GQ Magazine recently featured the best new restaurants in the country, and whose collection of restaurants was named the Mini-Empire of the Year? Why, Ashley Christensen’s, of course. Famous for her highly acclaimed first chef-owned restaurant, Poole’s Diner, Ashley has built a small, yet powerful empire of some of the best restaurants in the country, all nestled in her hometown of Raleigh.

GQ says that Poole’s Diner is “the kind of place you plan a whole road trip around,” and they weren’t kidding. With food so amazing that Ashley is a semi-finalist for the prestigious James Beard Awards three years running, Poole’s offers up creative, simple Southern dishes that are executed perfectly.

In the last year alone, Ashley has added three new hot spots, building herself a small family of restaurants. Chuck’s is where exquisite culinary talent meets burgers. Where else will you find a burger topped with crushed avocado, bacon-onion jam and blistered red peppers or roasted beets, Wisconsin buttermilk bleu cheese, red onion, endive and banyuls aioli?

Beasley’s Chicken + Honey is where Ashley has perfected her fried chicken and offers up mouthwatering Southern sides like pimento mac-n-cheese custard, cider-braised collard greens and muddy pond sorghum baked beans. And, of course, there’s Fox Liquor Bar, where Ashley has crafted a beautiful menu of unique cocktails and an amazing beer and wine selection. Food at the Liquor Bar includes a tasty selection of cheeses, meats and compotes that are perfect to snack on while enjoying a great drink.

“There’s no southern staple this woman can’t improve,” says GQ contributor Aaron Lake Smith. We agree with him, now it’s up to you to plan an Ashley Christensen restaurant tour in downtown Raleigh and see for yourself.