What I Want In Raleigh

Raleigh is my home, and I love it here.  It’s a perfect place to raise a family — big enough that we even have a pro sports team, but not so big that we have all the hassles.  We even have a pretty good food scene, but, unfortunately, not as good as our neighbors in Durham and Chapel Hill.  It’s getting better, and I’m confident that it will improve even more over the next several years.

But there are three types of restaurants I’m dying for in Raleigh.

Number 1.  A top-notch, kick-ass pizzeria.  I’m talking Pizzeria Bianco good.  Or Grimaldi’s/Patsy’s/Pick Your Coal Oven NYC favorite good.  Where the crust, the sauce and the toppings rock.  Where the oven is so damn hot that it only takes them a couple minutes to bake the pie.  Where there’s good char on the bottom and the pizza isn’t loaded down with canned pineapple or barbecued chicken or other atrocities.  And if the sauce would never even think of having a granule of sugar in it.

Number 2.  A GREAT burger joint.  No, not a Five Guys.  No, not a Mojo’s and their overcooked patties.  No, not a full-service restaurant that happens to have good burgers on their menu.  I want a place that grinds their own beef (a mix of tasty cuts would be good), bakes their own buns, and yes, even makes their own condiments.  The burgers should be cooked over a wood fire, but if not, over an open flame.  I want beer.  I want fries.  I don’t want much more than that.  No, my friends, Char Grill ain’t all that.  Their burgers aren’t all that flavorful, but they do try (and I do enjoy them just fine).  I don’t want to pay 11 bucks for a burger, either.  Eight is just about right, if it comes with fries.  And not shoestrings, either.  Slightly thicker than those.  From fresh potatoes, cooked twice until brown and crispy.

Third, a really, truly great taqueria.  We’ve actually got some decent ones, but I want meat that’s been smoked, along with some chili peppers.  I want house made tortillas, preferably hand made.  The al pastor should be truly slow cooked with fresh pineapple.  The carnitas need a tender middle, with just a touch of external crunch.  And the salsas should be fresh and impeccable.

These places reside in my fantasy world.  But I think they’ll be coming, soon enough.  And I’ll be there.


24 Responses to What I Want In Raleigh

  1. Being in Durham, you’re right about the great food scene here, but I don’t know the Raleigh restaurant scene as well b/c always looking for recommendations…any good BBQs there?

  2. dmwcpa says:

    I would like to see some of the Triangle’s Slow Food events in Raleigh. Years ago they were split fairly evenly through out the Triangle.

  3. chops says:

    I will speak for everyone in Durham and agree that a top notch pizza joint is needed. I will drive anywhere for great pizza and right now anywhere is nowhere.

  4. Ivory says:

    You’re making me miss San Francisco with this post! Great taquerias, burgers, and pizza abound in the Bay Area! Hope to see something like that around Raleigh soon.

  5. Ben says:

    I agree about the pizza. But I think what’s needed most in Raleigh is a great bakery where we can get some crusty artisan baguettes and all that.

  6. PTuorto says:

    I agree about the SlowFood events, I’ve yet to hear of one in Raleigh this year. As far as pizza goes, my buddy Luciano from Sosta in downtown told me about a place in Hollysprings (not Raleigh, i know) called Il Forno who uses a true-to-form brick oven for their pies. Haven’t been but it’s worth a shot if anyone’s feeling adventurous. Cheers

  7. burgeoningfoodie says:

    Is there not, with all the debate about best burgers in Triangle, a place in Raleigh that fits the bill? Based on a lot of grumbles, I figured most people wanted a true NY Deli and for me I’d like a true Italian Bakery. I think I would also like a true non chain bakery like a Sullivan Street deal.

    I’ve been curious about Pop’s Backdoor and the pizza’s they dish. Definitely not a Bianco or Grimaldi’s and I actually wasn’t all that impressed with the latter when we went but I’d also like to try Lombardi’s.

  8. dmwcpa says:

    In Raleigh for burgers and beer, I like the Village Draft House. For Pizza I like Vivace.

  9. El says:

    Have you tried Players Retreat on Hillsborough St. for a burger? They grind their own meat and are pretty darn tasty. An added plus (for me)is an amazing Scotch and whiskey menu.

  10. MB says:

    I would like a place with really good dim sum and some where that serves poutine.

  11. Varmint says:

    I think there are a number of places in Raleigh where you can get a burger. Player’s Retreat, Porter’s, The Raleigh Times are three of those establishments, but they’re not true burger joints. I want a place like Char-Grill to grind their own meat and bake their own buns. I want my burger medium rare. I don’t want frozen fries.

    There’s little doubt that pizza is where we’re lacking. You can get a great burger in Raleigh. You can get a damn fine taco. You can’t get anything better than a satisfactory pizza here. But then, I just might not have found a hidden gem, too.

  12. Have you had a burger from Barry’s Cafe? That’s the best burger I’ve found in the Triangle. Not sure about how they do it, but it’s so yum. And Lilly’s Pizza is one of my fave pizza places ever even though it’s frou frou.

  13. Varmint says:

    I’ve never been a big fan of Lilly’s, as their crust is much too sweet for my taste.

    I have not had a burger from Barry’s. Is the meat ground in-house? Is it a burger joint? Sorry to be so particular here, but that’s part of my point!

  14. beaner says:

    I would agree that the Raleigh Times has a good burger (they do grind their own beef) but the Angus Barn is better. In the Wild Turkey Lounge you can order their huge burger- house ground filet on brioche. Its delicious. Try it.

  15. FuzzyT says:

    You reveal yourself as man of simple tastes, but high standards. Reading the lead-in, I expected the requests to be much more involved and harder to achieve. Each of these would be dead simple to execute.

  16. jeremy says:

    the busy bee grinds in house and punches their own fries, just to let you know.. (smiley face)

  17. Varmint says:

    When did you start grinding in house, Jeremy? That was something we discussed shortly after you opened, and you said you didn’t have the space to grind it yourself. Will give it a try, for sure.

    FuzzyT: You nailed it. I certainly appreciate complex foods, too, but I’m tired of simple things done poorly or on the cheap.

  18. jeremy says:

    we started grinding some time ago, my apologies, i forgot to tell you. we grind chuck and top round. i realized we don’t have the space to do half of the stuff we actually do so why not add one more thing, right? also we are using overnighted hawaiian tuna, n.c. flounder, and we’ve always used n.c. pork and chicken from rainbow meadow farms. we don’t bake breads in house, that is definitely something we don’t have space for, but neomonde, a local bakery, does our kaiser rolls. see you soon?

  19. Katy says:

    I’m a big fan of burgers and dogs at Fat Daddy’s in Raleigh…they make their own buns and have a condiments bar…it’s pretty basic and I doubt they grind their own meat but it’s a favorite of mine. This probably gets filed under good alternative to Char-Grill rather than best burger in town.

  20. Dean says:

    I wanted to let you know this is exactly what we are doing at Tribeca Tavern – You want a great burger joint that grinds its own beef, makes its own condiments? Tribeca Tavern grinds its beef fresh in house daily and serves grandiose, gourmet burgers topped with local, straight-from-the-farm cheeses from Ashe County, Carolina Creamery and Goat Lady. We are serving more than 1K hamburgers per week. My personal favorite is the St. Andre Triple Cream that we use on our Master Piece burger, which is Kobe beef topped with 12-hour short ribs. (check out the chef burgers – http://rockytophospitality.com/lib/upload/menus/Tribeca%20Burger%20Menu.pdf) We serve our burgers on fresh brioche & ciabatta buns from Neomonde bakery. Something else we are doing is making homemade ice cream for our milkshakes. We’ve also got those perfect fries you describe, too and nontraditional sides, like sweet potato fries with rum honey dip, or Tabouleh. Let me know if you want to come and check it out.

  21. Scot says:

    I don’t know where they get the meat, and it’s not in the Triangle proper, but Johnson’s in Siler City has amazing burgers. I had a bite of my wife’s for the first time after hearing about it for years and years. And it won’t cost you 8 bucks, neither. Get there early, rumor is he closes when he runs out of meat.

  22. moonfood says:

    I am a fan of the burgers in the Turkey Lounge at the Angus Barn-you have to try them if you haven’t! Fresh Ground from Sirloin or Filet and grilled how you like it on brioche. Nothing needed but cheese if you like because they taste like steak. Dos Perros in Durham is a modern Mexican restaurant where the mole and salsas are creatve, made from scratch and beautiful. The owner/chef Charlie Deal is very talented and hails from California.

  23. thinkcookeat says:

    I agree that we don’t exactly have top notch examples of these, but the closest I know of are…

    1. Bada Bing – Didn’t want to like this place, but it’s the best I have found. Still far off from Grimaldi’s.

    2. I still love Cloo’s, but maybe Tribeca?

    3. Fonda Y Birreria.

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