Inspector Picks: 9 Favorite Places to Dine in the Carolinas
Updated: April 19, 2023
Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe
Nags Head, North Carolina
AAA Inspector: I love the great views, friendly staff, and the wonderful always local seafood-they have credit the fishermen on their menu.
Rebuilt after a devastating fire several years ago, this large restaurant has been beckoning to travelers for 20 years and is run by a longtime local family raised on the ways of the watermen. From a prime spot on the causeway, they offer panoramic views over the Roanoke Sound, and visitors enjoy strolling the grounds and the chef's herb garden. All the seafood is locally caught and super fresh, as is much of the produce—nothing frozen is ever served here. Specialties include soft-shell crabs and oysters in season, shrimp and grits, jumbo lump crab dip, she-crab soup, clam chowder and more items that mix local tradition and modern inspirations. Be sure to view the osprey nest just out the south window.
Greenville, South Carolina
"Put Some South in Your Mouth" is the catch phrase of this eclectic restaurant. The owner/chef uses locally sourced produce, cured meats, poultry and eggs. Biscuits are huge, light and fluffy, and can be ordered plain (all the better to help yourself to the jam and butter bar) or with a variety of toppings, like fried chicken with sriracha slaw or country ham and egg. There are even sweet versions, including biscuit French Toast with strawberry syrup.
Raleigh, North Carolina
AAA Inspector 33: How often do you find a bookshop, flower market, craft brewery and dim sum palace in one spot? Try a chicken curry bao and a pint. Yum!
To grasp the charm of this much-acclaimed brew bistro, you need to experience it for yourself. While you wait for a table, sip on a pint from the list of 40 creative crafts, or peruse the bookshelves or the flower market. The menu is an intersection of Asian flavors offered in a variety of dim sum (steamer baskets of snack-size noshes) and large plates. An array of egg rolls, bao and dumplings is featured, along with the restaurant's signature scallion pancakes with bone marrow and oxtail jam. On the entrée side, Peking duck and steamed whole fish are specialties. The restaurant's version of General Tso’s chicken or beef with exotic peppers will cast a long shadow over your local take-out joint. Bring friends and select several dishes to create a shareable feast, or pop in for a small plate to pair with one of the delightful drafts or a hand-crafted cocktail.
Fire & Smoke
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
AAA Inspector: This is my favorite restaurant in the area. The service is fantastic It’s always lively and the food is top-notch.
What a great find! I'm still reminiscing about my meal. The menu is loaded with unique tapas offerings like duck ragout, escargot and artisan cheeses. The full entrée menu is loaded with high-end, uncommon meats like elk and boar which are featured alongside local seafood and a selection of steaks and chops. The already extensive menu is supplemented nightly with evening specials. If you're looking for an enjoyable night, definitely check out this place. Live music is offered on Thursdays.
The King's Kitchen
Charlotte, North Carolina
AAA Inspector 33: Talk about value? 100% of the restaurant's profits go to help those in need in the Charlotte region. Nice way to have your dining dollar go farther!
Do good while you eat well. This not-for-profit café donates its proceeds to community programs that fight hunger and offer job training. First-class fare is made from fresh ingredients, with meat-and-three-veggie meals as the centerpiece. Entrées include delectable fried chicken, pot roast and meatloaf. Dinner features 'big plates,' including scallops, pork chops and shrimp and grits. Desserts, including treats like pecan pie, banana pudding and caramel cake, are homemade and vary daily. The on-site bakery turns out sweets and breakfast treats, like chocolate croissants, muffins, danish and cookies. Lunch is served on Saturdays.
The Paper Canoe
Duck, North Carolina
AAA Inspector: I enjoy the relaxed setting, the fabulous sunset views, and the sophisticated food made with local seafood at this wood-clad cottage.
Fabulous sunset views over the sound can be seen while enjoying delicious meals featuring locally sourced seafood and produce. The menu changes with the season, but some constants include wood-fired pizzas with gourmet toppings, wild catch-of-the-day, brick oven-roasted chicken, clams in smoky bacon and tomato broth, and duck confit.
Saint Jacques at the Burke Manor
Saint Jacques at the Burke Manor
Gibsonville, North Carolina
AAA Inspector 33: Classic French fare served with style in the elegant environs of a historic home...the scene is set for romance!
Enjoy exquisitely prepared classical French fare in the elegant dining room of this 1906 inn. Service is accomplished and unobtrusive, ensuring a relaxing evening punctuated with a delightful amuse-bouche and intermezzo, compliments of the chef. The menu changes seasonally and features dishes like braised lamb, salmon en croûte, and filet mignon topped with a bleu cheese sauce. Let the classic tastes of escargots, French onion soup, and foie gras transport you to the French countryside. The crème brûlée is a heavenly conclusion to your meal, but you can't go wrong with any of the delectable desserts.
Florence, South Carolina
AAA Inspector: For a unique cocktail try my personal favorite, the garden party. It’s gin based and garnished with fresh veggies. The name describes it perfectly.
A farm-to-table seasonal menu, great atmosphere and talented mixologists behind the bar make for a good combination at this trendy downtown gathering spot. The menu is not lengthy but everything on it is skillfully prepared and it's diverse enough to please a crowd. Thursday through Saturday you can also check out The Dispensary, a rooftop bar where artisan cocktails are the order of the day. Foodies can watch the kitchen staff execute their skills in the open kitchen.
Vue 1913 An American Brasserie
Asheville, North Carolina
AAA Inspector 24: The view of the city and mountains is great from the dining room, and even better from the adjacent Presidents Lounge.
The name is derived from the year the historic hotel was built and the exceptional view of the city and mountains from a wall of windows overlooking the golf course. Friendly, skilled servers provide detailed descriptions of the chef's innovative take on updated American and French fare. Wagyu beef and fresh seafood are the focal point of the curated menu. Specialties like elk and other seasonal fare from local markets are also featured.