This is the entirely subjective list of our favorite
restaurants, arbitrarily sorted more or less by type of restaurant.
Ole Time Barbeque – Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, on the Cary line. A tiny, diner style family restaurant that closes when they’re doing catering, so if you’re coming from a distance, you might want to have Plan B in mind. (Near Little Tokyo, and (at lunch time) Neo Monde.)
Ole NC Bar-B-Que – N. Roxboro St., Durham. This is the best barbeque buffet you’ll ever try. The center buffet is the barbeque staples; one of the side buffets has Southern traditions that you may not be familiar with (e.g., pigs feet).
Bullocks Barbeque – off Hillsborough Road, Durham. James’ brother brings the entire office here every time he comes to RTP. You can do individual or family-style meals, depending on the size of your group.
Crooks Corner – Carrboro. This is the funky, really high end version of Southern restaurants.
Dames Chicken and Waffles – Durham. Another funky version of a Southern tradition, which you know in part because on “meatless Mondays” they actually offer a vegan alternative. Also because you can have sweet potato waffles with a kicky orange drizzle over your perfectly fried chicken, or blueberry waffles with blueberry-infused butter or … you get it.
Asuka – Morrisville. Great romantic sushi restaurant. Fabulous
Little Tokyo. Cary, intersection of W. Chapel Hill and Maynard. This is the family diner of sushi. Good and cheap, but still quality.
Casa Carbone, N. Raleigh. An old-line, real Italian restaurant, complete with sauces that have carmelized as they simmer all day. Not to miss.
Los Tres Magueyes. Two Cary locations, the larger (and more upscale in design) at Cary Parkway and Chapel Hill Road. It’s been great to watch this immigrant-owned restaurant grow.
Rue Cler – Downtown Durham. A good French café. Try the prix fixe dinner.
Neo Monde – two locations, Hillsborough Street Raleigh, near Meredith, and Morrisville. Great Lebanese food with a small grocery attached. The kind of business where the owner recognizes his regulars.
Havana Grill – West Chatham Street, Cary. An authentic Cuban steam table, and the kind of Cuban food that immigrants enjoy.
Taverna Nikos – Morrisville. Elegant presentations of Greek food. More vegetarian options than the original location in Brightleaf Square (which hasn’t been open for a while).
Bosphorus – Harrison Avenue, Cary. Generous portions of Turkish food—about half the customers any night will be immigrants.
Royal India – Capitol Blvd., Raleigh. Our British friends think this is the best Indian restaurant in the Triangle. There certainly are lots of Indians eating there.
India Mahal – Hillsborough Street, Raleigh. The ultimate student restaurant. Go for the lunch buffet on Saturday or Sunday.
Hong Kong Buffet – Durham. This is a fun buffet for the family. More than half of the guests are Hispanic immigrants. What’s most fun is the way this buffet mixes Chinese and Latin ingredients – like jalapenos to provide the heat for General Tso’s chicken.
Lots of options – from Chinese to kidstuff (mac and cheese, pizza) to fruit and
Magnolia Grill – Ninth Street, Durham. We surprised the kitchen when even
Carlene cleaned her dinner plate (osso buco), and was ready to try the
specialty dessert, hot chocolate cheesecake. That’s what happens when you have
two James Beard awardees in the kitchen.
Maximillians – Chapel Hill Road, Cary. Chef Owner Michael Schiffer is known for creative fusion cuisine. We go here for pretty much all our special occasions.
Maximillians Pizza Kitchen – Chapel Hill Road, Cary. People rave about the creative toppings – like beef carpaccio with arugula, goat cheese and truffle oil. We’re also bowled over by the best crust we’ve ever eaten.
Red Room – Downtown Raleigh. Tapas, presented properly – one plate or two at a time, so your meal lasts as long as you want. A wonderful environment.
Mez – RTP. Contemporary cuisine with a Latin twist. The empanadas, for instance, have masa casings filled with goat cheese and fresh corn and served with a tomatillo salsa. Be aware: like all the restaurants owned by the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group, the main room is very noisy. Ask to be seated elsewhere.
Coffee and Dessert
Amelia’s – Brightleaf Square, Durham. Carlene’s personal favorite. Where
else do they steam-warm your coffee cup before they pour? A romantic spot, with
red and brown décor.
Francesca’s – Ninth Street, Durham. Funky and creative – artists display here. Pay attention to the chairs …
Mad Hatters – Ninth Street, Durham. Carlene has a lot of afternoon meetings here.
Out of town …
Firebox – Hartford, Connecticut. A locavore’s heaven, and politically correct, too – they’re doing food industry career training in a challenged part of the city.
Motor Supply Co. Bistro – Columbia, South Carolina. Enjoy local and fresh foods, surrounded by Peter Nein’s glass art, in a former motor supply store (what else?) chosen from a hand-written menu that changes every single day.
Slyman’s Deli – Cleveland, Ohio. How much corned beef can you fit in your mouth at one time? I can almost guarantee that it’s less than you’ll get between two slices of rye at Slyman’s. You can order other things, but the waitress will make her disapproval entirely clear. This is the best corned beef you’ll ever eat. Just pull out half and take it home. And arrive early: this tiny luncheonette serves half the city at noon.