So, You're Going to Cary--Where to Eat? (Part 2)


In my previous post, I provided some dining choices within walking distance of the hotels near SAS. If you have access to a car or a taxi, your dining possibilties are virtually endless. In this post I'll focus on restaurants in the Cary area, within a 5-15 minute drive from the SAS campus. In my next post, I'll venture further afield and highlight restaurants in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill (a 15-20 minute drive).

Disclaimer! These posts do not contain a complete listing of restaurants in the Triangle area. They include:

  • My favorite restaurants (after all, it is my blog)
  • International restaurants recommended by members of the SAS International Connection (SASIC), a group of SAS employees dedicated to "promote the various cultures represented here at SAS ".
  • Some restaurants that have been mentioned in articles and guidebooks featuring the Triangle (these are the ones you may have heard of)

For a more extensive list of restaurants, without my witty commentary, see:

  •, which is also a good source for entertainment and nightlife.
  • Urban Spoon--you can search by Triangle neighborhood or cuisine.
  • Chowhound--this discussion board covers the entire Southeast, so you need to do a search on "Raleigh", "Cary", or "Triangle" to find local places.

2nd Disclaimer! The restaurants in this list are in existence as I write this, and I will attempt to keep the list updated as well as possible. But restaurants have been known to go out of business. Also, some restaurants close on Sunday or Monday nights. So, before blaming me for sending you on a wild goose chase, please check with the restaurant to make sure they are open.

All of the restaurants discussed below can be viewed on the Cary restaurant map Upscale Restaurants Within a 5-15 Minute Drive of the SAS Campus

The restaurants in this list are not "upscale" in the Ruth's Chris or Heron's sense (see my previous post). Entrees in most of these restaurants run $12-$20. Restaurants are listed based on their distance from SAS, with the closest being listed first).

  • Klara's--many of our students in the past had observed that there was a distinct lack of good Czech restaurants in Cary. I'm pleased to say that this has been remedied. Klara's is in a very nice location in downtown Cary (yes, there is a downtown Cary). The menu includes standard Czech and eastern European dishes, and (most importantly) Czech beer. The portions are enormous and filling.
  • Chatham Street Cafe--also in downtown Cary, the Chatham Street Cafe is described by the Raleigh News and Observer as "Varied, unpretentious - and dessert to die for". The menu features a variety dishes (steak, chicken, shrimp), as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options.
  • Maximillian's--in my humble opinion, the best restaurant in Cary, and possibly the Triangle. The menu is eclectic/fusion, and each dish seems to have about 10 ingredients in it, but it works. Dishes tend to be on the spicy side, so if you can't handle the heat, ask them to hold the spice. A good choice if you're in town alone--they have a nice bar where you can eat. Max's is located in a little strip mall about 3 miles from SAS, but don't judge it from the outside. Also, see Maximillian's Pizza Kitchen in the "more affordable" list.
  • Carmen's Cuban Cafe--excellent Cuban food in a moderately upscale setting. Save room for the Tres Leches Cake for dessert. Located in a small strip mall next to the (larger) Morrisville Outlet Mall, near the airport.
  • Babymoon Cafe--Italian restaurant, on Airport Boulevard. Good variety of pasta and Northern Italian dishes. A great place if you like garlic. The focaccia and olive oil they bring out before the meal is great, but don't fill yourself up! They have an outdoor seating area where you can watch planes landing at RDU.
  • Giorgio--this is the latest Cary incarnation of George Bakatsias, who has opened a number of Triangle restaurants over the last 20 years. Like his other restaurants, the food here focuses on Mediterranan and is excellent. Also, like his other restaurants, the service can be "interesting" (not always a bad thing), as is the decor. I recommend going to the men's or ladies room even if you don't need to, just to appreciate the decor. A drive to Giorgios from SAS will give you a feel for the "real" Cary.
  • Bavarian Brathaus--good, heavy German food, although a bit on the expensive side. All of the classics (wursts, schnitzels, spaetzle, etc.), and, incredibly enough, they also have beer! This is another good choice if you're alone, as they have a large bar.
  • Saffron--possibly the most expensive Indian meal you will have, but Saffron has been listed as one of the top 25 restaurants (of any kind) in the Triangle. Main dishes run from $12-$27 and include items like Malai Sea Bass and Smoked Lobster, as well as "standard" Indian dishes. Located on the far west side of Cary, about a 15 minute drive.
  • Tribeca Tavern--this is more upscale in ambiance than price and menu. They specialize in bar food (burgers, sandwiches), and the burgers are (IMHO) the best in the Triangle. This is one of the few places where you can get a burger that is not cooked to death (state law requires hamburgers to be cooked medium well unless the meat is ground in house). The burgers are huge, and you can get lots of different combinations and toppings. They also specialize in locally-brewed beer. Try to get there by 6:00, as the place is very popular.

More Affordable Restaurants Within a 5-15 Minute Drive of the SAS Campus

Restaurants are listed based on their distance from SAS (closest first).

  • Lotus Leaf Cafe--primarily Vietnamese and Thai, with some other Asian cuisines thrown in. Only about 2 miles from SAS. Outdoor seating area is available. Possibly expensive enough to qualify for the "upscale" category.
  • Bosphorus Restaurant--this is (as far as I know) the only Turkish restaurant in Cary, located at the end of a strip mall in downtown Cary. Large selection of kebabs , Turkish pizzas ( Pideler ), and other Turkish specialties as well as more general Mediterranean items. Several vegetarian options on the menu. Outdoor seating available.
  • Tower Indian Restaurant (Vegetarian)--wide variety of northern and southern Indian vegetarian dishes, all under $10.00. Located in Morrisville, which is right next to Cary.
  • Maximillian's Pizza Kitchen--around the corner from its "big brother", Maximillians, the Pizza Kitchen specializes in stone-baked and grilled pizzas, as well as pasta and calzones. They also have a few (more expensive) items from the regular Maximillian's menu.
  • Royal Dhaba--a newly-opened restaurant from the owners of the highly-regarded Royal India restaurant in north Raleigh. This location is in Morrisville, in a small strip mall near the airport. Standard menu of vegetarian and non-vegetarian Indian dishes.
  • Udupi Cafe--Udupi seems to be generally acknowledged as the best vegetarian Indian restaurant in town. Mostly southern Indian dishes. Udupi is in an area on Chatham Street, east of downtown Cary, that has a number of ethnic restaurants including Biryani House (below).
  • Biryani House--although they specialize in Biryani, the menu has all of the non-vegetarian and vegetarian standards.
  • Little Tokyo--Other than Ãn Restaurant (see previous post), this is the closest Sushi place to SAS. Located near the "ethnic restaurant" enclave on East Chatham street (it's actually around the corner on Maynard Road), Little Tokyo has been in the same location for 30 years, so they must be doing things right.
  • Ole Time Barbecue--If you aren't a vegetarian, and you've never had NC barbecue, now is your chance. (BTW, in North Carolina, "barbecue" is a noun, not a verb.) As you may know, the Civil War is still going on in North Carolina, with "Eastern NC style" advocates facing off against those who prefer the (inferior, in my opinion) "Western style". Ole Time serves Eastern Style, and is the closest place to SAS to get the real stuff. If you've never had hushpuppies, this is your chance, too. You want the location on Hillsborough Street, not the one in Garner.
  • Unaabi Grill--Afghan food in Cary? Lots of different kebab dishes and vegetarian options in a fairly upscale setting on Kildaire Farm Road, south of downtown Cary.
  • 35 Chinese Restaurant--oddly enough, there aren't that many Chinese restaurants close to SAS, so you'll have to go down to Kildaire Farm Road to find 35, which is on the ground floor of an office building. They specialize in Szechuwan, and while the stuff on the regular menu (avoid the buffet) is good, the real star is the traditional Chinese menu, which you have to ask for.
  • Hibernian Pub--if nothing but an Irish Pub will do, this is a good one. The Cary location is on Kildaire Farm Road, south of downtown Cary (there's another one in downtown Raleigh, but this one is closer to SAS). Obligatory Irish Pub decor with a mixture of Irish and American dishes.
  • Hot Point Deli--this is my nominee for the best "bang for the buck" meal in the Triangle. Hot Point is in a former fast food location, and the atmosphere is zilch. But the food and the prices are amazing. Wide variety of pizzas, calzones, and sandwiches, but the best stuff are the entrees and specials, usually chicken, salmon, or shrimp. Service can be erratic at times, but the food is worth it, and you'll get out for less than $15, unless you add beer/wine. It's where you'll find me almost every Wednesday night. Note: as I write this, their web site was down, so you may need to use a site like Yelp or Urban Spoon to find them. Another note: there is another place called Hot Point Cafe on Lassiter Mill Road in North Raleigh which is run by the former owners of this location and has a similar (but not quite) the same menu.
  • Neomonde--Neomonde is the oldest (I think) middle-Eastern eatery in the Triangle, and is a combination restaurant, bakery, and middle-eastern grocery. Generally regarded as some of the best middle-eastern food in the Triangle. They have two locations--one in west Raleigh and one in Morrisville, that are about equidistant from SAS. Atmosphere at both places is casual--you order at the counter.
  • Papa Mojo's Roadhouse--technically, this place is on the outer edge of Durham, but I like to think of it as "far west Cary". This is the place to go if you need some Cajun or Creole food. Great atmosphere, authentic food, and you can get Dixie (or Blackened Voodo) beer.

OK, my fingers are tired. As I mentioned, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of the dining options in Cary. If you have any places you want to see added, or if you are looking for a cuisine that I haven't covered, feel free to leave a comment.

Next time, we travel further afield to find the best dining options in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.

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About Author

Mike Kalt

Technical Training Specialist

Mike Kalt is an instructor and course developer at SAS Institute. His most recent course development project is "Producing Maps with SAS/GRAPH", which he highly recommends.


  1. This 2010 blog post is now almost 7 years old now. Lots of changes. Klara's has become Academy Street Bistro, Chatham Street Café gave way to Crosstown Pub & Grill. Some restaurants have come and gone. The Mayton has a new restaurant, The Verandah. Maxmillians closed their Pizza place. They closed my favorite late night place, the Hibernian and replaced it with some bright lights family place. Park Village has a wealth of new restaurants pretty close to SAS including Zoe's Kitchen, an oyster bar, Chili's, a breakfast place, a hibachi place, etc. Look up for more dining ideas.

  2. Judy Rae Miller on

    Hello Mike, regarding downtown Cary, what about Academy Street Bistro, right across the street from the post office? Their motto is "from farm to table". We had lunch there and it was excellent, and very moderately priced. Check it out.



  3. Thanks Mike! I'm moving to Cary from Durham this week. My husband and I were sad to leave all the fabulous dining options in Durham and Chapel Hill, but now you've given me something to look forward to!

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