Is a food tour the best way to explore Raleigh’s culinary scene?
There’s a lot happening in Raleigh, North Carolina these days. The city is one of the fastest growing in the country and is repeatedly recognized as a great place to work and live.
The state capital is home to museums, festivals, conventions, theaters, craft breweries, concerts and other cultural events.
But there’s something else drawing delicious accolades to the Oak City – its culinary scene.
While Raleigh has its share of outstanding BBQ restaurants and sweet tea is still the “house wine” in most locales, the city has seen an epicurean transformation over the past decade. In fact, Southern Living has listed Raleigh among its Top 10 Tastiest Towns in the South.
With this in mind I decided the best way to experience the taste of Raleigh would be to take the Triangle Food Tour.
Triangle Food Tour’s Downtown Raleigh Walking Food Tour is a casual, guided culinary adventure taking in restaurants in five districts of downtown Raleigh.
Diners enjoy learning about the restaurants and different culinary styles while being treated to samplings of the city’s finest fare.
We gather for the three-hour tour Saturday afternoon at The Raleigh Depot in the Warehouse District. It’s here we meet our guide for the day, Ellen, and make our first stop – Videri Chocolate Factory.
Videri is a bean-to-bar factory crafting delicious chocolate made from whole, organic and fair-trade ingredients.
Housed in The Raleigh Depot, Videri has it all under one roof. Guests may see the chocolate being made by hand in the factory, sample the chocolate or have a cup of coffee in the retail area or enjoy relaxing on the outdoor patio.
It’s a fun first stop and the chocolate sample we receive is the perfect first taste of the day.
Next, our friendly group takes to the sidewalk and strolls to the Marriott City Centre on Fayetteville Street to Posta Tuscan Grille.
The bright Tuscan-style decor is cheerful and welcoming. We find waiting for us at our table a Posta specialty; blueberry mojitos.
The food the chef has prepared for us is sublime. Tomato bisque, Italian deli panini, meatballs, penne pasta in creamy pesto sauce with shrimp and scallops – this representation is true to Posta’s claim on its website – our time with them is a culinary journey.
Delicious meatball served by the chef at Posta Tuscan Grille.
Moving on, we stroll to The Oxford, a gastro-pub in the heart of the city. Their motto is, “Meet, Eat and Drink at the Oxford.” This unique English-style gastro pub with a modern twist is bustling with activity as we arrive. The Oxford features a hearty English fare along with a large selection of beverages and live entertainment.
We sample salmon in an unusual honey dew melon gelee and sip a tasty tipple of sparkling white wine as we chat and get to know each other in this comfortable setting.
Two doors down, we venture into an entirely different dining experience.
Zinda, which is Hindi for “alive”, is an upscale Asian and Indian establishment different from any restaurant you’ll find downtown. Zinda opened in 2012 and has quickly become one of the hottest dining spots in the city.
Chef A.J. Faung, a magna cum laude graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, is serving a wide array of dishes from across Southeast Asia.
Today we’re treated to seared pork belly steamed buns and kimchi – the perfect combination of spicy with mild.
In addition to the uniqueness of the food is the restaurant’s design. The dining rooms are works of art in their own right. Eating at Zinda is not solely about the food, it’s an adventure engaging all the senses.
We’re greeted by Executive Chef Serge Falcoze Vigne and staff. Chef Vigne regales us with his stories and insights into this wonderful sampling of wood-fired pizzette.
518 is a bright, spacious restaurant featuring the finest flavors of Italy and the Mediterranean and has been voted “Best Italian Restaurant in the Triangle” multiple times. Based upon our tasting today, it’s easy to understand how 518 has earned the distinction.
Our final stop is at The Wine Feed located on Glenwood Avenue by the Hampton Inn. The Wine Feed is a contemporary wine bar and shop where visitors may sample, sip and learn. The Wine Feed features a variety of wines from around the world and has a thriving wine club.
Our group enjoys trying a Rosé and a French Malbec before departing to catch the R-Line back to the Raleigh Depot.
The Downtown Raleigh Tour is reasonably priced at $45. Whether you’re visiting Raleigh or you’ve lived in the city for years, the food tour is a fantastic way of sampling the variety and range of cuisines this booming city has to offer.
It’s also a great way to meet people. By the end of our tour the group felt like old friends. We were exchanging cards and saying farewell to our dining buddies.
Is a food tour the best way to explore Raleigh’s exciting culinary scene?
I have to say for me, the answer is yes.
Triangle Food Tours features culinary tours of Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Cary and Durham North Carolina. Tour sizes are kept small intentionally so reservations are a must. Tours fill up quickly so make sure to reserve your spot in advance. Check their site for availability and pricing.
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