Raleigh, N.C., Food Scene

Raleigh’s food scene? It’s booming. Thriving. Better than ever, thanks to tasty endeavors from a community that’s passionate about good eats and drinks.

The recent accolades: One of America’s hottest food cities (Zagat); one of the most underrated food cities on the East Coast (USA TODAY); one of five surprising Southern food towns (Garden & Gun); one of the world's top 10 beer destinations for 2019 (VinePair); and one of 12 global destinations to travel to thanks to our culinary prowess (Forbes).

It helps, of course, to have America’s best chef.

To say chef Ashley Christensen has earned her own acclaim would be an understatement. Since opening her flagship restaurant Poole's Diner in 2007, Christensen—a fierce philanthropist—has helped transform downtown Raleigh. She opened a burger joint, a chicken and waffle spot, an underground liquor bar and a wood-fired contemporary restaurant, all the while earning praise for her work both inside and out of the kitchen. Things culminated in 2019 when the James Beard Foundation awarded Christensen the title of Outstanding Chef—the highest individual honor for a chef—making her the only North Carolinian to ever win the award. Christensen's newest venture, Poole'side Pies—a Neapolitan-style pizza shop—is open as of summer 2019.

Christensen's success has paved the path for others to build upon a burgeoning food scene. Scott Crawford, a five-time James Beard Foundation semifinalist himself, opened his second restaurant in 2019 (Jolie, an intimate French bistro). Crawford and Son, his original downtown Raleigh eatery, opened in the fall of 2016—it's since been named "restaurant of the year" by both Raleigh's The News & Observer and Indy Week publications.

There's plenty more. Cheetie Kumar, a rockstar chef who takes the stage with local band Birds of Avalon when she's not making magic happen at the spice-driven Garland, has been recognized by publications including The New York Times, Food & Wine and Southern Living (who named Kumar "one of 30 incredible women moving Southern food forward").

Brewery Bhavana—the brewery, bookstore, flower shop and dim sum restaurant—was named a top 10 "Best New Restaurant" in America in 2017 by Bon Appétit. The co-owners, Vanvisa and Vansana Nolintha, also own Bida Manda next door (a Laotian restaurant considered by many to be the top dining experience in the City of Oaks).

At Herons at the Umstead Hotel and Spa (named one of America's 30 best restaurants) in Cary, chef Steven Devereaux Greene—one of the country’s youngest executive chefs to helm the kitchen of a AAA Five Diamond establishment—has created The Art Tour, an eight-course special chef's tasting menu inspired by The Umstead Hotel's art collection. It's been described as "the meal of a lifetime."

For big venues with big options, America's food hall trend is alive and well in Raleigh. Both Morgan Street Food Hall and Transfer Co. Food Hall—offering bagels, burritos, burgers, beer and more—sit just a few blocks from the North Carolina State Capitol on opposite sides of downtown.

The restaurant scene is constantly evolving, too, redefining and re-imagining both Southern cooking and global flavors. From food trucks to sushi spots, craft breweries and chocolate shops, there is so much waiting to be discovered on your next visit!

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Lionel Vatinet
La Farm Bakery

Lionel Vatinet

La Farm Bakery

Lionel Vatinet has traveled the world learning to bake fantastic breads. When he decided to plant roots, he chose Cary, and opened La Farm. In the past two decades, La Farm has grown to three locations—all bringing European-style baked goods to a hungry community.

“There’s a warmth in Raleigh that will make you want to come back to solve the mystery of such a beautiful place.”

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