When I first moved to Raleigh back in 2008, downtown was a sleepy little area under construction. But over the past 10 years, City Plaza, the Raleigh Convention Center, and Red Hat Amphitheater have opened up to revitalize the downtown area. Add in Broadway theater and shows at the historic Progress Energy Center-Raleigh Memorial Auditorium and you’ve got a lot of people visiting the south side of downtown Raleigh. And while it’s a busy area there aren’t a ton of restaurant or dining options on that side of town, yet. Note: A new downtown Raleigh social-drinking district goes live in this area on August 15, 2022!
So where to go to eat if you don’t want to do McDonalds or hotdog cart? Well my friend, just hoof it a couple of blocks further out and you’ll have some great, higher end options that are off the tourist path. From simple to fancy, downtown Raleigh has got you covered for some great eating!
On the pricey end of the spectrum, head over to Wilmington Street to find Ashley Christensen’s acclaimed Poole’s Diner! Known for it’s seasonal Southern fare, Poole’s takes classic Southern comfort food and puts it on its ear. From the moment you step in and ingest the quirky horseshoe shaped bar, hipster staff and cocktail menu, you realize it’s something special. There’s no online menu, just a chalkboard with some of the freshest food around. I’ve been here for brunch and dinner and tried everything from an amazing mac n cheese au gratin, to slow-cooked Berkshire pork. Preparation is everything at Poole’s and everything she puts out is tasty. The one drawback is that due to Poole’s popularity, they don’t take reservations and have only one dinner seating. Plan accordingly.
Sono is a chic sushi restaurant and long-standing Raleigh favorite decked out in crimson and black. With the stylish decor you know you’re not in for a traditional Japanese experience but that’s fine because their sushi is pretty darn good. With rolls with names like Screaming O and G-Spot, it’s got a sexy rep to live up to. And Sono dishes fresh and interesting non-sushi entrees and appetizers too.
Further west near the Warehouse District you’ll find the very popular and reasonably priced Fiction Kitchen! Popular with vegetarians and vegans, Fiction Kitchen does some amazing things with veggies and tempeh. They also pour a mean cocktail here.
And don’t forget some other restaurants I’ve reviewed: Beasley’s for their fried chicken and honey, and Bida Manda for Laotian. All are within 5 blocks of City Plaza, Red Hat Amphitheater and the Raleigh Convention Center and worth the effort.
Overall while I’m sure the catering is decent at the Convention Center, if you’ve got an expense account or are visiting for a show, there are lots of options in the core of downtown Raleigh for great eats! Or if you’re at the Raleigh Amphitheater for music, City Plaza for Winterfest, the Progress Energy Center for a show, take some extra time to find a good meal. And I guarantee you it’s worth the walk and effort, bon appetit!