1. KoKyu Na’Mean in Durham Means Business.
4823 Meadow Dr. Ste 108 Durham
Yelp: 5 Stars; 80 Reviews
Korean BBQ has become all the rage, and no one does it better than KoKyu in Durham. They have both a sandwich shop and a food truck, so there’s no excuse for missing out on the deliciousness. Choose from anything ranging from BBQ short rib with peanut sauce to seaweed salad and KOFC (Korean fried chicken). They have just about a perfect rating as you can see on Yelp, so you know it’s the bomb.
2. Rise Out Of Bed And Head Down To Rise Biscuits And Donuts.
Rise Biscuits and Donuts
8200 Renaissance Pkwy Ste 1003, Durham
Also in Morrisville and North Raleigh.
Yelp: 4.5 Stars; 436 Reviews
The biggest decision you have to make when you walk into Rise is whether you want breakfast or lunch. The donuts are heavenly warm, featuring old school and interesting, unusual flavors. Or, you can opt for a biscuit filled with bacon, fried eggplant ‘bacon’, country ham, sausage or fried chicken. Their maple bacon bar is to die for.
They’re opening up locations all over the place, and expect a big line at times. But it moves fast, and it’s well worth it.
3. Backyard BBQ Pit Is Southern BBQ Done Right.
Backyard BBQ Pit
5122 NC Hwy 55, Durham
Yelp: 4.5 Stars; 487 Reviews
If you love old fashioned barbecue, then you’ll be in heaven at Backyard BBQ Pit. Whether it’s juicy pulled pork, fluffy hush puppies or homemade mac and cheese you’re after, you’ll most likely have a watery mouth just thinking about this place after your first visit. This truly is North Carolina Q done to a T, and one of a few barbecue places that we love, love, love.
Grab yourself a friend, because the meals are enough to share–and that’s a GOOD thing!
4. The Mediterranean Deli in Chapel Hill Is Simply Heaven.
410 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill
Yelp: 4.5 Stars; 436 Reviews
There really isn’t a better place in the area for Mediterranean than in Chapel Hill. This place has a ton of traditional options like falafel, pita, kabobs, lamb, grape leaves, gyros and baklava, plus they can pull off grilled chicken and grilled salmon. Honestly, the menu is so big and scrumptious, that you have to see it to believe it. And the olive bar is included (and they don’t seem to care that you pile on as many as you want!)
If you’re on the Mediterranean Diet, you’ll be in heaven here. Plus, they cater too, and if you bring Mediterranean Deli to your event, you’ll be remembered for life.
5. The Asian Fusion At Lantern Will Fuse Your Mouth Into A Smile.
423 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill
Yelp: 4 Stars; 248 Reviews
If you love healthy, farm-to-table entrees, than Chapel Hill’s Lantern is just your cup of tea. They’ve been featured several times as one of the best restaurants not only in the Triangle, but in the nation. Their specialty is merging Asian flavors with locally sourced (North Carolina) farms and fisheries. Their tea and spice smoked pasture-raised NC chicken is what brings people back time and time again.
This is definitely a ‘fancy night out.’ Bonus tip: They have a cool ‘back bar’ area for sipping cocktails. Very classy, but hard to get a seat at on busy nights. That’s always a good sign.
6. You’ll Pig Out At The Pig.
The Pig Restaurant
630 Weaver Dairy Rd Chapel Hill
Yelp: 4 Stars; 228 Reviews
It’s a wonder that everyone in Chapel Hill hasn’t been to The Pig at least once in their lives. If it wasn’t hidden along a winding road, you can bet the lines would be a lot longer. But the regulars are probably wincing right now because, now the secret is out.
If you love whole hog barbecue, this is your spot. Everything is simple and ‘no frills,’ from the presentation to the laid back vibe, but the food will explode your taste buds. Pulled pork BBQ is their go-to option, but lots of people rave about their sides like the hush puppies, homemade pickles and mac-n-cheese. Local BBQ lovers are grateful that owner Sam Suchoff decided to give up a career in math to pursue his passion for food.
Bonus: They use antibiotic and hormone free (and local) pork, so it’s as healthy as it gets.
7. Bida Manda Might Be The Most Unique Asian Experience In Raleigh
222 S Blount St, Raleigh
Yelp: 4.5 stars; 600 Reviews
The outside of this restaurant is a very unassuming building, but when you walk into Bida Manda, you will think you’ve been transported to Laos. The decor and the vibe are definitely unique, and add to the whole experience that lots of people are talking about (meaning: This place is packed every night.)
Besides the vibe, people can’t stop raving about the pork belly soup, green papaya salad and lettuce or spring rolls. Your head might spin after sampling all of the spices and flavors they use.
8. Guasaca Makes Venezuelan an Art Form
4025 Lake Boone Trl, Ste 107, Raleigh
Yelp: 4.7 Stars; 577 Reviews
When you feel a South American urge coming on, head to Guasaca for what’s arguably the tastiest latin food in the region. Try their signature build-your own arepas, which is Venezuela’s signature bread (made from corn) filled with all sorts of goodness like avocado chicken, steak, grilled tilapia, pork or mechada.
You simply will not ever go anywhere again for lunch if you live in the area, and it’s worth the drive if you don’t. Like most authentic latin food, simple and spicy is best.
9. Your Soul Will Fall For The Pit Every Time
The Pit In Raleigh
328 W Davie St, Raleigh
Yelp: 4.7 Stars; 577 Reviews
The reviews are in, and more than 1,500 people have posted amazing reviews of the last (but not least) barbecue place in the Triangle that you have to try. You won’t need a knife, as the beef brisket melts on your plate.
You know how when you’re eating sushi, and it’s so good you don’t want to dip it into any sauces? That’s how good the meat is at The Pit.
Be prepared to squeeze in next to lots of other hungry souls. This place (located in the warehouse district) is packed for a reason.
10. Meat Lovers And Sushi Fans Will Fall Hard For The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
4208 Six Forks Rd, Ste 100, Raleigh
Yelp: 4.6 Stars; 590 Reviews
You’d be hard pressed to find a more unique and absolutely delicious place to eat than at The Cowfish. You can make your own sushi and burgers here – and you’ve never had anything like burgushi. That’s right – a sushi/burger combination. In fact, many different combinations that are too wonderfully tasty sounding than we can list here. You just have to try it. Trust us.
And, check out the fish tank in the lobby as you walk in. It was designed by the guys at Animal Planet’s “Tanked,” and is a work of art on its own.
11. You’ve Never Had Curry Like You’ll Try At Vimala’s
Vimala’s Curryblossum Cafe
The Courtyard, 431 W Franklin St, Ste 16, Chapel Hill
Yelp: 4.3 Stars; 212 Reviews
When a small Indian restaurant has 7,000 Facebook fans, that’s a huge sign that something amazing is cooking in the kitchen. That’s certainly the case with Vimala’s Curryblossum, a delectable, upscale place in Chapel Hill.
This farm-to-table local food hero is wrapped in the guise of a fast casual bite. But don’t let it fool you; the Warm, soft samosas stuffed with potatoes and peas, delicious chutneys, tandoori chicken, or one of many homemade curries that aren’t your typical run-of-the-mill Indian food. Nope; these people care about how Indian food is done, and you can tell.
And you can wash it all down with some lavender lemonade or hibiscus tea.
12. Chicken and Waffles – The Undeniably Perfect Combination at Dame’s
Dame’s Chicken and Waffles
317 W Main St, Durham
Yelp: 4.4 Stars; 690 Reviews
Did you think you’d get far without us mentioning at least one of the area’s chicken and waffle joints? This isn’t just any C&W joint, though. Since a large percent of the population isn’t from the south, lots of people haven’t tried it. But trust us, you New Englanders, this will put your clam chowder to shame.
Besides the ‘traditional’ waffles, you can get different types, such as sweet potato or blueberry. I personally enjoyed the sweet potato waffle, as it seems to compliment the chicken more. And while the chicken is some of the best you’ll have, the sides are what brings people back, too.
The lines are long. Plan on waiting unless you get there early, which is frustrating, since the whole place smells like heaven while you sit and wait while other people get to eat first.
13. Grab A Bite and Be You At Beyu
335 W Main St, Durham
Yelp: 3.8 Stars; 210 Reviews
You’ve never experienced anything like Beyú Caffé before. Just around the corner from Dane’s in Durham, this place is a fusion of a jazz club, bar, restaurant and coffee shop.
Nothing too unique, as it’s traditional American, but it’s consistently delicious. You can munch on a salad, or breakfast in the afternoon, and sip on a latte while listening to cool music. Or, you can linger after ducking in for a coffee, and have some dessert. There’s no real rush here, so you can just take your time and take in the place.
14. You’ll Feel Like You’re Down On The Farm At Angus Barn
Three Amigos Mexican Restaurant and Cantina
9401 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh
Yelp: 4.4 Stars; 451 Reviews
You want a fancy steakhouse? Well, you got it. This award-winning steakhouse has been featured in national publications for years now, including the prestigious Gold Plate Award, and was even talked about on ‘48 Hours’ with Dan Rather.
If you want perfectly cooked prime rib, this is your place. Each steak comes with a side salad and a baked potato. Or, you can try the seafood. Just about everyone on Yelp says the seafood is scrumptious.
Plus, the wines are some of the best in the Triangle, as they have their own wine cellar.
If you want to impress someone big time, or you’re up for a celebration of some sort, you couldn’t pick a better place.
15. You’ll go Ga Ga over Gigi’s
Many locations. Original: 1028 Oberlin Rd, Raleigh, NC
Yelp: 4 Stars; 78 Reviews
We got everything covered, and now, it’s time for dessert. That brings us to Gigi’s Cupcakes, a must-stop sweet shop in Raleigh. As you can imagine, they make cupcakes in all flavors and sizes, (and we mean ALL flavors you can imagine), and they’ve got you covered if you’re gluten free.
These truly are the best gourmet cupcakes to ever come out of a Texas grandma’s kitchen. Bonus: Cheesecakes, too!
Follow them on Instagram to tease your tongue every morning. You hate us now. We understand :).