10 Best Restaurants in Raleigh

Without question, small businesses worldwide have had a difficult two years, particularly those in the hospitality sector. However, the Raleigh area’s culinary culture made progress this year as several eateries were able to reopen their dining rooms, accept more customers, and extend their hours with the goal of operating at a level similar to what they were before the pandemic. Even with all of this uncertainty, a handful of local company owners retaliated in 2021 by starting new ventures and inviting customers to engage with their passions. Best Restaurants in Raleigh

Here is a list of the top bakeries, restaurants, and other establishments that have opened this year. Come have a bite to eat, say hello, and pick up some new favorites to share with all your friends!

1. (ish) delicatessen

This summer, Matt Fern—a seasoned member of Raleigh’s food and beverage scene—delighted his devoted following with the much-anticipated opening of (ish) delicatessen. This sandwich shop is worth multiple trips if you have a need for Jewish, Russian, American, Italian, or pretty much any other cuisine that fits between two slices of bread. Tucked away in Raleigh’s Person St. district, (ish) offers deli favorites, unusual selections, and more to entice the senses. It’s the only location in Raleigh where, on any given day, you can have a smoked bluefish melt, a carnitas torta, and a pastrami sandwich (breakfast is now available too!).

2. The Willard Rooftop Lounge

Raleigh welcomed a rooftop experience in November that has proven to be well above and beyond the norm. For a significant and unforgettable night out, visit to The Willard (seen in the header above), which is perched atop the brand-new AC Hotel Raleigh Downtown in the buzzing Glenwood South entertainment zone. Indulge in a heated outdoor terrace and an inside dining area with breathtaking views of the city center. This is the place for amazing views and wonderful food on a date night out! Expertly made drinks and small meals with Spanish influences perfectly compliment the surroundings and are sure to send taste buds soaring!

3. Cucciolo Terrazza Raleigh

Raleigh’s North Hills neighborhood made headlines this fall with the inauguration of the contemporary Italian eatery Cucciolo Terrazza. Expect much of the same at the new Raleigh site. Chef and owner Jimmy Kim debuted the highly renowned Cucciolo Osteria in Durham in 2018, receiving a love letter from Raleigh’s The News and Observer food critic Greg Cox. Visit for supper to enjoy house specialties including “Sostanza”-style butter chicken and rigatoni with a spicy tomato vodka cream sauce. There’s also a delectable selection of recently created items to taste, including fresh pasta and shellfish.

4. Union Special – Downtown 

Thanks to his training in culinary arts, Midwest upbringing, and love of flaky, delicious pastries, Andrew Ullom has created two extremely satisfying experiences for those visiting Raleigh. Union Special creates a variety of sweet and savory sweets, vegan cuisine, and delicious sandwiches made with freshly baked bread. Its first store debuted in 2018 and its second full-service bakery opened in downtown Raleigh early this year. Snickerdoodles, tomato jam tarts, and peach hand pies are just a few of the always changing and developing café menu featuring grain and vegetable-forward breakfast, lunch, and brunch options.

5. Young Hearts Distilling

In 2021, the proprietors of Raleigh’s renowned Trophy Brewing made downtown Raleigh’s first distillery and restaurant a reality. In addition to delicious food, a rooftop patio, event space, and an assortment of liquors, Young Hearts has it all. Young Hearts offers a variety of small plates, salads, and larger entrees along with various vegan and gluten-free alternatives, all with an emphasis on using foods that are acquired responsibly and locally. The drink menu emphasizes regional producers and spirits with a strong botanical component to give guests a taste of the Tar Heel State. Young Hearts, led by head distiller Mena Killough, is set to branch out into small-batch liquors such as amaro, in addition to its current offerings of gin and vodka. Best Restaurants in Raleigh

6. Buena Papa Fry Bar

Thanks to husband-and-wife team James and Johanna Windon, Raleigh saw the opening of its first fry bar at the wildly renowned Morgan Street Food Hall, which was inspired by recipes created at home during the pandemic. The moniker Buena Papa, which translates approximately to “good potato,” features the well-known flavor of freshly prepared, crispy fries topped with vibrant, vibrant tastes from Latin America. In addition to the restaurant’s signature dish, The Columbiano, guests may savor an expanded menu featuring hand-cut, freshly produced dishes that pay homage to other cultures. Among other gourmet fry creations, swoop in and make a feast of the El Mexicano, La Boriqua, El Italiano, El Americano, and The Carolina. Best Restaurants in Raleigh

7. Akami Sushi Bar

A petrol station is not often the first place that comes to mind when thinking of excellent sushi. However, Akami Sushi Bar is here to make that happen. One of the best hidden gem openings in the Raleigh area for 2021 is this small restaurant in Apex near to a gas station. It serves a variety of extremely tasty sushi, sashimi, and nigiri created with the freshest ingredients. Take a seat and enjoy their specialty rolls (Geisha Dragon, Phat Boy, or Voodoo rolls), soups, salads, and a limited selection of beers and sake

8. BB’s Crispy Chicken

The newest fast-casual venture by chef Ashley Christensen, who runs five eateries and bars in downtown Raleigh and was voted America’s best chef by the James Beard Foundation in 2019, was BB’s Crispy Chicken, which debuted in late 2021. This time, Christensen is concentrating on fried chicken, a staple of Southern comfort cuisine. She has developed a brand-new recipe that achieves the ideal ratio of juicy, delicate inside to pleasantly crunchy outside. What makes outstanding fried chicken is that contrast combined with just the proper amount of flavor and high-quality ingredients. You can customize your meal with thirteen specialty sauces, such as buttermilk ranch, hot honey, and scorpion red fire (be careful—they’re spicy!). These sauces will entice you to return for more variations..

9. La Grassa Pastificio

Try La Grassa Pastificio for a local restaurant experience that is both classy and casual, serving expertly prepared Italian food. Locals frequently visit owner/chef Robert Reynaud’s Cary restaurant, which has swiftly gained popularity for its varied antipasti, pasta, and classic dishes presented with a touch of refinement and pride (along with an interesting wine and craft beer selection to go with your meal). La Grassa Pastificio’s quaint and cozy ambiance makes it the ideal venue for a business meeting, dating night, or just a casual dinner with friends. Best Restaurants in Raleigh

10. Element Gastropub

The brand-new plant-based gastropub concept by Chef Lelia Kidd is located in the center of Raleigh’s downtown on City Plaza. With delicious selections like crispy wings, fried chicken sandwiches, smashburgers, and more (all with the proper substitutions), the entirely vegan menu doesn’t skimp on flavor. The delicious food is served with a large beer and beverage selection. Positive feedback from early patrons suggests that the BBQ nachos are a must-try appetizer for your table, and we can personally attest to the success of the Crispy Chick’n Sandwich! Best Restaurants in Raleigh

One thought on “10 Best Restaurants in Raleigh

  • Abdul Ghayur

    Very informative it helps in finding delicious food. Thanks a lot


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