9 Hours on Hillsborough Street (and Around N.C. State)

(By Leigh Tauss)

There’s more to the neighborhoods surrounding Hillsborough Street than N.C.State. From shopping to casual dining—and maybe a little culture thrown in—you’ll find more than enough extra-curricular activities to fill an afternoon.

To kick off the day, I chug a latte at Cup A Joe and cozy up in a booth for some light reading. It’s a chill spot to knock off a few hours and catch up with friends.

After that, it’s time to make my wallet hurt at Cameron Village. My first stop is Nadeau, which has a huge selection of unique furniture. It’s a little on the pricey side, but you’ll find one-of-a-kind stunners to warm up any room in your home in every color of the rainbow. A lime green end table? Yes, please.

Next, I slide over to Aillea to browse high-quality environmentally friendly cosmetics—and to see what they can do with my pesky eyebrows. I’ve also been itching for new fall fashions, so I peak in Ivy and Leo to peruse cozy sweaters.

Life isn’t all about the finer things, though; sometimes it’s about fine art, too. What better way to cap off my shopping trip than with some inspiration from the North Carolina Museum of Art. This fall, NCMA is featuring an exhibit of paintings from Frida Kahlo (along with Diego Rivera), whose work truly makes me feel like a goddess.

My afternoon of zen continues at the JC Raulston Arboretum. I stroll through the butterfly garden before heading to the Japanese garden. The smell of fresh chartreuse is enough to make you feel miles away from the suburban sprawl just beyond the gates.

For an early dinner, there’s no better place to grab a burger and beer than Players’ Retreat. The locally famous PR always bustles with a mix of college students and old-timers. 

I sneak into a booth in the back under one of the televisions and order a few PBRs while noshing on cheese fries. The crowd is usually loud and can get rowdy, especially if there’s a college basketball game on.

Landmark: Dorton Arena

Where to Get a Cup of Coffee: Cup A Joe

Where to Visit with Friends: JC Raulston Arboretum

Where to Walk Your Dog: The park and greenway outside NCMA

Where to Spend the Night: Aloft


North Carolina Museum of Art

2110 Blue Ridge Road, 919-839-6262, ncartmuseum.com

NCMA has expanded Raleigh’s culture into an explosion of art, nature, and people that includes a 164-acre museum park with monumental sculptures, a performance amphitheater, and a connection to Raleigh’s greenway. Outside events blend seamlessly with a beautifully designed museum that is home to more than four thousand pieces of art in the permanent collection and yearly exhibitions showcasing the works of artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, M.C. Escher, and Frida Kahlo.

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


Abyssinia Ethiopian

2109 Avent Ferry Road, #146, 919-664-8151

At Raleigh’s only Ethiopian restaurant, authentic dishes and sauces are served in mounds on top of injera bread, creating a hands-on eating experience unlike anyplace else in the city.

Ajisai Japanese Fusion

427 Woodburn Road, 919-831-9907, ajisai3.com

An expansive menu of sushi, Japanese noodle dishes, and a variety of specialty seafood plates have made Ajisai one of Cameron Village’s busiest restaurants. The lush interior, dotted with modern furnishings, complements a large outdoor seating area typically packed with young professionals.

Baja Burrito

2109 Avent Ferry Road, #108, 919-834-3431, bajaburrito.net

Baja is a strip-center California-style burrito joint serving fully packed burritos with delicious filling options like shredded beef, mole chicken, and vegetarian options. 

Beansprout Chinese Restaurant

3721 Hillsborough Street, 919-755-0554, beansproutchinese.com

Toward the fairgrounds, an unassuming standalone building with neon signage hosts one of Raleigh’s most popular takeout Chinese restaurants.

Cantina 18

433 Daniels Street, 919-835-9911, 18restaurantgroup.com/cantina-18-raleigh

Chef Jason Smith has assembled Southwestern cuisine with a Southern drawl in this Cameron Village favorite. North Carolina ingredients go into making a variety of tacos, enchiladas, and burritos. The pineapple jalapeño margarita is best enjoyed on the second-floor outdoor patio. 

Coco Bongo

2400 Hillsborough Street, 984-242-0898, cocobongoraleigh.com

An affordable Mexican spot serving California-style burritos, street tacos, and fajitas. 

David’s Dumpling and Noodle Bar

1900 Hillsborough Street, 919-239-4536, ddandnb.com

Chef and culinary innovator David Mao has created a pan-Asian menu focused on—as the name suggests—noodle and dumpling dishes, from pad Thai to cha chiang mein to half-fried dumplings. 

Gonza Tacos Y Tequila

2100 Hillsborough Street, #110, 919-268-8965, gonzatacosytequila.com

Located in the Aloft Hotel, the chainlet’s Hillsborough Street location does great tacos and great tequila in a great atmosphere.  


2042 Clark Avenue, 919-833-9998, goodberrys.com

Fresh frozen custard is a rarity for Raleigh, and Goodberry’s has the market cornered. Grab a concrete with your desired toppings and watch as they swirl and flip it.

Hot Tomato Pizzeria

2906 Hillsborough Street, 919-832-8889, hottomatopie.com

A family-run pizzeria that slings New York-style pies. Got a whole frat house to feed? Order a party-size pie.  

Jasmin & Olivz Mediterranean

2430 Hillsborough Street, 919-755-9991, jasminandolivz.com

A local chainlet focusing a quick, fresh Greek and Lebanese cuisine. 

Kabob and Curry

2412 Hillsborough Street, 919-703-0107, kababcurryraleigh.com

An all-you-can-eat Indian and Nepalese lunch buffet for under $10 that offers a variety of chaat, a long vegetarian menu, and kids tikka options? Yes, please.  

Mitch’s Tavern

2426 Hillsborough Street, 919-821-7771, mitchstavern.com

Best known for its appearance in Bull Durham, Mitch’s has become a local institution. A cup of gumbo paired with a hero sandwich and draft beer while watching sports is the exact perfect way to experience this N.C. State favorite.

Neomonde Mediterranean

3817 Beryl Road, 919-828-1628, neomonde.com

A Mediterranean buffet where you can grab a veggie lasagna, a chicken kabob entrée, or a four-side platter with a mix of cilantro jalapeño hummus, couscous, mujadara, and chicken salad—and then wrap them all up into a pita sandwich.

The Players’ Retreat 

105 Oberlin Road, 919-755-9589, playersretreat.net

A Raleigh classic since 1951, this restaurant and bar is more than a local favorite, perhaps something more than an institution. It’s hard to imagine this pocket of Raleigh without it. Its burgers and wings are some of the best in the city, and the outdoor patio is a sea of red during Wolfpack games. Inside, there’s a pool table, a bar that spans the length of the building, and a massive single-malt scotch selection to get you screaming for the Pack. 

Taco Bell Cantina 

2304 Hillsborough Street, 919-803-7234

Imagine a Taco Bell near a university that serves margarita-flavored slushies and is basically a sports bar. It’s going to make a fortune.  

Tazza Kitchen

432 Woodburn Road, 919-835-9463, tazzakitchen.com

A rustic wood-fired kitchen and wine bar serving inventive, locally sourced cuisine. Sausage and pepper honey pizza, cast-iron goat cheese, and brick-oven crab cakes are a small sampling.

The Village Deli and Grill

500 Daniels Street, 919-828-1428, villagedeli.net

At this popular fast-casual grill, quick service leads to a short wait for your name to be called over the loudspeaker.


Benelux Coffee

402 Oberlin Road, #118, 919-900-8294, beneluxcoffee.com

This local roaster serves Belgian waffles, too, and it has a second location in the Hillsborough YMCA. 

Cameron Bar and Grill

2018 Clark Avenue, 919-775-2231, cameronbarandgrill.com

Vintage photos of Cameron Village in its fifties heyday hang in this intimate bar, which, incidentally, has a delicious brunch serving local beers, craft cocktails, and wine. 

Cup A Joe

3100 Hillsborough Street, 919-828-9665, cupajoe.com

The line of coffee drinkers chilling by the curbside reading classic novels, an assemblage of mismatched furniture, and a classic arcade game cabinet give Cup A Joe that eighties-John-Waters-film feeling. Drive by Starbucks and yell, “Corporate Espresso Still Sucks!” on your way in, and they’ll give you 10 percent off a coffee drink or smoothie.

Global Village Organic Coffee

2428 Hillsborough Street, 919-828-4567, globalvillagecoffee.com

Just across from N.C. State, Global Village has served organic coffee, espresso, and whole-leaf teas, as well as panini and pastries, in a warm, inviting space for almost two decades. 

The Green Monkey

1217 Hillsborough Street, 984-200-5682, greenmonkeyraleigh.com

Part beer bar, part bottle shop, part kitschy-as-all-hell gift store, The Green Monkey is this neighborhood’s neighborhood bar. 

The Hive @ Tupelo Honey

425 Oberlin Road, 919-723-9353, tupelohoneycafe.com

Tupelo is a small Southern chain serving a twist on Southern cuisine. The bar has its own culture, fusing Tupelo’s branded honey into cocktails with a honeycomb-themed backdrop. 

Jubala Coffee 

2100 Hillsborough Street, 919-792-1767, jubalacoffee.com

College professors, students, and hip residents alike love Jubala as a perch for meetings, hanging with friends, and enjoying Counter Culture coffee-brewed drinks. 

Liquid State

1908 Hillsborough Street, 984-200-6184, liquidstateraleigh.com

Liquid State offers locally sourced coffee, unique wines, and a wide selection of beer in a century-plus-old building. The exposed brick is juxtaposed by the experimental menu and abstract art adorning the walls.

Lucky Tree Cafe and Gallery

3801 Hillsborough Street, 919-342-6688, luckytreeraleigh.com

The cafe gets its coffee from Durham, its milk from Raleigh, and its artwork from more than fifty local artists. The twin sisters who own the cafe drew their inspiration from the treehouse they shared as kids. 

Pantanas Pool Hall and Saloon

3112 Hillsborough Street, 919-833-2900

Shoot your shot and sip on cheap beers. Ladies shoot free on Wednesdays. Pinball, too.  

Raleigh Brewing Company

3709 Neil Street, 919-400-9086, raleighbrewing.com

Kristie Nystedt, the first woman to own a brewery in North Carolina, has created a culture at RBC that speaks to her commitment to the local community. Darts, murals, and yoga events inside the taproom mix with food trucks and a huge covered patio outside, creating an experience that is authentically Raleigh. 



2032 Cameron Street, 919-747-9030, aillea.com

Clean beauty products for babes who want to look hot and not kill bunnies. The shop also has a spa where you can get a facial or wax. 

Cheshire Cat Antiques Gallery

2050 Clark Avenue, 919-835-9595, facebook.com/antiquesemporium

A world of wonder awaits at this basement antique emporium. Spend a day perusing modern and antique furniture, comic books, vinyl records, china, jewelry, porcelains, and a bunch of other things you didn’t know you needed. 

Cycle Logic

1211 Hillsborough Street, 919-833-4588, cycle-logic.biz

Drop in to get advice on any part or repair and get your bike back on the road. There’s a great selection of fixies and custom frames. 

Ivy and Leo

2010 Cameron Street, 984-999-4131, ivyandleo.com

This Cameron Village boutique pairs Southern charm with boho chic. Fall in love with the collection of autumn-colored dresses and not-your-grandma’s knits. 


426 Woodburn Road, 919-856-9646, furniturewithasoul.com

The selection is pricey, but where else are you going to find a vintage bamboo desk? 

Nice Price Books and Records

3106 Hillsborough Street, 919-829-0230, nicepricebooksandrecords.com

Brian Shaw and Enoch Marchant have curated one of the Triangle’s best shops to buy used books, cassettes, movies, and vinyl records (both new and used). Check out their music-focused podcast. 

Raleigh Flea Market 

1025 Blue Ridge Road, 919-899-FLEA, raleighfleamarket.net

Every Saturday and Sunday since 1971, vendors from across North Carolina have descended on the State Fairgrounds to sell collectible coins, therapeutic oils, guitars, hammocks, loose-leaf tea, and pretty much anything you can imagine. 

Reader’s Corner

3201 Hillsborough Street, 919-828-7024

Shelves are stocked full of used books, vinyl, and comics. If you can’t find it, the friendly owners probably can.

Red Line Beer and Wine

10 Home Street, #100, 919-322-8947, redlinebeerwine.com

Go in and pick up your favorite craft beer or wine, or have it delivered right to your door in under an hour. If you live within five miles of the shop, delivery is only $3.99. 

Schoolkids Records

2237 Avent Ferry Road, 919-821-7766, schoolkidsrecords.com

Once a Schoolhouse employee, Stephen Judge bought this Raleigh staple and has shaped it into his own vision. Formerly located across from State’s main campus, the shop is now near Centennial and has more space for inventory, in-store performances, parking, and beer taps. Grab a beer and peruse the constantly rotating stock of used and new CDs and vinyl.


Comedy Worx

3801 Hillsborough Street, 919-829-0822, comedyworx.com

Fast-paced improv comedy shows and classes featuring local comedians.

Goodnights Comedy Club

861 West Morgan Street, 919-828-5233, goodnightscomedy.com

The quaint club has hosted the likes of Jerry Scienfield, Jay Leno, and Chris Rock in an intimate setting. 

Gregg Museum of Art & Design 

1903 Hillsborough Street, 919-515-3503. gregg.arts.ncsu.edu

This free public art museum is home to over thirty-five thousand objects ranging from architectural drawings to antique North Carolina quilts. 

JC Raulston Arboretum

4415 Beryl Road, 919-515-3132, jcra.ncsu.edu

An all-white garden, Japanese maple trees and a rock garden, and a desert landscape are only a few of the beautifully cultivated spaces in this ten-acre arboretum, which is perfect for a couples walk or a scavenger hunt with kids. 

Mission Valley Cinema

2109 Avent Ferry Road, #124, 919-834-2233, ambassadorcinemas.com

This intimate and independently owned five-screen theater, which shows indie and blockbuster flicks, originally opened in the 1970s and serves local beers, ICEEs, and the typical movie snacks. There are also classic arcade games and (look down!) a popcorn carpet in the lobby. 

Moroccan Oasis Cafe

3018 Hillsborough Street, 919-307-8404

A hip hookah lounge with pool tables and other games that’s especially fun for a group outing. 

The North Carolina State Fair 

1025 Blue Ridge Road, 919-733-2145, ncstatefair.org

“Nothing Could Be Finer!” is the motto the fair has adopted, showcasing North Carolina agriculture, culture, and a curated musician series, featuring bands from across the state. A cross-grounds chair lift can take you from the demolition derby to the pig races high above the neon lights, feet dangling, smoked turkey leg in hand. The fair runs for ten days every October. Mark your calendars now. 

Pullen Park

520 Ashe Avenue, 919-996-6468, raleighnc.gov/parks

One of Raleigh’s premier parks features a large lake with pedal boats, a hundred-year-old Dentzel carousel, a cafe, picnic tables, and a miniature cross-park train. It’s a perfect outing for a family day together on the playground, a dip in the indoor pool, or a pottery class in the art center.

Raleigh Little Theatre

301 Pogue Street, 919-821-4579, raleighlittletheatre.org

Inside is a black box community theater that puts on local renditions of famous plays, while outside is a large entertainment amphitheater and luscious rose garden, one of only three accredited in North Carolina.

Theatre in the Park

107 Pullen Road, 919-831-6936, theatreinthepark.com

For more than seventy years, Theater in the Park has put on shows in Pullen Park’s indoor black box theater; they attract more than forty thousand visitors a year. The company is known for its innovative productions, ranging from Shakespeare plays to more contemporary classics like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Comment on FINDER 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.