I’ve been meaning to get to Raleigh, North Carolina forever. Besides visiting friends in the area, I’ve heard endlessly about their amazing barbecue and southern charm and hospitality. In the end, five days was not enough (is it ever?) and I came back happy (and probably weighing a bit more…). Here, my quick hits for food, culture and shopping. It is by no means an exhaustive list:
- Beasleys Chicken + Honey
Wow. I wish I had been hungrier at this lunch, but the chicken biscuit with fried green tomato, dijon and honey was perfection. And I don’t even like dark meat. But the whole damn thing was gone in a flash.
- North Carolina Museum of Art
Gorgeous works here, with an amazing catalog of Rodin sculptures and an impressive Baroque collection — including Italian (this isn’t as prevalent in the US as I and my Baroque prof would hope). Contemporary art, plenty of Egyptian artifacts and even Judaic art (a nice surprise), along with a commendable classical collection make this a nicely rounded museum. The fact that it’s free is remarkable to someone used to Chicago institutions! Check out the adjacent sculpture park, too.
- Joule Coffee & Table
Flaky, buttery biscuits. Thick, savory gravy that I’m sure is clogging my arteries. Awesome coffee. That’s really all you need to know, aside from the fact that a lot of folks seem to camp out here to work (my favorite), and it’s a very pleasant atmosphere. Would love to try their coffee cocktails. Owned by the same folks as Beasleys, so they’re onto something good.
- International Civil Rights Center and Museum
Ok, I cheated here. This is really in Greensboro, a good hour and a half drive from Raleigh. But its bustling downtown and amazing museum are worth the hike. Based in the same building as the Woolworths where one of segregation’s greatest protests played out, the lunch counter is infamous, and for good reason. Though the marquee remains, the countertop and its seats, plus the floor and walls (including signs for 15 cent coffee) were preserved as they once were. Around this is the museum, with a primer on the origins of racism in this country and a thoroughly well-done, interactive set of exhibits that show even the grisly parts of this history. It’s not intended to shock but simply remind us not to repeat mistakes of the past. Beautifully created and worth the $12 guided tour fee. And yes, I’d take the kids.
- Cameron Village
I’m gonna shop; that’s just how it is. These few blocks of independent boutiques, consignment shops and restaurants fits probably every thing you would need. I loved The Impeccable Pig, The Local Squirrel, Penzey’s Spices (always a favorite), Sugarland (those cupcakes and gelato!), Tazza Kitchen (delicious) and Ivy & Leo (cute + well-priced). It’s worth a stroll.
- The Pit Authentic Barbecue
There are two locations, with the other in Durham, though the overall Empire restaurant group has several restaurants. I loved the pulled pork, macaroni and cheese and Brussels sprouts (my one concession to healthy eating). Add in one of their three sauces — Eastern (more vinegar-based and I adored it), Western (tomato-based), or jalapeño (my favorite, and I had to ask for it, so I hope it’s not a one-off). Had their Pit Wit beer, brewed locally, and bourbon ice cream. You may need a long walk after this stop.
- Cafe de los Muertos
Cute, indie coffee shop with great coffee and friendly locals.
Jam-packed shop with unique goods from local artisans. Fun, and satisfies any touristy needs in one fell swoop.