He Said, She Said: Our favorite Raleigh spots

Caroline & Craig from This Is Raleigh
Caroline & Craig

Ok guys, whilst Caroline and I have similar tastes when it comes to food, drinks, and experiences we like to have at home here in Raleigh, we don’t always see eye-to-eye when it comes to making decisions.

Let’s face it, deciding where to grab a coffee, go for lunch or an evening drink are important decisions and can be stressful, y’all. Especially with Raleigh’s growth and thriving restaurant and craft beer scene. We have WAY more options now than when we first moved her in 2004 and we want to do it all eventually.

So today we thought we’d do a little He Said, She Said when it comes to Raleigh and where we like to eat, drink, and play.

These are our choices for where we like to go most, or where we’d take a visiting guest from out of town and say to them, This Is Raleigh…

Best coffee shop in Raleigh?

Caroline:

The best coffee in Raleigh for me is Heirloom Brewshop. Australian’s are known coffee snobs. Our coffees are outstanding. Heirloom for me makes the near perfect cup that transports me back home with each sip.

And my favorite coffee moment in Raleigh is a latte paired with the gluten free chocolate torte at Idle Hour Cafe. That is a flavor swirl you do not want to miss. 

Heirloom Brewshop
Heirloom Brewshop

Craig:

Jubala Coffee on Hillsborough street. Excellent lattes (and they make flat whites – it’s an Aussie thing!!). I’ve always been impressed with their passionate and friendly baristas. And really enjoy the aesthetics and college crowd vibes and the people watching on Hillsborough street across from NC State. 

jubala coffee
Jubala Coffee

Favorite breakfast spot in Raleigh?

Caroline:

Well, we have to go out and experience more breakfast places as I can’t immediately think of one. Let’s go for brunch then. 

Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing has some of the best food and THE best views in Raleigh. I could literally choose them as best for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I want to be fair. 

Their Sunday Brunch is to be experienced especially their creative seasonal takes on mimosas. 

wye hill kitchen and brewery raleigh nc 8
Brunch at Wye Hill

Craig:

For a classic Raleigh breakfast experience, it’s hard to go past Big E’ds Restaurant in old City Market for their home cooked Southern comfort food and hospitality. My pick is the ribeye steak and eggs with biscuits. And I know my kids love their GIANT pancakes. 

The decor is cool too with antiques hanging from the rafters. When I think the words “This Is Raleigh” Big Ed’s is one place that immediately comes to mind. 

Big Ed's City Market
Big Ed’s City Market

Favorite lunch spot in Raleigh?

Caroline:

Taverna Agora Greek Kitchen & Bar. I am obsessed with their ancient Greek Retsina wine. There is no better place to drink it than in a Grecian themed tree top balcony garden and a bowl of Moussaka. 

Taverna Agora
Taverna Agora

Craig:

NC is a barbecue state and I’m a meat eater, so I would definitely put The Pit Authentic BBQ on the itinerary for a place to eat whilst showing a guest from out of town around.

Great central location in the Warehouse District and their Big Boy Burger is phenomenal and easily one of the best burgers in Raleigh.

pitt bbq raleigh 3
Big Boy Burger at The Pit.

Favorite dinner spot in Raleigh?

Caroline:

We recently experienced a fantastic three course meal at Crawford and Son on N Person Street. Intimate setting, amazing innovative cocktails and incredible food. 

crawford and son raleigh nc 10

Craig:

Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing. The best view in Raleigh is backed up with creative food options and great craft beers! I could come here anytime of day but get here just before sun down for a pre-dinner drink to take in the views.

We’ve been coming here since it was the old Boylan Bridge Pub, but the food, beers and cocktails are way better – this is Raleigh! 

wye hill
Wye Hill

Favorite Raleigh lake?

Caroline:

Lake Johnson. When we first moved to Raleigh in 2004 we knew instantly this would be our forever home. We lived in apartments right on this lake and would walk around it every afternoon. It was a place to de-stress after work and dream of a brilliant future. And now we have a paddle board for the warmer months, I love the serenity of it even more. 

Lake Johnson
Lake Johnson

Craig:

Ditto. Can’t go past Lake Johnson for the history we have with it as Caz mentioned. I’d like a dollar for every time we have walked the 3 mile loop trail, and have fond memories playing with our 1 year old at the time on the sandy beach area.

Whether we are walking the trail, paddle boarding on the water, or sitting in the rocking chairs in the boathouse, it’s one of my favorite Raleigh moments! 

lake johnson raleigh north carolina 2
Lake Johnson

Favorite neighborhood in Raleigh to explore?

Caroline: 

Historic Oakwood, especially now with the revitalization of the N Person St area. I love wandering the streets to look at the historic Southern homes. Don’t miss the candlelight walking tour at Christmas.

Historic Oakwood
Historic Oakwood

Craig:

The Warehouse District. I have everything I need here – coffee shops, cocktail bars, a brewery, wine bar, a BBQ joint, a food hall, and all within a few hundred feet of each other. Close second is the N Person Street area.

Warehouse District Raleigh
Warehouse District

Best bar in Raleigh?

Caroline:

Watts & Ward. I’ll never forget walking down the stairs into Watts & Ward thinking I’d be entering a tiny hole in the wall space. I was stunned when it opened up to one classy room of leather seating, vintage artwork, rustic tables, dim lighting and bookshelves full of history.

That room led to another, and then another, and then right down the end another secret room where Jazz music was playing. Hello Underground spirit of 1920s America. 

Now it’s where I take friends visiting for an ultra cool Raleigh experience with killer cocktails. 

Watts & Ward
Watts & Ward

Craig:

Whiskey Kitchen. With my new found interest in all things Whiskey I’ll go with this bar. Besides the fact they have over 300 whiskies, there’s a decent selection of local NC and domestic beers, and cocktails.

And I’m a fan of the repurposed industrial feel, especially in the warmer months with the garage door that opens to the outside patio which is great. Their inventive small bites menu is good too.

Whiskey Kitchen, Raleigh
Whiskey Kitchen

Best brewery in Raleigh?

Caroline:

While I LOVE beer, I can no longer drink it due to a gluten intolerance. However, I can make an allowance once or twice a year, and I do that at Bond Brothers Brewery in Cary.

Their craft brews for me are some of the best in the country. I’ll never forget my first Milkshake IPA enjoyed at 10am before the Guinness Book of Records Flip Flip run. It was the fuel I needed to spring the 1km back to get another.

I love their outdoor beer garden that feels buzzing with the local community. 

bond brothers cary nc 4
Bond Bros.

Craig:

From a purely beer perspective I really like the beers at Trophy Brewing, my favorites being their Cloud Surfer and Trophy Husband.

It’s not my favorite space or location though, that would be either Wye Hill and Lynwood Brewing Concern. Other beers I like are from Crank Arm, Bond Bros, and Lynwood. 

Trophy Brewing
Trophy Brewing

Best pub in Raleigh?

Caroline:

Do I go England or Ireland here? Hmmm. Pre-Kids we’d be in the Hibernian Irish Pub on Glenwood Ave every weekend drinking Guinness or shots poured by the barman, Darren, and probably chanting Liverpool songs. . 

Now we’ve followed Darren to his own pub, London Bridge Pub. We had loads of fun last summer watching the Soccer World Cup in his cool beer garden. It reminded me a lot of living in London and watching rivalry rugby and cricket matches with my Antipodean friends. Yeah great vibe. Dazza wins. 

London Bridge Pub
London Bridge Pub

Craig:

London Bridge Pub (LBP). I feel like I’m back in England here with the passionate football fans (mostly Liverpool), the atmosphere, and the British themed decor. Just sitting in their back courtyard takes me back to 2003 from our times traveling around the UK. 

Oh, and their owners Darren and Michael are top blokes too who really care about the Raleigh community! 

london bridge pub
London Bridge Pub

Favorite Raleigh festival or event? 

Caroline:

Well, 2020 was meant to be the year we dived deep into Raleigh festivals. We haven’t done too many of them as we were always out of town exploring other places!

Our favorite used to be the Raleigh Beerfest, which I believe is now Brewgaloo. So we’ll go with that.

Although one of the most fun and unique event experiences we had was the Kirby Derby back in 2009 when they actually raced in their home made go karts down the treacherous Kirby St. 

Another validation for us that we’d chosen the best place to live. Anything goes in America! The wilder and wacker the better. Now it’s held in Dorothea Dix each year. 

Brewgaloo
Brewgaloo

Craig:

Brewgaloo Craft Beer Fest. Beers from around North Carolina, local food trucks, and live music. As a beer lover, that will do me! 

And for unique wacky fun, the Krispy Kreme Challenge (4 mile fun run) to eat 12 doughnuts. Watch our video here

Krispy Kreme Challenge
Krispy Kreme Challenge

Favorite mural in Raleigh?

Caroline:

As parents to two young women, my favorite is the “Remember the Truth” modern-day Disney princesses mural in the Warehouse District. I walk past it several times a week and it reminds me to keep raising fierce, independent, strong women who are compassionate and kind. This is Modern Women. 

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Our kids having fun with this mural

Craig:

As a sports fan, the Allen Iverson mural outside the CAM Raleigh on W.Martin St in the Warehouse District. Allen Iverson is sitting on the bench during an actual NBA game having his hair braided by his mom. So cool. 

Allen Iverson mural, Raleigh
Allen Iverson mural

Dream neighborhood to live in? 

Caroline: 

Historic Oakwood. Although, I do battle against this for a house in Cary on one of its many lakes. Do I go for downtown neighborhoods with Southern charm, or spacious and peaceful lakeside serenity?

This is Raleigh – we have so many amazing choices. 

Historic Oakwood
Historic Oakwood

Craig:

I’d be happy shacked up with Caz in Historic Oakwood for the charm, community, and location close to downtown. But let me suggest Boylan Heights as an equal favorite for much of the same reasons and you can walk or bike to the Warehouse District, Hillsborough Street, Glenwood South, Cameron Village etc. 

Neighborhoods in Raleigh
Boylan Heights

Favorite street?

Caroline:

I love how it took me so long to answer this one! Years ago, there was only one street really – Glenwood Ave. Now Raleigh has so much to choose from. 

I’m really liking the vibe of N Person Street lately. It has some great local retail stores, breweries, bars and fancy restaurants. 

N Person Street
N Person Street

Craig:

E. Hargett Street between Fayetteville St and S Person Street. You’ve got the Raleigh Times, The Morning Times, London Bridge Pub and above it the Green Light Speakeasy, and on the corner is Watts & Ward and then it runs past Moore Square. I have many fond memories from all of those establishments.

E. Hargett Street
E. Hargett Street

Favorite museum?

Caroline:

The NC Museum of Art can’t be beat for its beautiful outdoor spaces and sculptured art trail. 

NC Museum of Art
NC Museum of Art

Craig:

Can I be sneaky and say the Carolina Basketball Museum at UNC?? Ditto what Caroline says about the NC Museum of Art, and it’s the start of the cool Art to Heart Trail. But I must say the NC Museum of Natural Sciences is fantastic, and was great for our kids for a homeschooling lesson! 

Museum of Natural Sciences
Museum of Natural Sciences

Favorite date night spot?

Caroline:

Well, I’ll go with our most recent. Pre-dinner drinks at Pelagic in the Person St District. We absolutely LOVED the vibe here – the local place where everyone knows your name, and if they don’t they want to chat to find out. We then moved onto Crawford & Son for an amazing meal. After that, over to Person Street Bar for a cocktail.

Pelagic / Crawford & Son
Pelagic / Crawford & Son

Craig:

Our goal for 2021 is to find a babysitter and do more date nights as they have been few and far between in recent times. Until then, as Caroline mentioned our night out on N Person Street at Pelagic, Crawford & Sons, and Person St Bar was sensational. 

date nights raleigh nc
Pelagic / Dessert at Crawford & Son

Favorite park in Raleigh?

Caroline:

Dorothea Dix Park. It’s a gorgeous city park with plenty of spacious green fields, and oak trees, and has a beautiful sunset view of the city skyline. I also love the different festivals held there each year. It adds so much vibrancy to Raleigh. 

Dorothea Dix Park
Dorothea Dix Park

Craig:

Umstead State Park. We’re so lucky to have such an awesome state park just a 15-minute drive from downtown Raleigh. Great trails here for hiking/biking, picnic spots and camping opportunities. Plus the lake for water activities. 

sals branch trail william umstead state park 5
Umstead State Park

Favorite trail?

Caroline:

The 2.7 mile Lake Johnson loop trail. Perfect in any season. 

Lake Johnson Trail
Lake Johnson Trail

Craig:

Art to Heart trail. 6 mile trail from the NC Museum of Art to downtown Raleigh. Places to stop off for coffee, beers, food along the way, and a combination of nature trail along the greenway and more urban street paths. Fun for all the family! 

Art to Heart Trail
Art to Heart Trail

Favorite concert venue

Caroline:

Some of my happiest memories living in Raleigh have been outdoor concerts. The summer music season in Raleigh is so awesome with its fantastic outdoor venues.

My favorite concert memory ever was Jack Johnson live at Koka Booth Amphitheater. You mean a bit of Jack while sitting in a forest near a lake? Who needs Hawaii? Koka Booth is the “This is Raleigh” experience.

Craig:

Ditto what Caroline says. Whilst I’ve seen some great concerts at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek, getting to and from there is a nightmare! I’d like for Red Hat Amphitheater to be great as I love the fact that you can walk to everything downtown and don’t need transport but I’ve only been to one event there so not too sure of the sound quality yet? 

Red Hat Amphitheater
Red Hat Amphitheater

Favorite season in Raleigh?

Caroline:

Not winter!

My favorite time is April to October. It’s when the city really comes alive with festivals, music, good weather, sports events, Fall fun and happy vibes! 

fall fun
Fall fun!

Craig:

The Fall, as it means College Football season, cooler temps, leaf colors, and pumpkin flavored everything. And Halloween is one of my favorite events! I do hate blowing and raking the leaves though! 

lake johnson raleigh 2
Lake Johnson in the fall

Best thing about living in Raleigh?

Caroline:

It’s a high vibe lifestyle that happens inside the middle of a forest with a small town community feel but big city options.

View of downtown from Boylan Bridge
View of downtown from Boylan Bridge

Craig:

The trees, the trails, the lakes! It’s not touristy, it’s not too big and not too small, and a great central East Coast location and close to the beach and the mountains! Plus the thriving food and drink scene! 

Nash Square, downtown Raleigh
Nash Square, downtown Raleigh

Least favorite thing about living in Raleigh? 

Caroline:

I’m just staring at a blank page here!

Really, the only thing that bothers me at the moment is that it’s growing so quickly. I love the extra vibrancy and diversity it brings, but I am so concerned that the growth will take away the soul of Raleigh that we’ve loved for years. I don’t want it to become a stale big city and I really really don’t want to lose our unique forest feel. 

free things to do in raleigh
View of Raleigh from The Dillon Building

Craig:

The lack of a public transport system. I hate having to drive to most places, and that’s the allure for me to live within biking or walking distance to downtown.

Favorite getaway spot from Raleigh?

Caroline:

Wrightsville Beach. It’s our favorite beach in the USA as it reminds us so much of Australia. Super low key surfie vibe. 

Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville Beach

Craig:

Yeah, growing up on the beach in Australia it’s hard to pass up on a getaway to Wrightsville. I also love Wilmington, such a charming small city and I love places situated on a river. Cool bars and restaurants here, and it’s just 10 minutes down the road from Wrightsville so you can combine both! 

Wilmington Riverfront
Wilmington Riverfront

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