Our Taste Carolina Food Tour

by Jessica Lieb on September 22, 2013 · 22 comments

Over the weekend Joe and I celebrated our 6th Anniversary (a week late) by going on a walking food tour of downtown Raleigh. Back in 2011 I won 2 tickets for a food tour with Taste Carolina but at the time I was super pregnant and then baby came and then I got pregnant again and then another baby… so 2 years later we finally got around to cashing in our gift certificate.

Celebrating our 6th Anniversary on a Taste Carolina food tour.

Celebrating our 6th Anniversary on a Taste Carolina food tour.

We took the 4pm tour and thanks to the Capital City Bike Fest we were almost late. Parking was insane due to the special festival but I jumped out of the car to meet up with the tour while Joe found a parking spot. Our tour guide, Neecy (sorry if I’m not spelling that correctly) was so sweet and helped me direct Joe to our first location (via text). Our tour met at the CORMuseum on Fayettevile Street where Neecy started by giving us a brief history of the city and building. From there we walked through the craziness of Bike Fest to our first location, Gravy.

Taste Carolina Tour GuideOur Taste Carolina Tour Guide – Neecy

Along the way Neecy pointed out significant buildings and gave us brief history of the area. At Gravy an Italian-American restaurant we were greeted by Executive Chef Brent Hopkins who gave us a sneak peek at their upcoming fall menu. They had prepared their Pork Ragu for us which was a homemade pasta dish served with local pork. It was delicious. I love that they change their menu with the season so they can use as much local produce as possible.

Gravy - Pork Ragu

The Pork Ragu at Gravy 

Gravy Fall MenuThe new fall 2013 menu for Gravy

From there we traveled next door to Sitti a Lebanese restaurant owned by the same company, Empire Eats, as our previous location. Sitti brought our a sampling of some of their most popular dishes like hummus, chicken shawarma, kibbeh, stuffed grapes leaves and an amazing pomegranate spritzer. We learned the story behind Sitti and that they make almost everything in-house, from scratch. They even have bees on the roof to make their own honey.

Sitti Food Tour

Delicious Food and Drink at Sitti

Then we walked a short distance to Bida Manda, one of the only Laotian restaurants on the east coast. Joe and I have been wanting to try Bida Manda for awhile so we were very excited it was on our tour. The atmosphere at Bida Manda was delightful. The owner, Vansana Nolintha shared the story of how Bida Manda came to be and the historical significance of their restaurant and it’s purpose in our community. We tried their Pumpkin Curry which was a little spicy but had such rich and warm flavors.

Bida MandaWe learned the history behind Bida Manda.

Pumpkin Curry

Pumpkin Curry at Bida Manda

Then we walked around the block to Centro Mexican restaurant. I’ve seen Centro but never eaten there so this was also another fun adventure. We learned the story behind Centro and their love for tequila. They brought out margaritas and a tradition Mexican pork soup which was delicious. I really love the vibrant and friendly decor of Centro.

Centro

Centro Raleigh

The weather was looking iffy but we tempted fate and took a long walk to our 5th destination. Along the way we learned more about several historical landmarks and the founding of our state’s capital. We then made a quick stop at the Cupcake Shoppe to pick up dessert and then headed to C. Grace cocktail bar. There, Neecy passed out our personalized cupcakes and C. Grace provided a French 75. Our cupcakes had Happy Anniversary written on them which was a very thoughtful and unexpected. (My phone died so I don’t have any pictures of our cupcakes but they were super cute!)

downtown Raleigh

downtown Raleigh

Our tour was now over and we were significantly stuffed. The tour lasted about 3 hours and covered a good section of downtown Raleigh. We caught the R-Line back to our car since the rain started to pour as soon as we walked out the door of C. Grace. We had an amazing time and were able to visit some new local dining spots and learn more about our wonderful city.

Just a few tips for your food tour:

  1. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. There will be a lot of walking and a lot of eating, elastic waistbands advised!
  2. Pace yourself, there is plenty of food to go around and you don’t want to be stuffed after the 2nd location.
  3. Bring an umbrella. Taste Carolina does tours rain or shine. We had a little rain and got a little wet but it was still fun.
  4. Be open to trying new things. We don’t drink alcohol but we did try every drink that was presented to us. You never know if you will like something new.
  5. Have fun. We got to meet some wonderful people and try some delicious food. It was an awesome night.

I’d love to do another tour sometime as they are always changing and Taste Carolina actually offers tours in other cities throughout central North Carolina. If you ever get the chance take a food tour with Taste Carolina, do it – you won’t regret it.

Jessica is a family lifestyle blogger living in Raleigh, NC with her husband, three sons (6, 3 and 1) and a new baby on the way (due January 2015). Jessica started thebkeepsushonest.com in November of 2009, but has been blogging since 2003. Jessica writes about family life, recipes, travel and products for families. She is also a Work-from-home-mom who manages marketing and social media for a local accounting company.

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