One of the things I like best about the Net is getting quality information about local retailers. On the theory that you should put something in to get something out, this post will have some information about good restaurants in or near North Raleigh. It's been almost a year since I commented on this, and there have been some changes to my top ten list.
(By the way, I'm collecting economists' recommendations for eating out in other cities. So far I have two others: Tyler Cowen's wonderful guide to ethnic restaurants in the Washington, DC area and the UCLA economics department's guide to the Los Angeles area. If anybody knows of others, I'd appreciate hearing about them.)
A word on criteria. I'm not at all a gourmet and I'm neither very wealthy nor on an expense account. So the upper limit of what I'm willing to spend for dinner is about $30 per person, including tax and tip, without alcohol. Most of the places on this list run $20 to $25 per person and occasionally less. Even though my family has had some great meals in Durham--just last Sunday we had excellent tapas at Bakus--we don't like to drive there on weeknights. We know there are some great places in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, too, but same problem. There are, however, three places on this list in Cary and one in Morrisville since the dinner-time drive to those areas tends to be O.K.
My top ten in alphabetical order. I thought about trying to rank them, but they're close and my preference varies with my mood not their quality.
518 West. The Crab.
Babymoon Cafe. The Italian Quesadilla and the Chef Salad.
Carrabbas. Chicken Bryan and the Chocolate Dream.
Copeland's. New Orleans food. Anything blackened is good.
Michael Dean's. It's all good--steak, chicken, fish--and they have monthly specials. Probably #1 because it's just so consistent.
Peddler. Steak and a superior salad bar.
Rio Churrascaria. Still $24.95 for all you can eat. A terrific value. Not for vegetarians and you should come hungry.
Tasca Brava. Tapas served by the owner and his wife. Try the Puntitas de Solomillo Sol O Sombra. Oh my.
The Bamboo Club. Coconut Shrimp with Honey Mustard and Sweet Thai Chili.
Tony's Oyster Bar. Cajun/Creole food. My family likes the Cajun Sampler; I like the Blackened Chicken with Andouille Sausage.
Special honorable mention to Solomon's, a small, relatively new place in North Raleigh. The owner cooks and comes out to see if everything is good. It always is. London Broil and the nightly specials.
A good place to look for information is the Usenet newsgroup triangle.dining, though the contributors there lean toward the Durham and Chapel Hill areas.
UPDATE: David Tufte has a guide to New Orleans restaurants.