the top restaurants in the country (!), it’s a no-brainer that five-time James Beard Award semifinalist Scott Crawford’s premiere concept would be named our Restaurant of the Year—but that’s not the reason we chose it. Upon opening in 2016, Crawford and Son introduced an elevated-yet-cool Southern-inspired menu that immediately won over the city’s dwellers—and helped put the city on the foodie map. The purposefully casual and welcoming atmosphere, thanks largely to its Person Street locale, serves as the perfect balance for the refined-yet-approachable fare. With a focus on local ingredients, the menu rotates frequently to spotlight a star cast of seasonal produce and choice seafood, pasta, soup, tartare and protein-focused selects (and let us not forget the almost-too-pretty-to-eat desserts). And the soft, flaky melt-in-your-mouth manchego-herb biscuits, are a year-round draw always worth the rez (hint). crawfordandsonrestaurant.com 

Cucciolo Terrazza

2022 BEST NEW RESTAURANT 
Cucciolo Terrazza
Ciao, bella! Modern Italian dining got a serious—and elegant—upgrade in the heart of Midtown when cousins Jimmy and Julian Kim bowed this upscale-yet-casual terrazza in North Hills last year. Sister restaurant to the Bull City’s Cucciolo Osteria, this refined pasta-focused eatery helmed by chef Alex Ricci seasonally rotates dishes (think shareables, antipasti, pizzettes, entrees and pasta, natch)—and you’re gonna wanna pounce on the droolworthy specials whenever they bless the menu. NTM the new brunch selects! Pronounced coo-chill-o (to save you the embarrassment), our Best New Restaurant of the year is a welcome respite to “chill” and, well, carb-load in the classiest way possible. cuccioloraleigh.com

Stanbury

Stanbury
No rez? No problem. Locals flock to this hidden gem dishing playful ever-evolving menu items inspired by available fresh seasonal ingredients—meaning every time you visit, you can try something new. And while the offerings may seem extravagant (um, crispy pig head, anyone?), rest assured that Stanbury is more reminiscent of your cool hipster uncle’s house who collects knickknacks and drinks unique wines. But we’d argue the most fun part of dining here is getting the bone marrow and using the bone as a luge afterward to shoot back some bourbon or sherry. We dare ya. stanburyraleigh.com

Vidrio

Vidrio
Tucked away ever so elegantly on Glenwood South, this Mediterranean masterpiece is just as much a work of art as star executive chef and NCRLA 2021 Chef of the Year Saif Rahman’s stable of exceptional culturally influenced, locally sourced share plates. Super-high ceilings lend space to a gigantic wall of cylindrical colorful handblown glass pieces and dramatic light fixtures that dish plenty of wow factor. The main event, however, is the open kitchen, where you can watch as Rahman serves up a soulful master class each night—and where he finds fulfillment and inspiration watching guests’ facial expressions change as they bite into his fare. Intentionally bringing home the authentic Mediterranean practice of slowing down, connecting and unwinding are 50 wines on tap and 300-plus bottles, with a bevy of craft cocktails to boot. And for the superfecta, impeccable service allows you to sit back, relax and savor it all. vidrioraleigh.com 

Angus Barn
If it’s fine Southern dining you’re seeking, Southern dining is at its finest at this Iron Chef-helmed iconic upscale (literal) barn. And while you can bank on succulent cuts—Angus is in the name after all—it’s what’s beyond the beef that keeps this barn top-of-class. Star chef Walter J. Royal’s menu delights from fish to fowl. And speaking of fowl, a Fowl Mule (made with Wild Turkey American Honey) and award-winning wine selection by certified wine sommelier and three-decade-plus Angus Barn vet Henk Schuitemaker are an easy draw—best sipped in the Wild Turkey Lounge or behind the barn by a fire pit, perhaps pulling on one of the cigar selects. And while that bacon-wrapped pan-seared buttery filet ordered Oscar-style (crabmeat, asparagus, hollandaise sauce) is the stuff of our dreams, the housemade cheese and crackers keep bringing us back—even to the in-house market to stock up at home. Book a rez in the meat locker for an unmatched dining experience—and be sure to visit the famous well-stocked luxe lavatories. It’s a thing. angusbarn.com

Saint Jacques 
Tucked away in an unassuming strip mall in North Raleigh for nearly two decades, the white-tablecloth fine French establishment doesn’t exactly scream to mind when you think top 25 Raleigh restaurants—but it absolutely should. Thanks especially to chef Kyle Teears, who took the helm a year ago (or the fact that Saint Jacques was once dubbed one of the top 100 restaurants in the nation by OpenTable!). A 2022 NCRLA Chef of the Year finalist (and the only finalist from Raleigh), Teears’ elevated approach and commitment to NC ingredients takes classic French cuisine (rillette de lapin, ratatouille, chateaubriand) next level—which, with its napkin-over-arm-draped authentic service and exceptionally fine bottle list, will easily help you confuse Falls of Neuse for France. saintjacquesfrenchcuisine.com

Coquette Brasserie (Pam Varela)

Coquette Brasserie
Whether you channel Hemingway a la 1920s Paris or Emily in Paris, either way this Midtown mainstay transports you to the City of Love via its sophisticated Parisian setting and en plein air bistro tables set against large windows that open to bustling sidewalks, delivering an authentic French brasserie feel—as does the cuisine. Coquette, indeed (translation: flirtatious). Clearly, go all c’est la vie for the croque monsieur, crepes and quiche (the latter a 2021 RM Best Dish)—but then we dare you to find a better chicken sandwich and shoestring fries in town. Seriously. And brunch is simply bangin’. coquetteraleigh.com

Poole’s
You can’t go to Ashley Christensen’s casual-meets-elevated modern diner without getting the iconic macaroni au gratin—it’s a Raleigh rule (and why it landed on our 2021 25 Best Dishes). A decadent mixture of noodles, heavy cream, three different cheeses and salt, it’s easily one of the most sought-after (and raved about) meals in town. People actually go to great lengths to hunt down the recipe. But Poole’s has plenty more to offer than crack-aroni—from the double-horseshoe bar, red leather banquettes and Lucite chairs to the chalkboard menus that change both daily and weekly, chock-full of fresh available ingredients. It’s all part of Poole’s signature charm reminiscent of the 1945 pie shop of the same name that AC herself restored—and, not to be cheesy, but, it’s precisely what makes for a great experience every single time. ac-restaurants.com/pooles

Jolie
Ooh, la, la! Named for chef Scott Crawford’s daughter, Jolie pairs modern European elegance and classic French dishes in an intimate atmosphere with white linen tabletops, a marble bar, and blue and gold accents. You’re absolutely going to want to snag a seat on “le rooftop”—with its custom-designed canopy, lush greenery and romantic vibe a la a chic French bistro. Then start off your meal with the onion soup, followed by petit plats like mussels and escargot, and plats principaux like Parisienne gnocchi and steak frites. And make sure to save room for the desserts (and some wine!) that are filled with their own ​​​​​​joie de vivre. Mais oui! restaurantjolie.com

City Market Sushi

City Market Sushi 
Cobblestone streets aglow with strung lights lead ever so aptly into this sleek black-and-white sushi sanctuary, where the chic, sophisticated ambiance sets the tone for an elegant, refined evening nestled in the heart of City Market. A go-to destination for date night, girls’ night and business dinners alike, City Market Sushi’s specialty and classic rolls, sushi plates, nigiri and sashimi selects elevate this now-ubiquitous staple into an art form that is truly transcendent. (It’s almost too pretty to eat—’Grammers love it.) And while the sublime sushi served over beautiful slate will leave you wide-eyed and mouth-watering, the apps are not to be overlooked. We see you, crispy pork belly with wasabi aioli. citymarketsushi.net

Mulino Italian Kitchen & Bar
If you allow yourself to unwind enough—which won’t be a problem—you might actually feel like you’re on the banks of Tuscany, what with Mulino’s serene pool and vibrant greenery out on the picture-perfect patio (aka the best seats in the house), Aperol spritz in hand. Not to mention the food, of course, which spans Italy’s vast culinary landscape and tastes. Take, for example, the arancini Siciliani, the red wine-braised lamb shank or any of the housemade pasta dishes (our fave is the gnocchi!). And while any meal feels like a fancy occasion at Mulino, rest assured you can still grab a table for a glass of vino and a pizza for a casual dinner—no plane ticket to Italy required. mulinoraleigh.com

Rosewater Kitchen & Bar
Giorgios Group’s interpretation of the never-ending, always-evolving garden party, Rosewater offers diners a sensory experience in a literal garden. The light-strewn, plant-filled patio makes for the perfect romantic ambiance to enjoy purposeful food made with ingredients that pay homage to local gardeners, farmers, fishermen and foragers. See executive chef Brian Jenzer’s New American menu of beet and ricotta hummus, Brussels sprouts, bone-in pork chop and housemade tagliatelle pasta, to name just a few items. NTM bar manager Evan Osman’s Rosewater martini, blueberry lychee mule and spicy fresno-rita. So whether you’re stopping in for dinner, Saturday lunch or Sunday brunch, the vibes are always immaculate, and the eats and drinks always worthy of a celebration all their own. rosewaterraleigh.com 

Dos Taquitos 
This Latina-owned unique family-style Mexican mainstay has been keepin’ the fiesta alive in Raleigh with its flavorful fare for 30-plus years. A go-to since it splashed on the scene in 1991, its colorful, kitschy vibe only serves to up the authenticity factor for a menu dedicated to the taste and spirit of Mexico. Worth knowing: Upon immigrating to the U.S., original owner Carlos Salamanca moonlit in a Georgia Mexican restaurant for tuition money, where he spied the cooks preparing authentic Mexican dishes for themselves that varied from the menu—and, well, it was love at first bite. That passion grew to a full-fledged love affair with the true colors, textures and flavors of Mexico as he traveled south of the border frequently to absorb the country’s food, crafts and culture. In essence, Dos Taquitos is Carlos’ love letter to a country that enchanted him. Now run by Carlos’ daughter, Pamela, the veritable casa of tacos, enchiladas, chilaquiles and more—NTM delicious margs—continues to transport us to the place that enchanted the visionary who brought it to us. dostaquitosraleigh.com

Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing
Come for the skyline views and stay for the food at this “damn delightful space” touting Raleigh’s favorite patio. With its MO of “people, plates, pours,” Wye Hill delivers craft beer made with 100% locally sourced grain, chef-driven elevated bar food and friendly service. So “wye” not pop a squat on the year-round patio—think wintertime heaters, and fans and misters during the warmer months—and while away the day over lunch, dinner and/or weekend brunch. Nosh on must-haves like everything Brussels, dill pickle pimento cheese, falafel waffle, or shrimp and grits—and to wash it down, keep it local and hip with housemade brews, craft cocktails—or venture for a glass of vino from co-owner/certified wine professional Sara Abernethy’s selects. Happiness, guaranteed. wyehill.com

Bendito

Bendito
After years of working at some of Raleigh’s most iconic restaurants (The Rockford, Wye Hill, MOFU Shoppe, Cortez)—and recently scoring a second-place nod on Chopped to boot—chef Kevin Ruiz is putting his name on the map with Bendito (literally translating to “blessed”), which opened in May at McNeil Pointe to a plethora of fanfare. An homage to his grandma and the food he grew up eating in Puerto Rico, the menu features traditional dishes with a tasty modern twist based on Ruiz’s experiences—think pork belly empanadas, shrimp ceviche and branzino for dinner, and eggs Benedict with chorizo, and pernil and grits for brunch. Bless your dining experience even further with a refreshing cocktail that’ll transport you straight to the islands. benditonc.com

Cortez
Not your ordinary seafood restaurant, Cortez delights diners with an eclectic seafood menu influenced by chef Oscar Diaz’s travels and Mexican-American heritage, plus a wide range of tropical handcrafted cocktails. Situated in a hip, vibrant space, the setting—complete with plenty of lush flora and fauna, both within the dining room and out on the patio—is the perfect pairing. In other words, it’s paradise on Earth—er, Glenwood South. The ever-popular dollar oyster special (Tue.–Sun., 5–6pm) is a huge draw, but you should absolutely dive into Diaz’s daily updated small and large plate menus as well. And, while we have your attention, check out Cortez’s forthcoming second-floor cocktail bar and music garden, Cuya, in collaboration with local musicians, entertainers and DJs (p. 43). cortezraleigh.com 

Brewery Bhavana
As much a work of art as it is a divine dumpling den and drafthouse, Brewery Bhavana’s beautiful digs and chic bookshelf-adorned walls set the perfect backdrop for this genre-bending meld of food, fluids, folios and flowers. A bookstore and flower shop take the skylit centerstage (literally—under a skylight in center of the eatery) in an elegant, serene ambiance that only serves to elevate the masterfully handcrafted original brews, bao buns and, well, any welcoming bite you choose to experience in the nirvana that is Bhavana. brewerybhavana.com

Taverna Agora
A Mediterranean oasis reminiscent of the Greek Islands—what with it’s old-world ambience inspired by the sounds and sights of the small villages in Greece, and lush alfresco rooftop patio—Taverna Agora is the perfect place to live out your Mamma Mia fantasies as you enjoy traditional Greek dishes complemented by specialty cocktails and authentic Greek wines. The spreads are a must-have app (Tzatziki! Hummus!) as is the flambéed saganaki, which literally arrives at your table on fire. And if you’ve got a crew, go in on the family-style dinner, the best way to truly immerse yourself in the food-focused Greek culture.  tavernaagora.com 

Mandolin
Situated in the old Johnson’s Pharmacy off Fairview Road, chef Sean Fowler’s savory Southern spot is a full-circle moment for a chef who grew up eating grilled cheese at the pharmacy counter. Taking the terms homegrown and farm-to-table quite literally, the top toque sources the season’s bounty for his best-in-class Southern restaurant straight from his own Mandolin Farm (from farm-fresh eggs for brunch selects to myriad tomatoes he recently served as the impetus for his popular Tomato Dinner). The sublime crops marry up well on a menu dedicated to NC selects like Joyce Farms chicken breast, Haw River mushrooms, and fresh-caught NC fish and shrimp. Clearly the perfect catch. mandolinraleigh.com

The Rockford
Beyond its storied stable of chefs and venerated victuals, The Rockford carries with it the reverence and responsibility of transforming an old dilapidated strip of abandoned warehouses into the bustling district in which it sits today. The first spot to open on Glenwood South in 1994 (note the pride in its url), the luxe, come-as-you-are dining destination is a quiet respite in the midst of the hustle and bustle, where a hip, sophisticated setting sets the stage for a rotation of locally sourced star plates. Case in point: The Rockford essentially put now-trending burrata on the map locally (former chef Kevin Ruiz’s beaut of a burrata dish was the cover star of our 2021 Best Dishes issue). therockford1994.com

St. Roch Oysters + Bar (Anna Routh Barzin)

St. Roch Oysters + Bar
Embracing the spirit of the namesake New Orleans’ neighborhood from which 2022 James Beard Best Chef: Southeast semifinalist chef Sunny Gerhart’s family hails, St. Roch delivers the same energy—and food, natch—that you’d just as easily find in the Big Easy, thanks to its light-filled dining room, cheeky decor and hidden gem back patio (!). Oysters are a must, of course (pearl of wisdom: Oyster happy hour is 4–6pm daily and all day Tuesday) and run the gamut from raw to roasted. The latter comes in a dealer’s choice of BBQ’d, pimento’d, garlic butter’d or crawfish’d—and earned a spot on our 2021 Best Dishes list to boot. But we don’t have to go out on a line to say any of the seafood ops are sure to win you over. Faves include the gator Bolognese, crawfish hushpuppies, Carolina calabash, and gumbo—and don’t sleep on Saturday and Sunday brunch, when St. Roch’s famous bloody mary (dubbed Mary Smokes When She Drinks) and Cajun-inspired standouts cure the lousiest Sunday blues… or hangover. And no meal would be complete without the pillowy beignets—so good you won’t mind the mess of powdered sugar left in their wake. Laissez les bon temps rouler! strochraleigh.com 

Second Empire
You know you’re embedded into the heart of a city when it builds around you. Situated in the historic Dodd-Hinsdale house a la 1879 in the quickly growing up (literally) Capital District,  this stately and elegant, well, empire is a local fave for the ages for a reason. Opened by Ted Reynolds and now celebrating its 25th year on the scene at the trusty hands of power duo Kim Reynolds (Ted’s daughter) and executive chef Daniel Schurr, the award-winning longtime special-occasion sup spot stands tall among its neighboring towers as a mainstay for its pristine service, fab fare and unparalleled white-tablecloth dining experience. While you simply can’t go wrong with any of Schurr’s seasonally inspired creations, his succulent seafood plates have us hooked. second-empire.com

42nd Street Oyster Bar
Spoiler alert: Raleigh is quickly making a case for itself as a foodie city (we see you, Beard winners and noms). But no matter how many buzzy dining destinations and top chefs splash on the scene, this pearl has stood the test of time as a tried-and-true among Raleigh restaurant royalty—where you’ll see dates romancing, friends carousing, families celebrating and even local legislators politicking when in session. First opened as a grocery store in 1927, the OG oyster bar has been serving its now-iconic oysters (NTM steaks, seafood and more) since 1933. Fun fact: The sup spot was the first to serve beer locally post-Prohibition. Reestablished in 1987 by the late Thad Eure Jr. and partners, the celebratory all-are-welcome elevated shuck shack, with its white-aproned shuckers and stately facade, has earned its rightful spot on the map of Raleigh’s best dining (and drinking) destinations, luring many a landlubber with its “seafood any fresher would still be in the ocean” attitude—and bites to back it up. 42ndstoysterbar.com

Hummingbird (Chair 8 Media)

Hummingbird 
Nola-transplant chef Coleen Speaks fuses upscale cuisine and community from her always-packed perch on Dock 1053 (seriously, you’re gonna want a rez). Whether seated in the quaint intimate dining room, bellied up to the colorful retro bar or alfresco on the popular patio overlooking the burgeoning Iron Works District—let’s be real, it’s all about the patio!—you simply can’t go wrong with a single plate on this ever-rotating menu of dishes worth writing in your diary about. The Peacemaker Po’boy is a crowd-pleasing mainstay; the oysters will transport you to sea; and the sweet ’n spicy chicken and waffles are so good (one of Raleigh Magazine’s 2021 Best 25 Dishes), they left us saying Beasley’s who? But don’t sleep on the cocktails. Or brunch. Just go—all the time. Then thank us. hummingbirdraleigh.com

Hayes Barton Cafe & Dessertery
Raleigh is a city that loves itself (read: proud to the point of resisting change), and Hayes Barton has been happily answering the call since 1998. Situated in the heart of historic Five Points, the City of Oaks institution delivers on authenticity with its quaint black-and-white checkerboard-floored 1940s-esque diner with historic and star-studded photo-adorned walls that transport you back as you dine in the midst of the “Greatest Generation.” … A perfect pairing for the star-studded divine dishes—from the “MGM” Mussels to the Two Chickens in Every Pot Pie to the fan-fave monstrously delish not-your-mama’s Dial M for Meatloaf (a 2021 Raleigh Mag Best Dishes winner). You’ll be stuffed in the best way, but—hear us out—you must save room for a slice of cake (or take it with you). hayesbartoncafeanddessertery.com

Editor’s note: Gone but not forgotten. Had we gone to the printer a day sooner, the highly acclaimed Beard-nominated Garland that wowed Martin Street diners for nine years would have claimed an easy spot on our Best Restaurants list, but announced at press deadline that it would be shutting its doors on Aug. 27. 

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  1. Pingback: Pop the Bubbly! We’re on the List of Raleigh’s 25 Best Restaurants

  2. Thanks for your list of 25 best restaurants in Raleigh. Is there any way to include a map with location dots for those is us with limited transportation distances?

  3. Pingback: Where to Eat This Weekend – Raleigh Weekend

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