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Spending a weekend in Raleigh

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Hey folks,

I'm a student broadcaster heading down to Raleigh and the RBC Center for the NCAA women's basketball tournament this weekend. I've got about four days to spend, and not much in the way of work to do. What are some good places to grab a bite to eat in the area that are a change from the monotony of chain restaurants that usually end up making up a road trip.

Pretty much the only restrictions I have are that I'm looking for something affordable for a college student, and that I absolutely must have some good barbecue. I'm driving down there, so I'm not restricted too much by where I'm staying, but I'd prefer to not drive too far out of my way.

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  1. The best bbq in the Triangle area is Allen and Son, in my opinion. Its about 30 minutes or so from the RBC arena, in between Hillsborough and Chapel Hill. If you Google it you'll find the address, its easy to find. (Note: there re 2 restaurants operating under that name, one near Pittsboro (south of Chapel Hill) and one in between CH and Hillsboro (north of Chapel Hill). Only go to the latter...DO NOT go to the one near Pittsboro)

    1. It's not fast food cheap, but J. Betski's is a terrific deal for the money. They do German/Polish food in an upscale casual setting near downtown Raleigh. Most entrees are around $14. Or, sit at the bar and have some little plates for around $8. They've got a nice selection of beers too. I never thought I would be so enthusiastic about German/Polish but it's really, really good and not the type of place you find just anywhere.

      It's maybe 15 minutes from the RBC Center.

      2 Replies
      1. re: dinersaurus

        Fast-food cheap certainly doesn't have to be a criteria. It sounds like, price-wise, it's about as expensive as a lot of chain casual-dining places, which is certainly affordable.

        Thanks for the advice so far everyone, keep it coming! :-D

        1. re: fuzzy510

          Fair enough. Jibarra does inventive, modern Mexican, also near downtown Raleigh, also a mere 15 minutes from RBC. Entrees are in the upper teens, their take on tacos are around $12-13. Great margaritas, good beers and reasonably priced wines. I recommend their NC raised goat.

      2. I would also recommend Allen and Son for barbeque. However, I found the sides to be unworthy of the pork. I understand the desserts are good but I've not tried them.

        On my last trip to Raleigh, I went to a surprisingly good barbeque restaurant. Surprisingly good because it's in a strip center. It's called, "Falls River Smokehouse" at 8320 Litchford Rd. Moist, smoky pork and unusual, I think, for NC, some very fine brisket. The owner is a very nice guy, very dedicated to high quality Q.

        I also went to Mama Dips in Chapel Hill. Excellent, homestyle Southern food. A famous restaurant in the area and justly so.

        5 Replies
        1. re: OldSchool

          At Allen and Son, get the plate that has barbecue, slaw, and hushpuppies. Tell them to keep the hushpuppies, or just don't eat them. You won't miss the sides. Then get one of their yummy desserts.

          I think Mama Dips is over-rated.

          1. re: OldSchool

            You must've hit Mama Dip's on a rare good day, because yours is the only good report I've heard coming out of that place in ages. I will never go there again - the food and service were just awful. If you want simple country cooking-type of fare, try Pam's Farmhouse on Western Blvd. near campus.

            1. re: Suzy Q

              Hi, Suzy Q. You're one of my favorite Chowhounds!

              It's not a good review. The last time I ate their, I couldn't eat the food they brought me. The fried chicken tasted rancid. I moved the food around on my plate and hope no one would notice. No one did because the service wasn't any better than the food.

              1. re: JoanInNC

                Well thank you very much...I'm flattered. :-)

                I hate that Mama Dip's seems to be a real waste of time these days, because I've heard from several friends who've been in the area for a while that it used to be great. It almost seems like the resto has bought into its own hype, y'know? I just think it's sad to see any place that has so obviously just stopped trying.

                1. re: Suzy Q

                  We were there a few times for Sunday lunch. It was very disappointing. It was very expensive too. Mama Dip, or Mildred Council, was there on one of our visits so I got her to sign my cookbook. I do love my Mama Dip cookbook. She was warm and friendly, and very tall!

                  We found Foster's Market in Durham and fell in love. It was our go-to Sunday morning place in the area. I am surprised it is never mentioned by anyone here at Chowhound. We loved the place, the food, the experience of Foster's Market. Is there a reason Foster's Market is not praised by those of you who live there?

          2. The Laziz Biryani Corner which operates out of GoPaks Bazaar on Hillsborough St. in Raleigh offers a nice selection of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian Indo-Pak dishes that are both delicious and massive. Add to that a meal which almost always comes in under 8$ and you have a winner in my book. Their chili chicken is a frequent image in my dreams. Mmmmm.

            1. The Raleigh location of Neomonde is a brief drive from the RBC arena. Wonderful middle eastern food in a casual location. Order at the deli counter and eat inside or outside. A very comfortable place for solo dining too. The location is a little hard to spot: Turn on Beryl at the Waffle House, cross the RR tracks and make an immediate left. You'll see it in a moment on your right.

              http://www.neomonde.com/home/index.aspx

              Further East on Hillsborough you end up by NCSU. Numerous restaurants. Two places on that strip that are worth a visit and are affordable are Porters and Locopops.

              http://porterstavern.com/

              http://www.ilovelocopops.com/

              1 Reply
              1. re: meatn3

                Neomonde was one of our favorites when we lived there. Everything is made fresh daily. I really miss having good middle eastern food. I usually ordered a combination plate and always came home with a bag or two of their fresh baked pita bread, tabouli and hummus.

                Gypsy's Shiny Diner was fun for breakfast. Bojangle's was a very popular stop for breakfast too.

                We enjoyed going to the Farmer's Market for fried flounder at the NC Seafood restaurant.

              2. For budget, non chain, college student fare I'd suggest:
                Roast Grill on West St,between Hillsboro and Morgan downtown. DO NOT PARK in the adjacent lot. All they serve is hot dogs. http://www.roastgrill.com/

                Country food nearby to RBC is Pam's Farm house. It's on Western, outside the beltline and is open for breakfast and lunch m-f. Better country food is at Joyce and Family in FuquaVarina. Get the buffet. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

                If you like middle eastern try Neomonde on Beryl Rd. http://www.neomonde.com/home/
                La Shish http://lashish.net/
                Bosphorus (actually Turkish) http://www.bosphorus-nc.com/default.asp

                Explore the shopping centers around the intersection of Chatham and Maynard for Indian, Mexican, Korean and who knows what other ethnicities.

                1 Reply
                1. re: blewgo

                  Since you are a student and have trasnportation, I suggest taht you try a day in Durham and a day in Cahapel Hill as well. Near the RBC , I recommend Pam's as well along with a burger at Char Grill and some Italian at Bella Monica at Old Raleigh Village , the most convenient location's to RBC. Closer but not as good as Allen & Sons or authentic NC BBQ is the Smokeys Shack BBQ, off 40, exit 285 toward Lake Crabreee unitl it dead ends , turn right approx 2 miles on right.

                2. You should check out the Raleigh Times. http://www.raleightimesbar.com/

                  It's a downtown bar with a very respectable and lauded beer selection - and a nice atmosphere. Plus, it's got some of the best bar food around. The pork nachos are made from barbecued pork from The Pit restaurant. Also recommended are the fried pickles and the shrimp burger. Most everything is outstanding (apart from the calamari, which is sweet).

                  And right next door is the Morning Times, for coffee and hanging out.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: cackalackie

                    Check out the Players Retreat off of hillsborough at Oberlin, close to State campus. A good place to get a few beers and a hamburger. They grind there own meat and can serve them rare. In NC unless you grind your own meat they need to be served better done then medium.

                    1. re: chazzer

                      Oh - and the PR is just round the corner from Loco Pops!

                      1. re: cackalackie

                        If there's one must have in the Triangle, it's Loco Pops. Some may call it heresy, but LocoPops is good shid.

                  2. Thanks for all the recommendations, folks! Had barbecue at Allen and Son, had some drinks at the Raleigh Times, ate falafel and shawarma at Neomonde, and indulged in a mango-chili ice pop at LocoPops. Everyone I traveled with, as well as yours truly, was incredibly impressed by all of the selections. I never would have thought of getting too many special meals in Raleigh, North Carolina, but you guys proved me wrong. Thanks again!

                    By the way, extra props for sending me to Raleigh Times Bar. As a journalist myself, being able to drink in that particular bar was really special, and it'll be a destination the next time I'm in town.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: fuzzy510

                      Yay!!! So glad you had a nice time. Thanks for the update. Come back again!!!

                      1. re: fuzzy510

                        I'll be flying into Raleigh for a one week business trip starting monday and all those places you had hit sound very good! I've been reading that Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill is a wonderland for foodies so I'm pretty excited about this trip. Looking forward to seeing what the area has to offer and how different it is from DFW!

                        Also gotta mention that I'm most excited about Raleigh Times, especially because of all the good feedback from other craft beer enthusiasts on this board and on Beerfly.

                        I get the feeling I'm gonna be like the OP of this thread and end up there every night:
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/485676

                        1. re: air

                          air-

                          I like RTB, a lot. If you spend every night at Raleigh Times Bar, you'll miss out on some spectacular beer bars! Namely, the Flying Saucer, Tyler's in Apex (with 80 taps!), just to name a few. Also, The Pit has a great selection of local beer, so you can get great brew with your 'Q.
                          The best place for NC beer knowlege is www.Beerinator.com
                          Post a message there if you want to meet out for a beer with some of the locals. The Saucer may still have Racer X on tap.

                          1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                            Thanks for the tip! Flying Saucer sounds good, especially if the location there does pint nights like the other locations.

                            1. re: air

                              I realize this is late, but if you liked Raleigh Times, check out Pooles Diner. There's a chef connection and the food and value is high.

                              1. re: veganhater

                                Please keep the suggestions coming, I'll check back all week long!

                                I'd also like recommendations on where to eat dinner around Flying Saucer as well, thanks a lot!

                                1. re: air

                                  Epic space and atmosphere; 42 Street Oyster Bar.

                      2. It's my last night here and I'll share my thoughts on the past week's meals:

                        Neomonde: I enjoyed the privilege of having my first meal in Raleigh here. They redefined what I consider good Middle Eastern food, you just can't get stuff like this in Texas! I shared a combination plate, some beef kabobs and a falafel with a coworker. All of the ingredients were fresh, delicious, and well-prepared! Liked it so much that I made a pick up order for a beef shawarma sandwich earlier today, and the lunch rush speaks for the top-notch food.

                        Flying Saucer: Stopped by here after Neomonde for pint night. I've been to every Saucer location in Texas and I knew what to expect - and of course, the draft selection is like being on a new planet. Good pours, good service, and glad to see that NC breweries have some good offerings!

                        Raleigh Times Bar: Had dinner here on Tuesday night. I remember another post which mentioned the blackened salmon, so gave that a shot and was pleased with my choice. Wish I coulda stuck around to try all of the beers on tap, sans PBR. I liked the atmosphere of this bar and it was a cozy place to grab a drink.

                        Waraji: Wednesday night's dinner and this place ended up being a very short drive from my hotel! Ordered the sushi deluxe, with some toro and futomaki. Very easy to see why they're considered the best in Raleigh. Very fresh, tender and tasty fish! Massive cuts as well. One of the best pieces of salmon I've ever had. Service was as I expected, it was pretty slow, but that didn't really bother me. Overall? I'd consider it above average at best, but definitely not mediocre or overpriced, and certainly light years beyond buffet quality.

                        The Pit: My final dinner. Coming from Texas, I'm used to having my 'cue handed to me on some butcher paper along with a handful of bread. As I walked around the area surrounding the restaurant, had it not been for a light breeze that carried the smoke/vinegar scent through the air, I would've never guessed this upscale eatery serves up good BBQ. My pulled pork was lean, and overall well-prepared. I was also happy that the meat was not chopped to excess. Having the vinegar/pepper and NC-style western sauces was also something different, and each sauce complemented the meat in their own way. I will say that I prefer brisket over pulled pork, so I'm not wildly impressed, but overall it was an enjoyable meal. I'm glad I got the opportunity to taste the difference between Texas and Carolina style bbq.

                        Overall, ALL of my dining experiences around Raleigh were positive and I really appreciate all of the recommendations from the local 'hounds. Many thanks!

                        1. Glad you had a good visit and some great food! Come on back and see us again soon!