Breakfast/Brunch in Raleigh, NC
You gotta love a place where the Twitter handle is RealBiscuits! And you gotta love a place steeped in the agricultural axis of North Carolina, the NC State Farmers Market, which stands on ground where cattle from the North Carolina State University agriculture farm once grazed. Market space all around the restaurant is where farmers bring their crops to sell, so fresh is foremost, and each meal begins with the eatery’s “real biscuits,” hand-made using NC self-rising flour, real buttermilk and a little secret. Another little secret is that Jackie Watkins, son of “Big Ed” Watkins of Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant downtown, originally opened Raleigh’s State Farmers Market Restaurant on Hodges Street in 1955. It moved to its current location in 1991. The State Farmers Market Restaurant features NC “Fresh Cooked” & “Made to Order” Breakfast served all day, everyday until 3 p.m.
If you’re thinking downtown Raleigh, a fun twist on NC memorabilia, and a big, Southern breakfast, Big Ed’s is the place (except on Sundays, when it’s closed). Located in the historical City Market District of downtown next to Moore Square and within walking distance of the Capitol, this popular spot was founded by Big Ed Watkins, who boasts that some of the recipes were handed down from his great-grandfather, a Confederate mess sergeant. Traditional Southern cooking rules here, fresh biscuits a must. Numerous antique farm implements and political memorabilia, including snapshots of presidential candidates who have stopped by, provide entertaining decor. Every Saturday morning a Dixieland band plays, and meals here will not break your budget. Farm-fresh ingredients are stressed, the service is quick, the food’s made from scratch daily, and every afternoon, "leftovers" are donated to local food banks. This is the definition of feel-good food.
It’s a third-generation downtown institution, an established landmark, and the business that Raleigh Museum say built Raleigh. It’s the Mecca, for goodness sake, which means you have to go here. Well, only if you’re interested in witnessing an example of dedication to service and great comfort food. Loyal customers and newcomers alike dine here, many representing the downtown workforce. Dating to 1930, its reputation for a good meal at a fair price keeps the customer base strong, but it’s more than food. It’s like a time capsule, its cherry booths original as is the neon sign. So much has changed in downtown, but the Mecca remains a constant fixture willing to change, a little: it still doesn’t accept credit cards but now has free WiFi.
Naughty for breakfast? Yes, when the "Hot Light" comes on at Krispy Kreme, sinfully delicious, hot Original Glazed Doughnuts are ready for eating. Can you say, “sugar rush?” Today international, the original store in Raleigh was one of the first seven to be incorporated in 1946 and was down the street from its current Person Street location. Open 24 hours a day, it produces 40,000-some doughnuts a week (in various varieties) and still employs the "doughnut theater" concept, where glass walls let customers see how the doughnuts are made. The Raleigh location is famed for the Krispy Kreme Challenge benefitting the NC Children's Hospital. The annual North Carolina State University student-operated race — participants run two miles from the university to Krispy Kreme, eat a dozen doughnuts and run back— has raised $247,000 over the past seven years. Ummm, Krispy Kreme, so who needs 5-Hour Energy?
No Facebook page, no Twitter account, not even a website. People who love to eat a simple, filling, economical, breakfast just seem to know it’s here. It has been here, in fact, since 1945, and has been serving people with an unabashed policy: serve good food at a good price. Every day Finch’s serves the typical American breakfast with a Southern-style ambiance and attitude, usually for under $6 including beverages. You are not going to be blown away by fancy décor or dainty napkins, but if you leave hungry, it’s your fault. If you long for the days of poodle skirts and roller skating waitresses, then you’ll love Finch’s retro feel with its long, park-beneath corrugated awning.