The 10 Best Restaurants In The Triangle, North Carolina

Photo of Marian Shek
9 February 2017

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.

NC State’s Bell Tower | © Suzie Tremmel/Flickr


Restaurant, American, Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
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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.

Clyde Cooper’s BBQ

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.

Clyde Cooper’s BBQ, 109 East Davie Street, Raleigh, NC, USA, +1 919 832 7614

The Fearrington House Restaurant

Inn, Hotel
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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.

Mateo Bar de Tapas

Restaurant, Contemporary, $$$
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Image Courtesy of Second Empire
Image Courtesy of Second Empire
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, American, Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
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Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern, Raleigh
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

Restaurant, Asian, Thai, Vietnamese, $$$
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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 Downtown Diner

Bar, Diner, American, Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
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Rex Miller
Rex Miller | Repix.
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

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.

Chef & The Farmer, 120 West Gordon Street, Kinston, NC, USA, +1 252 208 2433

Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant

Restaurant, American, Vegetarian, Vegan
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Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant, Raleigh
Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant, Raleigh | Image Courtesy of Big Ed's City Market
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.

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