“It’s hard to live in Raleigh and not feel like you’re a part of it,” says Jordan Wells, co-manager and trainer at Jubala Coffee, the city’s premier coffee shop. Jubala earned its reputation by pulling expert shots from Counter Culture beans—and serving life-affirming breakfasts of liege waffles and sweet biscuits with pimento cheese. Living in Raleigh is a three-for-one deal: In 30 minutes, Wells can be in Chapel Hill or Durham, and all three have bumping music venues, diehard sports events, and abundant bourbon. And in Raleigh, he knows where to get it all, from old-school American chili dogs (no ketchup allowed!) to beer that tastes like candy.
Where should I stay?
The Durham Hotel has an excellent coffee program for a hotel and just opened an awesome rooftop bar. It’s centrally located and a great way to experience that city for what it is. If you want to stay in Raleigh, specifically, I’ll say the Aloft, because you can come downstairs and be at Jubala’s second location.
Great cup of coffee?
I love the batch-brewed iced coffee at Joule. The place also has really outstanding coffee cocktails if you’re into that uppers and downers thing. Sometimes I’m into the specialty drip coffee at Boulted Bread. Then there’s Yellow Dog, which is up and coming, it’s a bakery but it serves Lamplighter, which out of Richmond. The last one is Brew; it’s in an old train station that’s been renovated and is now home to some local businesses. They serve beer and use an extremely local roaster, Raleigh Coffee Company.
Best place to grab breakfast?
If you want something on the lighter side, I’m a sucker for the macarons at Lucette Grace. I also love Boulted Bread and it’s hard for me not to eat the Videri chocolate croissant every day. Videri is a chocolate factory in Raleigh, and we use their chocolate for our mochas. The underbelly Raleigh breakfast institution is Finch’s—it’s the old-school counter service been-there-forever place. Get the chicken fried steak. For weekend brunch, there’s a Tex-Mex place called Centro that’s just unreal: Huevos Rancheros are all I really need. Beasley’s Chicken + Honey and Joule have awesome huevos rancheros too.
Best brewery to spend the day?
I’m not big into bicycle culture but my friends who are love Crank Arm is neat. It has garage doors and is super open. Trophy Brewing, does session IPAs but isn’t only about hoppy beers. The W Morgan Street location has all of its beers plus killer pizza. I’m not even a stout guy, but I love the Milky Way stout; it actually tastes like a candy bar.
Best place to walk around and eat?
The State Farmers’ Market is enormous and is affiliated with one of the biggest agriculture schools in the country. There’s a deep culture here of supporting local farmers and advocating for high quality food. My favorite vendor, Big Spoon Roasters, based out of Durham, sells peanut and nut butters. I love the almond cashew and cashew peanut butters. They also have these neat little protein bars—in flavors like apricot pepita—that I order by the case.
Hottest new dinner spot?
Bida Manda. It’s traditional Laotian food. If you eat meat, get the green papaya salad. You get to pick your protein, so you can go with lamb or, if you’re me, the filet mignon. It also has one of the best cocktail programs in the city; it’s so intentional and seasonal. I also love Centro for dinner; upstairs there’s a mezcaleria, Gallo Pelón. Poole’s is awesome too. And, if you’re in Five Points, Lilly’s Pizza is the spot.
Super classic old-school restaurant?
The Roast Grill, because the people who run it, an old woman and her son, only serve one thing: hot dogs. And they do not allow ketchup. They will make fun of you if you ask for ketchup. So it’s just mustard, onions, chili, and maybe slaw. It’s so American.
Where do you eat often?
Raleigh Times is a pretty easy stop-in; you don’t have to worry about finding a seat. It’s a bar with better-than bar food, including cheesesteak and nachos.