The South’s Most Underrated Food City

When one thinks of great food offered across a range sure to please even the pickiest palate, images of Los Angeles or New York likely come to mind. It’s time to expand your horizon. Look beyond the big cities and skyscrapers and you’ll find North Carolina’s own ranked among USA Today’s Five underrated food cities on the East Coast.

Slowly rising into the ranks of culinary greatness and a growing number of James Beard Award nominees, Raleigh’s food scene continues to evolve year after year. With an impressive list of 1,300-plus restaurants and growing, Raleigh is making waves in the industry.

10 of the Triangle’s own eateries caught the attention of USA Today to snag their own slice of the spotlight. Read on to discover the tastes and experiences one can experience with a race weekend (or extended vacation!) to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Half Marathon presented by WRAL!


Photo credit: Boulted Bread

Boulted Bread

Boulted Bread Bakery is the realization of three young men with a passion for fresh baked goods. The bakery prides itself on being “a little shop with a little seating and a little garden,” but the service and pastries are some of the best in the state. The flour is milled in-house, making for deliciously fresh buns, lemon bars, baguettes and more. It was also featured in Bon Appetit’s Hot 10: America’s Best New Restaurants.


Photo credit: Poole’s Diner

Poole’s Diner

Poole’s Diner offers contemporary Southern eats with a menu that features seasonal ingredients throughout the year. The dining venue is small and intimate with a casual, yet hipster vibe. One of their most sought after dishes is mac-n-cheese, while the perfect roast chicken runs a close second.

Their success is attributed to their chef turned entrepreneur Ashley Christensen. She’s been at the forefront of shining the spotlight on Raleigh’s food scene, having been a top contender on Iron Chef America and a James Bear Award semi-finalist. She’s the proud owner of an impressive six restaurants in the city; Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, Bridge Club, Chucks, Death & Taxes, Fox Liquor Bar and of course, Poole’s Diner.


Photo credit: Death & Taxes

Death & Taxes

Another eatery under the Ashley Christensen collection, Death & Taxes sets itself apart with wood-fired cooking and a fresh spin on traditional American fare like lamb sausage, roasted oysters, craft cocktails and wine. The atmosphere is sophisticated meets casual tavern, with polished marble and dark wood finishes.

Fun fact: the restaurant is named after the building’s previous tenants–a funeral home and a bank.


Photo credit: Escazu Artisan Chocolates

Escazu Artisan Chocolates

Escazu was inspired by owner Hallot Parson’s trip to a Costa Rican organic cacao farm. He returned with a zest to explore the chocolate making process, and through trial and error, turned his fervor into a full fledged artisan chocolate shop. They offer an ever evolving selection of confections, bars, ice cream, coffee and a solid collection of drinkable chocolates.

Find them in the Mordecai neighborhood.


Photo credit: La Farm Bakery

La Farm Bakery

Located in Raleigh’s westerly neighbor of Cary, La Farm Bakery broke out onto the scene in 1999 with a modest offering of nine handmade European breads and cinnamon buns. Quality service, ingredients and tastes allowed the bakery to add a cafe, bread truck, and eventually stock their breads in all five Triangle Whole Foods Markets.

Today, La Farm is a modern bakery that makes 15 different styles of breads, in addition to nearly 20 seasonal breads, all baked to perfection in a European-style hearth oven. They pride themselves on using an old world 3-day process to ensure maximum flavor and texture.


Photo credit: State Farmers Market

State Farmers Market

Open 7 days a week, Raleigh’s State Farmers Market is a 30,000-square foot indoor-outdoor market where North Carolina farmers sell fresh produce, plants and other items produced on local farms. It’s accompanied by indoor market shops that take up another 15,600-sq. feet where visitors can find meats, cheeses, crafts, as well as a market grill. For the freshest N.C. finds, look no further than the State Farmers Market.


Photo credit: Big Ed’s Restaurant

Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant

Big Ed’s has the most colorful history of all the Raleigh restaurants that made the USA Today list. The epitome of Southern comfort food, the recipes served were learned during Ed Watkins’ (Big Ed) years spent helping his mother prepare meals for workers on the family’s farm.

They take pride in serving up the best Southern cooking, breakfast or lunch, using locally sourced products. The small town quirkiness of the restaurant’s decor is an added bonus. Two convenient locations serving the city.


Crawford and Son

Crawford and Son is a casual dining restaurant located in the historic Oakwood section of downtown. One of the newer faces of Raleigh’s restaurant scene, Crawford and Son opened in fall 2016. They offer sophisticated Southern cuisine at affordable prices. Their menu is constantly evolving, sometimes offering the expected and other days exciting experimental dishes.


Photo credit: Bida Manda

Bida Manda

Proud to be among the first Laotian restaurants in the U.S. and Raleigh’s only, Bida Manda combines Laotian culture and traditions in its food. It’s owned and operated by a brother-sister duo, Vansana and Vinvisa, who named the restaurant in honor of their parents, bida manda being the Sanskrit ceremonial term for mother and father.

Their menu reflects the Laos culture’s relationship with nature, incorporating lots of seasonal, fresh veggies into most dishes. Think of this dining experience as a blend of Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese with a French technique in the kitchen.


Photo credit: Angus Barn

Angus Barn

Angus Barn is an American-style steakhouse restaurant that pairs steaks and fresh NC sourced seafood for an illustrious fine dining experience. No stranger to the limelight, the restaurant’s resume boasts an impressive 200 prestigious awards from the Fine Dining Hall of Fame, Wine Spectator Grand and even claimed the #2 ranking among America’s Best Steak Restaurants.

Don’t be fooled by the bright red barn exterior. The interior is full of surprises, like the plaid table clothes and hardwood floors you might expect inside a barn, but also with private rooms and wine cellars that rival ceremonial halls of old world kings and queens.


Growing into a melting pot of restaurants with quality eats, Raleigh is the place to be for world renowned cuisine. Whether you’re seeking traditional plates, exotic tastes or new and exciting culinary adventures, there are plenty worthwhile food adventures worth exploring.

Work hard, train hard and reward yourself just as hard with a run-cation to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Half Marathon presented by WRAL to taste your way through the city.