7 Famous Restaurants in Raleigh, NC to Try on Your Next Visit

Raleigh, NC is known for its museums, universities, arts, and most importantly, at least to us, cuisine. We’ve done some digging and found the 7 most famous restaurants in Raleigh grounded in reviews, menu items, and atmosphere. Keep reading to see which of the 7 famous restaurants in Raleigh, NC you want to try on your next visit!

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1. Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken

Veteran, minority, and family-owned chain serving signature Peruvian-style chicken.

4614 Capital Blvd | Raleigh | alpacachicken.com 

This veteran, minority, and family-owned business serves signature Peruvian-style chicken across North Carolina. If you check out their location in Raleigh, you will find chicken being slow cooked over natural wood charcoal in their signature custom-made rotisserie oven, favorite Peruvian entrées such as Arroz Chaufa and Lomo Saltado, and freshly made Latin-inspired sides such as yuca fries, maduros (sweet plantains), tostones, and rice and beans.

What else do we love about this Raleigh restaurant? They use only chickens free of any added hormones and any FDA allergens. Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken also provides an allergen guide so you see what’s gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegan, or vegetarian on their menu.

Be sure to try the signature Pervuian soda Inca Kola—Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken is the only restaurant to have it on tap in the U.S.! And we can’t recommend trying their Alfajores for dessert. This sweet dessert consists of two soft sugar cookies filled with Dulce de Leche and topped with powdered sugar. You won’t find anything else like it!

“I have been sleeping on Alpaca!! The chicken is oh so good! Not super salty and so full of flavor… They chop it right there in front of you… The two yellow and green sauces… make the chicken pop even more.” - Yelp Review 

Purchase a GiftYa for Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken here.

2. HighTop Burger

Modern take on a classic burger joint.

2330 Bale St | Raleigh | hightopburger.com 

What is a modern take on a classic burger joint? For one, they have Impossible Burgers for the vegans and vegetarians in your group. For another, every burger is smashed to order, served with housemade pickles, and topped with their signature High Sauce. A HighTop burger is guaranteed to be better than your typical burger joint.

Let’s dig into the menu a little bit more. Their most popular items are the HIGHburger—a build-your-own smashburger with quarter pound angus beef patties, HIGHfries—skin-on cut potatoes seasoned with herbs, and HIGHtots—not your typical tater tots, but rather pillowy potatoes filled with cheese and bacon. Guests also love the build-your-own HIGHdog, which is a 100% all beef hot dog butterflied and served on a Martin’s Potato Roll.

We just love the atmosphere at HighTop Burger as well. Inside, they have old-school stools at high top tables (no pun intended) and fun wall art. While outside, they have patio seating and yard games like cornhole.

This is a great place to go with friends for some fun food and good vibes!

“Another delicious meal from HighTop… I got a single impossible burger. It was delicious. Then I got an order of fries. They were burn your mouth hot (which is how I like them) and the spice and frying were perfect.” - Yelp Review 

Purchase a GiftYa for HighTop Burger here.

3. Che Empanadas

Authentic Argentinian empanadas.

500 E Davie St | Raleigh | cheempanadas.com 

If you want the best Argentinian empanadas this side of Buenos Aires, you need to go to Che Empanadas. The Che Empanadas restaurant is a little corner of Argentina right here in Raleigh, and they serve authentic Argentinian empanadas perfect for parties, business lunches, weddings, and enjoying at their location at Transfer Co. in Downtown Raleigh. 

They offer meat, veggie, and special empanadas. Their most popular meat-filled empanadas are the Pollo (Chicken)—chicken, onions, red bell pepper, hard-boiled egg, green olives, and spices, the Carne (Beef)—ground beef, onions, hard-boiled egg, green onions, red bell pepper, green olives, and spices, and the Carne Dulce (Sweet Beef)—ground beef, onions, green onions, raisins, hard-boiled egg, red bell pepper, green olives, and spices. However their Bacon, Egg, and Cheese empanada is an American-ized empanada that many guests enjoy for breakfast instead of a bagel.

As for their veggie empanadas, their Kale & Mushroom and their Lentil & Sweet Potato are both delicious and both vegan! Their special empanadas include their Potato & Onion Knish (also vegan), their Prune & Pancetta—prune, pancetta, and mozzarella, and their Pulled Pork—pork and hard boiled egg, a must-try with their chimichurri!

Che Empanadas has both indoor and outdoor seating, but we are partial to their patio seating area complete with yellow umbrellas and string lights! Wherever you choose to sit, we promise you will enjoy the empanadas, drinks, and desserts this restaurant has to offer!

“Over everything I ate from every place they stole the show! They were all a 10/10 but my favorite out of them was actually the brisket empanada. 10000000/10. Definitely come here if you're at this food hall!!! So worth it.” - Yelp Review 

Purchase a GiftYa for Che Empanadas here.

4. Umami Asian Bistro

Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar.

2420 Hillsborough St | Raleigh | umami-nc.com 

It’s about time we mentioned a sushi restaurant! Umami Asian Bistro is a Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar located in the heart of “Wolfpack Nation.” In other words, it’s directly across from NC State University's Main Campus.

On Umami’s sushi menu, you will find classic rolls as well as signature rolls like the Wolfpack Roll—reverse roll with tuna, spicy mayo, masago, and scallions, served atop a Crunchy California Roll. On their not-sushi menu, you’ll find their signature Umami Wings—Asian style fried wings tossed in your choice of Zing, Sweet Chili, or Bang sauce, as well as Teppan, Ramen, and Fried Rice bowls.

If you’re still hungry after dinner, be sure to order one of their signature dessert waffles for a sweet treat. As Oreo lovers, our favorite is the Ore..O..M..G..—a toasted Belgian waffle topped with Oreo icing, Oreo pieces, chocolate sauce, and powdered sugar. If you aren’t a chocolate person, try their Strawberry Cheesecake dessert waffle—a toasted Belgian waffle with cream cheese icing, fresh strawberries, strawberry jam, graham cracker crunch, and white chocolate chips.

In terms of atmosphere, Umami Asian Bistro can best be described as industrial cozy—complete with modern tables and light fixtures and brick walls with artsy murals.

“Great atmosphere and food. The owners are super friendly and courteous. They have lots of special events to support lgbtq community. They have great space. Cool outdoor spaces upstairs and lots of reclaimed wood everywhere. Love it.” - Yelp Review 

Purchase a GiftYa for Umami Asian Bistro here.

5. El Cerro Bar & Grill

Mexican restaurant serving authentic food and huge margaritas.

2217 Avent Ferry Rd | Raleigh | elcerrobarandgrill.com 

If you want delicious, authentic Mexican food and drink in a no-frills setting, El Cerro Bar & Grill is the place to go. This Raleigh restaurant serves authentic Mexican entrees such as enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas, burritos, and nachos, as well as delicious margaritas. This is a great spot for drinks with friends or to eat some good food while you watch the game on one of their many TVs. If you are a student nearby, be sure to bring your student ID for 10% off your meal!

Menu favorites include the Fajitas—grilled chicken, steak strips, or mixed sauteed with bell peppers, onions and tomatoes served with rice, refried beans, guacamole, salad, sour cream, and flour tortillas, the Burrito Azteca Plate—burrito filled with grilled chicken, steak, shrimp and vegetables topped with 1/3 green sauce 1/3 cheese sauce, and 1/3 red sauce, and the Nachos Tapatios—cheese nachos topped with grilled chicken, steak strips, shrimp, cheese dip, rice, beans, and sour cream. However, you really can’t go wrong with any of their authentic plates.

“I ordered Nachos Tapatios which was a huge plate of steak, chicken and shrimp over chips  smothered in queso. Husband got a huge Burrito Azteca smothered in three different sauces. Yes, we ate it all. Delish. Great service; happy tummies.” - Yelp Review

Purchase a GiftYa for El Cerro Bar & Grill here.

6. Frank’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant

NY-style pizza, traditional Italian dishes, Philly cheesesteaks, and more.

2030 New Bern Ave | Raleigh | frankspizzainraleigh.com 

For more than thirty years, Frank's Pizza & Italian Restaurant has been one of Raleigh's best known secrets. It’s about time you got in on the secret and tried their NY-style pizza, traditional Italian dishes, Philly cheesesteaks, and more!

If you want New York-style thin crust pizza, a plain cheese pie will hit the spot. However, if you want to try one of their signature pies, the Buffalo Chicken is where it’s at. The Buffalo Chicken comes topped with extra mozzarella cheese, chicken, onion, celery, and Hot Buffalo sauce. It’s a little spicy, but if you think you can handle it we highly recommend it. You can also use a lot of ranch for dipping! 

Their Italian dishes include all of your favorites, from Lasagna to Chicken Parm. If you’re in need of a comfort meal, you should definitely consider ordering one of their authentic Italian dishes. If you’re craving a juicy Philly Steak Sandwich, they’ve got that too, as well as a variety of other sandwiches.

“The food is delicious, homemade, and inexpensive. We got an order of the baked spaghetti and the baked ziti. Both were delicious, and we topped it off with a dessert of tiramisu and limoncello cake. An absolutely perfect meal!” - Yelp Review 

Purchase a GiftYa for Frank’s Pizza & Italian restaurant here.

7. Jose and Sons

Mexican restaurant with fresh seafood and tropical cocktails.

4112 Pleasant Valley Rd | Raleigh | joseandsons.com 

This Mexican restaurant is known for their fresh seafood (they use the bounties brought in by the local fishermen) and tropical cocktails. Jose and Sons also has amazing vibes—just check out their Instagram for yourself! There’s always a crowd, the decor and lighting is on point, and there are lush plants and beautiful artwork everywhere.

Let’s take a look at the menu. Some favorites are Enchiladas Del Mar, Fish Tacos, Crank Arm Barbacoa, and Pork Belly. We personally love the Quesabirria—a quesadilla meets birria tacos with tortillas, birria broth, melted cheese, goat birria, onions, and cilantro.

For margaritas, we recommend The Rock—teremana silver, agave nectar, orange liquor, and fresh lime juice or the Como La Flor—teremana reposado, fresh hibiscus juice, fresh lime juice, and agave nectar.

“The food is DELICIOUS!! I had the Carnitas enchiladas and they were FIRE!! My eyes were bigger than my belly on the beer, but the 36 ounce draught fin alt went down too! Cold beer, great food, you cannot go wrong here!!” - Yelp Review 

Purchase a GiftYa for Jose and Sons here.

Let us know in the comments which of these famous restaurants in Raleigh, NC you try first. Will it be authentic Peruvian chicken at Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken, modern HIGHburgers and HIGHfries at HighTop Burgers, or innovative Quesabirrias at Jose and Sons? Whichever restaurant you choose, you are sure to enjoy a meal that will leave you wanting more of Raleigh and its delicious cuisine.

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