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20 Best Dining Options Near PNC Arena

Tomorrow is the day NCAA tournament action returns to Raleigh. The city will open up to fans from Charlottesville, Myrtle Beach, Memphis, Washington (DC), Boston, Knoxville, and Macon (GA). Friday’s action features four games in two sessions.

The afternoon doubleheader session begins at Noon and the evening doubleheader session begins at 6:55pm. With the afternoon session ending at approximately 5pm, this gives visitors almost two hours to find dinner, and while there aren’t many items within a walkable distance from PNC Arena, some of the best food in North Carolina can be found a short drive from the arena. Let’s explore these by distance.


  • PNC Arena Club – This facility will not be open during the NCAA Tournament events.
  • 86873184cd2d35ab4be9ed497d63dc4e Backyard Bistro – There are only two walkable options from the arena. Backyard Bistro is the good option. A former Damon’s location, the locally-owned Backyard Bistro features a terraced dining room with four giant TVs. I highly recommend the burger, as the meat is brought in from the nationally renowned Angus Barn daily. The other option is Wendy’s. The problem with Backyard Bistro is that if the restaurant is full, there really isn’t time for fans to return to their cars and drive anywhere decent.

Short Drive

Head North on Edwards Mill Road for one long block and you’ll discover Edwards Mill Village.

  • Bella Monica – One of the state’s best Italian restaurants. I highly recommend the lasagna. Some patio seating. Casual atmosphere. $$$
  • Char Grill – Raleigh’s own a walk-up-only burger joint classic. Outdoor picnic table dining. $
  • Stromboli’s – good, fairly quick casual Italian restaurant, across Edwards Mill from the strip center. $$
  • Also in this center are the Edwards Mill Bar and Grill, Rudino’s, and a quick Chinese place. These three aren’t bad, but are forgettable.

Heading West down I-40 to Harrison Avenue we find some outstanding dining options. Allow extra return time, as I-40 will offer extreme delays on the return.

  • dffb28f68f52e4bf897852306203bf10 Bella Mia – One of the best pizza restaurants in the state. Coal-burning oven style. $$$
  • BurgerFi – Small national chain with excellent burgers. Fast casual, but has a superb patio with two large TVs showing basketball. $$
  • Bonefish Grill – National chain that is extremely popular. $$$$
  • Herons – If you have a couple of hours and want a Meal of the Year kind of night, Heron’s in The Umstead hotel is one of the best restaurants in America. $$$$$
  • 2bb9104bf253198599959e509bf4135e An – one of the state’s best Asian restaurants. It is located in the shopping center next to Bass Pro Shops. However An is going to take about an hour and a half, so plan accordingly. $$$$
  • Ruth’s Chris – National steakhouse chain in the shopping center next to Bass Pro Shops. $$$$$
  • Firewurst – Local hot dog chain. Located to the right of Bass Pro Shops. $

Heading into Raleigh on Wade Avenue

  • Neomonde – Tucked behind the Waffle House on Hillsborough Street (across from Meredith) is one of the state’s best Mediterranean offerings. Fast-casual, market atmosphere. $$
  • Tripps – 80s fern bar is in the Whole Foods Shopping center. Food is fine, but completely forgettable. $$$
  • Whole Foods Market – You can always do the hot food bar at Whole Foods. Some seating is available (half outdoors). Beware, though. This is one of the chain’s most cramped stores. $$$

Moderate Drive

Lake Boone Trail/440 Area

  • Guasaca – The state’s best arepa restaurant. Fast-casual. $
  • Sushi-Thai – Good sushi, Japanese, and Thai offerings. Allow an hour. $$$
  • Village Deli – Not like a NY deli, but still quite good. Fast-casual. $
  • Buffalo Brothers – Sports bar with many TVs and a small patio. Food distributor-level food. $$

Crabtree Valley Mall

  • 5aa9d904f4b2060b3ad78672eef500c5 Torii Noodle Bar – Don’t let the traditional trappings of a mall dissuade you from Torii. As I’ve written many times here, it is one of the best bargains in Raleigh. Full-service, but casual. No TVs or outdoor dining. $$


  • Taqueria Del Sol – Crossroads is a big-box collection of stores from Anywheresville, USA. However it does feature an outpost of one of America’s top-rated restaurateurs. Taqueria del Sol is a line-out-the-door hit in Atlanta, but its location in Cary remains one of the best-kept secrets in the state. $$

* * *

For fans not returning to the evening session, I recommend heading to downtown Raleigh, one of America’s most vibrant, walkable, and safe downtowns on a Friday or Saturday night. Most of the good restaurant action in the last decade has been in downtown. There are numerous noteworthy offerings, however here are five for starters ( alphabetical order ):

  • Bida Manda – Laotian restaurant is probably my favorite downtown offering. $$$$
  • Buku – Excellent collection of street food from around the world. Korean BBQ is fantastic. $$$$
  • Humble Pie – Fantastic tapas menu, with one of the best restaurant/bar patios in the state. $$$$
  • Poole’s Diner – On Tuesday Chef Ashley Christensen was named a 2014 James Beard Award Finalist for Best Chef in the Southeast. $$$$
  • Raleigh Times Bar – The place that really started it all. Gritty urban beerhouse feel, but the food is excellent . $$$

Warning: We’ve had much cold, rainy weather, and people have cabin fever. Adjust your schedule accordingly because the restaurants in Raleigh, especially downtown, are going to be packed this weekend. Wait times well over an hour will be common on Friday and Saturday nights.

We hope that your stay in Raleigh is fantastic, regardless of how your team fares!

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