Having gone to school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Go Heels!) I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Raleigh after college, catching up with my sorority sisters. I visit each fall, and I find an impressive array of cute boutiques, great art events, delicious Southern food, and cozy cocktail bars. Here are my favorite picks for this Southern capital.
This sleek and sexy restaurant serves some of the best Laotian food —or food generally—I’ve ever had. Do not miss the crispy pork belly coconut curry soup, and the crispy rice lettuce wraps, which were mind-blowing delicious. 222 S Blount St, Raleigh, N.C.
The second concept from the Bida Manda team, Brewery Bhavana is a mixed-use concept: restaurant, brewery, flower shop, and book store, developed into a sleek, white space with high-ceilings in a former warehouse. The dim sum is top notch, some of our favorites were the pork bao, the lo bak go turnip cakes, and the soup dumplings. 218 Blount Street, Raleigh, N.C.
This charming juice and coffee shop offers an array of top notch smoothies, juices, teas, kombuchas, and coffees. For lunch, the poke bowls are unique, with options like the Hustle, with jalapeno, dragonfruit, and pistachio; and the Rosarito, with cucumber, jackfruit, and grapefruit. The fish is so fresh it’s flown in daily. Plus, there’s WiFi and good vibes. 7 W Hargett St., Raleigh, NC 27601
Right in the heart of downtown Raleigh lies Virgil’s, which is a great space for a casual bite with a group of friends. The queso and tacos were top notch—and don’t forget to order churros. The drinks were incredible—especially the grapefruit Mezcal cocktail; and the service was attentive and friendly. Virgil’s is the perfect spot for a boozy dinner before a night out in downtown Raleigh. 126 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh, N.C.
I’ve visited cocktail spots around the world, and C. Grace happens to be one of my favorites. In fact, it’s where I sampled my first New York Sour, a cocktail that combines my two favorite things: wine and whiskey. The dimly lit, sexy space has vintage vibes and is filled with the cool kids in town. Add it to your list—at the top. 407 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, N.C.
A hidden cocktail bar, the Green Light is hidden behind a bookshelf inside the Architect, a popular spot for beers and dancing. Green Light serves craft cocktails in a stylish speakeasy. 108 E. Hargett Street, Raleigh, N.C.
The South is known for its brunch, bringing the best damn chicken and biscuits, grits, and pecan pie. Need we say more? Raleigh and Charleston are our go-to spots for delicious Southern cookin’—because it’s hard to find better takes on classic Southern fare. But be warned, most restaurants only serve on Saturdays.
Beasley’s Chicken and Honey
As the name might imply, there’s no better spot for chicken and biscuits than Beasley’s, from Raleigh’s famed female chef, Ashley Christensen. It’s the best damn fried chicken you’ve ever had, served atop biscuits and alongside mac n’ cheese casserole. Get it, girl. Read my reviews here and here. Beasley’s serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 237 S. Wilmington Street, Raleigh, N.C.
This eclectic restaurant is a large space with a cool patio, and serves funky, Southern inspired tapas. It’s a must-visit for brunch or drinks in Raleigh. 317 S Harrington St, Raleigh, N.C.
Ashley Christensen’s other famous restaurant, Poole’s, also focuses on classic Southern fare. The upscale diner is cute and kitschy, keeping the red banquets from its original 1945 namesake but modernized with Lucite chairs and blackboard menus featuring the rotating special. The cocktail program is great, as is the mac n’ cheese. It serves brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 426 McDowell Street, Raleigh, N.C.
This charming little French restaurants has a killer aesthetic and top notch cocktails. The seasonal Eggs Bennys, served on local English muffins, were divine, as were the egg dishes. Worth a visit. Read our review here. Royale, 200 East Martin Street, Raleigh, N.C.
The best place to shop in Raleigh is Cameron Village, an outdoor mall filled with some great women’s boutiques: Uniquities, Madison, Fabr’k, and Palm Avenue (packed with Lilly Pulitzer). Plus, my favorite jewelry shop, Moon & Lola. 2034 Cameron Street, Raleigh, N.C.
The Art of Style
This minimalistic, modern boutique seems out of place for Raleigh, but it was perfect for me and my friend Adrienne, who entered in monochromatic attire and left with multiple bags. The boutique features unique, not-seen-elsewhere designers for womenswear, menswear, and accessories. 19 W Hargett St, Raleigh, N.C.
See: Arts & Culture
For a smaller capital city, Raleigh offers a decent array of museums, as well as local arts and culture.
The Contemporary Art Museum is a pristine space that curates contemporary works of art and design and offers enticing, unique visiting exhibits. It’s absolutely worth a visit if you are an art aficionado. 409 West Martin Street, Raleigh, N.C.
First Friday Raleigh
The ever popular First Fridays occur monthly, when the art galleries open their doors for free, stay open late, and serve wine. It’s a great way to increase foot traffic to the galleries and adjacent shops and restaurants, and the streets are filled with diverse people milling about, enjoying art, and making new acquaintances. Downtown, Raleigh, N.C.
North Carolina Museum of Art
The NCMA is a top notch art museum with an array of art—Egyptian, American, African, Jewish, as well as contemporary art and fashion. The museum also receives some pretty impressive visiting exhibits and offers an array of events, from fashion shows to cooking classes. 2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, N.C.
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