It’s peak festival season this month, when thousands descend on downtown Raleigh for music, the arts and motorcycles.
Whether people are new to town, checking out the events or just in search of good eats on any given weekend in downtown, we’ve got you covered.
Here are some of our favorite spots to dine, organized by type of meal.
And don’t forget to check out the new Morgan Street Food Hall, which opened last month. The spot has plenty of food from all genres: pizza, Southern, burgers, Indian, tacos and rolled ice cream.
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For more reviews of area restaurants, go to triangletoday.com
To jump start your day: Breakfast
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., Raleigh. 919-836-9909. bigedscitymarket.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., Raleigh. 919-307-4950. lucettegrace.com
The Morning Times: A menu that offers something for every mood, from breakfast burrito to lox and bagel, has made this a local favorite for more than a decade. 10 E. Hargett St., Raleigh. 919-836-1204. morningtimes-raleigh.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., Raleigh. 919-400-0944. raleighraw.com
Lunch and dinner options
Beasley’s Chicken & Honey, Chuck’s and Poole’s: 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., Raleigh. 919-322-0127. ac-restaurants.com
Brewery Bhavana: The hottest restaurant in Raleigh was also one of the Top 10 new restaurants in the country last year, 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., Raleigh. 919-829-9998. brewerybhavana.com
The Cortez: Offering a frequently changing Latino-accented menu of fish and shellfish (depending on the catch, that translates to the likes of lobster tostadas, tiger style ceviche, and grilled whole snapper with chimichurri), The Cortez is not your father’s seafood restaurant. 413 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh. 919-342-8227. cortezraleigh.com
Crawford and Son: Don’t let the casual setting fool you. That’s Scott Crawford, one of the area’s most talented chefs, behind an inventive market-driven menu whose temptations run the gamut from a delicate mountain trout with silver queen corn and dill butter to the earthy comforts of pork cheeks with aged white cheddar grits and a smoked tomato ragout. The restaurant was named the News & Observer’s Restaurant of the Year this year. 618 N. Person St., Raleigh. 919-307-4647. crawfordandsonrestaurant.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., Raleigh. 919-831-4177. thefictionkitchen.com
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 Saturday brunch scene with a menu geared toward curing hangovers. 14 W. Martin St., Raleigh. 919-833-6886. garlandraleigh.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., Raleigh. 919-832-5714. mecca-restaurant.com
MOFU Shoppe: The owners got their start as operators of a food truck specializing in Asian street food, and it shows in the expanded menu at their brick-and-mortar restaurant. And now you don’t need to check their location on Twitter to enjoy their pork and chive dumplings. Or honey Sriracha brussels sprouts, or nuoc mam and lime-glazed wings, or braised short rib with kimchi fried rice or - well, you get the idea. 321 S. Blount St., Raleigh. 919-301-8465. mofushoppe.com
Oakwood Pizza Box: By the slice or whole pie, the New York style pizza at this downtown newcomer is the real deal. (Pro tip: The place is as small as its its namesake, so get there early.) 610 N. Person St., Raleigh. 919-594-1605. oakwoodpizzabox.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., Raleigh. 919-977-3043. royaleraleigh.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., Raleigh. 919-322-0359. strochraleigh.com
Tonbo Ramen: Craving a hearty bowl of tonkotsu topped with pork belly, house-made shrimp and pork dumplings and a soy-marinated soft egg? Tonbo will scratch that itch. In the evenings, you can head upstairs to the izakaya, where an expanded menu includes small plates designed to go with sake flights, craft beers, and cocktails. 211 S Wilmington St., Raleigh. 919-977-3625. tonboramen.com
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., Raleigh. 919-424-7817. trophybrewing.com/tap-table
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., Raleigh. 919-803-3181. whiskey.kitchen
Premium fuel (aka where to find the perfect cocktail)
Bittersweet: A beloved dessert and cocktail bar for whatever your nightcap may be. 16 E. Martin St., Raleigh. 919-977-3829. Bittersweetraleigh.com
Foundation: Don’t despair when you discover that your favorite scotch isn’t available at this underground bar, whose shelves are stocked exclusively with American-distilled spirits. You’ll find ample consolation in an eclectic cocktail list that draws on dozens of liquors, from North Carolina’s own Cardinal gin to Cruzan rum from the U.S. Virgin Islands. 213 Fayetteville St., Suite 010, Raleigh. 919-896-6016. foundationnc.com
Fox Liquor Bar: When Ashley Christensen opens a bar, expectations are naturally sky-high. Fox Liquor bar rises to the challenge with precise renditions of classic cocktails built with premium liquors and sparkling clear ice chipped from a large block. 237 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh. 919-322-0128. ac-restaurants.com/fox
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., Raleigh. 919-835-0060. Gallopelon.com
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., Raleigh. architectbar.com/the-green-light