Back in 2017, I made a list of restaurants across the state that were on my list of places to try as I traveled around the state. I recently stumbled onto the post and was so excited to see some of the places are ones that I have tried and enjoyed over the years since then. Others reminded me that I should really make a trip to visit them. What I have decided to do is update this post as I go. Keep scrolling for 25 Restaurants in North Carolina that are must-try spots across the state.
This post was originally written in November 2017 and has since been updated and recirculated for August 2023.
25 North Carolina Restaurants to Try
Eastern North Carolina Restaurants to Try
1587 – Manteo
The fact that this restaurant is named after the Lost Colony is what initially caused me to add this to my list. We recently spent an evening at the Tranquil House Inn on our way down to Ocracoke and I was disappointed that the restaurant was closed the evening we were there. It just means we will have to make a return trip to this beautiful, waterfront restaurant.
What I’d order: beet & goat cheese salad, fresh catch du jour
Amos Mosquito’s – Atlantic Beach
I spent a lot of time down at Atlantic Beach in my late teens and early twenties, and unfortunately, have not been back to Amos Mosquito’s. I love the location, which is right on the way to Fort Macon, with a patio offering water views, and an eclectic menu.
What I’d order: Iceberg Wedge, Scallop Fantasy Roll, Liza Roll
While my family vacations at Back Porch every July, it has been quite a while since I have dined at the restaurant. I love the gorgeous screened-in porch dining area and the approachable, yet unique seafood options.
What I’d order: crab beignets and seared Ahi tuna steak OR spicy pimento cheese and the lump crab cakes
Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe – Nags Head
I last ate here when I was in high school on an annual beach trip I took with my best friend and her family. This restaurant has been a staple in Nags Head since 1996 and offers the freshest seafood and ingredients using many authentic Outer Banks recipes.
What I’d order: she-crab soup, fried flounder
Beefmastor Inn – Wilson
The Beef Master Inn is an eastern North Carolina staple. It’s not frivolous and it only has 10 tables, but the experience is perhaps the best part. You put your name on the list and you tailgate in the parking lot while waiting for your table. The menu is simple: a salad bar and the entree plate is served with a baked potato, a slice of Texas toast, and the steak cut of your choice. If you have not yet checked this out, this is one of my Eastern North Carolina destination restaurants.
✅ What I ordered: the only thing on the menu
Belhaven is such a cute little town on the Pungo River in one of the prettiest parts of North Carolina and I love that Spoon River opened in this little town. It is an over-the-top dining experience in a beautifully designed space. If you have not yet checked this out, this is one of my Eastern North Carolina destination restaurants.
✅ What I ordered: known for their selection of local seafood and always-available steaks + desserts that are homemade right in Belhaven. David and I split a salad and their roasted chicken dish.
I lived in Greenville for almost four years and never had a full meal at Starlight Cafe. Starlight was one of the first farm-to-table concepts in North Carolina and dates back to 2000. It has such a beautiful atmosphere and I love that it is an anchor in eastern North Carolina.
What I’d order: whatever the seasonal special is that evening
It has been years since I have been to Nags Head, but I have always wanted to eat at this restaurant. Sugar Creek sits out over the water and boasts an amazing selection of seafood.
✅ What I ordered: crab cakes with polenta though the gumbo David had was out of this world
Central North Carolina Restaurants to Try
Crawford and Son is located right on Person St. in Raleigh’s Oakwood, which is my favorite neighborhood in Raleigh. The menu is casual and approachable, yet delicious and unique. The cocktails are exceptional and definitely save room for dessert. Check out Crawford Cookshop in Clayton and Jolie, a sister restaurant & French bistro next door, where their champagne & french fry window is one of my favorite treats!
✅ What I ordered: Heirloom tomato salad, squid ink rigatoni
Photo by Glory
My love of the Fearrington Village is no secret around these parts and I absolutely love their bar menu. It is such a fun dining experience in this gorgeous space. Afternoon tea is another delicious option as well!
✅ What I ordered: Cheese Doughnuts, Fried Olives, Scallop Toast, Burger, and Gnocchi
I made it to Lantern and split delicious options with my birthday twin, Amy! Everything that she recommended was delicious and it was such a delightful experience.
✅ What I ordered: Clara’s Salad, Chaat, and BBQ’d Pork
Oakleaf – Carrboro
Oakleaf moved to Carrboro from Pittsboro a few years ago, and I am still looking to get there for dinner. This is a New American restaurant serving inventive dishes in a sophisticated setting on Main Street.
What I’d order: deviled eggs, burrata, and lemon tagliatelle, nc crabmeat, confit tomato, espelette pepper, buro fuso, pangratatto
Saltbox Seafood Joint is legitimately one of my favorite places and worth all the hype. It is out of this world good and do *not* skip the hush-honeys.
✅ What I ordered: a shrimp hoagie with hush-honeys and a Cheerwine!
Second Empire is one of the prettiest buildings in downtown Raleigh, and the restaurant itself has an outstanding menu. I love that there various dining options, from formal to a more casual tavern feel.
What I’d order: grilled shrimp & goat cheese arancini and grilled kvarØy arctic salmon
St. Roch is one of my V favorite places to visit in Raleigh for a progressive date night, a girls’ night, or just a night by myself. It is a vibey spot and, appropriately, feels like somewhere that should be in New Orleans.
✅ What I ordered: pimento’d oysters, pomme frites, seasonally berbere spiced watermelon and the beignets always and forever
Western North Carolina Restaurants to Try
Artisanal – Banner Elk
This farm-to-table restaurant is truly beautiful and changed to a 3-course prix-fix menu in 2021. Call and make reservations for this culinary experience! It does have seasonal hours: May-October for 2023, so be sure to check online for their availability & to make reservations.
What I’d order: Crab & Grilled Summer Squash Soup and the Snapper
My best friend and I took a girls’ weekend to Asheville and made a dinner reservation at Cúrate where we did the Spanish experience with the wine tasting. It was truly a wonderful time and I highly recommend dining here to anyone visiting Asheville. Be sure to make a reservation in advance!
✅ What I ordered: Spanish Experience with the Wine Pairing!
Madison’s Restaurant & Wine Garden – Highlands
Visiting the Highlands is rather high on my personal travel bucket list and dining at Madison’s is included on that list. It is housed in the idyllic Old Edwards Inn. The Wine Garden has different hours than the restaurant so be sure to check those. Reservations for Madison’s are highly encouraged!
What I’d order: Pan-Seared Foie Gras and Pecan-Crusted Sunburst Trout
What better way to experience the Biltmore Estate than to have dinner in their dining room? I absolutely adore the Biltmore Estate and wish that we lived closer because would absolutely have a seasonal pass.
What I’d order: heirloom tomato and burrata and the herb-crusted salmon
I love that this is located on the 21st floor in Charlotte with an amazing view of the city complete with the fireplaces all around the space.
What I’d order: Oysters Rocco-Feller, Smashing Dan Dan Dumplings, Ahi Poke
Gideon Ridge – Blowing Rock
This beautiful bed and breakfast is on my list of places that I’d love to stay and the restaurant has an amazing terrace with the best view of the mountains.
What I’d order: lobster and crab cake, Wagyu Beef Striploin
David and I had an absolutely wonderful dining experience here in the spring of 2023. The restaurant is beautiful, the food is delicious, and the service is outstanding!
✅ What I ordered: sweet potato, smoked bacon, and rosemary mousse with chips, streak with shrimp
Kindred – Davidson
I would say that Kindred is a restaurant I really need to visit before the end of 2023. It has been on my list for far too long and downtown Davidson is so charming.
What I’d order: little gem lettuces, crispy oysters, dessert
Rhubarb in Asheville has an awesome location downtown. I love that the chef is originally from North Carolina and his pastry chef is from western New York, since that’s mine and DG’s story as well.
What I’d order: pimiento pups, seared sunburst farm trout
We visited here for our anniversary trip to Bryson City in 2018 and the views were exceptional! We thoroughly enjoyed our experience at this iconic spot on the Nantahala.
✅ What I ordered: Greek salad with grilled chicken
What restaurants are you hoping to try? And if you’ve tried any of these restaurants on my list, I’d love to hear your experience!