College Birthday in Raleigh NC
I go to NC State and am turning 21 in February. I'm looking for a restaurant we can go out to where I can get drinks that are good, but the food is also very good because a lot of my friends have not hit 21 yet. I'm looking for somewhere that is in the $20-$30 price range for food. Also, not a jeans and t-shirt place. I've heard many places downtown are good, but I've only been to Sushi Blues and that's not what I'm looking for in a birthday. There are some vegetarians in the group.
You might consider Rio Churrascaria in Cary (just off Hwy 1 at Hwy 64). They have wine and cocktails and is very convenient for a group function. For college age people with big appetites, it's great, since it is all you can eat for a fixed price. They have a large salads and cold appetizers bar that everyone can start with and the vegetarians can stay with. The meat eaters choose from cuts of different grilled meats that are carried around by constantly cycling waiters. When you see something you like, they slice you off a piece. Everybody knows what they are going to pay up front (minus the drinks) and it is easy to have a fun dinner with plenty of conversation without having to do the whole menu selection thing or leave the table to go to a buffet line. Included sides are potatoes, rice, and beans.
There are other similar places, but I'm familiar with the Cary location. The ambience there should be good as well. Nice, but not overly formal. They also have a private room if you have a serious sized group.
The bill is likely to be on the high side of your range, unfortunately. I haven't been there in a while, but I think dinner was around $32 or so. If you can swing a lunch function, it's cheaper.
Churrascuro is fun for a group, and there is plenty for vegetarians to eat, but just FYI, the vegetarians might be kind of grossed out by the giant greasy hunks of meat constantly circling the dining room and being offered over your shoulder.
I'd recommend Porter's, though that may be old news to NCSU students. The food is good, and the prices are moderate. Frazier's is probably too fancy for your purposes, and definitely too quiet! But Porter's would be a great place for a big group dinner.
My other thought is Cafe Luna, downtown off Moore Square. They are accomodating to large parties, and have tasty Italian food with a wide range of prices. Nicer than jeans, but not FORMAL formal.
My first thought was Times Bar, but you said not jeans and t-shirt. So, my suggestion, in downtown Raleigh, would be Yancey's. Not the highest cuisine, surely, but I like it cause it is more of a special event place than just dinner. There is food and music for your non-drinking friends. Plus, the place is just "festive" so it would be a fun night. The only drawback would be whether they have anything for the vegetarians....so i would check their website first.
I would suggest 518 West. This Italian place is in the trendy Glenwood South area which would be perfect if you plan on going out after (which being your 21st, I assume you will). You can get out of here for less than $20 for dinner (not including drinks). If your birthday happens to fall on a Monday I believe they have 1/2 price bottles of wine. HAPPY BIRTHDAY :)