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5 Best Foodie Cities in North Carolina

If you consider yourself a “foodie,” you may gravitate toward larger cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami when looking for the next place to get your foodie-fix. But, it’s time to think outside the box and check out these North Carolina cities, both small and large, that have some of the best dining establishments in the region and in some cases, the country. Whether you’re into authentic Southern comfort food or prefer modern, more contemporary fare, there is something in the Tarheel state for every palette.

Asheville Try the
Credit: Try the "Shoo Mercy" sweet potato pancakes at Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville. by www.facebook.com

Asheville

Known affectionately by its locals as “weird,” Asheville has a unique and eclectic vibe that is like no other. And that same vibe carries over into the variety of food that is available in the beautiful mountain town. In fact, in 2017, Asheville was named one of the “30 Most Exciting Food Cities in America” by Zagat. You can choose from Spanish-style tapas at Curate, vegetarian cuisine at the Laughing Seed Café and French fare with a mountain view at the Omni Grove Park Inn’s Vue 1913. Or for an authentic local experience, try the biscuits and fried green tomatoes at Biscuit Head or the “Shoo Mercy” sweet potato pancakes and a jalapeno-infused moonshine bloody mary at Tupelo Honey Café.

Raleigh Poole's Downtown Diner is famous for their macaroni and cheese au gratin.
Credit: Poole's Downtown Diner is famous for their macaroni and cheese au gratin. by www.facebook.com

Raleigh

Also on Zagat’s list of “30 Most Exciting Food Cities in America,” is Raleigh, NC, which ranked in at #12, above big-time competitors, New York and Miami! Foodies will love this Southern city for the chefs that are making it their home. Ashley Christensen, who was named as a James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Chef, owns Poole’s Downtown Diner – an unassuming spot in downtown Raleigh that was named one of America’s Essential Restaurants by Eater two years in a row. Although the outside (and the inside) resemble nothing more than your average diner, the menu does not, as you’ll find plenty of reimagined versions of Southern comfort food like macaroni and cheese. Other spots to check out in Raleigh include Herons and Garland, whose chefs also received nominations for Best Chef in the Southeast region.

Durham Monuts Donuts offers homemade donuts and other bakery treats, as well as breakfast and lunch.
Credit: Monuts Donuts offers homemade donuts and other bakery treats, as well as breakfast and lunch. by www.facebook.com

Durham

If you’re looking for the South’s “tastiest town” (according to Southern Living Magazine), look no further than Durham, NC. Considered one of the hottest food destinations in the South, Durham is a unique mix of the old and the new. You can still see traces of the town’s past in the tobacco industry, as several of the former tobacco warehouses have now transformed into thriving developments with bars, restaurants and music venues. Although you will find some fine dining here, the real buzz is around the artisan creations – places like Monuts Donuts that serves an eclectic mix of homemade donuts, breakfast and lunch items, as well as beer and cocktails, and Harvest 18, where you’ll find unique takes on Southern classics like cornmeal-crusted catfish, bacon braised collard greens and glazed donut bread pudding.

Davidson Kindred was named one of the Best New Restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit.
Credit: Kindred was named one of the Best New Restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit. by www.facebook.com

Davidson

Davidson, NC may be a much smaller town (home to just around 12,000 people), but it’s a must-do stop for foodies because of one particular restaurant – Kindred. This quaint little spot on Main Street in downtown Davidson has not only become a favorite with locals, but has also garnered national attention. It was voted as one of the Best New Restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit in 2015. Owned and operated by husband and wife chef team, Joe and Katy Kindred, the menu is a reflection of their experiences travelling the world and working in fine dining establishments. Although the menu changes regularly, you can expect to find everything from soups and salads, to pastas, seafood and beef. Make sure to try their infamous homemade milk bread, served with house cultured butter and fleur du sel.

Charlotte Charlotte favorite, O-Ku Sushi serves authentic Asian cuisine with a Southern flair.
Credit: Charlotte favorite, O-Ku Sushi serves authentic Asian cuisine with a Southern flair. by www.facebook.com

Charlotte

Just 30 minutes south of Davidson, the “Queen City” is another top stop for foodies, thanks to all of the up-and-coming chefs and accomplished big city chefs that are shifting their focus to Charlotte from places like New York and San Francisco. Places like Yafo Kitchen, a Mediterranean restaurant that serves up fresh, homemade dishes with bold flavors, and O-Ku Sushi, which combines authentic Asian cuisine with Southern flair in dishes like the Potato Roll – a sushi roll with tempura shrimp, avocado, eel sauce, sweet chili mango and shoestring French fries. For dessert, you’ll also want to check out Amelie’s French Bakery and Café, a local favorite that offers up three display cases full of decadent treats like tarts, eclairs, macaroons, croissants and cookies. Make sure to try their salted caramel brownie, which is so famous, they’ve sold over 1 million so far.

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