In addition to being home to some of the country's fiercest sports rivalries, top tech companies, and world-class research universities, North Carolina’s Triangle region has a prolific and innovative food scene. Host to award-winning artisan chocolates and preserves, an established and growing wine, beer, and spirits community, and some of the nation’s top restaurants and chefs, the Tar Heel State promotes cultivated tastes with local homage.
So what about this area both enables and supports this activity? According to Sean Lilly Wilson, owner and chief executive optimist of the popular Fullsteam Brewery in downtown Durham, N.C., the Triangle nurtures an "enthusiastic and educated" population. "In addition to having folks who value supporting our area, both customers and vendors here have both a worldly and local farm-driven mindset when it comes to food."
Wilson, who has made the state his home for the past 20 years, also notes that North Carolina’s food excellence is not a new development. "The rule that a restaurant in this area has to be smart and interesting in order to thrive was established way before us," he says. "We, as a community, owe so much of our successes to our predecessors who paved the way: Fearrington, Bill Neal’s Crook’s Corner, Ben and Karen Barker’s Magnolia Grill, and Scott Howell at Nana’s to name a few."
Since the state’s breweries, cafés, markets, and food-related businesses are stories in themselves, we’ve chosen to focus on the restaurants that exemplify the Triangle’s vibrant dining spirit. From global street food fusion to classic North Carolina-style barbecue (a passionately contested dish that divides the state into "west" and "east"), this region brims with culinary excellence.