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Ethnic Food in Raleigh and beyond?

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Like so many others, I am considering relocating to Raleigh. I live in Los Angeles where the food is incredibly diverse and there is nothing that my family won’t eat. My husband is Jewish and my girls are Chinese and we love everything from Korean to Ethiopian to Moroccan to Russian. You name it, we eat it. I want to see whatever ethnic neighborhood restaurants may exist. Doesn’t have to be fancy. I like authentic, hole in the wall places where when I walk in as a Caucasian female the owners think that I am lost. Please tell me that this type of place exists there or I am not sure I could move.

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  1. without getting into details you will find ethnic food restarants in raleigh a little fewer in raligh. That given you will find three or four authentic chinese restarants, and if taking durham and chapel hill into the mix, not far away by L.A. standards, you will also find some good Korean, Ehipian, jamacian, indian and middle eastern. Not to forget about all the good authentic mexican tacoreias.

    Go through past posts on this board for the details.

    1. I don't know LA, but I expect you're not going to find the same thing here. We have several good ethnic places, but it's definitely more limited than what you're going to find in a big city. That said, there are plenty of authentic mexican places in durham - not sure about raleigh - a couple of fun korean hole-in-the-walls, excellent indian, but truly, because of location you're just not going to find the variety of Asian restaurants. I'm lowering your expectations in a realistic way, but there are some fun places here and there. You're going to feel so rich here compared to LA, that's for sure. Good luck making your decision.

      7 Replies
      1. re: suse

        The population of Raleigh is ~350,000. Add in the other cities that make up the Triangle (Durham: 210,000, Cary: 110,000, Chapel Hill/Carrboro: 65,000, Apex/Morrisville: 45,000, etc) and you still wind up well short of a million people (closer to 800,000). The LA metro area is, what, around 13 million people?

        So I don't think we need to apologize for having fewer selections in certain areas. I'd kind of lean the other way, in fact, and say that for a city in the outer rings of the deep south, we've had an explosion of good ethnic restaurants over the past 15 years.

        it's definitely true that you don't really want to talk about ethnic food and limit the conversation to Raleigh. A lot of the action in that area is on the Cary/Morrisville/Durham axis, because those towns all border on Research Triangle Park, which is a huge magnet for high-tech workers from all over the world, particularly from Asia.

        So there's this one-mile-radius section of Cary where you'll find multiple good Indian restaurants (as well as an arthouse cinema that shows Bollywood films), plus Korean, Japanese & Thai, plus a couple of taquerias.

        Likewise, in the section of South Durham that directly adjoins RTP, there are 2 excellent Korean restaurants within a quarter-mile of each other, 3 Thai restaurants (none of them really all that great, unfortunately), several Indian restaurants (plus a Nepalese joint that's due to open any day now, I think), good Vietnamese, some good sushi, etc.

        At various other spots around the Triangle, you'll find Ethiopian, a mysterious Kenyan/Hawaiian (unless they've changed again), quite a few more Thai restaurants, some of which may be good, although if you ask about them on this board, you'll get decidedly mixed reactions about all of them. Also about a dozen authentic taquerias, some of which are great, and some of which are just plain old people-gotta-eat joints.

        We are sorely lacking decent authentic Chinese. There are one or two places that come reasonably close. There are about 100 places that serve the Americanized glop. There are quite a few upscale asian-fusion or asian-inspired places that do interesting things with asian flavors & ingredients, but that's a whole different thread/question.

        I don't know that I'd characterize any of these aforementioned ethnic places as being world-class, although I think one or two of the Indian restaurants, and maybe one or two of the taquerias, come close to being impressive enough to boast about to out-of-towners. This is probably reflective mostly of how many native consumers of each cuisine are living here now.

        There is probably less of the indigenous NC cuisine (BBQ and its cousin, "country"/soul food) than you'd expect, but probably more than in LA, and some of it's still pretty good.

        If you guys are truly used to being LA chowhounds & driving around seeking out amazing hole-in-the-wall joints, then you will probably be disappointed. The Triangle, while getting more diverse by the day, is nowhere near the polyglot paradise that LA is. I've only done one decent-length LA trip, and the food was the highlight of it (well, that and the architecture). Mostly we're just a lot smaller, so generally speaking, if a good (or even not-so-good) new ethnic joint opens up, it takes about 20 minutes for Chowhound to be abuzz about it, because we've all already eaten at all the rest of them. ;-)

        But given our comparative size, I think we do pretty well for ourselves. We're also close enough to Atlanta and DC that one can think of excuses to make weekend jaunts to both of those cities (we're hitting both of 'em on consecutive weekends in April, actually).

        I moved here from Houston in 1992, and while there are still things I miss about Houston, food being one of them, I really do think we've come a long way, foodwise, over the past 15 years. And this area is superior in so many other ways that I think we come out just fine in the balance.

        1. re: rossgrady

          Wow, nice response rossgrady. All I can say is "what he said". We are certainly not LA or NYC, but we do pretty well for our size and location. I have certainly been taken to ethnic places in much larger cities (even NYC and LA) where the locals went on and on about how it was the best anywhere and I thought "wow, I can get better at home". We do lack the subvarieties from various parts of the world (I moved here from DC and miss, for instance, nepalese food ...glad to hear one is coming!). We also, as rossgrady notes, are oddly lacking in good authentic chinese, although there are some bright spots. Some things, such as sushi and central and south american (not just mexican) are as good as you are going to get anywhere.
          And there we are certainly not lacking in great restaurants overall.

          There are also lots of great ethnic groceries for ingredients if you want to cook ethnic at home.

          My husband moved here from LA 11 years ago and has not looked back. As rossgrady says, there are lots of other things that make it worth living here. Let us know where in Raleigh you will be living and we will point you to the closest places to try first.

          I can tell you one thing, if you want to go out for ethnic food here, it will certainly not take you as long to get there! Unless you are doing it at rush hour!

          1. re: VaNC

            Ok, let me rephrase the question. If one were to name their favorite, jones for when it has been too long "hole in the wall" place in the triangle area what would it be? Any type of food is fine.

            1. re: lollywoosh

              Vit Goal Tofu Restaurant. (Korean)Hands down.

              1. re: lollywoosh

                There are certainly places in this town where this caucasian female walks in with three small kids and am the only English speaker in the place and the people give me wierd looks (yes, like I am lost) and then eagerly try to help the kids order. My problem in directing you is that I am bad with place and street names. There is a BP station on Capital Blvd that has a great lunch counter...I often have no idea what I am eating and just point, but the food is GREAT. It is "mexican" for lack of a better designation. Another favorite is the lady that has the stand outside the mexican food store on North Market Square (off Wake Forest). I think she is just there on Saturdays. She freaked when my 8 year old and I sat on the curb and ate our food. Hey, all the chairs were taken!
                I love Neomonde, which started as a hole in the wall, but now has fancied up a bit and has two locations. There basic middle eastern (you know, hummus, etc) is great, but what I love is to go for dinner and get whatever main dish they are serving that night. All have been incredible. My sister is a chef in Seattle and insists we go to Neomonde every time she is here.

                Cary has some stellar Indian, including Udipi (vegetarian) and Succhi, plus I know people are raving about a new Indian street food place, but I have not tried it.

                Not much time to post right now, but may post others as I think of them. I am sure you will get other info too.

                1. re: lollywoosh

                  Hot dogs at the Roast Grill: http://www.roastgrill.com/
                  Bahn Mi at Dalat.
                  Pho at 9N9, although since it's right down the road from my office, it never gets long enough to have been too long.
                  Wednesday vegetarian special at Banh's.
                  BBQ tray at the Barbeque Joint (I'd say Allen & Sons but I'm never in that neighborhood when they're open, seems like, so I choose to pretend I don't know how good they are, so I don't have to regret missing them
                  )African Tuna & Peanut Butter (or bacon!) at Skylight Exchange.
                  Paletas at LocoPops
                  Definitely the tofu soup at Vit Goal (mmm, oyster is my fave)
                  I always forget how good the baba ghanoush at Med Deli is, until I wind up going in there absentmindedly because it's convenient, and then I remember & get really happy.
                  Until I get diagnosed with congestive heart failure & have to quit, the cabeza tacos at Taqueria Lopez: http://www.tacolopez.bravehost.com/
                  Check out this thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/332547
                  Also this one: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/328908
                  Ooh, and this "meals under $10" thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/349482

                  1. re: rossgrady

                    ross - I'm anothe fan of the African Tuna at the Skylight Exchange.