The 8 Best Kept Secret Restaurants in Raleigh

You didn’t hear it from us, but these are the hidden gems you should go to next.

No matter what city you go to, you will find new restaurants offering exciting, innovative cuisine and flashy, insta-worthy decor. These places are great, but let’s not forget about the spots that have stuck around for generations, doing what they know and doing it the best. Raleigh is one city that has so many hidden gems we probably won’t fit them all on this list! Read on to see some of the best kept secret restaurants in Raleigh, and maybe you’ll want to stop at one of these spots the next time you're in town.

Image courtesy of The Original Char-Grill on Facebook.

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1. Char-Grill

The best burgers in Raleigh

618 Hillsborough St | Raleigh | 

You may ask yourself how, if these are the best burgers in Raleigh, have you never heard of them? The simple answer to this is because it’s a small, no-frills joint that your eyes might gloss over. But if you give it a closer look, you’ll see that you have to order old school - you pick up a tiny yellow pencil, check off what you want on an order sheet, and slip it through the slot on the window. That you can watch your fresh, delicious hamburger patty being cooked over charcoal flames through the window. That they’ve been serving the best burgers in Raleigh since 1959, and you are now lucky enough to know about it, too.

Get the 1/2 LB Hamburger Steak Sandwich - their famous thick, juicy burger served on a sesame seed bun with french fries and a medium drink. Their chocolate or vanilla milkshakes are a must. Insider tip: for a chocolate vanilla swirl milkshake, write “zebra” on your order card next to your milkshake size. 

You can purchase a GiftYa for Char-Grill here!

“I got the halfpounder and was STOKED. Took a little while, but that's GOOD, that means they're freshly preparing YOUR burger. Very nice crust on the outside of the patty. Good charcoaly flavor. Moist and hot, what more can you ask for?” - Yelp Review 

2. Cloos’ Coney Island

These hot dogs are a favorite among NC State students

2233 Avent Ferry Rd | Raleigh |

This spot has been a favorite among NC State students for decades for both its retro atmosphere (checked floors, diner stools and pinball machine included) and its hot dogs and fries. 

Since 1988, students and other restaurant-goers have been loving the Coney Dog (and its price of only $2.95!). This hot dog is served with chili, mustard, and onions in a steamed bun. Other menu items include polish sausage, burgers, philly cheese steak, and chili-cheese fries, and even tacos and burritos!

Don’t forget to order a Fresh Squeezed Lemonade or Orangeade (we prefer Orangeade!) to go with your dog.

You can purchase a GiftYa for Cloos’ Coney Island here!

“Always the best. Been coming here for 14 years, ever since my freshman year of college. Everything is good, but my go-to is the chicken pita and chili cheese fries.” - Yelp Review

3. The Community Deli

Sandwich joint with dollar dog Wednesdays

901 Oberlin Rd | Raleigh | 

Breakfast is served all day at this deli (open nearly a hundred years!). Get a bacon, sausage, or country ham, egg, and cheese sandwich on toast, biscuit, bagel, or english muffin. Or opt for a breakfast plate with two eggs; grits or hashbrowns; toast, english muffin, or biscuit; and your choice of meat.

If you stop in for lunch, choose from a wide variety of sandwiches and homemade soups. You can’t go wrong with any sandwich really, but we especially love the Homemade Egg Salad Sandwich and the Reuben.

Don’t skip out on lunch dessert! Choose a homemade brownie or cookie to satisfy that post-lunch sweet craving. 

Come on Wednesday for their dollar dogs special - that’s right, one dollar hot dogs! They’re served the right way - with chili, mustard, and onion.

You can purchase a GiftYa for The Community Deli here!

“This place is a gem! My food was so good, I would have thought it came directly from my mother's kitchen. I plan on ordering their breakfasts as often as possible.” - Yelp Review

4. The Rockford

Urban bistro serving locally-sourced bites

320 1/2 Glenwood Ave | Raleigh |

Located up a flight of inconspicuous stairs, is this urban bistro. It’s loved among the locals for its laid-back atmosphere and locally-sourced “blue-collar gourmet” bites.

Their Tuna Sashimi, Brussels, and Pork Belly Empanadas are delicious small places designed for sharing, while their Fox Farm Mushroom Stir Fry and Rockford Burger are proper dinner plates you’ll want to keep all to yourself.

You have to get their Signature Southern-Style Bread Pudding for dessert. It’s made with brioche bread, pecans, and bourbon caramel sauce. Yum!

Persephone’s Nectar, made with gin, cilantro, cucumber, lime and absinthe, is our go-to cocktail, but we also love the Love to Love Ya, made with Tito’s, lavender, ginger, lemon, and sparkling rosé.

Come for brunch to experience the Tepuy Donuts and famous Breakfast Burrito!

You can purchase a GiftYa for The Rockford here!

“When someone asks me what my favorite restaurant is, I now without hesitation say The Rockford thanks to Chef Ruiz and those steak frites. It's become a joke with my friends that this is the only place I suggest going.” - Yelp Review

5. Waraji Japanese Restaurant

Authentic sushi in the Triangle with over 100 varieties of Sake

5910 Duraleigh Road | Raleigh | 

Waraji started with Masatoshi Tsujimura, born in Shimonoseki, a major fishing village in western Japan. Masa worked as a chef at one of the first sushi bars in North Carolina before opening his own restaurant, Waraji. His goal was to bring authentic Japanese cuisine to the Triangle with his own authentic sushi place.

This past summer, he passed the torch to Reuben Rodillas who has spent more than three decades developing his expertise in sushi and restaurant operations. 

Waraji offers the freshest, most authentic Japanese in the Triangle. They not only offer an extensive selection of sushi, sashimi, and authentic Japanese cuisine, but they also have the largest Sake selection in the Carolinas! (Think over 100 different varieties of Sake!)

Order the Mary Roll, a sesame seed California roll topped with a spicy tuna mixture. 

As for Sake, just ask your server for drink recommendations to pair well with your meal. Or order the Featured Premium Sake Flight - four featured Sakes hand picked each month by Chef Masa.

You can purchase a GiftYa for Waraji Japanese Restaurant here!

“Japanese-owned restaurants are sooo difficult to find in NC, but this one's my go-to place and it's absolutely delicious! From the tempura, to the soba, to the ika geso, you'll be missing out if you only try out their delicious sushi.” - Yelp Review 

6. The Fiction Kitchen

100% vegan kitchen in Downtown Raleigh

428 S Dawson St | Raleigh | 

This 100% vegan kitchen is a favorite among non-meat eaters and meat eaters alike. From Mozzarella Sticks, made with housemade vegan mozzarella dredged in seasoned panko and deep fried and served with marinara, to curry bowls and peanut noodle bowls, Fiction Kitchen has your healthy and not so healthy vegan cravings covered. 

The Chicken and Waffles is a favorite among guests. The marinated, herb seasoned hand dredged and fried mock chicken tastes like the real thing, and the belgian waffle is its absolutely delicious partner. It’s dressed in arugula and served with maple syrup and seasonal fruit.

House cocktails include the BLVD, boulevardier with bourbon, cynar, bebop liqueur, and lemon expression, the Fizzy Garden, gin or vodka with jalapeno mint basil shrub, beet syrup, citrus, and soda water, and the Mezcall Me By Your Name, mezcal, pama liqueur, orange juice, lime, and peychaud’s bitters served with a black salt rim. Our fall favorite is the She’s My Apple Pie, white or red sangria, black strap rum, apple pie spice and citrus!

For dessert there’s Truffle’s & Mousse, locally made Videri dark chocolate truffles rolled in black pepper almonds and served with chocolate mousse and salted caramel, as well as Seasonal Cheesecake and Tres Leches. We love that they have a vegan version of Tres Leches - that’s hard to find!

You can purchase a GiftYa for The Fiction Kitchen here!

“As a visitor from out of state, this place and the staff made me feel welcomed. Smiles and hellos abound. The interior is bright and inviting. For the food, I wish I could try it all! Fantastic meal.” - Yelp Review

7. Chubby’s Tacos

Under the radar Mexican spot 

2444 Wycliff Rd | Raleigh | 

This Mexican spot has been kept fairly under the radar, starting with its days as a taco stand. Although Chubby’s is now a chain with locations in Raleigh, Durham, and Myrtle Beach, they have stayed true to true taco stand fare. 

Some menu favorites are Carlito’s Chubby Chile Relleno Taco, the Spicy Tinga Chicken taco, and the Baja Fish taco. You can also get burritos, bowls, nachos, enchiladas, quesadillas, fajitas, tortas, and the “Chubby” Changa, a deep fried tortilla with cheese, queso, and your choice of protein.

Their salsa bar is a real hit, featuring 8 different salsas made to ensure that you experience a fiesta in your mouth with each bite. 

They also have plant-based options, a kids menu, and a variety of delicious desserts. 

Now let’s talk drinks. They have Corona Extra, Modelo Especial, Dos Equis Amber Corona Light, and Cigar City Jai Alai on tap, Frozen Strawberry and Traditional margs, as well as bottles sodas and fountain beverages.

You can purchase a GiftYa for Chubby’s Tacos here!

“So good we went back a second time! Got chicken taco and chubby's chonga was amazing and his special salsa was spicy but a nice kick and the customer service was very good!” - Yelp Review 

8. Humble Pie Restaurant

Delectable brunch offerings

317 S Harrington St | Raleigh |

Fitting with its name, Humble Pie Restaurant is a secret spot in Raleigh boasting delectable brunch offerings. They specialize in “chef-inspired dinner fare meant to share,” and serve a fresh, eclectic menu of food procured from local and select vendors. 

You can sit on the beautiful, covered patio on a Sunday morning to enjoy their brunch. Their Breakfast Tacos are a popular favorite, while their Humble Breakfast and Cornmeal Waffle are some understated plates. Make sure at least one person gets the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich with lettuce, mayo, and chipotle honey on a Martin’s potato roll so everyone can take at least one bite! Don’t forget to order fresh berries for the table! 

Come for dinner if you want a good Buttermilk Fried Chicken or French Onion Soup. Be sure to get the Homemade Sourdough topped with grass fed butter to start. Finish with the Rum and Golden Raisin Bread Pudding if you want to leave satisfied!

You can purchase a GiftYa for Humble Pie Restaurant here!

“Brunch here this past Sunday was beyond amazing. The crispy potatoes are bites of heaven if you're a lover of the SPUD. They are served with chipotle ketchup for a spicy kick. The biscuits are the star though. 10 outta 10.” - Yelp Review

Now that you know all of the best kept secret restaurants in Raleigh, which are you going to go to first? Let us know in the comments, we love to hear from you!

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Trae Bodge

Trae Bodge is the shopping expert here at GiftYa. Trae helps people find the best deals and ideas on popular new items to purchase.

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