Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Raleigh's best restaurants

What are the "best" restaurants in Raleigh? Obviously, a question like that is very subjective; what does "best" mean? Do you judge a joint based on consistency? Service? Does a place with a rude wait staff get a pass cuz the food is A-May-Zing? Does price factor in?

Regardless of how you determine "best," we wanna hear your thoughts.

This topic came up on Twitter last week when I was asked for my top 4 or 5 Raleighwood restaurants, and it made me think about how I would rank my top 10. I can't say I have any sort of criteria other than this: If I was moving and had to visit 10 restaurants before I left, which ones would I hit?

I didn't necessarily rank them on Twitter (@Matt_Lail), but these are my choices with very quick thoughts on why:
1. Hayes-Barton Cafe -- Eating here feels like a loving hug from my grandfather.

Hayes Barton Cafe & Dessertery

2. 18 Seaboard -- Wide in variety, spot-on on taste and low on cost.
3. Gonza Tacos -- A new addition. Puts its sister (Dos Taquitos) locations to shame. Also seems to cost less.
4. Red Dragon -- The perfect Sunday night take-out. As one Tweep (@WNFIV) stated: "Red Dragon cures hangovers ... and anxiety." Sure.
5. PieBird -- It's pie. What else needs to be said?
6. Porter's -- I like that they are always mixing up the menu.
7. Cantina 18 - Jason Smith & Co. followed up 18 Seaboard with this gem.
8. Moonlight Pizza -- Not the cheapest pizza in the land, but arguably the best.
9. Rockford -- This was a Glenwood South staple before there WAS a Glenwood South.
10. Char-Grill -- An institution.

Just missed the cut: NOFO at the Pig, Lilly's, Oakwood Cafe and Angus Barn.

It's been almost exactly five whopping years since we did a list like this. It's always interesting to revisit these old posts. Back in '07, my top 10 choices (which you can view here) were:

1. Hayes-Barton Cafe
2. Red Dragon
3. Caffe Luna
4. Lilly's
5. Porter's
6. Sullivan's
7. Rockford
8. Dos Taquitos
9. Oakwood Cafe
10. NOFO at the Pig

So what has changed? Well, not much, in the cases of HBC, RD, Porter's and the Rockford. As for Caffe Luna, I'm still a big fan, but my wife has not had great meals there in recent years, leading us to go elsewhere.  With regard to Sullivan's, we now have three kids, and spending $150 on a meal just isn't a viable option to us these days.

So let's hear it; what are your top 10 (or 5, or 20) Raleigh restaurants?

(Image courtesy of Urban Spoon)


Kevin Brewer said...

Mitch's and Chuck's are great for an affordable meal. Mitch's has my favorite atmosphere in Raleigh.

M. Lail said...

I can't believe I left off Sitti or Gravy. Ugh.

JennEpp said...

Capital Club 16 is making some of the best food in Raleigh, and at a reasonable price point. Echo 18 Seaboard. And Poole's/Beasleys certainly has to be on any "best of", right?

I do think service cannot be overrated. I'd go back to a restaurant with subpar food but spectacular service, but a bad service nearly always runs me away from even the best food.

Mike said...

I think Sitti and Bida Manda have to make the list.

Mike said...

I think Sitti and Bida Manda have to make the list.