The best food in Raleigh, Cary and a little bit beyond
When I first tell people I am a food blogger, the first thing that they ask me is, “What is the best restaurant in the Triangle?” That is a really tough question to answer, it’s like asking me what gift to get your mother-in-law. Everyone has different tastes and different needs. But I still like to have a list of ‘ole standbys to point people to. So it’s about time I give this some more thought and update my top ten list for the Triangle.
The last time I created my top ten list was shamefully back in 2011, and I haven’t been making many trips out by Chapel Hill or Durham in the past two years. So the majority of my picks will probably be focused on the Wake County area so I can ensure I’m giving you picks that are consistent and also have good service, not just good food and that are reasonably priced, generally below $12 an entree.
This past year I have also made great improvements to my eating habits, so I have been picking places to eat that have healthier options. Let’s start with Mediterranean food.
Best Mediterranean / Lebanese
You’ll see heavy rotation of Mediterranean and Lebanese food here, because it’s incorporates so many fresh vegetables and keeps me feeling healthy. At Neomonde my order of choice is the chicken shawarma pita lunch box special that comes with choice of two sides. I like the mujadarah (lentils and rice with caramelized onions) and a bean or lettuce salad, but I am also a sucker for the tzatziki sauce. If you order one of the platters that comes with kabobs at Neomonde (or Sassool, their sister location) you’ll get a smear of this delicious garlic cream that has a major bite to it. At Jasmin I normally get the Jasmin platter with their spit-roasted chicken, with a greek salad and hummus and pita. Neomonde always makes pitas in the oven to go with your meal, but Jasmin only sometimes does and I do prefer the pitas at Jasmin for their chewiness.
Best Barbecue/Soul Food
I won’t waver on my long-held belief that Dame’s Chicken and Waffles has the best meal in the Triangle, bar none. Certainly this is true in the under $20 an entree price point. Throw your diet out the window and get the best mac n cheese ever as one of your side options. That’s all you need to know.
Best Latin / Mexican Food in Wake County
Best Breakfast in the Triangle
The Triangle is seeing a lot of growth in the breakfast arena, now with a few chains expanding like Flying Biscuit, Tupelo Honey, First Watch and Another Broken Egg. But for my northern taste buds, the place I want to get breakfast (assuming it’s no-holds-barred) is the casual and family-run Barry’s Cafe in Cary. It’s a firehouse themed diner with cozy booths and breakfast all day. I’ve enjoyed hobo hash breakfasts, omelets, pancakes and eggs benedict, as well as the jalapeño bacon that’s an option. My favorite thing to order right now, though, is the country fried steak.
SuperWok is our lunch-time obsession now, seeing that my colleagues and I have been alternating between here and one or two other local options weekly. While ordering a bento at a Chinese restaurant is strange, it’s one of the best deals out there. All said and done you’re at about $8 for the bento which comes with orange wedges, a salad with ginger dressing, and egg roll and your choice of entree plus a drink. But don’t stop there, come in for dinner or at least order the dumplings with chili oil as you appetizer and get a glimpse of the authentic dishes.
Sola Coffee Cafe takes my top honors for Triangle coffee shop for a few reasons. The drinks are consistently good, the interior is really comfortable and homey, and the owners are very involved, friendly, and engaged with the community. The syrups they use are homemade, and you should definitely try some of their food, including the new toasts on the menu.