“There is no sincerer love than the love of food” – George Bernard Shaw
“Why did you decide to stay in Raleigh?” It is a question my dad periodically asks, hoping that I might one day see the error of my ways and move closer to him. I like to counter, you can always move here. “I just don’t get what you see in it.” As a recently elected official in a town more than a hundred miles away, I understand his local pride is running particularly high at the moment, but when this conversation comes up, I always want to respond, I don’t get what you don’t.
Raleigh has grit (and not the dirty kind)
(Image: Joule Cafe‘s stone ground grits paired with a White Russian)
Downtown Raleigh has experienced a recent boom in its downtown thanks in part to a number of determined individuals who decided to follow their dreams by launching restaurants or other businesses here.
One such is Ashley Christensen, a nationally recognized chef (and 2014 James Beard award-winning Best Chef: Southeast) who purchased a one time Piggly Wiggly and repurposed into not one but three outstanding restaurants.
It knows how to innovate and making best use of local resources
(Image: Joule Cafe‘s apple-filled, griddle-less hot cakes – proving even pancakes can be made better with a little imagination)
Raleigh is home to more than ten colleges and universities without including the various institutes of higher learning less than twenty-five miles away in Durham or Chapel Hill and many are known as much for their academic programs as their national championships.
Additionally, Raleigh has been recognized by the President as an innovation hub and a key to driving the rest of the state’s Economic future.
It is a city constantly on the move
(Image: Calavera’s beef empanada with strawberry margarita)
One of my favorite things about Raleigh (though the food is a close second) is the series of trails that make up the area’s greenway system.
You can spend hours either on foot or by bike surrounded by nature and protected from the summer sun under a canopy of trees. Raleigh is nicknamed the City of Oaks for a reason. There are also gardens, public parks, and a network of creeks that constantly inspire exploration.
But at the same time values its history
(Image: Green Light Bar cocktail)
If nature isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other interesting places to visit around town including museums, civic landmarks, exhibitions as well as sporting events and performances. There are also dozens of tours (such as the food tour I where I took these photos), free concerts, and festivals.
Fun Fact: One of the earliest laws on North Carolina’s books was that the capital building must be placed within ten miles of the lawmaker’s favorite tavern. Because, Priorities.
It is a melting pot of culture as well as technology
(Image: Garland‘s Asian-inspired chicken in a turmeric-yogurt sauce with chili cucumber salad and beer from one of the 10+ local breweries)
Today Raleigh has a population just under a half million people. If you include the sprawling areas that make up Raleigh’s suburbs that number is closer to one million.
However if you ask people where they are from, it is uncommon to meet someone who was born here. Instead, a large portion of the population is like me. People who came to the area and simply fell in love with it for any number of reasons.
Where celebration comes easy
(Image: Bittersweet’s chocolate mousse and rosette)
At the end of my food tour, our group was fortunate enough to meet the owner, Kim Hammer, of Bittersweet, a dessert and drink bar. As she told us about her store, its regular clients, and the services she offers, it was obvious that the restaurant was more than a job. It was her passion.
In addition to providing sweets, she also regularly offers champagne classes encouraging everyone not to horde the bottle, waiting for an event to celebrate which may never come, but to instead occasionally drink a glass just because it is Thursday.
It is people like this who make Raleigh, my kind of town. I hope that if your travels ever take you this way, you stop by and sample it yourself.