The Triangle area of North Carolina encompasses the region’s three university towns; Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh. It has also become an epicurean heaven, boasting some of the country’s best restaurants. Ranging from fine dining to innovative gastronomy and Southern comfort food, we list the 10 must-try restaurants in the Triangle.
Located within the growing foodie scene of Wilmington Street, at the heart of downtown Raleigh, bu ku is a unique dining experience with an international twist. bu ku is inspired by street food from all over the world and serves up a dazzling array of flavours. And the intriguing name? It’s a play on ‘beaucoup’, as in ‘merci beaucoup’.
Herons at the luxurious Umstead Hotel is a Forbes five-star and AAA Five Diamond restaurant. The team behind the restaurant have years of experience in prestigious restaurants across the United States, and have come together to create a refined, masterful take on Southern cuisine that makes the most of North Carolina’s homegrown produce, some of which was grown on The Umstead’s own farm.
A visit to North Carolina would be incomplete without some authentic BBQ. There are a few famous BBQ joints in the Triangle area, but Clyde Cooper’s BBQ, in downtown Raleigh, has been serving the stuff since 1938. And it still retains its old-fashioned charm to this day. Tellingly, this joint attracts a mixed crowd and serves NC-style BBQ, using only the lean shoulder meat and hams.
A signature dish at Herons | Courtesy Herons at The Umstead
The Fearrington House Restaurant
Nestled in the peaceful and quaint community of Fearrington Village, just south of Chapel Hill, Fearrington House Inn is a small, five-star hotel that is regularly cited among the best in the States. The restaurant is similarly acclaimed. The attraction is clear; situated in a beautiful white column house, the restaurant exudes refined, rustic charm and epitomizes Southern luxury.
Housed in the former Book Exchange in downtown Durham, Mateo serves up a vibrant and intriguing combination of Spanish tapas and Southern soul. Try their unusual fusion of Spanish and local cuisine, in dishes such as bocadillo, BBQ pork with piquillo cheese and pickled cabbage.
Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern, Raleigh | Image Courtesy of Bida Manda
Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern has two dining spaces; the more formal restaurant upstairs is decorated in a classic, period fashion befitting the building’s Victorian history, while the exposed-brick tavern and atrium has a more relaxed, casual feel.
Bida Manda is one of the first Laotian restaurants in the States. This warm restaurant features the wedding portrait of the owners’ parents on the wall, and vibrant and nature-themed déco. Influenced by colonial French tradition, Laotian food also has much in common with Thai and Vietnamese tradition; so prepare to be tantalised by this underrated cuisine.
Poole’s concept is simple; to offer the best of farm-to-table cuisine, inspired by the season. This thoughtful approach means that the chalkboard menus can change on a daily basis, depending on what is available from local growers and artisan producers. From the outside, the diner is somewhat understated, but inside it’s a charming, chic take on a retro diner, with bar seating.
Chef & The Farmer is a real Triangle must-visit foodie destination. Chef Vivian works her magic with the fresh, seasonal ingredients, and combines the rich heritage of Southern cuisine with modern gastronomy. Situated in a distinctive building in the centre of downtown Kinston, it has helped revitalize the local cultural scene.
Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant, Raleigh | Image Courtesy of Big Ed's City Market
Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant
For a true taste of Northern Carolina, head to Big Ed’s in City Market. Big Ed’s opened in 1989, and has continued to serve nourishing, affordable Southern breakfasts ever since. The menu features a great range of country-style breakfasts, with a choice of whole egg omelets, hot cakes, meat biscuits, burgers and sandwiches. The experience is completed by a plethora of Southern paraphernalia hanging from the walls and ceilings.