Where to Eat & Drink in 2024

Our annual list of recommendations for happy hour, lunch, road trips, date nights, coffee and more — all from Triangle hospitality pros.
by Catherine Currin | photography by Bryan Regan

When debating where to get dinner, it’s easy to default to your normal rotation, but there are so many great spots in Raleigh and the Triangle. Someone else’s usual restaurant, bar or coffee shop might be a new discovery for you, whether it’s a neighborhood gem or a bucket-list adventure across town.
That’s why we surveyed 10 experts in the hospitality business — chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs — to find out where they go for everything from a quick bite to a cocktail to an extravagant meal. 

One thing we learned about these folks: they love talking up their foodie friends and neighbors just as much as they love good food and drink. “Not only do we have a ton of new restaurants to be excited about, there is so much support throughout the industry,” says Liz Grandchamp, owner of Grandchamp Hospitality. “I’m lucky to be a part of this community in Raleigh.”

Read on for more than 100 recommendations for great culinary experiences in the Triangle.

Matt Fern
Owner of (ish) delicatessen

This is where Fern goes for a…..

Happy Hour: Person Street Bar
Worth the Drive: Skylight Inn BBQ in Ayden, Fonda Lupita in Sanford, Lantern in Chapel Hill, Pizzeria Toro in Durham
Coffee Shop: Jubala

Find more of Fern’s recommendations here….

Doreen Colondres
Owner of Vitis House Wine School

This is where Colondres goes for…

Happy Hour: Barcelona Wine Bar
Guilty Pleasure: Chargrilled oysters at Hummingbird Worth the Drive: Pizzeria Mercato in Carrboro or Seabird in Wilmington
Lunch: Raleigh Raw or Herons at The Umstead Hotel

Find more of Colondres’ favorite spots here…

Adé Carrena
Owner of Dounou Cuisine

This is where Carrena goes for…

Happy Hour: Crafty Beer Shop
Guilty Pleasure: The spicy Tonkotsu Ramen from Masa Sushi & Ramen
Worth the Drive: Catch in Wilmington

Find more of Carrena’s top picks here…

Lindsay Wrege
Owner & Founder of 321 Coffee

This is where Wrege goes for…

Happy Hour: The Parlor at Heights House
Worth the Drive: Italian sub from Ideal’s in Durham
Lunch: Sono Sushi
Last Meal in the Triangle: Anything prepared by Kevin Ruiz, so currently ORO

Find more of Wrege’s recommendations here…

Andia Xouris
CEO and Co-Founder of Andia’s Ice Cream

This is where Xouris goes for….

Happy Hour: RBF in downtown Cary
Guilty Pleasure: The Scratch Fries at Scratch Kitchen & Taproom in Apex
Worth the Drive: Kipos Greek Taverna in Chapel Hill

Find more of Xouris’ picks here

Chris “Coco” Lopez
Former Owner & Operator of Fine Folk

Happy Hour: The Longleaf Lounge
Guilty Pleasure: Chili spaghetti at Players Retreat Worth the Drive: Donut Daily in Garner
Lunch: Mami’s Latin Style Rotisserie Chicken

Find more of Lopez’s favorite spots here…

Lin Peterson
Owner of Locals Seafood

This is where Peterson goes for….

Happy Hour: There’s great outdoor space at Standard Beer + Food
Guilty Pleasure: The ribeye at Stanbury
Worth the Drive: Locals Seafood in Durham

Find more of Peterson’s favorite food & bev spots here

Liz Grandchamp 
Owner of Grandchamp Hospitality 


This is where Grandchamp goes for….

Happy Hour: William & Company
Guilty Pleasure: Orchid Japanese Restaurant
Lunch: Sushi Mon, Seoul Garden or Longleaf Swine BBQ

Find more of Grandchamp’s favorite spots here…

Lon Bounsanga
Chef & Owner of SAAP 

This is where Bounsanga goes for…

Happy Hour: Woody’s at City Market
Guilty Pleasure: The steak fajitas at El Rodeo in downtown Raleigh
Lunch: Beasley’s Chicken + Honey for the hot chicken sandwich

Find more of Bounsang’s favorite spots here…

Luis Zouain 
Executive Chef of Madre Raleigh

This is where Zouain goes for….

Happy Hour: Madre’s patio
Guilty Pleasure: Burgers and desserts will always be my guilty pleasure; I love every dessert from Asali in Cary 
Last Meal in the Triangle: Couple of hot dogs from The Cardinal

Find more of Zouain’s go-to places here…

 This article originally appeared in the January 2024 issue of WALTER magazine.