Here are our favorite downtown Raleigh restaurants, those that go beyond barbecue

Pizza La Stella // Courtesy of Keith Isaacs Photo

The good news for the couple of hundred thousand people coming into town for the World of Bluegrass festival is that Raleigh is one of the most exciting cities in the country to dine in right now. 

To cut down on the time spent Googling on a street corner looking for a bite to eat, here’s a roundup of some of our favorite Raleigh restaurants and bars, depending on your eating mood.

They’re mostly within walking distance (or a short drive away from) of all the bluegrass music venues. 

For more reviews of area restaurants and food trucks, go to themenunc.com.

Early-ish risers

Big Ed’s City Market: Come for Southern diner fare in the city center. At the City Market mainstay, you’ll find giant hotcakes, buttery, fluffy biscuits and everything fried that needs to be fried. 220 Wolfe St., Raleigh919-836-9909bigedscitymarket.com

lucettegrace: Your perfect breakfast bite can be found within this artful French pastry shop: the Dixie Cannonball, a cheese and scallion biscuit filled with sausage gravy. There’s also a full coffee bar, delicate croissants and other breakfast sweets. 235 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh919-307-4950lucettegrace.com

Raleigh Raw: A juice bar and cafe with a loyal following, dedicated to curing the body’s ills with cold pressed juices, smoothies and poke bowls. 7 W. Hargett St., Raleigh919-400-0944raleighraw.com

Poké bowl at Raleigh Raw.
The Faroe Monch at Raleigh Raw // Photo by Juli Leonard

Garland: This is one of Raleigh’s most inventive kitchens, run by James Beard-nominated Cheetie Kumar. It’s often grounded in Indian flavors but with influences from around Asia and the Middle East. Garland is also a recent addition to Raleigh’s Saturdaybrunch scene with a menu geared toward curing hangovers. 14 W. Martin St., Raleigh919-833-6886garlandraleigh.com

Lunch and dinner options

Beasley’s Chicken & Honey: This Ashley Christensen joint does superb fried chicken drizzled with honey, but the sides menu, with creamed collards and mac and cheese custard, may lead you to skip entrees altogether. There’s a list of real deal Champagnes, including a vintage Dom Perignon, but in Christensen’s world, you can always get a $2 can of Stroh’s. Next door you’ll find Christensen’s Chuck’s Burgers, with inventive toppings. Near Red Hat Amphitheater, head to her original Poole’s Diner, with its famed macaroni and cheese. 37 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh919-322-0127ac-restaurants.com

Mecca: The oldest restaurant in Raleigh has fed breakfast, lunch and dinner to lawyers, lawmakers and the rest of us since 1930. The menu is classic American, and you can’t go wrong with fried chicken and collard greens. 13 E. Martin St., Raleigh919-832-5714mecca-restaurant.com

Brewery Bhavana: The hottest restaurant in Raleigh is also one of the Top 10 new restaurants in the country, according to Bon Appetit. Bhavana pours a gorgeous lineup of beers in an even more gorgeous setting. The dining room and light marble bar are always bustling, but join the ruckus and your rewards are true soup dumplings and crispy Peking duck. Reservations highly recommended. 218 S. Blount St., Raleigh919-829-9998brewerybhavana.com

Whiskey Kitchen: One of Raleigh’s great patios, with inventive and classic cocktails, whiskey flights and a snack menu that encourages hanging out. The kitchen has a knack for seafood, with a solid fried skate sandwich (with tater wedges not fries) and head-on shrimp in the N.C. seafood boil. 201 W. Martin St., Raleigh919-803-3181.

Trophy Tap & Table: This downtown outpost of Trophy Brewing has a menu of drinking food, not bar food. There’s rotisserie chicken with three spice levels and a taco menu taking its cues from South America, Mexico, Asia and Texas. (We also recommend Trophy Pizza at 827 W. Morgan St., a short drive or a long-ish walk from the main drag of Fayetteville Street.) 225 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh919-424-7817trophybrewing.com/tap-table

The Cardinal: Surpassing its own ambitions to just be a dive bar with a surprisingly good hot dog, the porch of this Glenwood South-area private club is great spot to slip away from downtown for a while. 713 N. West St., Raleighfacebook.com/TheCardinalBar

Pizza La Stella: A wood-fired oven cranks out blistered Neapolitan pizza as well as wings. 219 Fayetteville St., Raleigh984-200-2441pizzalastella.com

St. Roch: North Carolina oysters and clams are the specialty at this ode to New Orleans by Poole’s Diner alum Sunny Gerhart, which just opened this year. The red beans and rice is as good as you’ll find anywhere. 223 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh919-322-0359strochraleigh.com

Royale: An elegant French bistro of marble and brick looking out onto Moore Square. Generous classics like moule frites and steak au poivre, but few, if any, others do duck wings l’orange. 200 E. Martin St., Raleigh919-977-3043royaleraleigh.com

Fiction Kitchen: No one will miss the meat at this all-vegetarian restaurant, which recently caught the attention of Food & Wine for its vegan take on East Carolina barbecue, every bit as smokey and satisfying as the original. 428 S. Dawson St., Raleigh919-831-4177thefictionkitchen.com

Drinks after the show

The Green Light: You’ll find well-mixed drinks in this modern speakeasy behind a hidden door in the Architect. 108 1/2 E. Hargett St., Raleigharchitectbar.com/the-green-light

Raleigh Beer Garden: The Guinness World Record holder for the most draft tap lines means you won’t find more beer options anywhere else. 614 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh919-324-3415theraleighbeergarden.com

Bittersweet: A beloved dessert and cocktail bar for whatever your nightcap may be. 16 E. Martin St., Raleigh919-977-3829bittersweetraleigh.com

Gallo Pelon: Above Centro, known for its authentic Mexican cuisine, is this cozy bar. It’s all about mezcal, the smokey cousin of tequila, with dozens of bottles for sipping neat and a cocktail list to match. 106 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh919-835-0060gallopelon.com

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