Ok, so I think I can get used to the South.
Even though I’ve lived in DC for the past four winters—each worse than the last—I haven’t had the chance to explored much south of Virginia. I spent the holiday week with my family who recently moved to Raleigh, or as my brother lovingly refers to it, “a not-weird Portland.” Between the home-cooked meals, board games and some much needed couch naps, I thoroughly enjoyed my time exploring in North Carolina (although I could be biased, since some of my favorite people now call this place home).
I had been offered a job in Charlotte a few years ago, but declined at the time. I couldn’t quite find anyone who had lived in the area, much less visited and could give me to goods on culture, food and boys (and I don’t like to go order from restaurants if I don’t know what’s on the menu). So, it was a bit surreal to spend some time in the area and picture what my life would be like had I taken the job.
Downtown is full of eclectic, small businesses and the restaurant scene shamelessly advertises their chargrilled and deep-fried goodness (don’t let the hipster vibe fool you, we are below the Mason Dixon line, after all).
A couple observations about Raleigh and its inhabitants
- The people are super friendly and not stingy about you petting their dogs. This is my new friend Blue, whose owner let me dog sit (and contemplate dog-nap) him while he went inside to order a drink.
- Diversity. Hello, boys! (Insert all the emojis)
- Downtown is surprisingly small, and you could potentially do the damn thing in a weekend. However, this is the south, and life moves a little slower here, so take your time to savor the flavors (and try to breathe when you get stuck behind a slow walker).
- I didn’t meet a single bartender who was a dick (tips on tips on tips!)
Here is my guide to getting the most out of the The City of Oaks
Total days spent: 8
How to get around: Walking, Uber or nephew with permit
How to look like a local: Dress like you went to a fancy school
How to look like a tourist: Dress like you own a Miley Cyrus album
Food & Drink
Where to get a cup of coffee: If you’re drinking coffee, you’re drinking at Yellow Dog. Being a Seattle girl, I don’t play when it comes to coffee. Yellow Dog has to be one of the best cups of Joe I’ve had in a really long time (so good that I was genuinely sad when I found out it closes on Sundays). Enjoy one of their in-house pastries, too. I recommend the peanut butter cookie!
Where to get a kick-ass donut: Monuts in Durham (and it doesn’t hurt that it’s full of studious Duke dudes). I tried the coffee cake and chocolate chai, both worth the trip alone! They also have a full menu that features a Taco Tuesday. Mmm… all my food loves in one place.
Where to buy unexpected souvenirs: Deco. It’s like an Etsy shop come to life. Lots of handmade/small business trinkets, with a fun tongue-in-cheek twist, such as the candles for the Queen Bey followers and the friend who accidentally dated a republican.
Where to brunch: I’m sure we could have stumbled into any of the numerous restaurants, but I’m happy we found the darling little cafe called Capital Club. Ok, so technically it wasn’t the brunch menu, but when you can
flirt tip your way into getting the server to put an egg on it, I call it brunch. My date and I shared the soup du jour, which was a duck stew (highly recommend!) and I had The Sparrow, complete with melted brie, baby spinach, and caramelized onion (my mouth is watering just thinking about it!)
Where to get a low-key drink: Anchor Bar. They have live music (take it easy on the eggnog special tho, or you might be holding your sister’s hair while she speaks in tongues when the driver takes a corner too fast). They also have a trio of boys covering the top 40 music on week nights. In the immortal words of Adele, “Hello.”
Where to get a strong-ass cocktail: Fox Liquor Bar. It’s a speakeasy, so you might miss it if you don’t know what you’re looking for. As the sign says upon entrance,
“Respect the juice.
These are strong.
Have some water in between.
Your head will thank you in the morning.”
I recommend the Pink Lady and a handsome date. (And if you feel a strange but empowering sense of self, it might be because you’re in one of the many establishments—all delicious and instagram-worthy—owned by Ashley Christensen. This woman practically owns Raleigh.)
Where to get BBQ: The Pit. Need I say more?
Only in Raleigh
Raleigh has a legitimate chocolate factory! Spend a few hours at Videri pretending to be Charlie (or Veruca, let’s be honest), and take advantage of their free samples.
Where to get cultured: Take a tour of the Mordecai Plantation Manor, the oldest home in Raleigh (est. 1785). The park is also home to the birthplace of Andrew Johnson, one of our few truly disgraced (and impeached) presidents. A guided tour just $5 per person, and a total steal. Rumor has it that some of the daughters still haunt the grounds, so be careful where you step.
Raleigh is truly a fun mix of old and new, and I’m sure there is a ton more to see and do (like a monthly Food Truck Rodeo that shuts down the main street, whaaat!).
Can’t wait to visit again!
Yellow Dog | 219 E Franklin St
Monuts | 1002 9th St, Durham
Deco | 19 W Hargett St
Capital Club | 16 W Martin St
Anchor Bar | 207 Fayetteville St
Fox Liquor Bar | 237 S Wilmington St
The Pit | 328 W Davie St
Videri Chocolate Factory | 327 W Davie St
Mordecai Plantation Manor | 1 Mimosa St
Are you from Raleigh?
Have you visited recently? Is there someplace we missed? Let us know below!