Just a few years ago, the dining scene in Raleigh was described as “burgeoning” by foodies. Today, that scene is growing even stronger with Raleigh restaurants serving dishes for every taste and budget – from contemporary Southern foods and burgers to authentic international cuisine and vinegar-based North Carolina barbecue that draws diners from near and far.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of four of the best places to eat in Raleigh that run the gamut of high-end and more casual, but beloved, local favorites.
Diners seeking authentic French cuisine come to Saint Jacques from as far away as New York City and Washington D.C. The restaurant, which is a popular place for diners marking special occasions, is owned by Lil Lacassagne, a native of the South of France, who has worked in some of the finest restaurants in the world, and his wife, Lori. Located in a nondescript shopping plaza, Saint Jacques’ theme: “The South of France is now only minutes away” is evident as guests enter from Falls of Neuse Road.
“We wanted to offer the best food you can find using amazing ingredients, while at the same time, we wanted our service to be friendly so our guests are comfortable,” says Lil Lacassagne.
Visitors stepping into Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern get a taste of modern fine dining in an 1879 dwelling. Second Empire exudes history and ambiance – from the graceful covered porch, to the dining rooms with deep bay windows and 14-foot ceilings to the cozy tavern in the brick cellar. The restaurant, which has won the AAA Four-Diamond Award, is a popular place for diners, and those attending parties, weddings and other special occasions.
“Many people coming here are interested in history, and our staff is well-versed in the history of the home,” says Marilynn Akers, Second Empire events coordinator.
Clyde Cooper’s has been an institution in downtown Raleigh since it opened in 1938. Today, it still serves slow-cooked Carolina-style barbecue using top lean pork shoulders and hams, and briskets and ribs have been added.
After many decades in its original location, Clyde Cooper’s in 2014 moved to nearby 327 S. Wilmington St., but maintains its original charm – including the same booths and tables, now refinished, and the original awning now hangs inside the restaurant.
“Barbecue is an old pastime in North Carolina, and people come to Clyde’s from around the world,” says Ashley Holt, whose family now owns the restaurant. “Visitors tell us, ‘We have to stop in because y’all have the best sauce.'”
Chuck’s, also on South Wilmington Street, has carved a name for itself with gourmet burgers and tins of Belgian hand-cut fries served with dipping sauces. The restaurant’s “Dirty South (Carolina) Burger” features ingredients such as a smoked pork shoulder, Anson Mills Sea Island red pea chili and roasted tomato malt vinegar slaw. Milkshake selections include a Dark Chocolate Cake, a Salty Peanut Butter with Roasted Banana and a Madagascar Malted, as well as new shake flavors offered each week.
“We have guests who pop in each week to get the new shakes,” says Ashley Noonan, manager of Chuck’s.