One of the biggest struggles for me when I moved to Raleigh was finding good date spots in proximity to campus. Out of all the places I have been to over the last two years, these are the ones that are best to take a date to. All of these places are either walking distance from campus or a short bus ride away.
Morning Times – Best Coffee Shop
A coffee shop is an excellent destination for a first date, or a study date, but it has to have the right ambiance. Take your date to Morning Times for the perfect coffee shop feel. The upstairs seating area is not too noisy, nor is it too quiet. It has a comfortable atmosphere that can help ease the tension of a first date. However, a coffee shop is only as good as its coffee, and Morning Times has amazing coffee. My girlfriend is a coffee connoisseur and was thoroughly impressed by their coffee.
There are also a number of options for the non-coffee drinker. Personally, I will take a nice cup of tea over a cup of coffee any day of the week, and Morning Times serves a great loose leaf brewed tea. Another nice feature of Morning Times is the full menu of food options, which is served until 4 pm. This can satisfy you if you want something more substantial than just a cup of coffee. Overall, Morning Times is the perfect coffee shop for the traditional or study date.
Gonza Tacos y Tequila – Best on Hillsborough Street
If you want to enjoy some Mexican food with your date, skip Chipotle, go to Gonza Tacos y Tequila. A recent addition to Hillsborough Street, Gonza is connected to the newly constructed Aloft Hotel. This place has some of the best Mexican food that I have ever had in my life. I went there for lunch with my girlfriend a couple of weeks ago and we both loved it. They also offer several dozen different varieties of tequila.
Gonza secured its spot on this list with its excellent food, reasonable prices, and proximity to campus. It gives a truly fine option to those that are bound to NC State’s campus.
Mitch’s Tavern – Best on a Budget
If money is tight, you can’t go wrong with Mitch’s Tavern, a Hillsborough Street institution that has serviced the students of NC State for many years. You can’t go wrong with any of the options on their menu, though, personally, I find the London Broil to be my go-to order. Mitch’s also features a reasonable selection of beers and ciders. You’re not going to blow anyone away with impressive food, but eating here will make your wallet very happy with you.
#SpoonTip: Mitch’s Tavern was featured in the 1988 film Bull Durham.
Raleigh Brewing Company – Best Bar
If bars are your scene, then I’d recommend taking your date to the Raleigh Brewing Company. While not a bar in the strictest sense, more of a taproom really, the atmosphere is excellent. The superb beer is complemented by the activities to participate in while drinking. With several dart boards along one wall and board games along the other, the two of you can add a little friendly competition to your date.
#SpoonTip: For help choosing a beer check out this article.
North Carolina Museum of Art – Best Culture
Sometimes you want to show your date that you’ve got a sophisticated side. Raleigh has many museums, but the best for demonstrating your cultural sophistication is the North Carolina Museum of Art. It’s also free (a big plus). In addition to viewing the gallery, there are a number of events that you can go to to add even more culture to your date.
This is also a great spot for a picnic following a nice walk on the greenway.
Big Ed’s – Best Breakfast
Big Ed’s has been serving up some of the best breakfast food in Raleigh since 1958. They serve the typical breakfast fare, but what makes them stand out in the breakfast crowd is their pancakes. About half an inch thick and 12 inches in diameter, these are the most massive pancakes I have ever seen.
In fact, Big Ed’s has an eating challenge related to these monstrous pancakes. If you can manage to eat three of these behemoths (without sharing), you will be rewarded with a Big Ed’s t-shirt.
Whether you want to impress your date with your ability to consume mass quantities of food or just want to enjoy some of the best breakfast food in the city, you can’t go wrong with a Big Ed’s breakfast date.
Tupelo Honey Cafe – Best of Cameron Village
An Asheville institution that has slowly begun spreading to other cities across the south. Due to its price point, Tupelo Honey is best suited for special occasions. That being said, the food is excellent, especially the biscuits. I took my girlfriend here for Valentine’s Day and we were blown away. I had the spare ribs which were served on a bed of mashed potatoes. The spare ribs were nice and tender and the mashed potatoes were smooth and creamy. They also served up a massive hamburger that my girlfriend could barely fit in her mouth.
Oak City Meatball Shoppe – Best Downtown and Best Overall
I’ve been saving the best for last. Of all of the places my girlfriend and I have been in Raleigh, she and I both agree that the Oak City Meatball Shoppe is the best. The food is sublime. I had chorizo meatballs in salsa verde, and my girlfriend had meatball sliders. We also split a side of risotto, and overall, everything was absolutely magnificent. The flavors of the meatballs and the sauce complemented each other perfectly.
However, the pièce de résistance was dessert. We had a piece of red velvet cheesecake made by Slice Pie Company. Pie is my favorite type of dessert food and this was, without a doubt, the best pie I have ever had in my life. It was rich and dense, and words cannot do it justice. You just have to go there and experience it for yourself.