Three keys go into reputation: time, talent and opportunity. The Carolinas have all three. Over the years, top culinary talents both locally produced and from larger markets like New York, Boston, and New Orleans converged forming a melting pot of flavors and tastes worthy of international acclaim. North and South Carolinian cities such as Durham, Asheville, and Charleston are packed with countless rising stars, and the Carolina coasts and mountains always have a prize tucked just around the corner. For those that love eating great food and are willing to travel for the experience, these are our top picks, the 30 very best restaurants in the Carolinas.
American Grocery | Greenville, SC
American seasonal cuisine at its best. Greenvilles American Grocery prides itself on a frequently changing menu and local, fresh ingredients. Their full grocery list and menu is on their website with locations of all the local ingredients they incorporate in their delicious food. Customer favorites include the cornmeal crusted sunburst trout and the braised beef tongue.The Chef and the
Farmer | Kinston, NC
Combining modern atmosphere with coastal plain culture, The Chef and The Farmer ensures its visitors leave happy. Owned and operated by four time James Beard Best Chef Southeast semi-finalist and star of the PBS Documentary A Chefs Life Vivian Howard and her husband Ben Knight. Headlining a transition of eastern North Carolina agriculture away from tobacco, The Chef and The Farmer receives its produce from local farms from the rural areas of Kinston, Snow Hill and Hookerton.
Artisanal | Banner Elk, NC
An Open Table Diners Choice winner and featured on Open Tables Top 100 restaurants in the US, Artisanal is the result of husband and wife Bill and Anita Greene. Tucked in the small mountain town of Banner Elk, Artisanal specializes in day boat fish from Hawaii to Maine. Artisanal resides in the Diamond Creek Golf Club and focuses on seasonality and creativity.
Fearrington House | Pittsboro, NC
The only AAA Five Diamond restaurant in the US to be Green Certified, the Fearrington House Restaurant is committed to serving the very best farm-to-fork cuisine in the Triangle region. Fearringtons menu is entirely seasonal, so when a dish is taken away, it never comes back. Executive Chef Colin Bedfords restaurant is a member of the Fearrington Village located near Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh.
Gamekeeper | Boone, NC
Preserving the rustic charm that makes the Blue Ridge special Gamekeeper uses only classic wood fired grills and owners Ken and Wendy fully believe in farm to table philosophy. They are winners of nine straight AAA Four Diamond Awards along with the 2015 Open Table Diners Choice Award. Everyone should check out their three courses for $30 offer during Blowing Rocks Restaurant week.
Nanas | Durham, NC
A prime destination in the Triangle region of North Carolina, Nanas and Chef Scott Howell strive to create a classic environment for its guests. Named after Howells grandmother, Nanas offers three distinct settings for its guests, with many multi-course meals and drinks to choose from. Chef Howell can often be seen personally serving his guests.
Seaboard | Raleigh, NC
A part of the historic coastal train station known as Seaboard Station and a member of the 18 Restaurant group Seaboard is a perfect spot for large groups and special occasions, over half of 18 Seaboards ingredients come from local North Carolina farmers and fisherman.
Best Cellar | Blowing Rock, NC
Starting out selling new and used books with soups and sandwiches, Best Cellar moved into the basement of the Ragged Gardens Inn and serves only the freshest meats and seafood in town. Designed with a wine-cellar feel, Best Cellar obviously sells only top notch wines as well.
Herons | Cary, NC
An intimate setting with an open view of the kitchen, Herons is the signature restaurant of the Umstead Hotel and Spa. Herons combination of traditional flavors with regional ingredients has been recognized by many including Food and Wine, Condé Nast Traveler. Herons serves only locally grown food, including vegetables and herbs grown on nearby farm that is dedicated to the restaurant.
On the Square | Tarboro, NC
With a seasonally changing menu inspired by European, Asian, and Latin-American flavors and the Manhattan dining scene, Inez and Stephen Ribustellos On the Square Restaurant is a fine dining experience like no other. Just a short drive from Greensboro in Tarboro, North Carolina, On the Square serves lunch and dinner and features the best pimento cheese burger in North Carolina. On the Square can also come to you with their On the Road food truck.
Nightbell | Asheville, NC
Located in the heart of downtown Asheville, Nightbell is a must-try vintage-chic destination featuring gourmet small plates, entrees, and innovative craft cocktails. This restaurant and lounge is the perfect place for date night, to catch up with close friends over several small plates, or even a place to end your evening on a sweet note. The décor serves as an overall reflection of Head Chef Katie Buttons food- whimsical, fresh, and lighthearted. Nightbells exquisite dessert menu features several sweet treats that take the classics to the next level by means of molecular gastronomy, such as the root beer float.
Rhubarb | Asheville, NC
Named a Rising Star of the 21st Century by the James Beard Foundation, and a three time finalist of their Best Chef Southeast award, Chef John Fleer Rhubarb strives to create a home atmosphere perfect for families. Understanding the importance of family dinners, Fleer designed his menu, like the three-course Sunday Supper, with that in mind. Rhubarb is a place for families to get together and celebrate.
Catch | Wilmington, NC
Seafood with a modern touch, Chef Keith Rhodes is a three time winner of Wilmingtons Best Chef, a Semifinalist for James Beard Best Chef Southeast and a star on the hit television show Top Chef. Check out one of Catchs two locations where only wild caught and sustainably raised seafood is served.
Sitti | Raleigh, NC
Honoring the traditional Lebanese culture, and bringing the unique Lebanese flavor to Raleigh, Sitti was opened by Greg Hatem and offers a variety of mezze and entrees with a little North Carolina twist as well. Using imported Kalamata olive oil and other unique spices, Sitti has been named a Best Raleigh Restaurant by Southern Living.
Cúrate | Asheville, NC
Cure yourself in Spanish, Cúrate shares the Spanish culture of great food and community with the city of Asheville. Offering a distinct tapas bar menu imported directly from Spain, Cúrate has been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, and Chef Katie Button is one of Food and Wines Best New Chefs.
The Chelsea | New Bern, NC
Dine in either the casual downstairs or go upstairs for a more upscale experience. The Chelsea serves the New American cuisine, a combination of American south and European flavors including center-cut beef, delightful pastas and salads.
The Willcox | Aiken, SC
Voted Best Brunch, Best Wait Staff, and Best Place To See and Be Seen During Happy Hour by the Aiken Standard, The Willcox is located at one of the countrys finest hotels, which shares the same name. The restaurant is Aikens first gastropub and has earned a reputation for delicious cocktails, wonderful ambiance, and beautiful cuisine. Each meal is prepared using only farm fresh ingredients from South Carolina. The Parisian cocktail is a local favorite.
Figaro Dining Room | Newberry, SC
Located 43 miles Northwest of Columbia, South Carolina, Figaro Dining Room in historic Newburn features classic Southern cuisine with a twist. In order to keep up with the changing seasons, Figaro changes its menu every ninety days, featuring garden fresh selections such as the Grilled Big Eye Tuna, and the Barbecue Glazed Quail.
Terra | West Columbia, SC
Chef Mike Davis uses sustainable, local ingredients to cultivate a menu that changes daily at Terra. The restaurant is known for its Pizza & Pinot special on Wednesdays, a superb wine list, and the incredible view of the Columbia skyline. Popular dishes include the seared sea scallops with succotash and roasted red peppers, the steak frites with bleu cheese butter, and the duck confit wood oven pizza with port soaked cherries.
Charleston Grill | Charleston, SC
Head Chef Michelle Weaver works alongside General Manager Mickey Bakst and Sommelier Rick Rubel to create an atmosphere that guests describe as an ideal mix of contemporary and traditional. The Charleston Grill prides itself on their fine French cuisine, and the ability to perfectly pair wines with the food served. Many regard it as the finest restaurant in Charleston.
Fig | Charleston, SC
Chefs Mike Lata and Jason Stanhope have curated seasonal menus filled with local ingredients and soulful Lowcountry food. With a list of 100 wine bottles under $100 and an unpretentious atmosphere, FIG creates a laidback and quirky atmosphere for guests to enjoy good food and hospitality. Some of the most popular dishes include the roasted Kansas city strip and mustard crusted swordfish with cauliflower.
Hamptons | Sumter, SC
Hamptons combines international fare with local ingredients and flavors to create enticing seasonal menus. With many wine and dining awards, owners Greg and Danielle Thompson have created a fine dining destination in Sumter. Some popular dishes on the menu include the forest mushroom ravioli with sage brown butter and the pan seared Carolina grouper with sweet potato hash.
Peninsula Grill | Charleston, SC
The renowned Peninsula Grill boasts fine Southern food in a velvet-walled space at Planters Inn. Surrounded by historic brick streets and alleys, the restaurant is famous for its beautiful green door with a burnished fleur-de-lis. Try their famous Carolina cornish hen and coconut cake.
Hanks Seafood | Charleston, SC
In the former home of the 1970s Garden and Gun Club. This busy eatery and bar boasts a grand setting with super fresh seafood, including some of the most delicious raw-bar items in the city. Voted the best Seafood Restaurant in Charleston for 15 years straight, Hanks menu is filled with caught-that-day crab, shrimp and lobster along with various other sensational lowcountry flavors.
Husk | Charleston, SC
Located in historic downtown Charleston, Husk only serves flavors and ingredients native of the south, anything else does not come through the door. James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock and low-country native Chef de Cuisine Travis Grimes transform traditional Southern food and redefines the dining experience in Charleston.
Cypress | Charleston, SC
Opened in 2001 on East Bay Street in downtown Charleston, Cypress, is the home to two-time James Beard Nominee Craig Deihl. Diehl showcases only the finest lowcountry ingredients in his signature style. Order specialty dishes of crisp wasabi tuna with a ginger garlic glaze, angus filet of beef with house made Boursin cheese, and pick from their three-story wine wall filled with choices from around the world.
The Jazz Corner | Hilton Head Island, SC
Sit back and relax in this intimate award-winning jazz club and restaurant on Hilton Head Island. Listen to live music every day of the week and enjoy a menu with specialties such as Bourbon Street shrimp, caramel and praline baked brie and grilled pizza.
Gulfstream Café | Murrells Inlet, SC
Gulfstream Café is the only restaurant on the Strand that overlooks both the inlet and the ocean. Famous for their Crab and Lobster, Gulfstream Café is a high-end seafood restaurant in a laidback atmosphere.
Motor Supply Company Bistro | Columbia, SC
In a vintage 1800s engine supply building with the original Motor Supply sign still hanging outside, Motor Supply Company Bistro offers a blend of cosmopolitan American, French, Italian, and Asian cuisine from a menu that changes daily. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Motor Supplys cuisine is only made from locally grown or house-made ingredients.
Chez Nous | Charleston, SC
As the English translation of the name indicates, Our House, Chez Nous is meant to replicate the experience of dining at a friends home – eating only what they happen to be serving. This hidden gourmet gem, tucked away in the heart of historic Charleston offers diners their innovative and refined daily offerings inspired by cuisine found in Southern France, Northern Italy, and Northern Spain. A quick peek at their Instagram or Facebook account lets you know what two appetizers, entrees, desserts, and cheese plate will be offered that day. With all of the fabulous food in Charleston, Chez Nous should be at the top of your list.