14 Apex Restaurants The Locals Love!

Apex has lots of popular locally owned restaurants, cafes, and breweries around town. And if you’re looking for Apex restaurants to try that the locals love, keep reading!

Red brick building with two cars parked out the front
Two popular restaurants in downtown Apex

We always enjoy exploring Apex, North Carolina. Just a 25-minute drive from downtown Raleigh brings you to the historic downtown area. Salem Street is lined with some of our favorite places to eat in Apex, with others just a short drive away within close access to the best Apex neighborhoods.

So, if you’re searching on your phone for “restaurants near Apex”, the below list is a good place to start. 

Apex Restaurants the locals love

Scratch Kitchen & Taproom

People dining in a restaurant
The locals love Scratch

It’s not a hidden gem anymore. In fact, I think it’s safe to say Scratch Kitchen & Taproom is the most popular of the restaurants in downtown Apex. 

Two restaurant families came together and created a local’s favorite restaurant (and place to drink). Their indoor dining area and bar has character and a warm, inviting feeling, but the food is the real star here! 

Dishes are made from scratch daily, hence the name, with a focus on providing a place to enjoy a delicious meal with family or friends with a side dish of good old Southern hospitality.

On the menu you’ll find creative dishes with an Asian twist, such as their Pimento Cheese Wontons, Spicy Tuna Sushi Round, and Buddha Bowl. Plus classics like Lobster Mac & Cheese, Southern Fried Chicken salad, burgers, steaks, and hand-cut fries.

Chocolate dessert with ice cream
Coco Seduction

Don’t skimp on their desserts either, they are next level – our kids loved their Coco Seduction pictured above.

Skippers Seafood & Smokehouse 

Mom and two daughters sitting in a booth in a restaurant
Casual local restaurant

Home of the famous GIANT fish sandwich, Skippers Seafood & Smokehouse is a family-owned business and casual spot for seafood, plus really good BBQ brisket, pulled pork, ribs, chicken & turkey breast.

Burger bun with a large piece of fried fish
Giant fish sandwich

All their food is homemade from their own special recipes. Seafood is cooked fresh once ordered. The BBQ is seasoned and smoked slowly. And from all reports the onion rings are fantastic!

Portion sizes are generous. Good range of beers on tap. Indoor and outdoor seating. 

Salem Street Pub

People sitting out the front of a restaurant on the sidewalk
Locals pub.

If you love a local neighborhood pub, then head to the Salem Street Pub (SSP). The moment you step inside you can see, and feel, why this family owned and operated pub is a locals favorite hangout.

They’re popular for their tasty burgers, gravy fries, and wings. If you are new to North Carolina, I recommend their Carolina Burger – Southern style topped with chili, American cheese, onions, mustard, and slaw. 

The gravy fries are also a favorite of ours. Growing up in Australia gravy fries are a BIG deal but not so common here in the US. And wash all of the above down with rotating taps of local brews, or their specialty moonshine cocktails!

Mom and two daughters sitting in a booth at a restaurant.
Family-friendly restaurant

Other popular dishes include the patty melt with onion rings, Mac ‘N Cheese Bacon Burger, Buffalo fries, and Buffalo cauliflower. Bring the whole family for some of the best pub fare in the Raleigh area!

Anna’s Pizzeria

Crosswalk and a red brick building with an Italian restaurant
Anna’s on the corner of Salem Street

Anna’s Pizzeria is another of our recommended downtown Apex restaurants. They pride themselves on NY Style Pizza and homemade Italian food. If you love all things Italian, consider Anna’s one of your go to places to eat in Apex.

Established in 1986 in this charming corner lot building, they serve brick oven pizza and classic Italian dishes like Chicken Parmigiana, paninis and calzones. 

People dining in a restaurant.
Casual Italian restaurant

Owner Yury Rojas’s aunt Anna was originally from Italy and helped Yury’s family move to America, and to honor her Yury named his restaurant “Anna’s Pizzeria”, a place where her legacy lives on with delicious food and warm hospitality.

Our daughter enjoyed her large slice of cheese pizza. Not the best pizza in the Raleigh area in our opinion, and could have had more cheese, but kids aren’t too fussy!

From our experience, service is not quite up to the standard of other restaurants in Apex, but was decent enough and I did enjoy the old decor and laid back vibe and my Veal Marsala was satisfactory.

They have a variety of wine and beer options including several seasonal beverages.

La Rancherita 

Mexican restaurant inside a brick building with tables and chairs out the front
Popular Mexican restaurant

La Rancherita is a popular Mexican restaurant in downtown Apex. Serving classic Mexican fare in a cheerful cantina setting with salsas made in-house daily which is good, and the guacamole is said to be creamy and fresh.

Our daughter visited recently for her 16th birthday with friends as she loves street tacos, and they all loved the casual vibe here. It’s a fun place to hang out with friends, and with very reasonable prices.

Chips and salsa
Good salsa!

They were seated right away on a Friday evening and enjoyed their order of chicken tacos and burritos, and the ACP is pretty good. The server was polite and attentive, and the food served hot. 

Plate of Mexican food
Classic Mexican fare

Apparently they make a nice Margarita, and strong. The restaurant is easy to find being in the heart of downtown, with ample parking in the surrounding streets, or if you’re lucky, on Salem Street out front. 

La Rancherita Apex is one of three locations in Wake County. 

Daniel’s Restaurant & Catering

Exterior of a brown brick building with the name Daniel's on the canopy
Daniel’s is well loved.

Daniel’s is a locals favorite Italian Restaurant in Apex and has been preparing freshly sautéed pasta dishes, hand-stretched pizzas, and scratch-made desserts since 1996.

On the menu you’ll find hearty Italian dinners and lunch specials. The pasta here is among the best in the area and generous portions. And the complimentary fresh bread with marinara they bring to the table is highly regarded. 

The restaurant has a cozy neighborhood feel to it and a good choice for either a family meal, group gathering or date night. Reservations recommended. 

J&S Pizza New York Pizza

Pizza with ham and cheese
NY style pizza

When we asked our local friend Curt, who grew up in nearby Cary, where to get the best pizza in Apex he sent us to J&S Pizza.

Just a 5-minute drive from downtown brings you to this casual Italian restaurant that specializes in NY-style pizzas, plus pasta dishes, calzones, subs, and traditional and boneless chicken wings. 

Family owned since 1995, they have locations in Apex, Cary and Fuquay-Varina. Owners Silvio and Josephine Cammarata, natives of Sicily, purchased their first pizzeria in 1980 in Brooklyn, New York, before relocating to Apex, North Carolina.

Pizza with olives and spinach
Gluten free crust available

We like having local friends like Curt. And he was right, this is good New York style pizza, generous portions, attentive service, and a real Ma and Pa shop. And, if you’re gluten intolerant they have gluten free and cauliflower crust pizza bases!

Doherty’s Irish Pub & Restaurant 

Exterior of an Irish pub with trees and a lamp post outside
Classic pub fare

For those looking for good Irish pub fare including favorites like Corned Beef & Cabbage, Bangers & Mash, and Fish & Chips, consider Doherty’s for your next hearty meal. The French onion soup is said to be spectacular, and the Celtic chicken cordon bleu is a fan favorite. 

Come here for a taste of an authentic Irish Pub. Plenty of beers to choose from and a solid whiskey menu. And they have Sunday ticket for those wanting to catch a game! 

Mission Market

Woman sitting on a blue couch in a cafe
Our favorite cafe in downtown Apex

This cafe is our favorite coffee shop in downtown Apex. The lattes are good, it’s a place we like to sit for a while and chat or get some work down online. They also make great sandwiches, and my daughter loves their acai bowls. 

Mission Market is by the founders of Apex Outfitters, a great outdoor apparel store across the street, and it was established with the intention for the love of community, small business, and social justice.

Part cafe and part gift shop, they sell everything from home-decor, apparel, health and beauty to baby products and jewelry. A lovely store to stop in for a coffee and bite to eat whilst you peruse their offerings.

Coffee in a mug
Good coffee!

On the cafe side of things, you can choose from a good selection of Paninis, Avocado Toast, Acai Bowls, Smoothies, and Coffee and Tea – they use locally owned Counter Culture Coffee beans out of Durham!

Tap Station 

Aerial photo of a two story restaurant
Former garage turned restaurant

This location is cool. A converted garage with lots of great decor on both levels, ample outdoor seating and a kids play area adds a nice touch for families!

 Popular for their burgers, hot dogs, tater tots and their BIG pretzel comes with various dipping sauces and is a crowd pleaser!

23 rotating beers on tap made onsite and at their other brewery, Mason Jar, and an impressive Bourbon selection. A fun pub-like atmosphere with a good bar. Short drive from downtown Apex. 

FRESH. Local Ice Cream

Hand holding up a cup of ice cream in front of a brick wall
Choose from 15+ flavors

This beloved ice cream joint is not hard to find. Just look for the line of people out the door, especially in the warmer months but popular all year round. 

Our kids love going to the FRESH location in downtown. They have a huge variety of 15+ signature flavors, and you can choose to put your flavor of choice in a cup, homemade waffle cone, or cake cone.

They also have ice cream soda floats, milkshakes, and make party cakes FRESH each week. Plus, they have monthly specialty flavors to keep you coming back for more!

Entrance door to an ice cream shop with a black and white canopy over the windows
There is usually a line

All of the flavors are made FRESH in-house using ingredients from local dairy farms, and they also offer a vegan selection. The owners have lived in the NC Triangle community for the past 25 years, which is about as local as it gets these days!

A Taste of Brooklyn

Girl standing at the counter of a bakery
Get your cupcakes here!

For those with a sweet tooth and in need of freshly baked cupcakes and pastries, head to this New York-style Bakery in the heart of downtown Apex. Not a restaurant, obviously, but tasty food related, nonetheless. 

On display you can choose from full Cakes (or slices), Cupcakes, Italian Pastries, and Cookies. Got a birthday party or special event coming up? This petite bakery can custom create that special cake for you!

Sweet Talk Cafe

Woman eating a strawberry shaved ice dessert
Strawberry Bingsoo

A new cafe taking the area by storm is Sweet Talk Cafe, a locally owned coffee shop featuring Asian-inspired desserts such as their incredible Bingsoo (Korean style shaved ice).

As for coffee, they do an excellent latte here, the best we’ve had in Apex, plus other specialty beverages. 

Two mugs of coffee
Excellent lattes!

Their bingsoo is not your typical shaved ice texture, it melts in your mouth. We love the strawberry bingsoo, so refreshing and it is definitely shareable. 

The interior decor is cute and clean with plants on display. And the atmosphere is calming. Not a lot of seating and this place does get busy! 

Watch our Living in Apex video below:

Bonafide Bakeshop & Cafe

Entrance to a bakeshop with car parked out the front
Cute bakery

Another of the popular cafes in Apex. A cute little coffee shop and bakery and a place you can sit for a while and enjoy good ol’ Southern comforts or grab and go.

Selection of brownies and desserts
Vegan & gluten free options
Bacon and egg biscuit with a cup of coffee
Bacon and egg biscuit

Wide selection of vegan, gluten free and meat options including baked goods, sandwiches and biscuits, plus decent coffee. Not a ton of seating but lots of plants on display and very homely. 

Other restaurants in Apex

A few more places to eat in Apex we haven’t personally tried yet but are on our list include: 

Now it’s your turn. Please share in the comments below what you think are some of the best restaurants in Apex NC?

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