Dining Out

9 Noteworthy North Carolina Restaurants | Listen

By: Jenn Rice

Our top 9 North Carolina restaurants from tried-and-true classics to new hotspots

From powerful Japanese cuisine to classic American dishes, North Carolina has a restaurant selection sizzling with flavor. In the Local Palate’s 2024 Restaurants Issue, writer Jenn Rice offers a guide to new and tried-and-true local spots with these 9 North Carolina restaurants. 

5 New North Carolina Restaurants

Bombolo | Chapel Hill, North Carolina

“Ceci n’est pas un restaurant Italien” is written over the front windows at Bombolo: “This is not an Italian restaurant.” Siblings Garret Fleming (chef) and Eleanor Lacy (pastry chef) set out to create a restaurant with no boundaries but always delicious, globally inspired dishes. Fleming’s pasta skills are out of this world (ahem, pappardelle with rabbit ragu!) but when Korean-inspired bo ssam graces the menu for family meal night, we suggest hightailing it in.

Beef Cheek Rendang
Image courtesy of Forrest Mason Media

Little Bull | Durham, North Carolina

“Little Bull is a restaurant where food is being made through the lens of first-generation and immigrant kids,” says chef and owner Oscar Diaz—and a place where minority chefs get to “put their flavors and ideas on the big stage.” Order whatever ceviche is on the menu and don’t sleep on the whole chicken (Diaz recommends eating it with your fingers) or the Shorty Pan (like cheesy bread with chorizo, giardiniera, and chimichurri).

A spoon is being used to put dip onto a chip
Little Bull

Olivero | Wilmington, North Carolina

Chef Sunny Gerhart’s latest neighborhood concept, named after his grandfather Joseph Olivero, tells a story through food and design. Italian- and Spanish-inspired dishes with a nod to North Carolina and New Orleans are the norm. “We want to have fun and cook rad food,” says Gerhart, who always recommends an order of the sweet and spicy ‘nduja-stuffed dates. For co-executive chef Lauren Krall Ivey, it’s the housemade spaghetti with charred romesco, zucchini, and burrata.


Yokai | Greensboro, North Carolina

In Japanese folklore, yokai means strange, powerful spirits, and this is just the vibe owner Tal Blevins had in mind. Inside the izakaya-inspired joint you’ll find ramen, cheesy tteokbokki rice cakes, waffle okonomiyaki, and even bright neon-green pandan coconut doughnuts. Cocktails and beverages are both familiar and obscure: “Our take on a piña colada features nigori sake for creaminess and white miso to give this tropical drink a nice punch of umami and texture,” Blevins says.

yokai ramen

Ajja | Raleigh, North Carolina

“I want Ajja to evolve without being tethered to Garland’s history or recipes,” says chef and owner, Cheetie Kumar, in reference to her other Raleigh restaurant. Kumar’s new iteration is neighborhood-y with a 70s-meets-The Jetsons vibe, with a spirited team and a vibrant Eastern Mediterranean- and Middle Eastern-inspired menu. “There’s a wealth of diversity in this part of the world that goes way beyond falafel and hummus,” she says. While Kumar isn’t one to fixate on the lifespan of a dish, we cross our fingers the lamb croquettes, creamed feta (with brûléed grapes and spiced pecans), and savory Za’atartini (yep, gin with za’atar, vermouth, and bitters) never say goodbye.

Spread of dishes from Ajja
Image courtesy of Baxter Miller

4 Tried & True North Carolina Restaurants

Image of Lantern, Chapel Hill's bar, decorated with red and orange lanterns.

Kindred | Davidson, North Carolina

The menu of creative and comforting American fare like the popular warm milk-bread rolls got this family-owned eatery status as a James Beard semifinalist in 2016 and listed on a number of high-profile best restaurants lists.

Kale Pakoras by Ajja
Chai Pani

Chai Pani | Asheville, North Carolina

Meherwan Irani’s James Beard Award-winning and Michelin-recommended restaurant serves delicious and affordable Indian street food, from okra fries to uttapam.

Image courtesy of Dallas Linger

The Cardinal | Boone, North Carolina

This American road food eatery serves creative appetizers, loaded burgers, and colorful craft cocktails in a laid-back atmosphere.


Lantern | Chapel Hill, North Carolina

One of Gourmet magazine’s “America’s Top 50 Restaurants,” among other accolades, Andrea Reusing’s restaurant brings together Asian flavors and hyperlocal North Carolina ingredients; the award-winning wine program is its own reason to visit.


10 Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings in 2024 | Listen

From re-envisioned Bayou favorites to eagerly awaited brick and mortars, find our top 10 most anticipated restaurant openings for 2024.

Dining Out

9 Noteworthy Alabama Restaurants | Listen

From Birmingham to Orange Beach, Alabama offers a diverse range of local cuisine you don’t want to miss out on.

Dining Out

9 Noteworthy South Carolina Restaurants | Listen

From fresh, local seafood to inventive New American dishes, South Carolina welcomes a diverse food and dining scene.

trending content

More From Dining Out

Leave a Reply

Be the first to comment.