Hipster: It's the ubiquitous, linguistically ambiguous word bandied about as a pop culture slight these days. But, despite being easily lampooned, hipsters have been known to wield discerning taste buds and a penchant for high-quality, artisanal fare--even if may be served under dim Edison bulb lighting and over a reclaimed wood tabletop. So, where do the scenesters, those equipped with a priori knowledge of the gastronomically sublime, congregate and dine in Raleigh?
Well, slide on your favorite contoured pair of raw denim, polish your Warby Parker spectacles, cloak yourself in your finest flannel armor and follow the beard to the listicle (in no particular order) of the top hipster-friendly restaurants in Raleigh.
Of course, most hipsters should make the pilgrimage to Durham, the true mecca of hipsterdom.
1. The Raleigh Times
The daily crowds at Raleigh Times are a testament to its widespread popularity. Swaths of hipsters, downtown employees looking to unwind and beer nerds can be seen gathering at the East Hargett Street bar and restaurant on any given day for good reasons: the selection of food and beer are on-point and the hip ambience is invigorating. Where else in Raleigh, amidst vintage newspaper clippings, can you sip on a pint of Founders Dirty Bastard, chow down on PBR-battered Fish and Chips while Jurassic 5 blares in the background?
2. Jubala Coffee
Über-hip, dedicated baristas that sling cups of Counter Culture Coffee and made-from-scratch biscuits intersect at the popular North Raleigh coffeehouse and breakfast spot. Lines at Jubala may be long while baristas take the time to prepare your coffee at the Pour Over Drip Bar, but your patience will likely be rewarded with a mug of well-sourced, quality-crafted coffee. Coffee lovers doing double duty as gastronauts might want to indulge in Jubala’s revolving list of sweet biscuits and liege waffle specials as well. Biscuits have been known to be slathered in goodies like apple butter and pimento cheese, and waffles can be topped with everything from Nutella to even vanilla ice cream.
3. Any of Ashley Christensen's restaurants
Raleigh’s Dixie darling and James Beard Award finalist, Chef Ashley Christensen, keeps extending her tentacle of downtown Raleigh establishments, with three more opening—Death & Taxes, Aux Kitchen and Bridge Club—later this year. From the haute-homey hotspot Poole’s Diner to the urban oasis of poultry—Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, you could argue that any one of Christensen’s five current outposts could be plucked from the set of Portlandia. Natty aesthetic aside, the hipster-friendly fare at AC-restaurants is pretty darn good—sublime burgers like The Dirty South at Chuck’s, artisanal cocktails like the Wonka Fizz served with hand-chiseled ice at Fox Liquor Bar and the latest addition, Joule, serves a Southern-inspired spread of decadent breakfast foods like Carolina Shrimp and Grits and Buttermilk Biscuits smothered by Short Rib Milk Gravy.
Downtown Raleigh | ac-restaurants.com
4. Capital Club 16
The trappings inside the confines of Capital Club 16 make it hard to tell: Raleigh or Manhattan? The open, historical space that houses the American restaurant not only uses the chairs salvaged from New York City’s Horn and Hardart famous automats, but the bar is restored from the remnants of Manhattan’s historic Luchow’s restaurant as well. Copious attention to detail extends from the décor to the food. European-leaning entrees, influenced by the season, are curated by Chef Jake Wolf using artisanal ingredients like Schaller and Weber sausages and meats and North Carolina cheeses. If you are fortunate enough to snag a table on the weekend, popular dishes like the decadent Skillet Mac and Cheese and “Rahmschnitzel” are can’t miss items at Capital Club 16. And, should you like to partake in the gastronomical portmanteau known as brunch, Capital Club 16 serves the meal on Sundays.
Crazy.sexy.cool: a trio of words that could describe Stanbury, arguably the definitive trailblazer in the Raleigh restaurant scene right now. Inconspicuously, Stanbury slid into Market Restaurant’s old space last year, added a few key kitsch pieces like a scrap metal Yoda and meat map of North Carolina, and set up shop. And the neighborhood folk, chowhounds, those seeking the unconventional, and acclaim all keep rolling in. Stripped of pretention (hipster by way of not even caring), Stanbury’s focus veers toward the pleasantly myopic: ambitious, innovative fare driven by regionally-sourced ingredients and executed through deft technique. With a menu that rotates often, esoteric dishes like Crispy Pig Head are emblematic of its excellence.
Stanbury | 938 North Blount Street Raleigh | menu
6. Cafe Helios
Café Helios remains a clandestine beacon of cool amidst the ostentatious nightlife cesspool on Glenwood South. Known for its bona-fide selection of coffee, Café Helios hosts Thursday Night Throwdowns where baristas flaunt their latte skills in the competitions. And should you crave food, Café Helios serves a mean lunch selection with sandwiches like the Inside Out and Turkey Avocado. On weekends, brunch entrees, including the Neese’s Sausage Gravy and Biscuits, come with Helios’ famous house-made biscuits. If coffee isn’t your top choice for a weekend beverage, bottomless mimosas can be served up too. Café Helios will also play host to ramen pop-up shop, The Lucky, on April 6.
7. Busy Bee Cafe
Raleighites have been making a beeline to the Busy Bee Café for the last several years. So what beehoves the hip erudite to colonize at the Busy Bee? Perhaps the draft beers or locally-sourced fare? A sunny Raleigh day spent on the upstairs patio at The Hive, the second level of Busy Bee Café, with a pint of Wicked Weed’s IPA and a helping of the Busy Bee’s Loaded Tots could be described as nirvana-like. Night revelers can also head out to The Hive after dark, where local DJ’s entertain the crowds after 9 p.m.
8. Trophy Brewing and Pizza Co.
Take a quick census at Trophy Brewing and you might notice that the bearded to non-bearded quotient is slightly above normal. But, no worries, a beard is not required for service at this cozy nanobrewery and pizza shop. Belly up to the bar and you can try “Best in Show” or fall in love with “Casanova”, a chocolate stout. Check Trophy’s Instagram feed and you can get updated on its daily pizza specials bestowed with whimsical monikers like “Brie-king Bad” and “Little Miss Sundried”.
The Rockford has been around been around for a while, even before the term hipster became ubiquitous. Ownership may have changed over the years, but the ABC sandwich (apple, bacon, cheddar) still remains. So, what’s the secret behind Glenwood’s hip mainstay? Its allure may very well be its old-fashioned reliability in serving quality sandwiches and entrees in a casual and chic atmosphere. Its intimate upstairs location, cloaked from the business of Glenwood Avenue, makes it a prime spot for first dates and good conversation with friends.
10. Humble Pie
Braggarts have been espousing about the merits of Humble Pie for years. Despite its expansive dining room and patio space (complete with tiki bar) in Raleigh’s downtown Depot district, you still likely need a reservation for its popular Sunday brunch. Humble Pie’s casual, yet laidback ambiance ingratiates itself with hipsters and the like. A perfect spot to enjoy a martini libation on weeknight or to nosh on tapas like Olde Salt Oysters and Broiled Tetilla Cheese, Humble Pie remains a delectable standby in Raleigh.