Where To Eat & Stay In Raleigh guide image


Where To Eat & Stay In Raleigh

Where to eat macaroni au gratin, North Carolina oysters, a boozy Dirt & Worms, and more.

Some people in North Carolina’s capital think we’re on the verge of becoming the next Austin or Denver. We’ve got incredible tree canopies and outdoor attractions like Umstead State Park, and it kind of seems like everybody is moving here: housing is relatively affordable, the weather is generally pretty pleasant, and there are frankly a lot of tech jobs.

To outsiders, this might seem like a second-tier city that you might confuse with neighboring Durham or Chapel Hill. It doesn’t help that our only pro sports team, the Carolina Hurricanes, doesn’t claim us outright. But there's nothing second-tier about Raleigh's restaurants.​​ With proximity to the coast and Carolina farmlands, they’re spoiled with limitless options for everything from king mackerel to juicy heirloom tomatoes. 

Whether you’re a recent transplant or just came to town for the North Carolina Museum of Art, these are all the places where you should eat, drink, and stay in Raleigh.

Where To Eat & Stay In Durham guide image

DUR Guide

Where To Eat & Stay In Durham


photo credit: Johnny Autry

Poole’s Diner review image

Poole's Diner


426 S McDowell St, Raleigh
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

Picture a jazz lounge mixed with a dimly-lit retro diner, complete with red leather banquettes and a handwritten chalkboard menu. That’s Poole’s Diner, and it’s one of the best and most famous restaurants in Raleigh. Grab one of those booths for a double date or to impress the in-laws, and always order the gooey macaroni au gratin and any iteration of the restaurant’s steamed mussels. The entrees really set Poole’s apart, including dishes like a roasted snapper with summer squash, cherry tomatoes, and a basil-driven cold pistou sauce.

Vidrio’s dining room gives off strong oil tycoon vibes, with soaring ceilings, colorful blossom-shaped glass decorations, and a smaller bar overlooking the street, but this Mediterranean restaurant isn’t all show. The menu might read kind of generic—there’s roasted chicken, hangar steak, and seared salmon—but everything is expertly executed. The skillet cornbread with truffle butter will make you wonder why you ever settled for boxed, and seasonal specials like lamb tagine or baklava are worth trying if you spot them.


Sign up for our newsletter.

Be the first to get expert restaurant recommendations for every situation right in your inbox.

By signing up, I agree to the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Practically all of Raleigh rejoiced when St. Roch reopened after a kitchen fire gutted much of their small space downtown. The New Orleans-inspired restaurant now has custom seafoam wallpaper featuring Louis Armstrong and Mississippi paddle boats on the walls, and flavorful alligator bolognese with sweet potato gnocchi and massive fluffy beignets on the menu. Come here with a big group for a Happy Hour filled with painkillers, hurricanes, and a bunch of North Carolina oysters. 


photo credit: Anna Barzin

Cortez review image




OpenTable logo

If you’re looking to impress a date, take them to Cortez, a seafood hot spot that serves gambas al ajillo, North Carolina snapper ceviche, and al pastor-marinated tuna tacos with street corn. The drink menu also features standouts like the Dreamcatcher cocktail with cachaca, gin, pineapple, hibiscus, and mint, and a great South America-heavy wine list. The vine-covered patio out front, which feels like somewhere you might see celebrities in LA, only adds to the romantic atmosphere.

Good luck getting a Salty Chipwich Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s hard enough to get a late-night seat at this dessert and cocktail bar on weekends, but Bittersweet’s ice cream cookie sandwich is so popular that they’re limited to one per customer and typically run out. If you show up and they're gone, there’s no need to stress—the list of desserts here is long, with hits like lemon lavender crème brûlée, derby pie, and a spin on the childhood classic Dirt & Worms with chocolate “dirt,” edible flowers, and housemade gummy worms soaked in gin and Luxardo cherry liqueur. Come on a Wednesday or Thursday after dinner at St. Roch to have a better chance at snagging one of the tables on the sidewalk.

Raleigh’s first downtown distillery comes from the team behind Trophy Brewing and State of Beer and is split into several spaces, ranging from a covered upstairs patio ideal for a quieter dinner date to the street-level bar perfect for an afternoon hang with friends. Young Hearts specializes in clear spirits including one made out of agave that’s similar to a tequila and a lemongrass, lavender, and elderflower gin, but the drink menu extends beyond the spirits distilled on site, and the food is truly excellent. Small plates like roasted cauliflower with pickled beet yogurt and salmon cakes with snow peas and lemon-basil aioli are way better, and much more interesting, than your typical bar food.

The Best Restaurants In New Orleans guide image

NOLA Guide

The Best Restaurants In New Orleans

With its selection of several hundred whiskeys, Dram & Draught is one of the city’s best cocktail bars. Since opening in 2016, this neighborhood spot has been whispered about like a cult movie for its classic and seasonal cocktails. Cap any night out downtown, especially a date night at Cortez, by snagging a seat at the crowded bar to enjoy their signature Old Fashioned with barrel-aged bourbon, a PBR boilermaker special, or even a more elaborate cocktail like the Candy Crush White Mai Tai with cognac, pineapple rum, and Curaçao. Even if you’re not drinking right now, it’s worth a stop—their spirit-free cocktails are made with as much care as the booze-filled ones.


If there’s one place in Raleigh to come for a quick bite or fresh baked goods, it’s Union Special. They cover the basics, like a BLT, turkey melt, or egg sandwich, without actually being basic. A grilled cheese might come with kale pesto, fontina, and pepper jelly or a BLT might sub out mayo for chow chow aioli. This place also works for a quick working lunch or some grab-and-go treats, like a chocolate croissant or a vegan thumbprint cookie. The brightly-lit, rainbow-painted space sort of reminds us of an elementary school classroom, so naturally, it’s the perfect place to doodle in your notebook and enjoy a sugary snack.

Wye Hill might have "Brewing" in the name, but this place feels more like a restaurant than anything else. You’ll find dishes ranging from a hearty shakshuka with focaccia and a falafel waffle with beet hummus at brunch, to a bistro filet steak au poivre with broccolini or pan-seared salmon with hominy and pea purée for dinner. The restaurant’s airy patio looking east across Raleigh’s skyline is perfect for a romantic dinner, a breezy brunch, or for just sitting outside and day drinking.


Originally opened as a 1960s travel lodge, Longleaf Hotel has a ton of personality thanks to its mid-century style. Located on the northern rim of downtown, its towering red and green “Long Live Longleaf” neon sign kind of functions as a welcome mat to Raleigh. The hotel’s lounge and huge patio are often packed with locals, who often stop in for a coffee negroni, Raleigh Brewing light lager, or a glass of gruner veltliner before or after a night out downtown.

photo credit: Sarah & Jeff Shepherd

undefined imageoverride image

Heights House Hotel

If you’re leaving the kids at home or just don’t want to hear anyone else’s, Heights House is a great choice. Conveniently located in the central Boylan Heights neighborhood, the recently renovated 1860 mansion offers nine boutique rooms in its retro-chic perch on a hill, and is designed for adults only. Enjoy peaceful grounds that feel almost like a Bridgerton estate, just minutes from the city center.

Home to the Level7 rooftop bar and lounge, this AC Hotel is right in the middle of the North Hills shopping district. Downtown isn’t far away, but you can also walk to a nearby bowling alley, yoga studio, and independent bookstore. They have a huge fitness center and generously large in-room showers, both of which are always a plus.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

Suggested Reading

Where To Eat & Stay In Charleston guide image
Where To Eat & Stay In Charleston

The 25 best restaurants and hotels in Charleston.

Where To Eat, Drink, & Stay In Providence guide image

All the best restaurants, bars, and hotels in Rhode Island's capital.

Where To Eat & Stay In Durham guide image

The 16 best restaurants and hotels in Durham.

Infatuation Logo
2023 © The Infatuation Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store