The Ultimate Guide to Restaurants in North Carolina
North Carolina, a gem of the southeastern United States, is known for its beautiful landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. With a rapidly growing food scene, the state has become a popular destination for food lovers. This guide will walk you through some of the best restaurants in North Carolina, so you can indulge in its culinary delights. From traditional Southern comfort food to modern fusion, there’s something for everyone!
1. Poole’s Diner – Raleigh
Located in the heart of downtown Raleigh, Poole’s Diner is a classic eatery that has been serving up delicious Southern comfort food since the 1940s. Chef Ashley Christensen, a James Beard award-winner, has transformed Poole’s into a modern, farm-to-table restaurant that celebrates North Carolina’s seasonal ingredients. The menu features dishes such as macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and shrimp and grits, all prepared with a creative twist. The cozy atmosphere and friendly service make this a must-visit spot in Raleigh.
2. Buxton Hall Barbecue – Asheville
North Carolina is known for its barbecue, and Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville is a prime example of why. Pitmaster Elliott Moss and Chef Meherwan Irani have come together to create a barbecue joint that pays homage to Eastern Carolina-style whole-hog barbecue. Using sustainably raised hogs, Buxton Hall serves up mouthwatering smoked meats accompanied by their signature vinegar-based sauce. Don’t forget to try their classic Southern sides like collard greens and mac & cheese, as well as their homemade pies for dessert.
3. Lantern – Chapel Hill
Lantern, situated in the charming college town of Chapel Hill, offers an innovative fusion of Asian flavors and North Carolina ingredients. This award-winning restaurant, led by Chef Andrea Reusing, boasts a menu that combines local, seasonal produce with traditional Asian cooking techniques. Lantern’s cozy, intimate setting is perfect for a romantic dinner or a night out with friends. Some must-try dishes include their tea-smoked chicken, spicy Vietnamese-style meatballs, and crispy local tofu with chili sauce.
4. Kindred – Davidson
Located in the picturesque town of Davidson, Kindred is a family-owned restaurant that prides itself on its farm-to-table approach and warm hospitality. Chefs Joe and Katy Kindred have created a menu that showcases their passion for seasonal ingredients and creative flavor combinations. Their famous milk bread is a must-try, along with dishes like squid ink conchiglie, seared scallops, and roasted chicken. The stylish interior and attentive service make Kindred a standout dining experience.
5. Mateo Bar de Tapas – Durham
For a taste of Spain in the heart of North Carolina, head to Mateo Bar de Tapas in Durham. Chef Matt Kelly has crafted a menu of authentic Spanish tapas using locally sourced ingredients. The lively atmosphere and extensive list of Spanish wines make Mateo the perfect spot for a fun night out with friends. Be sure to try their signature dishes like patatas bravas, jamón ibérico, and gambas al ajillo, as well as their daily specials.
6. Chef & the Farmer – Kinston
Chef Vivian Howard, star of the PBS show “A Chef’s Life,” has put Kinston on the culinary map with her acclaimed restaurant, Chef & the Farmer. Combining her Southern heritage with a focus on local, sustainable ingredients, Chef Howard has created a menu that celebrates North Carolina’s rich agricultural history. The restaurant’s rustic charm and warm atmosphere make it a perfect destination for a special night out. Must-try dishes include the blueberry BBQ chicken, the pork shank with braised greens, and the famous tomato pie.
7. The Asbury – Charlotte
Nestled in the historic Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte, The Asbury offers a contemporary take on Southern cuisine. Executive Chef Mike Long has created a menu that pays homage to North Carolina’s culinary traditions while incorporating modern techniques and global flavors. The stylish and comfortable dining room provides an inviting atmosphere to enjoy dishes like their fried chicken and waffles, pan-seared trout, and bourbon-glazed pork belly. Don’t miss their seasonal desserts, such as the peach cobbler or the chocolate pot de crème.
8. Cúrate – Asheville
Another Spanish gem in Asheville, Cúrate is the brainchild of Chef Katie Button. This lively tapas bar offers a wide variety of small plates, showcasing the flavors and techniques of traditional Spanish cuisine. The menu is designed for sharing, making it perfect for a group outing or a romantic dinner for two. Be sure to try their signature dishes like the octopus with paprika, the Serrano ham croquettes, and the vegetable paella. Pair your meal with a selection from their extensive wine and cocktail list for a truly unforgettable dining experience.
9. Herons – Cary
Located in the luxurious Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary, Herons is an elegant restaurant that offers refined, farm-to-table cuisine. Under the guidance of Executive Chef Steven Greene, the menu focuses on seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms and artisanal producers. The sophisticated atmosphere and impeccable service make Herons an ideal destination for special occasions or a memorable night out. Standout dishes include the seared scallops with sweet corn succotash, the dry-aged ribeye, and the chocolate soufflé with hazelnut ice cream.
10. Manna – Wilmington
Manna, nestled in the historic district of Wilmington, is a modern American bistro that showcases the diverse flavors of North Carolina. Chef Jameson Chavez has crafted a menu that combines comfort food with innovative techniques, resulting in a unique dining experience. The cozy, intimate setting is perfect for a romantic evening or a celebratory meal. Don’t miss their signature dishes like the duck confit with sweet potato gnocchi, the crispy pork belly, and the warm apple tart with vanilla bean ice cream.
North Carolina’s thriving restaurant scene offers a diverse array of culinary experiences that are sure to delight any food lover. From traditional Southern comfort food to inventive fusion cuisine, the state’s eateries are a true testament to the creativity and passion of its chefs. Be sure to visit these top restaurants during your next trip to North Carolina, and discover the delicious flavors that make this state a food lover’s paradise.