Over the past decade, Ashley Christensen has made her mark on Raleigh through fine dining experiences that evoke a sense of comfort and community. She continues to use her platform as a local restaurateur to foster a food community and to convey t Julia Wall and Travis Long jwall@newsobserver.com / tlong@newsobserver.com
Over the past decade, Ashley Christensen has made her mark on Raleigh through fine dining experiences that evoke a sense of comfort and community. She continues to use her platform as a local restaurateur to foster a food community and to convey t Julia Wall and Travis Long jwall@newsobserver.com / tlong@newsobserver.com

Food & Drink

Zagat named the most exciting food cities in America, and one of them is in the Triangle

December 20, 2017 06:56 PM

RALEIGH

Those pork buns you’re eating or those oysters you’re slurping are part of one of the nation’s most exciting dining scenes.

That’s according to Zagat, the national dining guide, which this week named Raleigh among the 30 most exciting food cities in America this past year.

It’s No. 12, ahead of New York, Nashville and Miami. Asheville, Raleigh’s beer-soaked cousin to the west, also made the list at No. 30.

No. 1 goes to Los Angeles, followed by Austin, Texas, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Washington, Charleston, S.C., New Orleans, Atlanta and San Francisco.

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Zagat notes Raleigh may have been “overshadowed by hipper-seeming neighbors” in the past, often bested by cities like Durham and Charleston in the hearts and bellies of diners.

But Raleigh is a new city these days, Zagat notes, and its food has helped make it that way.

Zagat points to chef Ashley Christensen’s inclusion as a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef for the country. The owner of Poole’s Diner, Death and Taxes and other downtown Raleigh restaurants previously won the James Beard for Best Chef: Southeast. She is one of The News & Observer’s Tar Heels of the Year, alongside Kinston chef Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer.

There also is new James Beard attention for Steven Devereux Greene at the height of fine-dining Herons (which, technically is in Cary) and Cheetie Kumar at pan-Asian whirlwind Garland. Both were James Beard semifinalists this year for Best Chef: Southeast.

Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery (also in Cary) is renowned as one of the country’s best bakers, and Brewery Bhavana, launched earlier this year by the sibling creators of Bida Manda, seemingly shows up weekly on another best new restaurant list. It’s one of Bon Appetit’s Top 10 best new restaurants in the country this year and was just named by Forbes as one of the coolest places to eat in 2018.

With Raleigh’s new restaurants and plenty of accolades collected in 2017, it seems the city may outgrow the surprised reactions it sometimes gets from out-of-state diners.

Zagat also lauds The Cortez Seafood and Cocktail, St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar and Royale, all new restaurants that have opened in the past year in downtown Raleigh.

Drew Jackson; 919-603-4943; @jdrewjackson