7 Hours in Northwest Raleigh

(By Curt Fields)

It’s late Saturday morning, and I’m in the retail labyrinth of Brier Creek Commons. There are countless stores, mostly chains, but retail therapy is not what draws me into this consumer vortex. 

For me, the attraction is brunch at Brier Creek Beer Garden. Menu tweaks over the past couple of years took away one of my faves (duck and waffles), but there are usually interesting dishes to try alongside typical fare. If nothing else, a pint of candied bacon paired with a craft brew is a good place to start. I settle on the unimaginative but satisfying choice of eggs Benedict. And another beer, of course.

After fueling up, a short drive to Umstead State Park is in order. There are multiple trails to pick from, and I’m going for the easiest because, while I’m well-intentioned about my health, I’m not fanatical about it. As much as it irritates my neon-loving heart to admit, the sun and the slight breeze feels good, energizing even. 

My God, what’s happening to me?

After such weirdness, I need the reassurance of nestling into a comfort zone. That sends me scurrying to one of my favorite stores in the Triangle—Game Theory. Assorted tabletop games are underway, with people moving mini-figures about playfields and rolling dice clatter. I wander to the shelves to peruse the latest games and handbooks. A couple of cell phone pics ensure that I don’t forget potential gifts for upcoming occasions. I linger a bit, listening in on a particularly amusing conversation occurring in a Dungeons & Dragons session at a nearby table. A wizard rolled poorly and did more damage to her party than the goblins they were squaring off against. Damn those natural ones.  

From there, it’s a short drive to The Oak for dinner. The beef and bourbon sliders satisfy both my hunger and taste buds. I settle in because The Oak has an extensive bourbon list as well as a variety of bourbon flights for sampling. 

Clearly, I’m going to be here for a while. As the clock ticks and I meander through the bourbon list, ordering the hand-cut fries with chipotle sour cream and malt vinegar aioli seems like a judicious move. Sigh. Looks as if I’ll be heading back to the trails of Umstead again tomorrow.

Landmark: Angus Barn

Where to Get a Cup of Coffee: New World Cafe

Where to Visit with Friends: Lynnwood Grill & Brewing Concern

Where to Walk Your Dog: Umstead State Park

Where to Spend the Night: Camping at Umstead State Park


William B. Umstead State Park 

8801 Glenwood Avenue, 919-571-4170, ncparks.gov/william-b-umstead-state-park

More than twenty miles of hiking trails of all distances and difficulties weave throughout the more than five thousand acres of Umstead Park, making it perhaps the best spot in the entire city to lose yourself on a crisp fall afternoon. The Company Mill Trail runs for nearly six miles, offering views of the slopes along Crabtree Creek. The Sycamore trail goes for more than seven miles. There are also plenty of sites for camping, picnic areas, and educational programs.

Note: We’ve highlighted our pick for the best of each category below. 


Angus Barn

9401 Glenwood Avenue, 919-781-2444, angusbarn.com

This is the steakhouse in Raleigh—the sort of power place that attracts national championship-winning coaches, visiting celebrities, and other notables to its dining room. But regardless of who’s breaking bread there at any given moment, the biggest star will always be the steaks. In addition to the clockwork-perfect dining-room experience, Angus Barn also boasts the Meat Locker Smoking Lounge, where you can savor a fine cigar, and the Wild Turkey Lounge, with an atmosphere that only seems to enhance a glass of fine whiskey or a bottle from Angus Barn’s multi-award-winning wine cellar. 


8411 Brier Creek Parkway, 919-484-3939, azitra.us

At Azitra, the servers are happy to help you find the right dish and the right drink to pair with it. Might we suggest the peppercorn mango lamb with a bottle of Flying Horse?   

Champa Thai and Sushi

8521 Brier Creek Parkway, 919-806-0078, champathaisushi.com

With a menu influenced by the cuisine of northern Thailand, Champa offers a variety of dishes to satisfy discriminating Thai fans. Best of all, Champa’s sushi selections are well crafted, making the restaurant an excellent choice for groups divided between sushi lovers and sushi abstainers.

Dos Taquitos

6101 Glenwood Avenue, 919-787-3373

This fun Tex-Mex restaurant is relatively new to this Glenwood Avenue address, but it has been serving Raleigh since the early 1990s. It’s perfect for virtually any occasion. 

Lynnwood Grill & Brewing Concern

4821 Grove Barton Road , 919-785-0043, lynnwoodgrill.com

Even with a rooftop patio, this place can fill up, especially on weekends. Locals know that Lynnwood has some of the best beer around, including the seasonal Big Papi Porter.

The Peddler Steakhouse

6605 Glenwood Avenue, 919-787-6980, peddlersteakhouse.com

The interior has a clubby, comfortable feel, which makes sense because The Peddler should definitely have settled into its environs since opening in 1969. A popular destination for residents of nearby neighborhoods, it boasts of its aging process (all steaks are aged a minimum of twenty-eight days) and its charcoal cooking process. 

Waraji Japanese Restaurant

5910 Duraleigh Road, 919-783-1883, warajijapaneserestaurant.com

For many in Raleigh, this is the go-to spot for sushi—or for a huge sake selection.


Brier Creek Beer Garden

8521 Brier Creek Parkway, 919-748-3900 

As the name implies, BCBG has plenty of beer to choose from. Fifty-two taps, in fact. And there’s more available by the bottle. 

Gizmo Brew Works

5907 Triangle Drive, 919-782-2099, gizmobrewworks.com

We’ve yet to try a Gizmo brew we didn’t enjoy. Keep an eye out for seasonals and one-offs. 

The Hideout at Lonerider Brewery

8816 Gulf Court, 919-442-8004, loneriderbeer.com

Enjoy Lonerider standards such as Hoppy Ki Yay or Sweet Josie Brown Ale any time you’re there, but if possible, visit on the first or third Wednesday of the month, because that’s when the brewery releases a keg of specialty beer.

New World Cafe

4112 Pleasant Valley Road, #124, 919-786-0091, newworldcafes.com

Serving Counter Culture coffee, New World has been offering everything from pour-overs to European-style lattes since 2010. There is free Wi-Fi and plenty of outlets, too. 

The Oak, Kitchen + Bourbon Bar

4035 Lake Boone Trail, 919-787-9100, jmrkitchens.com

The Oak features more than sixty bourbons, including some difficult-to-find bottles and an in-house re-aged bourbon that changes whenever a cask runs out. It also offers flights that help you explore the extensive list. You could say that The Oak is all about the bourbon, but that’s only partially true. Have dinner with your bourbon, and you’ll discover The Oak also takes the Kitchen part of the name seriously, too. 

Sharky’s Place

5800 Duraleigh Road, 919-783-5448, sharkysnc.com

A relaxed sports bar that’s been around for nearly thirty years, Sharky’s features a couple of dozen TVs for catching your favorite team’s game, plus darts and pool for when the score dictates seeking other diversions. There’s a reasonable number of craft beers on tap, along along with a full bar in case you want something stronger.


The Bicycle Chain

9000 Glenwood Avenue, 919-782-1000, thebicyclechain.com

A great bike shop with friendly folks who are happy to help you get what you need, whether you’re a serious rider or just starting out. 

Game Theory

5910 Duraleigh Road, 919-787-4449, gametheorystore.com

The selection of tabletop games, RPG guides, deck-building games, miniatures, and accessories alone makes Game Theory an invaluable part of the Raleigh scene. Of course, even the best game isn’t much fun if you’ve no one to play it with, and that’s where Game Theory really shines. People gather at the store on a daily basis to play and socialize. Check online to see which games are featured on which days, or join Meetup for more detailed info. Before you know it, you’ll be at a table full of people who love your favorite board game as much as you do. 

Capitol Comics

5212 Hollyridge Drive, 919-781-9500, capitolcomicsnc.com

This old-school shop is small, but don’t be misled by the size. Capitol has a ton of comics. New releases are along the wall on the right. Older editions are in the middle and on the left. There are also t-shirts and collectible figures. It’s easy to lose track of time searching through the back issues.

Sweet Tea & Cornbread

4325 Glenwood Avenue (in Crabtree Valley Mall), 919-424-7515, sweetteaandcornbreadnc.com

Tonya Council—granddaughter of the late Mildred Council, proprietor of the legendary Mama Dip’s in Chapel Hill—sells homegrown packaged gourmet foods, from peanut butter to dry rub to coffee beans to grits to pecan crisp, at this mall location. She opened a Sweet Tea & Cornbread restaurant inside the N.C. Museum of History in September 2019. 


Cinemark Raleigh Grande

4840 Grove Barton Road, 919-226-2012, cinemark.com

Comfy reclining seats you can reserve in advance, and a selection of a half-dozen craft beers on tap. 

Launching Pad Trampoline Park

6421 Hilburn Drive, 919-390-6700, launchingpadraleigh.com

The attractions: trampolines, a foam pit, a jousting pit, dodgeball, rope ladders, a ninja warrior course, and dunk lanes where you can hum the “Be Like Mike” theme while taking to the air. Bring your full-of-energy crew; take them home exhausted. 

Triangle Rock Club 

6022 Duraleigh Road, 919-803-5534, trianglerockclub.com

TRC has more than thirteen thousand square feet of Eldorado climbing walls, seven thousand square feet of bouldering terrain, areas for lead and top-rope climbing, workout areas, and many other amenities.

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