Wake Forest restaurants have come a long way since the day my family’s moving truck arrived at our home in 2001. I was seven when we moved here from Fayetteville and I’ve adored it ever since. In fact, Harrison and I just built our first home here in Wake Forest and I’m thrilled I get to raise my children here too. It’s a special place, but that doesn’t mean the food always reflected that!
For years, national chains dominated our town. We were hard-pressed to find many local restaurants and when one did open, it often closed a couple years later.
I’m so proud to see the great strides Wake Forest has made in opening and supporting small businesses. If I’m being honest, I think there’s still a ways to go, but I’m hopeful that the foodie scene will continue to improve as locals are intentional about supporting their neighbors.
I have found some excellent gems in my hometown that I’m excited to share with you. As always, I only include restaurants that I have personally tried. If my list is missing your favorite, please let me know so I can make sure to try it out! I hope this article helps guide you to some delicious Wake Forest restaurants.
Let’s start with dessert, shall we?
One of the best parts of being an adult? We get to start with dessert if we want! Wake Forest really excels in some of its dessert options so I think it’s fitting to start my list with indulgent sweets.
Dairy Depot is my family’s favorite spot for a fun, refreshing treat. They specialize in soft serve ice cream and have lots of creative options. We always order a cotton candy train wreck– a thick milkshake with mix-ins. With cotton candy flavored ice cream, crunchy candy mix ins, and topped with cotton candy, this might sound like “too much” but its everything you need.
Everyone in my family is obsessed with these and I swear by them! If you’re too chicken to order a cotton candy overload, they have plenty of other delicious options like dole whips, sundaes, and more.
If I’m craving a decadent cupcake close to home, Sweet Traditions is always the move. They have delicious cupcakes with rotating flavors and I’ve enjoyed them all!
Lumpy’s Ice Cream
Lumpy’s Ice Cream is Wake Forest’s homemade ice cream icon. They use only fresh, local ingredients without additives or preservatives. Their flavors are very unique, ranging from Ecuadorian chocolate to strawberry-basil. It’s creamy, natural, and delicious.
Plant Cakes Bake Shop
Plant Cakes Bake Shop is a 100% plant-based, organic bakery serving donuts, cupcakes, muffins, cookies, and more. In addition to plant-based goods, they have a gluten-free case as well. The goodies are so yummy that even locals with no dietary restrictions love coming here!
Goodberry’s Frozen Custard
I’ve said it before (like in my list of Cary restaurants) and I’ll say it again: Goodberry’s makes the best frozen custard in the world. There are multiple Triangle area locations and I’m sure glad Wake Forest has one or I would not have built my house here. Kidding….maybe.
Main Street Grille Cafe & Bakery
Main Street Grill Cafe & Bakery sells breakfast, lunch, dinner and has a baked good section. While there are a couple things on the regular menu that I like, I mostly stop by here for the pastries. They tend to sell out early, but you’ll find some desserts that will have you coming back!
Fast-casual Wake Forest restaurants that we love
As parents of a three and one year old, we frequent fast-casual restaurants most often for their rapid service and family-friendly atmosphere.
The Empanada Factory
The Empanada Factory specializes in Latin street food that will make your taste-buds sing. A husband-and-wife team opened this spot to share their family recipes and I love them for it. They have tons of empanada varieties, including dessert ones that blew me away, as well as tacos, bowls, nachos, and more.
Charlie’s Kabob Grill
Charlie’s Kabob Grill is one of my favorite Mediterranean restaurants around. Charlie is from Lebanon and travels back to his home country frequently, each time returning with more spices and recipes to use in his shop. They make delicious gyros, kabob plates, fries, and they recently added Lebanese wraps to their menu that are also wonderful.
The Burger Shop
Growing up here, Wake Forest restaurants always had a gaping hole where fresh burgers should have been. They were desperately needed so I was thrilled when The Burger Shop opened up here serving classic burgers and hand-cut fries. It’s a fun lunch spot and Harrison loves their burgers.
Village Deli is a well-loved restaurant making from-scratch food including sandwiches, burgers, wraps, and more. It’s a welcoming, casual environment that is perfect for lunch with friends and colleagues or a family outing. My followers told me their chicken salad is amazing so I tried it and they were right! It was delicious, and the crispy crinkle-cut fries sealed the deal.
Shorty’s Famous Hot Dogs
Shorty’s is a Wake Forest institution, and has been since 1916! As the oldest restaurant in the area, Shorty’s is still owned by the same family. They specialize in red hot dogs and it stands as a fun, tasty glimpse into the past.
The Lemon Tree
The Lemon Tree is a quaint café in Downtown Wake Forest that has a rotating menu of sandwiches, soups, quiche, prepared salads, desserts, and more. I recently tried the two-slider lunch special which allowed me to taste a nice variety of sandwiches and salads. The staff are always lovely and it’s a great spot for a quick bite of familiar favorites.
Mario’s recently opened in Wake Forest and is now our favorite NY style pizza place in town. The owner made the pizzas at a pizza restaurant that used to be our favorite for its taste, but lacked in consistency and service. So, when he left to open his own restaurant, we were thrilled to follow him. It’s great pizza and the penne a la vodka is something special too!
Sugar Magnolia Café
Sugar Magnolia Café is a charming eatery that not only serves tasty sandwiches and salads, but one of the few places in the Triangle area that has tea service. I can’t wait to schedule a tea party here soon!
Tacos el Gordo
Tacos el Gordo is a taco truck that is parked at 927 Cloverleaf Park and we absolutely love their food. The tortillas are fresh, handmade pieces of heaven and the meats are bursting with flavor. We come here all the time!
Sit-down Wake Forest Restaurants that belong in your rotation
Wake Forest is home to some amazing sit-down restaurants that we keep revisiting for their delicious food and lovely atmospheres.
Amalia’s Authentic Italian Restaurant
Amalia’s is a restaurant that I simply cannot believe we are fortunate enough to have here in our town. Located in an enchanting historic home, Amalia’s is an Italian restaurant that blew us away.
The chef graduated top of his class from a world-renowned culinary school in Italy and we are so lucky he brought his talents here. As an Italian, it’s hard for me to find Italian food I love outside of my mom’s kitchen, so this place gets two thumbs up from me.
Gonza Tacos y Tequila
Gonza is one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in North Carolina. While their tacos are great, we are hooked on their Mexican flag enchiladas, chicken tinga nachos, and a dish called el platano which has a whole ripe plantain, steak, cheese, sauce, and beans. The flavors on their menu are great and the restaurant has a fun, festive vibe.
My family always talked about how badly we wanted an Indian restaurant in Wake Forest, so when Curry House opened, I couldn’t believe our luck! Not only did an Indian restaurant finally open, but it was a fantastic one! We love Curry House and everything we have tried there.
Over the Falls
Over the Falls is one of those restaurants that has a little bit of everything on the menu making it a great choice for groups with differing tastes. Personally, I go for the sandwiches. My favorite is the Cali Pastrami, which has pastrami, avocado, habanero jack cheese, fried onion, and chipotle mayo on a pretzel roll. It is absolutely outstanding.
Bodega Tapas, Wine, and Rum
Bodega is one of the few special occasion Wake Forest restaurants and it excels in both ambiance and taste. Small plates with world-wide influences along with plenty of drink pairings make this restaurant a great experience all around.
Farm Table is a lovely restaurant that focuses on in-season produce with a menu that changes. The interior is a beautiful modern-rustic style and the food is comforting, well-crafted, and delicious. It’s a go-to date night spot for us! Our favorite dish we’ve had there is the short ribs with wild mushroom risotto.
Norse Brewing Company
Norse Brewing is a restaurant and brewery that serves Scandinavian food with a southern twist. They embrace Viking culture in their decorations, food, and vibe. I know it sounds juvenile but their chicken tenders are the best and I stand by that. They also have great burgers, meatballs, beer cheese tots, and more.
Shuckers Oyster Bar and Grill
Shuckers is one of our favorite restaurants for a few reasons: the food is delicious, the hushpuppies are bottomless, and it was the location for our wedding rehearsal dinner. It’s a fantastic seafood restaurant with the best hushpuppies, oysters, shrimp & grits, and bacon-wrapped scallops.
Sushi Siam is our usual sushi spot in Wake Forest because it’s BOGO all day everyday, even for carryout which is typically how we choose to enjoy our sushi. It’s a good price and we enjoy their rolls as well as some of their Thai food.
Brigs is an iconic breakfast restaurant with a few locations throughout the Triangle, including Wake Forest where it is well-loved. I especially enjoy their seasonal waffles and pancakes!
Tlaquepaque Mexican Cuisine
Tlaquepaque is one of the more popular traditional Mexican restaurants in Wake Forest. I have enjoyed their tacos and guacamole, but my favorite dish is Enchiladas Tlaquepaque: corn tortillas stuffed with queso fresco, topped with shredded pork carnitas and covered with tomatillo sauce. It’s one of the first places I think of when I want a big portion of cheesy carbs…which is daily.
Asian Bistro is one of the best restaurants around for quality Chinese takeout along with other Asian specialties. The Mongolian beef and sesame chicken are both amazing along with their Thai options! I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ordered from there.
Korean Kitchen is a delicious restaurant specializing in Korean food and we keep returning for their crispy, sticky, flavorful Korean fried chicken wings!
Thai Cafe has been a beloved restaurant in Wake Forest for years now and it’s not hard to understand why when you try their food. They make outstanding Thai dishes and I always order the green curry.
Have a favorite that’s not on our list?
Even though we’ve tried tons of great Wake Forest restaurants, we have quite a few we still need to try. Leave us a comment letting us know where you’d like to see us visit and what your go-to order is!