Where to Eat Lunch in Raleigh (40+ Spots Within 2-miles)

If you are looking for places to eat lunch in Raleigh, I’ve got you covered with my hand-picked list organized into categories such as Southern American, burgers, barbecue, cafes, Italian, Asian, Mexican and vegetarian.

People sitting down to lunch inside a restaurant
Beasley’s Chicken + Honey

While there is an ever-growing list of great Raleigh restaurants, not all of them are open for lunch, especially on a Monday, so I’ve done the research for you.

What is the best lunch in Raleigh? Well, that can depend on the type of food you desire. Below are our top Raleigh lunch spots within a 2-mile radius of downtown!

Spots to Eat Lunch in Raleigh

Southern American

Beasley’s Chicken + Honey

A close up of a chicken burger

As far as downtown Raleigh lunch restaurants go, you can’t do much better than Beasley’s, especially if you love Southern fried chicken, one of the classic Raleigh food experiences.

Popular dishes include Fried Chicken with honey, Crispy Carolina Catfish, Hot Chicken Sandwich, Biscuits + Gravy . Wash them down with a local craft beer, a blackberry mule at brunch, or a glass of wine or bubbles.

Big Ed’s City Market

Big Ed's Raleigh, NC

This is one of those places I take visiting friends for an introduction to Raleigh and a taste of Southern comfort food. When I’m at Big Ed’s I’m like, this is Raleigh, this is the South! The perfect spot for a Southern lunch in Raleigh with a group, or solo.

Popular items include country ham, aged ribeye steak, sliced pork loin, fried catfish, fried chicken liver over rice, freshly made hot biscuits, their HUGE hot cakes, and double-brewed sweet tea. 

Parkside Restaurant

Best burgers in Raleigh
Parkside Burger

From its unmissable neon sign to its traditional American comfort food, Parkside is a popular downtown Raleigh lunch restaurant (and brunch spot) with the locals. 

Consider their Prime Rib, Chicken & Waffle Sandwich, Steak Frites and the Parkside Burger is one of the best burgers in Raleigh. Wash your meal down with one of the 20 beers on tap, a house cocktail or a glass of wine!

Capital Club 16 

Women having lunch at a restaurant

Well known as one of the best lunch spots in Raleigh for their European-inspired cuisine and being located in a Depression-era landmark building. 

It might be small in size, but is big on character and charm and serves up traditional and creative dishes featuring seasonal and local ingredients, with a German flair. Popular spot for business lunches or lunching with friends.

The Big Easy

If you have ever been to New Orleans (the Big Easy), you’ll know how good the food scene is there. We’ve been three times and it would be in our top three foodie cities in the U.S. 

You can get a taste of NOLA in downtown Raleigh at this modern, southern kitchen with New Orleans roots who serve up favorites like gumbo, jambalaya, po’boys, and fried seafood. Plus classics like perfectly grilled burgers and ribs.

Burgers + Sandwiches + Hot Dogs

MoJoe’s Burgers

Burger with bacon and cheese
Carnivore Burger with chili

This is probably my favorite of the burger joints in Raleigh, and if you’re craving a tasty burger for lunch from a classic neighborhood joint, you can’t go wrong at MoJoe’s on the happening Glenwood Ave

You get hand-pressed patties and can choose from a 6 ounce, 10 ounce, or “Hall of Fame” one pounder with 9 different styles to have your burger. My pick, the Carnivore: beef patty, crispy bacon, savory chili, pimento cheese, fried egg, avocado and a side of tater tots. 

The Roast Grill

The Roast Grill in the Warehouse District is legendary in Raleigh and has been serving just hot dogs and glass bottle cokes since 1940. It’s a no-frills diner that’s also popular for its Greek desserts. Other popular hot dog places include Snoopy’s and The Cardinal Bar.

State of Beer

Chicken and cheese sandwich and bowl of chili
Smoke on the Water sandwich

Not only is State of Beer one of Raleigh’s most popular bottle shops, but they’re also well known for dishing up some of the best sandwiches in Raleigh (and hearty salads) that pair perfectly with your beer to be enjoyed outside on their casual patio.

If you’re looking for Raleigh lunch spots that are super casual and to sit outside, consider State of Beer on the edge of the Warehouse District. I enjoyed my “Smoke on the Water” sandwich!


Burger with lettuce, tomato, in front of the Char Grill sign

It doesn’t get much more Raleigh than Char-Grill, a local fast-food chain that’s been serving charcoal-grilled burgers fresh off the grill in their iconic downtown Raleigh location since 1959. Just placing your order is a part of the experience at this no-frills burger joint.

Start with their famous ½ Hamburger Steak Sandwich at this classic of Raleigh lunch spots. My kids also love their fries and shakes!

The Berkeley Cafe

Talk about an old Raleigh staple and hole-in-the-wall, the Berkeley Cafe is the oldest live music venue in Raleigh and is set in a charming 100-year-old building overlooking Nash Square.

Most popular menu items are their Badass Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich, Bandit Burger, and Philly Cheesesteak – they do a different version with lettuce and tomato.

The food is tasty and filling and affordable, there’s a good selection of draft beers, the staff are friendly, the vibe is unique, and you just have to check out their super funky back patio area! 

Union Special

Located on Fayetteville St in the heart of downtown Raleigh, Union Special is a full service bakeshop and café that serves up sandwiches, salads, sweet and savory pastries, and vegan fare, mostly from scratch ingredients from local small businesses. 

Manhattan Cafe

People dining in a cafe

No, this is not in NYC, this is in downtown Raleigh and family owned by brothers from Florida. Well known for their Paninis, Sandwiches, Soups, and Salads, the Manhattan Cafe is colorful and vibrant and the food is tasty and good value for money.

I enjoyed my Turkey BLT, they have gluten free options, and I’m looking forward to going back and tasting more menu items. Consider the Manhattan Cafe for your next Raleigh lunch spot.

Carole’s Kitchen

At Carole’s they feed people and change lives. This nonprofit social enterprise restaurant creates healthy employment for women overcoming crisis.

Their grab-and-go lunch restaurant serves as a storefront and teaching kitchen, and on the menu are sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads, and kolaches.


Clyde Cooper’s BBQ

Clyde Cooper's BBQ

Step back in time during lunch in Raleigh at Clyde Cooper’s BBQ, a downtown Raleigh institution since 1938 and one of the best bbq restaurants in Raleigh

The old-school decor and ambiance is inviting, but the food is the main reason it’s one of the popular downtown Raleigh lunch spots. Favorites include Pulled Pork, Fried Chicken (choice of dark or white meat.), Brisket, Ribs, Collards, Brunswick Stew, and Hush Puppies.

The Pit BBQ

The Big Boy Burger at The Pit Authentic BBQ, Raleigh, NC
The Big Boy Burger

More of an upscale bbq joint, The Pit proudly serves authentic whole-hog, and pit-cooked Eastern-style barbecue along with all the traditional Southern sides you can take. 

I personally love their Beef Brisket and Baby Back Ribs, but their top seller is their Whole-Hog Chopped Barbecue. And if you love burgers, their Big Boy Burger is HUGE. Also popular is their Southern Fried Chicken, Brunswick Stew, Heirloom Cabbage Collards, and Fried Green Tomatoes.

Sam Jones BBQ

plates of barbeque

The Jones family name in BBQ goes all the way back three generations, and at their location in downtown Raleigh, they smoke whole hogs on site every day. 

Famous for their chopped BBQ, fried chicken and baked flat cornbread, I’m also a fan of their slaw, collards, and sweet potato muffins! Indoor and outdoor seating.

Longleaf Swine BBQ

This whole hog barbecue joint might be a relatively new brick and mortar Raleigh lunch spot, but it grew from a successful food truck and now occupies the corner of N Person St and E Edenton Streets in historic Oakwood.

On the menu are your typical offerings of Whole Hog BBQ, Brisket, Pork Spare Ribs, and Pulled Pork Sandwich. Plus sides like Pimento Mac & Cheese, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Slaw. Awesome outdoor patio area for when the weather plays nice! 

Breweries + Bars

The Raleigh Times

Hamburger with city views in the background
Burger on their rooftop

This is a timeless watering hole named after the former newspaper, and probably the most famous of the bars in Raleigh, even Obama had a campaign beer here, and another of the popular Raleigh lunch spots for their quality American pub grub and rooftop patio.

Popular items include the Raleigh Times Burger, the Nachos, Far East Reuben, fried Pickles, and Cobb salad. Large belgium beer selection to wash it all down!

The Players Retreat

People sitting at a bar watching sports

One of my favorite sports bars in Raleigh that has been a tradition with NC State students and alumni for over 70 years. The PR is a true Raleigh landmark and the oldest continuously operating tavern between Atlanta and Washington D.C.

Enjoy lunch in a booth, at the bar, or on an outside table on the sidewalk. With a focus on hamburgers and sandwiches, they serve up some of the best burgers in the city. NOTE: Kids eat free here on Sundays!

Carolina Ale House

People sitting at a bar watching sports

Located in the Glenwood South entertainment district with an awesome 3rd floor rooftop terrace, their motto is food, sports and fun.

This casual and family-friendly sports bar and restaurant has some of the best wings in Raleigh, a fairly extensive menu, and a large list of craft beers.

Woody’s at City Market

People sitting in a bar having drinks and lunch

This long running locally owned sports bar and watering hole in the heart of downtown near Moore Square is a popular lunch spot in Raleigh with great lunch specials and a good selection of craft beers.

Many people say they have the best wings in the Triangle – plus signature burgers, subs, salads and other typical bar food. 

Whiskey Kitchen

Lamb Burger at Whiskey Kitchen, Raleigh, NC
Lamb burger

Part whiskey bar, part Southern kitchen, this is one of our favorite lunch places in Raleigh for its tasty Southern American food, repurposed industrial feel, outdoor patio, and extensive Whiskey list. 

My pick is the lamb burger and fried brussels, also consider the crispy broccoli, fried chicken sandwich, shrimp n’ grits, pork chop. A fun place for couples, or with a group of friends.

Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

Mon and two daughters eating brunch with a view of the city
City views

Offering the best view of the Raleigh downtown skyline from their outdoor patio, Wye Hill is one of the best breweries in Raleigh but also serves up above-average food including innovative lunch options that you can wash down with one of their refreshing brews or cocktails.

Consider their Wye Hill Burger, Devilled Eggs, Everything Brussels, Roasted Beet Hummus, and Strawberry Fields Salad. 

Tobacco Road Sports Cafe

nachos and beer on a table at a sprts bar
Down East Nachos

Located in the historic Powerhouse building, this is more of an upscale Raleigh sports bar, but far from pretentious and a good spot to catch a game over lunch!

On the menu is scratch-made Southern-inspired food, and their Down East Nachos is one of the biggest I’ve eaten, fully loaded with pork, pickled okra and red onions.

Plus burgers, salads, and choose from their own in-house craft beers plus bottled and canned beers. It’s one of our fav breweries in downtown Raleigh!


The Morning Times

the morning times raleigh
Turkey sandwich + tator tots

One of our favorite coffee spots and breakfast spots in Raleigh that also serves as a solid lunch option, especially if you need a coffee perk up (they do an all day breakfast). 

Sit in the cozy upstairs that also functions as an art gallery, or on the sidewalk on a nice weather day. Consider the Turkey Sandwich, Buffalo Chicken Wrap, Omelet of the Moment, and Breakfast Burrito.

A Place at The Table

A Place at the Table Cafe, Raleigh
Good sandwiches + coffee

Raleigh’s first pay-what-you-can café in downtown Raleigh is an amazing concept and a pleasant spot for lunch as all the staff and volunteers are fantastic and very welcoming.

For lunch choose from sandwiches, soups and salads, plus build your own biscuits. Great coffee too, they use Black and White Coffee Roasters from Wake Forest.

The Daily Planet Cafe

Bright cafe and coffee shop within the fantastic Museum of Natural Sciences. Choose from hearty sandwiches, small plates, and seasonal salads. Their coffee bar serves Raleigh-roasted Larry’s Coffee – not your average museum cafe! 


Lucettegrace Cafe in downtown Raleigh.

This contemporary patisserie specializes not only in sweet and savory breakfast pastries and French inspired desserts, but also light lunches including soups, sandwiches, salads and coffee. Located close to the Raleigh Convention Center.


Vic’s Italian (Mon lunch + more

Vic's Italian Restaurant, Raleigh
Great pizzas

One of my favorite downtown Raleigh restaurants for authentic Italian cuisine and New York style pizza, plus they serve a wide variety of delicious pastas and entrees in healthy portions at reasonable prices.

Popular dishes include their specialty pizzas (gluten free bases available), Penne Alla Vodka, Calzones, and the complimentary garlic knots. Grab a seat on the sidewalk in the warmer weather months!


Great courtyard

Another of the Italian restaurants in Raleigh for lunch we like to frequent is Gravy, for great pasta dishes and to eat out in their cozy courtyard when the weather is right.

They serve traditional Italian-American dishes, have gluten free options, and they make all of their pasta in house. Popular dishes include Risotto balls, the Lasagne, the Gnocchi, Tagliatelle Bolognese, Chicken Parmigiana, Eggplant pie.

Oakwood Pizza Box

Oakwood pizza box
Gluten free Peperoni pizza

When you research for “best pizzas in Raleigh”, Oakwood Pizza Box regularly appears at the top of the lists. This is real New York-style pizza and a pizza joint run by a New York native.

Simple menu with three basic pizza pies; cheese, square, white, each 18″ in diameter, and you can build on those with extra ingredients at $2 each. Or, you can order just a slice. Gluten free bases available!

Benny Capitale’s Pizza

Slice of peperoni and sausage pizza
Giant slice of peperoni & sausage

Capitale means capital in Italian, and since they are only steps away from the State Capitol Building on Fayetteville St in downtown Raleigh the name fits! 

I love how they keep it simple and to the point, and affordable! Pizza, by the slice, and I mean BIG slices (you need two paper plates) and only $5-$6. Our kids love popping in here for their favorite slice! 


Heirloom Brew Shop

Fried Chicken Bowl and coffee
Fried Chicken Bowl

If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that we rank Heirloom Brewshop as one of our favorite coffee shops in Raleigh and one of our favorite places for Asian food in Raleigh as this Tea House and Sake bar serves amazing Asian inspired dishes for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Consider the Taiwanese Fried Chicken Bowl and the Chicken Rice Porridge (I added a fried egg). Other options include a “Mapo” Tofu Rice Bowl, and Salt + Pepper Tofu. Oh, their Mochi Donuts (gluten free) are a hit too, and their space and ambiance is so inviting! 

Anise Pho

Bowl of Vietnemese noodle soup at Anise Pho in Raleigh

We spent 6 weeks traveling through Vietnam and miss eating authentic Vietnamese cuisine, especially Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup). While Anise Pho is not quite like sitting in Ho, it’s the best Pho in downtown Raleigh we’ve had so far.

Choose from Vietnamese classics like Pho, Banh Mi, and Spring rolls (their peanut sauce is a hit. We found the Pho to be flavorful and the portions large, and the service friendly and fast.

International Cuisine

Taverna Agora Greek Kitchen + Bar

Mom and two daughters eating brunch at a Greek Restaurant
Greek food + rooftop patio

This is the best lunch in Raleigh downtown for those who love Mediterranean food and rooftop patios. Truly a Raleigh lunch experience that will have you dreaming of the Greek Isles!

Start with Souvlaki Skewer Platters and Sun-dried Tomato Hummus, then enjoy traditional Greek favorites like Stuffed Grape Leaves, Grilled Octopus, Souvlaki Skewer Platters, and their Lamb burger.


This popular Middle Eastern restaurant serves up modern versions of authentic Lebanese dishes in an upbeat atmosphere with communal tables or your own space.

You can expect really good food including hot mezze (kibbeh), house-baked flatbreads, chicken/lamb/beef shawarma, falafel, and house-made flatbreads. There’s something for everyone, including vegetarian options and a kids menu. 


Gringo A Go Go

4 plates of Mexican food
Tasty and colorful

Looking for the best Mexican restaurants in Raleigh, this is one of the popular downtown restaurants with their colorful outdoor patio, real Mexican food. and seasonal hand-crafted Margaritas. 

Popular items include their tacos, chorizo cheese dip, quesadillas, guacamole ed chilaquiles with carnitas, spinach empanadas, delicious vegetarian and vegan options, and full bar including Mezcal. It’s also a top spot for brunch.


centro mexican restaurants raleigh

Modern Mexican food in the heart of downtown Raleigh. Funky little place with a laid back Mexican vibe and atmosphere, Centro utilizes organic and local ingredients in flavorful ways in an energetic setting

You can’t can’t go wrong with any of their tacos. Excellent salsa. The torta. The habanero house made hot sauce. Their vast lunch menu with many items under $10. 

El Rodeo

Another quality choice for Mexican food downtown for a lunch break considering the affordable prices with attentive service is El Rodeo. Your typical large menu with lots of options including vegetarian, and strong Margaritas! 

Food Halls

Morgan Street Food Hall

morgan street food hall

The 22,000 square foot Morgan Street Food Hall at the Warehouse District is home to 20 different food concepts. Take your pick then grab one of the picnic tables outside. Our favorite vendors are CowBar Burger, Iyla’s Southern Kitchen, Curry in a Hurry, and Raleigh Rolls.

Transfer Co. Food Hall

Cowbar Burger

A similar concept to Morgan Street, Transfer Co. is housed in the historic Carolina Coach Garage with 50,000+ square feet of warehouse space. Take your pick from the 12+ vendors inside then enjoy your meal outside on the back patio. 

Vegetarian + Vegan

Irregardless Café

People dining outside a cafe

Irregardless Cafe is one of the longest-running Raleigh restaurants and a true farm-to-table experience offering excellent vegetarian and vegan options, but also meat and seafood dishes – something for everyone!

Element Plant-Based Gastropub

Smoked vegan bbq burger on a bun by Element Gastropub.
Smoked bbq burger

Casual eatery serving vegan finger foods, sandwiches & desserts, plus unique cocktails & draft beer. All their food is derived from plants and they’re one of the popular vegan restaurants in Raleigh. Indoor dining plus a spacious outdoor patio.

Happy + Hale

Started by two NC State University alumni, they specialize in bowls and salads, plus smoothies, with lots of vegetarian options. Fast casual in the heart of downtown.

Now it’s your turn, can you recommend any Raleigh lunch restaurants? Please share in the comments down below!

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