18 Hours on Glenwood South

(By Leigh Tauss)

My first night in Raleigh was in an Airbnb off Tucker Street. It’s no coincidence that neighborhood is now my home. 

The proximity to downtown and the abundance of vibrant nightlife, coupled with the quaintness of small-city life and endless dining choices, have made it one of the most popular areas in Raleigh. Everything you could want is within walking or biking distance. Even more lies just an Uber away.

A good Saturday morning begins with a bagel at NY Bagel Cafe & Deli, sipping a mimosa on the porch with the latest issue of The New Yorker. After I’ve fueled up, I hop on my bike and whip down Boylan Avenue to Dorothea Dix Park, where I can enjoy more fresh air and (if it’s the right time of year) frolic in the sunflowers. I imagine how the rolling hills and cityscape will look after the city transforms these three hundred acres into a $300 million world-class park. It’s already so beautiful here.

For lunch, I’ll catch an afternoon soccer game on the rooftop bar of Hibernian Pub, sipping an IPA and munching on a little basket of fries. It’s afternoon, and the sun is bearing down, so to escape the heat, I catch an afternoon film at The Rialto, Five Points’ vintage movie theater. The selection is usually good, albeit sometimes a few weeks behind the major cinemas.

After the credits roll, the sun is still high, and the hardest part about dinner is the overwhelming plethora of options. Some sushi and half-price wine at Sushi Blues? Or savory barbecue at Southern Charred? I opt for some soul-warming banh mi paired with Thai iced tea at Anise Pho.

The sun wanes and the nightlife awakens, the street suddenly crowded with ecstatic club-goers, young men in salmon shorts and women in sleek black jumpers and high heels. And here’s the thing you should know about Glenwood South: It is Raleigh’s nightlife district. If that’s not your scene, there are calmer spots in the City of Oaks you should probably check out. Let the kids have their fun.  

If you’re still with me, hit that Fireball and let’s get moving. 

I’m whisked off fairly quickly to PLUS Dueling Piano Bar, where I’ll howl Billy Joel before stumbling over to Cornerstone Tavern for some resplendent hits from the early aughts and late-night debauchery. (No need for details; my mom might read this.) 

By the time I find my way back to my cozy little duplex, my feet are sad, but my stomach is happy. I can hear cicadas singing. I’m pretty sure they’re singing “Allentown.” Maybe that’s in my head. 


Landmark: Rialto Theatre

Where to Get a Cup of Coffee: Third Place Coffee Shop

Where to Visit with Friends: Hibernian

Where to Walk Your Dog: Fred Fletcher Park

Where to Spend the Night: Origin Hotel (opening winter 2019)


MUST

C. Grace

407 Glenwood Avenue, 919-899-3675, cgracebar.com

A burlesque-inspired basement speakeasy that is both on but seems far removed from Glenwood’s entertainment district, C. Grace serves sophisticated cocktails that transform classics into something new. Order a negroni, sink into a plush couch, and let the always-excellent jazz musicians on stage transport you to a more elegant era.  

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


EAT

42nd Street Oyster Bar 

508 West Jones Street, 919-831-2811, 42ndstoysterbar.com

42nd Street started in 1931 as a grocery store that served oysters; it’s since become one of the busiest restaurants in the area, serving classic sea fare from fried shrimp and hush puppies to oysters Rockefeller and grilled mahi.

Anise Pho

222 Glenwood Avenue, #113, 919-803-4539, anisepho.com

An authentic Vietnamese restaurant whose motto is “bad food is sin” and has banh mi good enough to make angels cry. 

Armadillo Grill

439 Glenwood Avenue, 919-546-0555, armadillogrill.com

A quick, cheap spot for tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and chalupas, Armadillo is perfect for a sunny patio lunch with a cold Modelo.

The Cardinal Bar

713 North West Street, thecardinalbar.com

A converted Cardinal Cab building now houses this restaurant and bar that feels like it’s been in Raleigh for decades. It does one thing—beer-braised hot dogs (and veggie dogs)—and it does them very well. Fill out the order card to add sriracha, cheese, onions, and all the typical fixins. 

Char-Grill

618 Hillsborough Street, 919-821-7636, chargrillusa.com

Serving Raleigh since the fifties, Char-Grill still feels and tastes like the golden era of drive-in theaters, soda pop, and sock hops.

The Cortez Seafood + Cocktail

413 Glenwood Avenue, 919-342-8227, cortezraleigh.com

Owner Charlie Ibarra has expanded his Southern-Mexican fusion to include more soulful Latino dishes at this seafood-focused restaurant, a sister to Jose and Sons. 

The Cupcake Shoppe

104 Glenwood Avenue, 919-821-4223, thecupcakeshopperaleigh.com

As the name suggests, you’ll find classic cupcakes, along with coffee drinks from Joe Van Gogh. Flavors such as Oreo-laced Cookie Monster and the carrot-filled What’s Up Doc are among the dozen standards, with new ones constantly in the mix.

DeMo’s Pizzeria & Deli

222 Glenwood Avenue, #121, 919-754-1050, demospizzeriadeli.com

Quick slices, cheesesteaks, and salad are on offer inside this small pizza joint or at the walk-up window to eat al fresco or to go. Open until midnight on the weekends.

Hayes Barton Café & Dessertery

2000 Fairview Road, 919-856-8551, hayesbartoncafeanddessertery.com

Raleighites refer to this restaurant by the size of the last slice of cake they devoured. (Hint: They’re enormous and delicious.) The interior is decked out as an upscale diner with forties memorabilia, a chrome bar, and checkerboard tile. Classic American dishes (meatloaf, chicken pot pie, filet mignon) are served at dinner, and sandwiches (chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad, burger, BLT) are served at lunch. 

Hummingbird

1053 East Whitaker Mill Road, #111, 919-301-8900, hummingbirdraleigh.com

Chef Coleen Speaks brought her love of New Orleans into this small-plates restaurant and craft cocktail bar. The décor, food, and cocktail menu all reflect the rustic Southern flare of The Big Easy. Po’boys, succotash, brandied chicken liver paté, and charbroiled oysters share space on a menu that features one of the best desserts in the city: ricotta fritters with mascarpone cream.

La Santa

222 Glenwood Avenue, #107, 919-720-4096, lasantanc.com

La Santa makes margaritas to order using freshly squeezed fruits and high-quality tequilas, and serves traditional Mexican dishes based on homemade Guadalajaran recipes. 

Lilly’s Pizza

1813 Glenwood Avenue, 919-833-0226, lillyspizza.com

Vintage décor, loud music, and paper-plate kids’ art give this pizza joint its funky vibe. Lilly’s prides itself on its organic dough, tomatoes, and fresh pizza ingredients.

MoJoe’s Burger Joint

620 Glenwood Avenue, 919-832-6799, mojoesburgerjoint.com

MoJoe’s specializes in a variety of burgers, sandwiches, and wings. Photos of folks who have completed the “pound-burger challenge” montage the walls inside, while the milkshakes and buckets of beers are perfect for the outdoor patio. 

Plates Neighborhood Kitchen

301 Glenwood Avenue, #100, 919-828-0018, plateskitchen.com

Plates is a globally inspired and locally produced restaurant rooted in the owners’ travels and international food experience. The Sunday roast pork loin special is stuffed with local peaches, garlic, carrots, and pork jus, and can be enjoyed on a lush and large outdoor patio. 

The Rockford

320½ Glenwood Avenue, 919-821-9020, therockfordrestaurant.com

One of Glenwood South’s oldest restaurants, The Rockford is a casual dinner spot serving a variety of entrées, salads, and sandwiches, including a Cubano, flank steak, burger, and fish tacos. 

Southern Charred

501 Glenwood Avenue, #101, 919-758-8851, southerncharred.com

Southern Charred does smoked meats and Southern cocktails, as well as skillet mac and cheese and a charred caesar salad (with hush puppy croutons). 

Sullivan’s Steakhouse

410 Glenwood Avenue, 919-833-2888, sullivanssteakhouse.com

At Sullivan’s, you find the classic white-tablecloth steak-and-seafood-and-martini treatment. Perhaps the finest bone-in ribeyes in the area, and among the best wine lists, too.

Sushi Blues

301 Glenwood Avenue, 919-664-8061, sushibluescafe.com

Mixing Japanese cuisine with American blues-and-jazz décor, this popular sushi restaurant has BOGO rolls daily. 

Sushi O

222 Glenwood Avenue, 919-838-8868, sushioraleighnc.com

An Asian fusion restaurant with an abundance of sidewalk patio seating, Sushi O is often packed with folks enjoying BOGO sushi deals or one of the many Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese dishes on the vast menu.

Thaiphoon Bistro

301 Glenwood Avenue, #190, 919-720-4034, thaiphoonbistroraleigh.com

Tucked a half block off Glenwood South, you enter Thaiphoon through a small koi pond patio garden. It features traditional Thai cuisine, including tom yum, avocado and mango eggrolls, and a delicious grilled beef salad, along with multiple curry options. 

Vidrio

500 Glenwood Avenue, #100, 919-803-6033, vidrioraleigh.com

This upscale Mediterranean restaurant has a large selection of wines as well as cold and hot plates, including a fig flatbread, braised short ribs, and green chickpea hummus. Vidrio means glass in Spanish, which is beautifully expressed through the colorful collection of 350 glass bowls and orbs hanging in the dining room. 

XOCO Mexican Bar & Grill

410 Glenwood Avenue, 919-835-9010, xocoraleigh.com

XOCO is a funky Mexican restaurant with delicious enchiladas, carnitas tacos, corn maiden chowder, and margaritas. The chips and salsa train, eclectic wall decor, and jungle-like patio fill the place with a fun vibe for the whole family.


DRINK

Clockwork

519 West North Street, 919-307-3215, clockworkraleigh.com

The surreal interior of this Clockwork Orange-inspired bar is full of geometrically painted walls, mod furniture, and constellation light fixtures. It’s an enticing spot for enjoying a cocktail and bar snack.

Clouds Brewing

126 North West Street, 919-307-8335, cloudsbrewing.com

Clouds has a rotating cast of more than forty beers on tap, including some of its own making. Its claim to fame is a downpour wall that rotates ten self-serve taps each week with RFID technology that allows you to pour and pay by the ounce.

Cornerstone Tavern

603 Glenwood Avenue, 919-809-5560, cornerstone-tavern.com

Dance inside, sprawl out with a beer on the patio outside—there are fire pits in the winter—and have yourself a good time. 

Dogwood Bar & Eatery

610 Glenwood Avenue, 919-977-3714, dogwoodraleigh.com

Like its sisters Milk Bar (below) and Anchor (downtown), Dogwood offers craft beers, quality cocktails, and, most important, a good place to hang out with friends. There’s rosé on draft, if that’s your thing. 

Dram & Draught

1 Glenwood Avenue, #101, 919-607-8501, dramanddraught.com

D&D has more than three hundred whiskeys from around the globe. Also: wines from the Old World and New. Also: handcrafted cocktails. Also: beer. Also: What else do you want?

Empress Room

403 Glenwood Avenue, 919-899-3865, empressroomraleigh.com

Sometimes a place’s website describes it better, or at least more creatively, than we can. So what the hell, we’ll just let Empress Room speak for itself: “Empress Room, the sofa bar, is an enchanting oasis. Like Cleopatra’s barge floating down the Nile, beautifully protected, the Empress Room sits above the hustle and bustle of Glenwood South, offering the perfect escape. A romantic hideaway where comfortable couches, creative cocktails, spirited conversation, and civility reign.”

Halycon

517 West Jones Street, 919-200-3757, halcyonraleigh.com

An upscale lounge, Halycon serves premium cocktails and wines in a luxurious environment. 

Havana Deluxe

437 Glenwood Avenue, 919-831-0991, havanadeluxe.com

Walking down the stairs is like discovering your Uncle Walter’s man cave. It’s a bit dark. There are overstuffed sofas and chairs. A small TV is tuned to an NHL contest. The distinctive aroma of cigar smoke permeates. Havana Deluxe has the comfort and feel of a beloved dive while offering top-flight bourbons, scotches, ryes, and, yes, cigars. Its unassuming, old-school vibe is best experienced on a midweek night. 

Hibernian Pub

311 Glenwood Avenue, 919-833-2258, hibernianpub.com

A two-story rustic Irish pub with all the delicious classics: bangers and mash, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, Black and Tan, Guinness, Guinness, more Guinness. The roof deck is the perfect perch from which to sip a cold beer and watch the nightly chaos of Glenwood South roll by.

Little City Brewing + Provisions

400 West North Street, #120, 919-502-7155, thelocalicon.com/little-city

Since 2016, this brewery and cocktail bar has been holding its own in Glenwood. 

Lucky B’s

609 Tucker Street, 919-833-1310, luckybsbar.com

The self-proclaimed “classiest dive bar in Raleigh”—can we please just let dive bars be dive bars?—Lucky B’s has been serving up good times in Glenwood South since 2005: good prices, fun atmosphere, good friends. Of note: Owner Bates Battaglia, a former NHL player, won The Amazing Race in 2013. 

Milk Bar

410 Glenwood Avenue, #101, 919-977-3714, ncmilkbar.com

Don’t let the name and milk-jug logo fool you. The name comes from the creamery building, but this bar doesn’t serve milk. Instead, beers and cocktails are slung to twentysomethings playing Skee-Ball, pool, or hanging out on the packed patio. 

My Way Tavern

522 St. Mary’s Street, 919-900-8273, mywaytavern.com

Of the twenty-two beers on tap, fifteen come from North Carolina. The food here is typical bar stuff—wings, burgers, etc.—but made well.  

Noir Bar & Lounge

425 Glenwood Avenue, 919-706-5943, noirraleigh.com

Noir has a great patio for people-watching, but inside, you’ll find crystal chandeliers, exposed brick walls, and a gorgeous black bar—an old-school European vibe to accompany classic cocktails.

North Street Beer Station

521 West North Street, 919-977-0825

You’ll find beers all across North Carolina (and the U.S.) on shelves and on tap at this relaxed bottle shop. Most days, the garage door is rolled up, and from the street, you can hear people laughing as they indulge in board games and video games.

The Parliament

322 Glenwood Avenue, 919-444-2769, parliamentraleigh.com

The hard-to-miss red neon sign and chandelier that hang inside this craft cocktail bar give Parliament a baroque spin. Ask for a prosecco cocktail as the DJs come out and late-night dancing begins.

PLUS Dueling Piano Bar

510 Glenwood Avenue, #10, 252-289-7399, plusduelingpianobar.com

It’s the largest dueling piano bar in the U.S., with a sixty-thousand-watt sound system, rotating stage, and an insane light show. 

Raleigh Beer Garden

614 Glenwood Avenue, 919-324-3415, theraleighbeergarden.com

With over 350 brews on tap, this expansive beer garden holds the Guinness world record for the largest selection of draft beers available in one restaurant. Much of the building opens up, creating a blur between inside and out and a lovely outdoor space to hang with friends after work.

Tapworks

222 Glenwood Avenue, #109, 919-977-0191, tapworksraleigh.com

Tapworks has more than fifty beers, ciders, and wines on tap, Order shareable plates such as stuffed soft pretzels and duck bacon flatbreads. 

Third Place Coffee Shop

1811 Glenwood Avenue, 919-834-6566, thirdplaceraleigh.com

Third Place, one of Raleigh’s first neighborhood coffee shops, serves sandwiches, pastries, and fresh brews. Known for its eclectic local wall art, the shop’s owner, David Benson, is also an artist. He created the iconic acorn sculpture dropped during Raleigh’s annual New Year’s Eve celebrations.


SHOP

Adara Spa

608 West Peace Street, 919-834-9886, adaraspa.com

A black-owned full-service spa, Adara offers everything from facials to waxing to nail services. 

Azurelise Chocolate

702 North Boylan Avenue, 919-946-5063, azurelisecholate.com

Unadorned yet sinfully delicious truffles, with flavors from blue tequila to orange spice to old-fashioned chocolate, are what Azurelise Chocolate does best. Custom order a box online or stop by the store and experience Azurelise firsthand.

Carter Building Shops

22 Glenwood Avenue, 919-848-3869, thecarterbuilding.com

Before the trend of maker shops and coworking spaces hit Raleigh, there was the Carter Building. Since the 1940s, the interior spaces have been rented to artists, comedians, metalworkers, painters, jewelers, and creatives of all kinds. More than thirty local entrepreneurs currently call it home. Pop in and say hi; you’ll likely leave with some locally crafted goods. 

DRINK

215 Glenwood Avenue, Suite C, 919-296-1600, drinkraleigh.com

A self-proclaimed “wine society of friends”—not merely a wine shop—DRINK brings the taste of smaller, often family-run wineries to Raleigh. Imitating the intimacy of a living room, DRINK invites customers to stay awhile and enjoy a glass with a book or while they work, and hosts small private events and wine tastings.

Form & Function

1700 Glenwood Avenue, 919-831-2838, formandfunctionraleigh.com

Located on the second floor of a beautifully renovated modern building, F&F is a wonderland of funky furniture, gifts, and home accessories, both nostalgic and modern. The owners are also interior designers, so ask for advice while you’re there.

The Hemp Farmacy

527 Hillsborough Street, 919-916-5607, hempfarmacy.us

The Hemp Farmacy, which boasts that it was the first hemp dispensary on the East Coast, prides itself on only carrying products that originated from American growers. The store is dedicated to educating the public about hemp and advocating for its use.

Nofo @ The Pig

2014 Fairview Road, 919-821-1240, nofo.com

Southern kitsch is on full display at NOFO’s upstairs gift shop. Kids games, gift baskets, jams, and local art round out this large collection of affordable gifts for family and friends. 

The Raleigh Wine Shop

126 Glenwood Avenue, 919-803-5473, theraleighwineshop.com

A locally owned wine shop with community-focused owners, it hosts everything from events and benefits to wine-tasting classes. The staff is knowledgeable, and the wine is plentiful. 

The Record Krate

508 St. Mary’s Street, 919-601-3131, recordkrate.blogspot.com

Artist and audiophile Kirk Adam has turned selling crates of records at local markets into a thriving record store in the back basement of a multistory building off St. Mary’s Street. Multiple rooms are stocked full of new and used vinyl, LaserDiscs, cassette tapes, and vintage music paraphernalia.  

Revolver

122 Glenwood Avenue, 919-834-3053, revolverboutique.com

Owner Liz Johnson and her pup Rigsby have been a staple of the Glenwood South retail scene for a decade, selling men’s and women’s high-end consignment clothing at affordable prices.

Sound Off Records & Hi-Fi in the Carter Building

14 Glenwood Avenue, Suite B1, soundoffrecords.com

Centered on the belief that “vinyl deserves to be heard and enjoyed,” Sound Off Records caters to both newbies and vinyl fanatics alike. 

The Wine Feed

602 Glenwood Avenue, 919-374-0036, thewinefeed.com

The Wine Feed offers a world-class variety of wines in a decidedly unstuffy atmosphere.


PLAY

Alchemy

606 Glenwood Avenue, 919-424-6072, alchemyraleigh.com

Glenwood’s answer to where the party’s at, Alchemy’s high-energy DJs and fantastic drinks keep party-goers dancing all night. Alchemy also offers a more relaxed patio with its own full bar.  

Epic Axes

510 Glenwood Avenue, epicfun.com/epic-axes

A twist on dinner and a show, Epic Axes allows customers to learn how to throw axes while enjoying a meal and drink from Southern Charred, its partner restaurant. For the competitively inclined, Epic Axes has a weekly throwing league.

Fred Fletcher Park

820 Clay Street, 919-996-6833, raleighnc.gov/parks

One of Raleigh’s most urban parks is sandwiched in between the bustling nightlife of Glenwood South and the neighborhoods that surround it. Concerts, sports fields and courts, picnic shelters, and multiple wide-open fields are a beautiful backdrop to community events, weddings, or an afternoon alone tucked into a book while lying under clear blue skies.

Mojito Lounge

106 Glenwood Avenue, 919-615-4787

A Latin-themed lounge with a relaxed atmosphere and full-throttle dance nights. 

Rialto Theatre

1620 Glenwood Avenue, 919-856-0111, ambassadorcinemas.com

This Raleigh icon and independently owned single-screen theater has shown foreign and art films in Five Points since the 1940s. Its large red velvet curtain is as iconic as its cash-only policy and a Fridays-at-midnight interactive showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. 

Tin Roof

300 Glenwood Avenue, 919-322-2333, tinroofraleigh.com

With live music every night, Tin Roof is a bar for musicians, music lovers, and everyone in between. Tin Roof keeps weeknights more low-key with original songwriter nights, but on the weekends, live bands take the stage. 


Comment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com.

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.