There’s no doubt North Carolina is an absolute foodie haven; I’ve written several articles on the subject. But of course, North Carolina has ALL kinds of restaurants to choose from – some hole in the wall, and some with five stars and elegant facades. Wherever your food cravings take you, if you consider yourself a ‘true foodie,’ you MUST try these 10 top rated restaurants in North Carolina.
1. Chef and the Farmer, Kinston
You might have heard of this restaurant, or chef Vivian Howard, from the PBS show "A Chef's Life." The restaurant has a little stardom, and it's well deserved. The food is amazing, the culinary creations a work of art, but the concept is still simple and approachable. If you're looking to dine here one night, make sure to book your reservations WAY ahead of time. Chef Vivian Howard was a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast. Chef and the Farmer has also made appearances on Open Table's Top 100 list.
2. Artisanal Restaurant, Banner Elk
Speaking of Open Table's Top 100, Artisanal has made more than one appearance on their annual list. This farm to table restaurant invokes the tastebuds. You can't beat the rustic yet chic environment either.
3. Nana's, Durham
Nana's has been around since the early '90s, but the quality of the food just gets better with time. Chef Scott Howell was a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast, and Nana's has been featured on Open Table. The food is soulful southern fare with an elegant touch. Yum!
4. The Fearrington House, Pittsboro
You get nothing but elegance when you dine at Fearrington House. It has frequented Open Table's Top 100 list and received national press. Located in a former homestead, you'll enjoy contemporary American fare in a unique environment.
5. McNinch House, Charlotte
Speaking of elegant, the McNinch house is a piece of history located in Charlotte's beautiful Fourth Ward. Diners enjoy lavish Victorian Decorations and a dinner fit for a King and Queen. Another frequent member of Open Table's Top 100, McNinch House is perfect for date night or an anniversary dinner.
6. Panciuto, Hillsborough
Panciuto is slowly making its way onto the top of the foodie pyramid in North Carolina. You might not have heard of it until now, but Chef Aaron Vandemark is doing something right - he was a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast. You can't go wrong when traditional southern meets Italian cuisine. With locally sourced ingredients highlighted and a seasonal changing menu, you're guaranteed an amazing experience.
7. Chai Pani, Asheville
Chai Pani adds a bit of variety to this list, as it is a more casual dining establishment. But the relaxed atmosphere didn't stop Chef Meherwan Irani from being a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast. If you're looking for delicious, authentic Indian Street Food, you MUST stop in here.
8. Rhubarb, Asheville
With contemporary classic dishes and an elegant approach, yet simple menu, Rhubarb might quickly become your favorite restaurant in North Carolina. It's a mix of everything a great restaurant should be, casual, unique, innovative, and still something different. Chef John Fleer was a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast.
9. Cúrate, Asheville
Asheville seems to be ringing in the final slots, but it IS a foodie haven after all. One restaurant that has certainly made its mark in both Asheville and North Carolina is Cúrate. If you're looking for authentic tapas, like you just stepped off the plane in Spain, you'll want to dine here. Come prepared to wait, but also come with a group - as tapas, or 'small plates,' are best experienced in a large group. Cúrate has made an appearance on Open Table and Chef Katie Button was a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast.
10. Vin Rouge, Durham
Of course, leave it up to North Carolina's two main food cities (Asheville and Durham) to go neck and neck for number 10, but Vin Rouge is delicious AND different. While most restaurants on this list put on their best face for dinner, Vin Rouge is THE place to go for breakfast or brunch. Chef Matt Kelly (who is also the chef at Mateo Tapas) brings French comfort food to your weekend mornings. As a James Beard Best Chef Southeast Semifinalist, he knows what he is doing, and you'll be in brunch heaven dining here.
To be honest, my stomach was growling the entire time I was writing this article! I know where I’ll be making reservations this weekend. Did any of your favorite restaurants make the list, or any you want to add?