Raleigh, N.C.’s thriving and increasingly popular cuisine scene is as impressive as it is delicious. Groups meeting in this capital city can easily include an auxiliary event incorporating its variety of flavors.
The city’s restaurants, breweries, food festivals and organized activities, including walking tours and cooking classes, are all available to spice up a meeting agenda.
From a fun food truck rodeo and a gorgeous new speakeasy to a Mediterranean restaurant with event space that rivals any in the city, following are eight great, and mouthwatering, ideas.
Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours
Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours offers both public weekend walking tours as well as customized private tours for groups of 10 to 200 people.
According to Malinda Harrell, director of sales for Visit Raleigh, the tour operator offers various outings that feature the culinary delights found in downtown Raleigh, including a dinner and drinks tour and a speakeasies cocktail tour.
Busy groups with packed schedules will appreciate a tour, which is an all-in-one experience that includes networking, exploring a bit of Raleigh and, of course, tasting some amazing food and beverages.
“Raleigh has one of the most award-winning and progressive culinary scenes in the Southeast, and Taste of Carolina Gourmet Food Tours are a great way to experience some of the best of our city’s offerings in a short period of time,” Harrell said.
Raleigh Beer Trail
Wake County’s Raleigh Beer Trail boasts more than 30 breweries, including Aviator Brewing Co., which started in an airplane hangar, and Raleigh Brewing Co., the first woman-owned brewery in the state.
Aviator Brewing and Raleigh Brewing both offer brewery tours and tastings as well as private spaces for group events. The Aviator SmokeHouse Restaurant hosts private events for up to 120 people and Raleigh Brewing has a private tavern room that accommodates up to 40 people.
“Another great option for groups is to hop on the Raleigh Brews Cruise or a Beltline Brew Tour to participate in a behind-the-scenes tour and tasting at three different breweries,” Harrell added. “For something a little less formal groups can rent the Trolley Pub to pedal their way around downtown Raleigh and make two to three stops at local breweries or bars.”
Vidrio, a two-story, Mediterranean-inspired restaurant and gathering space in Raleigh’s Glenwood South entertainment district, has more than 50 wines on tap, North Carolina beers, craft cocktails and a delicious menu featuring everything from cheese boards and oysters on the half shell to risotto and steaks.
“Vidrio’s small plates are great for sharing,” Harrell said.
The decor here is impressive as well, she added, including the main dining room where the walls are adorned with nearly 400 stunning hand-blown glass pieces.
Beyond the main dining room, Vidrio offers several other attractive spaces for group events, including the library on the first floor, a small space for up to 30 people, the second-floor banquet room for up to 100 seated, and the second-floor Fiera Bar & Lounge, which accommodates 75 people standing and is recommended for cocktail parties and private event overflow.
Watts & Ward
Watts & Ward is one of the newest and, at 6,000 square feet, one of the largest underground speakeasies in the Southeast.
Attendees will appreciate the venue’s rich, handsome ambience as much as the fine craft cocktails served here.
“With three rooms/bars they can accommodate groups as small as 40 people and up to 120 in private event spaces, or groups can buy out the entire speakeasy, including the amazing outdoor space, for up to 300 people,” Harrell said.
Mixology classes are available upon request for groups interested in taking home some yummy cocktail recipes.
Located nearby Raleigh in Cary is Whisk, an independent kitchenware store that facilitates private interactive culinary parties for groups with at least 10 participants.
“Groups love hosting private events at Whisk,” Harrell said.
She added Whisk will work with planners to tailor the menu and customize a themed event, be it a competition-style cook-off, a hands-on instructional class or a technique-specific course, based on the group’s desires and budget.
Planners can also include extra time before or after a cooking event so attendees may browse and possibly purchase a take-home gift in the store. It offers a veritable cornucopia of kitchen necessities, from pots, pans and plates to cutlery, baking tools and various fun culinary gadgets.
Mulino Italian Kitchen & Bar
Awaiting groups at downtown Raleigh’s Mulino Italian Kitchen & Bar is a tempting menu starring freshly prepared pasta and risotto, salads and pizzas, and to top it off, the most scrumptious Italian desserts, including tiramisu and gelato.
“Groups will enjoy a gastronomic journey across the Italian culinary landscape,” Harrell said.
Italian plates are complemented by estate vineyard wines, craft cocktails and a warm atmosphere.
According to Harrell, the space includes a large outdoor courtyard with an illuminated pool that is tented in the winter and accessible for groups.
Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo
During the Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo, an event that takes place once a month on Sundays in May, June, August and October, attendees can take a stroll and explore a half-mile of more than 50 food trucks and food carts spread across 11 city blocks.
“If you happen to be meeting over the dates of the rodeo, it’s a great lunch break for your attendees that saves money, as the rodeo sets up just one block from the Raleigh Convention Center,” Harrell said.
“It also makes for a great open evening activity where you can recommend a ‘taste of Raleigh’ to your attendees,” she added.
Upcoming dates include May 6, 2018, June 10, 2018, Aug. 5, 2018, and Oct. 14, 2018.
Located in Raleigh’s Hayes Barton Historic District is Mandolin, a farm-to-table restaurant with a menu of fresh Southern fare that rotates seasonally to include as many ingredients from North Carolina farmers and ranchers as possible.
Popular menu items here include the charcuterie plate to start, chicken and waffles, braised pork shank, pan-seared North Carolina triggerfish and dessert delights such as caramel cake and ambrosia salad.
RALEIGH’S WAREHOUSE DISTRICT HOLDS EVEN MORE SURPRISES
Additional culinary opportunities and more can be found in the burgeoning Warehouse District, which is located nearby the Raleigh Convention Center.
Characterized by six blocks of iconic, red brick, former industrial buildings, the Warehouse District is a growing concentration of galleries, restaurants, shopping, nightlife and innovative businesses, according to Malinda Harrell, director of sales for Visit Raleigh.
Opening this spring within less than a 15-minute walk from the Raleigh Convention Center is the 22,000-square-foot Morgan Street Food Hall @ 411 West Morgan St., which will feature a variety of eateries, retail opportunities and an indoor/outdoor bar for attendees to visit between meetings.
“The Morgan Street Food Hall will be a dynamic space showcasing some of Raleigh’s up-and-coming culinary talent and providing both food and beverage options for groups,” Harrell said. “They will have semi-private dining space and both indoor and outdoor seating.”
Wicked Taco, Curry In A Hurry and Iyla’s Southern Kitchen are among the places to grab a bite at Morgan Street Food Hall, and the retail lineup includes The Soaperie, Quintessential Candles and Western Dragon Teas & Tisanes.
CAM Raleigh @ 409 W Martin St., a contemporary art museum, is a must-visit attraction in the Warehouse District where art lovers in the group will find ever-evolving exhibits that “explore what’s current and coming in the art and design world,” according to Harrell.
CAM Raleigh also accommodates group gatherings in its art- and light-filled event spaces.
Another artsy stop in the Warehouse District is Imurj, a renovated, creative collaborative community center that includes an art gallery and cafe and features live-music performances, workshops, lectures and more.
The 6,000-square-foot open floor plan of this multiuse space also welcomes group events, including everything from receptions and product launches to teambuilding exercises and multimedia presentations.
The neighborhood’s Raleigh Denim Workshop @319 West Martin St., an artisan denim brand that uses vintage machines to create limited runs of men’s and women’s jeans, and Videri Chocolate Factory @327 W. Davie St., a bean-to-bar chocolatier, are two of the more popular places to visit.
Videri’s all-in-one cafe/small batch chocolate factory provides a cozy and welcoming atmosphere for attendees who’d like a coffee and chocolate pick-me-up at some point during the day.
And Boxcar Bar + Arcade @330 West Davie St. is a fun spot to conclude a day of business.
Here, attendees will find 100-plus modern and classic arcade games, including Frogger, Pac-Man and Space Invaders, as well as Skee-Ball and a variety of pinball machines, and a huge bar with a great selection of beers and bourbons.
Boxcar Bar + Arcade is also available for rentals for groups interested in hosting an entertaining gathering or teambuilding event among all those games.
LATEST + GREATEST: HOTEL UPDATES IN RALEIGH
The 156-room StateView Hotel, Autograph Collection, a Marriott property, opened in October 2017 with over 8,000 square feet of indoor meeting/event space and 2,000 square feet of outdoor event space. The hotel is built on a 10-acre site overlooking Lake Raleigh at North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus.
The 175-suite Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown, located steps away from the Raleigh Convention Center and Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, opened in July 2017 with over 2,500 square feet of meeting space.
Two new boutique hotels are coming to downtown Raleigh’s Glenwood South district in 2019: the 126-room Origin Hotel, including a wine and tapas bar, and The Willard, an urban-style AC Hotel by Marriott property that will have 120-plus guest rooms.
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