The recent revival of downtown Raleigh hasn’t garnered as much attention as that of neighboring Durham. But North Carolina’s capital, with its inviting new train station, restored warehouses and celebrated food scene, is no less impressive.
“It’s a place that is so surprisingly and unboisterously diverse,” said Cheetie Kumar, a local chef and rock guitarist who grew up in northern India and the Bronx before moving to Raleigh in the 1990s. As the chef-owner of Garland, an Indo-Pan-Asian restaurant with an adjoining music venue, Kings, and cocktail bar, Neptunes Parlour, Ms. Kumar is emblematic of the city’s evolution.
These days, she said, “the cornerstones of our city, as far as the downtown culinary scene, are all owned and operated by either women or immigrants.” In addition to her own businesses, she easily rattled off a list of notable neighbors, from Bida Manda and Brewery Bhavana (run by Laotian siblings) to Poole’s Diner (one of six Raleigh establishments from the chef Ashley Christensen, a James Beard award winner). And, Ms. Kumar said, “there are new places opening up all the time.” Here are a few of her current Raleigh favorites, where you might find her when she’s not in the kitchen or playing with her band, Birds of Avalon.
1. Boulted Bread
Ms. Kumar still dreams of the rustic levain at this artisanal bakery (for health reasons, she’s now reluctantly gluten-free). “They mill their own flour, everything is natural fermentation,” she said, and you can taste the difference: “Their bread is otherworldly.” Made from heirloom grains that are stone-milled in house, the chewy baguettes, seeded rye, and spelt sourdough loaves are sold alongside a tempting array of croissants and pastries.
614 West South Street; boultedbread.com
2. Gallo Pelón
Upstairs from a Mexican cantina, this mezcaleria has a rooftop patio and an expansive collection of smoky spirits sourced by the Colombian owner, Angela Salamanca. “Their drinks are really well balanced,” Ms. Kumar said. “I’m really big on tequila and rum, so I like bars that celebrate those spirits.”
106 South Wilmington Street; gallopelon.com
3. Nice Price Books and Records
“You can tell that whoever’s stocking their shelves and their record bins really loves what they do,” Ms. Kumar said of this independent shop filled with used books, cassettes, CDs and vinyl. In 2018, a satellite outpost opened in Raleigh’s Oakwood neighborhood, where you’ll regularly find live music and listening parties, she added. “It’s a wonderful place.”
3106 Hillsborough Street and 222 North Bloodworth Street; nicepricebooksandrecords.com
4. Heirloom Brewshop
This serene space introduced Raleigh to “an Asian perspective on a coffee shop.” Opened in late 2018 by a young local couple, Chuan Tsay and Anna Phommavong, both second-generation Americans with Taiwanese and Laotian roots, respectively, the bustling all-day locale serves mochi doughnuts, five-spice lattes, Japanese milk toasts, Taiwanese fried chicken and sake-based cocktails — “things you don’t see every day in Raleigh,” Ms. Kumar said.
219 South West Street; heirloombrewshop.com
5. Transfer Co. Food Hall
In a restored brick warehouse, this buzzy food market opened last year with “a bubbling new crop of people doing interesting things,” she said. For the freshest catch from the North Carolina coast, Ms. Kumar heads to Locals Oyster Bar, “a fish-market-slash-seafood restaurant.” Another favorite vendor is Alimentari at Left Bank, a whole-animal butchery and charcuterie shop with Italian specialties, such as hand-rolled pasta and pecorino cheese.
500 East Davie Street; transfercofoodhall.com
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