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Restaurants and Nightlife in Raleigh

Raleigh's Dive barOn the north side of downtown Raleigh sits the Glenwood district, where Sherman's troops once camped and the city of Raleigh was surrendered. Things have changed considerably since those days, and generally, if not entirely, for the better. But the fact that the Dive Bar at the head of Glenwood Avenue is no longer a real dive, and in fact no longer even exists except in the hearts and minds of its former patrons and the people who worked there is evidence that something's been lost in the process of these blocks going upscale.

The good news is that the revitalization of this area ("revitalization" if, that is, you consider Union troops camped in your backyard to be "vitalization") means that there's a whole lot more selection on where to eat and drink in greater downtown Raleigh. The new Dive Bar seems like a perfectly nice place to hang, though certainly nothing like its predecessor. As Exhibit A in describing the general nature of the new Glenwood, I quote from triangle.com's description of the nouveau Dive: "[The] sleek, new look is created with help from a stainless-steel bar countertop and light fixtures, track lighting, a bar backdrop of chipped-edge glass, sandblasted glass front, a rust-colored, acid-stained floor and a pair of L-shaped, black micro-suede couches."

But that's cool by me - and if this ain't your scene, Sadlack's is still open. You choose, and perhaps you'll choose both.

42nd Street Oyster Bar, RaleighThe Glenwood scene begins at the intersection of Glenwood Ave. and Hillsborough St. with a few art galleries and such. Just down the block and around the corner, at 518 W. Jones, is 518 West Italian Restaurant, courtesy of the same folks who brought 411 to Chapel Hill. The menu is inspired by the flavors of Italy and the Mediterranean and features locally grown ingredients. They make their pasta on premise every day, and their delicious thin crust pizzas are baked in an Italian wood-fired oven. The menu features traditional Italian favorites, but they are best known for their creative pasta dishes, seasonal specials, fresh seafood, and hand-cut steaks.

42nd Street Oyster and Seafood Grill, certifiably a Raleigh institution, where the city's movers and shakers are known to gather to get shit-faced drunk and eat copious quantities of shellfish. The 42nd St. Oyster Bar is one of the South's most famous landmark restaurants since its humble beginnings in 1931 as a grocery store offering oysters and draft beer. The 42nd St Oyster Bar features live music in The Lounge Friday and Saturday evenings.

(Speaking of getting drunk, just up the block here is the venerable Raleigh Greyhound Station, which is where I first saw a man project a dime out his left nostril onto a pinball machine by slapping the side of his head. That was back in '75, I believe. Stop into the station at Harrington and Jones, he may still be there.)

Hiberian Pub, RaleighBack on Glenwood, at the 300 block, here's a curious one for you: Cody's Chinese Bistro & Pub. Check it out. Let us know. On the same block, you'll also find Sushi Blues Café, voted Best Sushi in The Triangle by Metro Magazine and Zspotlight, Independently Weekly, Spectator, Digital City & City Search and has been featured in Southern Living Magazine, Rachel Ray's Everyday, Esquire Magazine, Indy, N&O, and the now defunct Spectator. The Hibernian Restaurant and Pub suffered a devastating fire on December 26, 2012, and plans are underway to rebuild the original location. The Cary location, established in 2003, remains open and another Hibernian pub recently opened its doors in North Raleigh. On a chill January Sunday afternoon, the Hibernian is quite inviting. There's a fire going, all nice and comfy-cozy; professional football, albeit American, is on the tube. Among the traditional fare available is the Galway Races Hot Beef Roll, bangers and mash, shepherd's pie, fish and chips - and then on the not-so-trad side is the Hibernian Curry, and why not? A Guinness advert reminds you: "Always time for a Guinness Stout." And they do pour a pretty nice Guinness here, I must say.

Just down the block is Sunflower's Sandwich Shop, one of Raleigh's best, and healthiest, sandwich shops.

Mecca restaurant, RaleighOn down the street, on the left, is a decidedly different dining experience: Armadillo Grill (also to be found over in Carrboro), which I mention because for about three bucks you can get yourself a couple of bean tacos on homemade fresh soft flour tortillas that will fill you right up, you're in and out in minutes, and ready to get on with your life. Next door is one of the anchors of the Glenwood scene, around since 1997, Havana Deluxe, a laidback place to have a quiet drink. Also down this way, the Mellow Mushroom makes a decent sub and not-bad pizza and pours some good draught beers. Two blocks from City Market, at the corner of Wilmington and Martin streets, is the Mecca Restaurant, another popular hangout for Raleigh politicians, featuring a hodge-podge of Mediterranean and Southern fare in a classic diner atmosphere which was established in 1930. The Mecca Luncheonette first opened its doors on the corner of Fayetteville Street and Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh in 1930. The original owners were Nick and Helen Dombalis. Nick Dombalis, a Greek immigrant, was known for his tough work ethic. Even after he turned over day to day operations to his son John and wife Floye in the 1950s, it was not unusual for “Mr. Nick” to be behind the cash register during lunch. Until his death in 2002, John Dombalis was at the Mecca every day. A gregarious, likeable individual, John’s clam chowder and his homemade rice pudding were among his culinary specialties. In later years, John Dombalis developed the Glorified Hamburger which has become a favorite of many. The special sauce and the all-beef, charco-broiled hamburger patty on a sesame bun will rival any hamburger anywhere. John’s trips to the Farmer’s Market yielded fresh local produce that delighted the patrons. The Mecca is now operated by the 3d generation Dombalis.

Rialto Theater, RaleighOn out Glenwood Avenue a couple miles (go to where Wade Avenue crosses under at the 1400 block, then go two more blocks) is the Five Points neighborhood, a pleasant little tree-lined residential area with a few restaurants as well as the Rialto Theater, an art house, where you can see those big city/indy/euro type films and serves beer and wine. The Rialto is probaby the most charming theater in the Triangle. It was built in 1942 and although recently renovated, it still retains its original beauty, with its vintage recessed lighting and performance stage. The Rialto has one large theater with Dolby Digital sound systems that shows foreign and independant films as well as the Rocky Horror Picture Show, every Friday at midnight. Bloomsbury Bistro is very nice; good food, slightly upscale, but come as you are. Churchill's is a real guy's-guy kind of place. And The Point at Glenwood is locally owned and operated and serves classic American fare with the occasional Southern and Cajun twists.

Pour House, RaleighHeading back into town - but not into the Glenwood district; we've done that already - a few other random downtown places worth mentioning include the following …

A couple of blocks south of Hillsborough St., at the corner of Morgan and Harrington streets, is the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, which claims to have the biggest beer selection in the Triangle. It's got plenty of comfortable couches and free WI-FI. Lots of beer. Couches. Internet. What else you need? Every Monday is Pint Night. If you want to go right to the source go to the Big Boss Brewery Tap Room. For live entertainment, check the Independent to see who's playing at the Lincoln Theatre (126 E. Cabarrus St.), which attracts many of the big-name bands that pass through the area as does Southland Ballroom, The Pour House, Tir Na Nog, and Kings Barcade.

In the heart of downtown is City Market, located between Martin and Davie streets, home to a number of eating establishments, including Batistella's which serves Classic New Orleans and upscale southern cuisine, Vic's Restaurante Italiano and Pizzeria, and Woody's @ City Market which has been a staple in the Moore Square District of Downtown Raleigh as one of the Triangles favorite neighborhood taverns. Most famous of all, another true Raleigh institution, Big Ed's City Market Restaurant, where an average country-style breakfast is ample enough to feed (if not nourish) your extended family for the balance of the week.

Clyde Cooper Barbecue, RaleighAnd finally and perhaps most importantly Clyde Cooper's Barbecue, at 109 E Davie Street, has been serving Carolina-style barbecue since 1938 in downtown Raleigh. They slow cook only top lean pork shoulders and hams until they are meltingly tender, mixed with a splash of their own tasty barbecue sauce. All of their food is made fresh daily and with cholesterol-free oil. It is listed as one of the 20 Best Barbecue restaurants in America by Local Eats. Barbecue comes chopped, sliced or spare-ribbed, and chicken barbecued, fried or chopped. If you have never had North Carolina style barbecue then you need to come here. NC-style barbecue involves cooking a whole hog at extremely low temperatures for many hours, allowing the full potential of the meat to come out without it drying out. NC-style barbecue should always be cooked completely through, with no pink. Once cooked it is pulled from the bone and finely chopped before a vinegar-based sauce is added to the pork after the cooking process is done. In addition to the barbecued pork, coleslaw is typically served as a side, as well as hush-puppies and sweet tea.

Where else can you get some good exercise, have fun, enjoy tasty morsels, learn first-hand about unique restaurants & insights about the downtown areas of Raleigh and Chapel Hill / Carrboro? TriangleFood Tour – Offers two Walking Food Tours in Downtown Raleigh & Chapel Hill / Carrboro.  Guided food tasting tour with historical tidbits and unique insights are scheduled on Saturdays at 2:30pm, $28 + svc chg.  Tickets must be purchased in advance. Tours typically fill up a week ahead.  See www.trianglefoodtour.com for additional information, available dates and tickets.

Other Related NC Sites: Raleigh, Things-to-do, Raleigh History, Historic Neighborhoods, NC State Fair, Museum of Art, Chapel Hill Restaurants, Durham Restaurants

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