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Restaurant advice in downtown Raleigh

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I will be in Raleigh for the first time this month, and would like to get further advice in addition to previous posts. I'm going out with someone for the first time so wanted to go a place with a good bar atmosphere as well as the food. From previous posts, 18 Seaboard, Jibarra, and Poole's Diner all sound great...just wondering if any of these also have good energy/atmosphere as well? Any other suggestions are welcome.

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  1. Poole's usually has a cool vibe in the evenings. And, they stay open pretty late. It's a small, funky place, and the bar consists of two half-moon diner type counters. I enjoy lingering there over a glass or two or three of wine and dessert. One drawback is that it's downtown, but not downtown, if that makes any sense. It's separated from the busier parts of downtown by a big vacant block. Jibarra has a nice energy on the weekends, but can feel a little quiet on weekday nights. 18 Seaboard doesn't have much of a scene, but it does have a bar, and the food is always a good deal. If you're planning to bar hop or wander from these places, 18 Seabard is pretty isolated (although around the corner from J. Betskis, home of awesome German/Polish food and drink). Jibarra is in an interesting little area with a few other bar options. Poole's is walkable to other bars from downtown, although you'll have to wander through kind of a dead zone to get there. Not a big deal, but that was my reaction upon first visit. Solas may also be worth a look on Glenwood South. They seem to have a hip scene (if anything, it might be trying too hard). The advantage is that you can wander to a wide variety of other drink and food options nearby including Tasca Brava (not hopping at all, but they have Spanish tapas and good wines), Red Room (non-Spanish "tapas," the food's acceptable, but it's not a bad place for a mixed drink) and a number of other nearby bars.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dinersaurus

      I can second the Solas recommendation. I've only gotten a selection of small plates, but everything I've had, each time I've been, has been nothing less than outstanding. Just don't wear your work boots, but I'd suggest that for Glenwood South in general.

    2. The Pit downtown is a good option, very popular, NC bbq restaurant, more upscale, great, crowded bar, good food. Sitti downtown, upscale Lebanese, very good food, great atmosphere, good bar crowd, metro-vibe. The Oxford, British gastropub, good food, good bar crowd. Sono next door for good sushi, decent bar but I never see it really crowded. However I've found that a really crowded bar in Raleigh usually means it's heavy on the college crowd. Glenwood South area tends to be very college-dominated but there are some good restaurants there. I second Tasca Brava. 18 Seaboard's excellent food but no real bar scene...kind of off the beaten path. Hope this helps!

      4 Replies
      1. re: lawyerlady

        I second all of these, especially Sitti. And, there's a number of bars nearby or in between Sitti and Oxford on foot. I haven't been wild about the food at Oxford - it's fine for barfood, but I expected better of a place billing itself as a gastropub. Avoid the cheese plate there, unless you're looking for ice cold pedestrian cheeses. Still if you're thinking bar-first, then Oxford will work. Also, the Duck and Dumpling (Chinese-ish) is a block away and has a respectable bar. It's not a wild scene, but usually has a decent crowd on the weekends in the bar area.

        Note also that the Pit is just across the street from Jibarra.

        1. re: dinersaurus

          Thank you both for this follow up. So maybe Jibarra and Pooles might be best for a Friday and Saturday night out? Solas also looked like an option, maybe even if its for drinks.

          1. re: dinersaurus

            The bar scene at Oxford is okay, and the drinks are good (albeit pricey), but I was severely underwhelmed by the food. Looked very pretty, tasted very so-so.

            The Duck and Dumpling is excellent - I've had awesome meals every time I've been there, and I can't say that about many restaurants.

            1. re: Suzy Q

              I agree about the Oxford. It's fine as long as you're not expecting much. I mean, anyone who puts Boursin on a cheese plate.....

        2. I'm partial to Raleigh Times. Sono is good too. What about 101 Lounge?

          1. Solas looks overly chic (which is fine but not my type of place). Raleigh Times Bar seems to be popular and my friends in Raleigh really like Busy Bee Cafe. I've been to Sitti and didn't think much of it but then again I'm also closer to Neomonde and Med Deli. Sono has a nice vibe and is a hip sushi joint downtown. I don't recall a bar. Also a place that is a little funky, but doesn't get mentioned a lot os Five Star. It's what I would call Asian fusion and they use to charge a few cents to use a fork. It's been awhile since I've been to anything like the Hibernian, Bogarts, etc.

            1. I think I'm the only person who isn't a Busy Bee fan. I don't eat beef or pork generally, which really limited my menu options. Howerver, I decided to try a chicken pear sandwith. Wholly unimaginative, with some of the worst overcooked chicken ever slapped on a very large bun with a few pear slices. I ate just a few bites and gave up. Our waiter never even asked if the food was OK. Lots of other good eats close, so I haven't bothered to go back.

              4 Replies
              1. re: BullCityChow

                That is the best thing about that area. Is you can walk less than a mile and find something great. Dos Taquitos, Mo's Diner, Raleigh Times, Duck and Dumpling (which I've never been to), Cafe Luna, Tir Na Nog.. I'm someone hoping BBC lasts only because the chef was the one that made the Mint sound like an imaginative place. I know he isn't doing the same stuff there, but I figure he must have some cooking chops. It could have been an off night, but I'm sure the limited menu for non beef/pork eaters isn't going to help just in general.

                1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                  BBC also did an awesome job restoring the building. Here's hoping the food improves.

                  Duck and Dumpling has decent food, but the portions are, by most accounts, tiny. If ONLY there were good chinese or thai food downtown, I'd be a happy camper. Indian we now have, though...

                  1. re: BullCityChow

                    How is that new Indian place? Isnt it only open at certain times? Yeah I mean a great Dim Sum place (I'm thinking bigger city places with the Lazy Susan tables) would rock in DT raleigh. It would be even better or stand out more if it wasn't a restaurant bar, but a little more authentic and upscale (not high priced) but better offerings than typical places. DimSum would work well for people in a hurry or who don't really want to eat heavy but still want to eat a wide assortment of things amongst people (if they are going to a performance or going bar hopping later). Heck at this point any more polished ethnic inclusions would be good (esp. Asian or African). More of a metropolitan feel and melting pot of culture.

                    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                      Yes - Dim Sum would be fabulous!!
                      The Indian Place was only open for lunch - I think they've expanded to dinner (but they weren't open the only night I've tried to go). For lunch, it's all buffet (dinner has a menu). The buffet selections are decent, and I've found the food to be pretty good, but there tends to be not much selection if you go later in the day. Sort of hit and miss. The owner has gone out of his way to be accommodating, though - and I give them extra points for that. It's one of my need a quick take out lunch spots.