After a handful of trips to New Bern, North Carolina, I had yet to see any big cities that the state had to offer. Since I planned to visit Ezrael for about 11 days, we figured it would be a perfect time to explore Raleigh for a weekend. After being semi-cooped up in a house for about a week, we made our way out to Raleigh at about 4pm on a Friday. The road brought us past so many Bojangles… Mmm…
We didn’t have dinner reservations til 9:30pm, but arrived around 6pm… so we did what any savvy traveler would do and Googled “Things to do in Raleigh.” It seems we have pretty good luck traveling to new places, because there is always some sort of event going on. This weekend, it was the grand opening of the Nature Research Center at the Museum of Natural Sciences–complete with 24-hour festival celebration and extended museum hours. It turns out Raleigh is big on museums, which was wonderful news to my ears. We roamed a couple floors of the Museum of Natural Sciences and wandered the streets featuring different information booths, food, and items for sale. The whale skeletons were mind-blowing. Suspended from the ceiling, it’s hard to imagine actual flesh covered the bones of such huge, magnificent creatures. Humans don’t got nothing on sea animals! Outside, we stumbled across a woman selling Locopops from an ice cream cart, much to my delight. I had read about this popsicle business on Yelp and was curious to try it, but didn’t want to go out of the way for it during our adventures. Ezrael and I shared one strawberries and cream Locopop ($3) and it was GLORIOUS. It was a little tangy, creamy, and with just the right amount of flavor. Pretty filling too, for such a small popsicle. It was on my mind all the way through dinner.
The capitol building was a block away, so we walked over and snapped a few pictures to prove we were there. I really just wanted to contribute to Instagram’s hashtag project for the weekend: #landmarked. Sadly, it turned out that historic North Carolina is not interesting enough for their blog. We came across swarms of high schoolers taping up “Kony 2012” posters everywhere, but ironically enough… they didn’t post any on the actual capitol building. Anyway, the building seemed white, grand, and historic, as most capitol buildings usually do. There were statues of the three presidents born in North Carolina, as well as other statues of dead white guys.
Around 9:10pm, we headed for Fayetteville district, to make our reservation at Sono Sushi Bar. Downtown Raleigh is divided into seven districts, each with their own restaurants, nightlife, and cultural activities/events. There is so much more diversity in Raleigh than in New Bern and way more food choices. The downtown area is great with people everywhere, but no crazy crowds. The one-way streets are killer though! Eventually, we made it to Sono on Anna’s recommendation. Anna is Ez’s landlord, I guess you could call her. Ez trusts her recs “because she’s a world traveler.” I can only hope to be a world traveler too–what an honor it would be for my word to carry weight like that. But then again, my palate is easy to please and I’d probably send people on missions for mediocre food. Sono was a small, gourmet Japanese restaurant and had a steady crowd for a Friday night. The dim lighting and awkward contemporary decor seemed a little pretentious for a Japanese restaurant and they had quite the interesting selection of rolls. I had the Surf & Turf Roll, which had something like seared tenderloin, cream cheese, crab salad, aioli, garlic chips, and other interesting ingredients. It was pretty freaking delicious though. Ez had the typical Dragon Roll, which you can’t really go wrong with. The rolls were pretty affordable for an expensive restaurant. I also had a Cherry Blossom Margarita, which was a traditional margarita with some grenadine and pear sake added. It was tasty as well, and maybe worth the $9 just this once. In the midst of my forgetfulness [or maybe tipsy state?] I left my clutch at the table, but luckily, one of the servers grabbed it for me and came outside just as I was turning around to go back.
It was a beautiful night, not too chilly, so we decided to walk around and see what else the Fayetteville district had to offer. Of course, Ez and I aren’t really party people so we searched for dessert instead. I had read about The Cupcake Shoppe on Yelp during our drive, and lo and behold, it was on the way back to our hotel. The Glenwood South District to be exact. We made it there right before closing and grabbed three cupcakes and two macarons. We left right away, but after driving a few feet, we saw a pizza place and had to. And passing Tutti Fruitti on the way back to the car… we had to again. Yes, we had just had dinner. We settled back in our hotel to eat our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds of food. By golly, those macarons were SO amazing. Macarons recently gained a lot of hype and I have tried quite a few… they are good, but I just had this idea of the perfect macaron before I bit into my first one in Chicago. And this chocolate mint macaron from The Cupcake Shoppe in downtown Raleigh was the manifestation of this idea. Perhaps my dream macarons drift from a baker’s ideal, but sheesh, these were AMAZING. I might have to move to North Carolina just for these macarons.