The month of May was definitely a memorable one that won’t soon be forgotten for the local foodie scene here in Downtown Raleigh. Thrive NC, a two-day foodie festival & community gathering event attended by thousands, held in the historic city market near Moore Square, presented a unique opportunity for new Raleigh restaurants to provide samples of their best dishes and to also get to know the community. With so many fantastic restaurants, bars, and breweries in the Raleigh – Durham area, sometimes it can be tough for new spots to get on the radars of local foodies!

Alongside long-time Raleigh favorites such as Bida Manda, Sassool, Poole’s Diner and Mandolin were a few recently opened brand new restaurants that you should try on your next night out:

The Smashed Waffle Company

Hungry college students eagerly awaited the opening of The Smashed Waffle Company on Hillsborough Street. It seemed as if the signage was on the windows forever, but earlier this year, its doors finally opened! The Smashed Waffle Company serves waffles made from scratch, topped with a variety of sweet and savory toppings.

There were a few options for samples at Thrive NC, but I decided to go for the O.G., which is a waffle topped with honey, powdered sugar, and its O.G. sauce. It was so rich and delicious! I predict that The Smashed Waffle Company will do well!

Kaiju Bowl & Bao

Kaiju Bowl & Bao is so new that it hasn’t actually officially opened yet! This new spot certainly made an impression on the Thrive NC crowd. The line was long, and many were raving about the Pork Belly & Kale Ramen. We can’t wait for the grand opening so we can try more of their menu items, which will include steamed buns, Korean chicken, and lots of other deliciousness.

Tonbo Ramen

Raleigh can’t get enough ramen! Tonbo Ramen recently opened in Downtown Raleigh and has received rave reviews. I’m sure it gained a few new fans, as they were handing out samples of its delicious broth! Tonbo Ramen features a variety of ramen bowls. An Izakaya bar is located upstairs featuring small plates, salads, buns, and a variety of Japanese whiskeys.

Southern Charred

Southern Charred is a new BBQ spot that opened on Glenwood in late 2017. It features smoked meat platters and southern cocktails, such as Front Porch Tea, which is made with Midnight Peach Moonshine! At Thrive NC, they were handing out samples of their chicken wings and pulled pork. Yum!


While Royale is a bit more established than the other restaurants on this list (they opened in 2016), I wanted to include them because of their fantastic food sample: A mini burger made with a Michael’s English Muffin bun! Yes, the burger was absolutely delicious, but the English muffin definitely added a unique flavor to the burger.

You should definitely try Royale’s burger, but if you are interested in trying the muffin on its own, Michael’s English Muffins opened a shop in North Raleigh earlier this year.

Other relatively new restaurants from around the Raleigh area that were also present at Thrive during the festival included MoFu Shoppe, Pizza La Stella, Hummingbird, and Brewery Bhavana.

Raleigh’s Foodie Scene is Definitely Thriving

The Thrive NC two night festival provided a unique and amazing opportunity for the Triangle community to discover new favorites while renewing appreciation for established restaurants as well.

We hope to see this event expand next year and for more Triangle restaurants to participate from Cary, Wake Forest, Chapel Hill and beyond! As a Raleigh resident, I appreciated the opportunity to sample items from restaurants in Durham and Chapel Hill, such as Counting House and Il Palio who also served up delightful bites that won’t soon be forgotten.

Overall, the 2018 Thrive NC event was a success for restaurant owners and foodies. I now have a whole list of new and new-to-me restaurants I need to try soon!

So what were some of your new favorites discovered at Thrive 2018? Please be sure to hit us up on Twitter @919BlogNC or visit our Facebook page at and let us know! We would love to hear from ya.

This post was created in collaboration with the Downtown Raleigh Blog editorial team and 919 Blog contributor Amy Howard for exclusive digital publication via TBN