Left My Heart in Oak City - A Food & Bev Guide to Raleigh
Ah, Raleigh. The City of Oaks, the Oak City. Equidistant from the mountains and the beach, not quite big enough to render one lost and overwhelmed, but not small enough that you feel uncomfortably magnified in a town as populous as the ghost-towny setting for the Twilight series. This city was my first post-college home, where I found my first very own apartment, first job, and many firsts of navigating a new city solo, all whilst equal parts dirt poor, and full of hope and curiosity for my new town.
Raleigh is incredible. It’s a great size, there’s something for everyone, as in plenty to do for those unmarried coeds hungry for the nightlife and friend outings, but also a great environment for those hoping to raise a family in their near future.
Behold, my food and drink guide for every occasion, worthy of my closest friends needing a few recommendations.
Once having lived an easy bike ride down the road, I used to frequent Sola on the reg in the summertime, and what a perfect place for warm weather dining. They host a farmer’s market in their parking lot on Saturday mornings and feature outdoor seating to accommodate simultaneous sunbathers and patrons. Their menu is fresh, dee-lish, and feature incredibly healthy options. Be it an elaborate toast, a smoothie bowl, or a classic cup of locally-brewed coffee, one simply cannot go wrong.
Get that iced chai latte AND split the mimosa pitcher, honey! You’ll find I’m a big fan of Cameron Village and all the bouginess it has to offer. For a pleasant seat outside enjoying a savory breakfast of a Southern kind, look no further.
This downtown caffeinator welcomes patrons with a softly industrial setting. I love a good mix of textures and substance in any aesthetic, so yes please to the smooth wood benches paired with warmly vibrant exposed light and concrete floors.
Holy sake. Their motto on their website is as touching as it is attractive: “The pursuit of harmony among differences, the union of our various cultures and offerings, and the belief that hospitality and the passionate dedication to crafting genuinely inspired food and beverage can uplift the communities around us.”
He-LLO new friends!
Their trifecta of coffee, tea, and sake is unusual but worth the visit. With an absolutely beautiful space - copious natural light, wicker-style wood ceiling detailing, and sizable greenery dotting its perimeter, you will feel yourself relax well before your first shot of sake.
Buckle up, barbecue lovers. From my seven years living in North Carolina, this is my favorite haven for BBQ given its tasty menu and authentic-but-not-messy environment. It’s in a great spot right downtown, so work off your massively heavy meal and take a walk around the city.
Head into the heart of downtown at this hip and widespread pad for some top notch seafood. Knowledgeable wait staff will help you decide what to order, especially if you’re feeling adventurous with your seafood. And adventurous you’ll be if you go for the oysters, as some of them will have a surprise when you open them: pea crabs, tiny little crabs that have crawled into your oyster and remain as an extra snack. Fear not: they are edible, and our waiter described their texture as “a wet piece of popcorn.”
If that makes you squeamish, opt in for surf and turf options or go big with their king crab legs. Really their whole menu is fire, so come hungry.
Voted a top one of the city’s top restaurant picks - top 10 in the nation, in fact, by Bon Apetit. Worthy of an upscale-trendy type of city like San Fran or NYC, BB boasts a delightful “four-in-one concept that [includes] a floral shop, brewery, bookstore, and, if that wasn’t enough, a dim sum restaurant.”
I’m sorry...who gave you permission to be all things I’ve ever wanted? When a motley crew of a family-friend group come together with shared passions and vision and open a business as their combined brainchild, evidently all things are possible. Enjoy the happily lit venue with rows of glowing orbs dotting the ceiling, speckled throughout with greenery and flanked by minimal bookshelves. Per the Bon Apetit writer’s suggestions, please try the eclectic peach saison for a brew, and their Cantonese barbecue pork buns, as both sound delectable.
As cheery from the street as it is inside, this contemporary little bakery flaunts bright yellow chairs lined against wonderfully rustic stone walls, with a heavenly-lit row of glistening pastries lined up in plain view. If you’re there for breakfast, absolutely order their Dixie Cannonball, a savory biscuit filled with gravy dressing that will thoroughly ruin your mouth.
Hola mami, and welcome to happy hour in Cameron Village! If you’re lucky (or plan ahead and make a reservation, you can score seating on the top floor near the window for a nice view of Cameron Village shopping center. I still think about their gauc and chips (try the pineapple-habanero guac for the daring), but have split quesadillas with friends and was far from disappointed.
For all the beer in the world...The Raleigh Beer Garden. I’m only barely exaggerating. Having once waited tables there myself, I can attest to how fun its environment is. First of all, it’s a massive establishment: with a downstairs bar for local beers, a second upstairs bar for international beers, a rooftop bar, a tree bar in the back patio, and a seasonal bar open in the back gravel lot where all their outdoor games and picnic tables lie in waiting, you’ll have plenty of options to perch with your beers. For a few popular and unique options for local beers, try the Raleigh Hell Yes Ma’am, Birdsong Jalapeño Pale Ale, Lonerider Sundance Grapefruit Saison, the watermelon lager, or the Red Oak Amber Lager. There are obviously hundreds of options more, but those are good places to start that you won’t soon find outside of North Carolina.
For a club-y feel. Cornerstone for an outdoor firepit mood, Alchemy for a Miami vibe, whose owner is known to park his flashy six-figure sports car boldly outside, amidst all of Raleigh’s sloppy intoxicated finest. Bold move, my friend, bold move. (Both spots are great for dancing.)