Transformative Dining Experiences in Cary, Durham, and Raleigh
If your mouth isn’t watering yet, just wait until you visit the restaurants and bars we recently went to in Durham, Cary, and Raleigh. It was clear that the 3 cities have been a culinary destination for mouth-watering meals and mixology based drinks for years long before the national media arrived. The community yields a diverse collection of table-to-tongue experiences from backwoods BBQ, 4-Course chef-driven concepts, to 5-star world class magical meals that heal. But the dilemma still exists. If you only have a few days to visit, how do you choose the best of the best transformative dining experiences during your sustainable travel trips in the U.S.? Enter Dimarco and Scott on their joyful journey guiding you through our curated list of best places to eat and drink mindfully, responsibly, and oh so deliciously.
Barcelona Restaurant and Wine Bar is an award-winning Spanish tapas restaurant group. Barcelona was begun in 1995 by Sasa Mahr-Batuz, based on his memories of years of living in Spain and Portugal, and Andy Pforzheimer, based on his 20 years as a chef at world-famous restaurants in France, California and New York.
Beginning with a tiny, 38-seat wine bar they set out to recreate the feel and the look of an evening on the Ramblas. They worked hard and made no compromises to achieve their aims: sophisticated décor that evoked Milan, SoHo, or Rio de Janeiro. Simple, flavor-filled dishes redolent with olive oil, lemon, smoky paprika. A comprehensive list of wines by the glass from around the world, with an emphasis on the lesser-known regions of Spain and Portugal. They were guided not by any places that existed at the time, but only by what they liked, and the way they liked it.
Local cuisine meets the bold flavors and playful techniques of executive chef Jeff Seizer at Counting House. A social experience set amongst the art of today, designed to provide you with an easy-going escape that will feed your soul. Inspired by old school European techniques and simple preparations, his menu is familiar, yet unexpected.
Picnic exceeds expectations for what one would call a “barbecue joint”. This chef-driven backwoods hidden gem is held with great love by Wyatt. His full-flavored brisket and perfectly textured meats are smooth on the tongue and fulfilling in the belly. Picnic is a one of a kind experience that features fabulous, whole-hog smoked that are local heritage raised with inspired sides like Baked Beans, Brussel Sprouts, and Potatoe Salad. Their outdoor garden creates the perfect ambiance for a rustic outdoor lunch experience that is fully immersive, multi-sensorial, and deeply expansive.
It’s easy! Corpse Reviver is actually Durham Distillery’s on-site cocktail bar. In 2019, the laws of N.C. changed to allow distilleries to serve cocktails. They’ve been working hard ever since and as of October 2020, they’re now open! Corpse Reviver Bar & Lounge features Durham Distillery’s Conniption gins, Cold Distilled vodka and Damn Fine liqueurs. Yes. They do have other spirits and beer and wine too!. Originally scientists, Melissa and Lee Katrincic combine time-honored, gin-making traditions with techniques borrowed from modern chemistry to create spirits that are both classic and contemporary. While Melissa manages Durham Distillery’s business and marketing operations, Lee manages the Durham Distillery “lab” and is in charge of spirit production. The small-batch gin distillation begins in the 230-liter custom-designed German copper pot still, which results in a clean, crisp-tasting gin. Next, the more delicate botanicals are individually vacuum distilled at room temperature to maintain a highly accurate flavor profile. Finally, the individual distillates are blended into the gin base for utmost consistency from batch to batch. That’s science. Taste it and you will recognize a masterpiece even if you didn’t follow every step. Try our Conniption American Dry and Conniption Navy Strength varieties.
But that’s not all. Durham Distillery also creates Damn Fine Liqueurs. These gems incorporate ingredients sourced from local Triangle partners, Slingshot Coffee Company and Videri Chocolate Factory, to create labors of love and edible works of art. Try their coffee, mocha, and chocolate varieties. Much like their products, their community requires both art and science. Durham Distillery actively supports STEM, musical, and performing arts education, while ensuring a living wage for employees.
Ten of the area’s most talented chefs all under one roof! Inspired to create food and drink concepts using fresh local ingredients, and an emphasis on sustainable, organic practices.
An incubator for local culinary talent, DFH provides a space for chefs to experiment and collaborate. Small menus focus on high-quality dishes and the freshest ingredients in a casual setting (and a casual price point!). A centralized bar offers craft cocktails, beer from local brewers, and hand-selected wines . This central bar, The Auctioneer Bar, is surrounded by lots of communal seating that creates a friendly, inclusive atmosphere where everyone is welcome.
Overlooking The Auctioneer Bar and the Main Hall is a 2,300+ sq ft mezzanine, with even more space to host meetings, private parties, and events of all sizes. Durham Food Hall is open all day for dining, drinks, celebrations, meetings, a quiet place to work or a quick bite on the go.
What defines a diner? An around-the-clock menu, counter and booth seating, or snappy kiss-my-grits service? Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter—commonly known as the Jack Tar Diner—takes fine-dining food and puts it into an available-all-day format, delivering a downtown neighborhood restaurant that’s both friendly and upscale. The newest entry on the ground floor of Unscripted Hotel comes from a dream team that brought Neapolitan pizza and comforting small plates to Durham via Pizzeria Toro and Littler, including owners Gray Brooks and Cara Stacy, plus veteran area chef David Alworth of Guglhupf and Watts Grocery. While JT’s menu is distinctly different from its sister restaurants, you can expect a similar commitment to local and homemade ingredients. A greasy spoon it is not.
Vibe: A mid-century modern feel meets millennial pops of color, which is a natural fit for the retro building (the restaurant is named after the original 1960s motel; Jack Tar is a slang term for a sailor), welcoming with warm blonde wood and large windows to let in maximum light. Watch the magic happen at the behind-the-counter open kitchen or nostalgic orange juicer machine. A range of cocktails and craft beer is poured at the separate, attached bar or at your seat in the diner.
Menu: The full menu is available from seven a.m. to midnight, with suggested bowls for a.m. (oatmeal with pecan milk or Le Puy green lentils) and p.m. (tomato soup and potted ham over rice). All the diner staples are present and accounted for, from biscuits and gravy to a double cheeseburger with fries, alongside Southern favorites like shrimp and grits and fried mackerel. All baked goods are made in-house, from English muffins to Hawaiian rolls, along with the “processed” cheese in the grilled sandwich and cream cheese on the bialy plate.
John Poole may have taken Winston Churchill’s words to heart when he opened Poole’s pie shop in 1945 at 426 S. McDowell street. For six years the cozy spot was a veritable holy grail of pies–all sweet–but soon their patrons wanted more. in the early 1950’s, “chicken slick,” sandwiches, and a daily “hot plate” made their way onto the Poole’s menu, and the line to be served wrapped around the corner. the pie shop moved out, as Poole’s pies became Poole’s luncheonette, and a downtown hot-spot was born.
In its latest incarnation, Poole’s has returned to its diner roots under the ownership of Chef Ashley Christensen. Marrying a clean aesthetic with retro-chic charm, Christensen restored and even highlighted the “bones” of the original restaurant, including the double horseshoe bar and red leather banquettes, pairing it with modern elements like Lucite chairs and oversized blackboard menus that change daily based on season and availability.
Little Waves Coffee Roasters is an impact-driven group of thinkers, dreamers, and doers who delight in the enduring power of coffee as a shared experience. By making small, determined reverberations through sourcing, roasting, and brewing, they add their open-hearted energy to the tides that reveal and uphold the beauty of coffee and life.
Cocoa Cinnamon, their three brick and mortar shops, located in Durham, NC, is driven by the experience that is amazed by the marvel of cities and the roots of languages, whose blood rushes in the awe of landscapes, the wonder of travel, and the history, colors, textures, and stories of coffee, chocolate, and tea. They make drinks after these histories and after the characters that inspire them, those who remind them of the beauty and possibility of humanity.
They are small and independently owned and operated, quality, service, and heart-driven, Latina co-owned, women-forward, and our team is comprised of people of different cultures, genders, languages, faiths, and beliefs. With every decision they make, they work to honor people, places, cultures, and histories. They integrate personal narratives into their spaces and offerings in an effort to help their guests and clients feel more connected on a human level. They name their roasts and drinks after places that inspire wonder, have cultural significance, and after people and places that they love. Every act is an invitation to connect, and they are fueled by the joy they get from cultivating health and wonder with the world around them.
They strive for sustainability in everything they do from relationship to energy usage. Their Loring S15 Falcon roaster has an 80% reduction in energy usage compared to traditional roasters. Their retail coffee bags are 60% compostable. They divert coffee bi-product chaff to be used in local community gardens. Their roasterie & cafes diverted approximately 52,172 lbs of compost in 2019. I think it’s safe to say that a love-filled, healing infudes coffee a day keeps the doctor away.
Herons, located at The Umstead Hotel & Spa, has gained national recognition for its progressive American regional cuisine since opening in 2007. Located in the heart of North Carolina’s flourishing Piedmont region, rich in culture and natural beauty, Herons draws the inspiration for seasonal menus from its surroundings, under the guidance of Executive Chef Steven D. Greene.
The hotel’s signature restaurant has earned the sought-after Forbes’ Five-Star rating and AAA’s Five Diamond Award, most recently for 2019. It has been named one of the “101 Best Places to Eat in the World” by Newsweek, named “Restaurant of the Year” by Raleigh’s News & Observer in both 2009 and 2019 (the first restaurant to ever be named a second time), as well as has been recognized by Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Southern Living,and Food & Wine. Chef Greene has been named a 2016, 2017, and 2019 James Beard Award “Best Chef: Southeast” semifinalist, one of the most coveted accolades in the restaurant industry.
Heron’s delivers a dining experience that is refined, healing, and magical. The expertly trained staff warms the room, providing seamless service that helps guests enjoy the pleasures of an elegant meal. The ingredients are sourced locally from their own farm and brought over daily to create meals worth sharing with only the closest of your friends and family.