What’s Your Favorite “Strip Mall” Restaurant in Raleigh?

Shopping Center Restaurants Undressed

May, 04, 2009, by Christian

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Wikipedia defines strip mall as “an open area shopping center where the stores are arranged in a row, with a sidewalk in front.”  With that in mind, please note that no negative connotation is intended here. I have simply listed some of the most popular restaurants whose locations fit within those parameters. These restaurants represent the best-of-the-best beyond the confines of downtown, Glenwood South, and Five Points. Most, but not all of these restaurants are located outside-the-beltline, and I have chosen Strickland Road as a cut-off point going North so that all these places are easily accessible from anywhere in Raleigh.

Some restaurants whose locations seemingly fit the “strip mall” definition have been excluded because they occupy a highly-visible location or corner parcel, and therefore are not in keeping with the spirit of the term. But please comment and voice your opinion. Is there an amazing strip mall restaurant that I overlooked? There are lots of great restaurants in Raleigh and this list is by no means exhaustive. The whole point of this is to make New Raleigh readers more aware of great local restaurants. So, if you already have a favorite from this list, then please cast your vote now and share your thoughts with the rest of us. And if you haven’t tried any of these places, or if you have only tried one or two of them, then by all means go somewhere new the next time you go out to eat. In all likelihood you won’t be disappointed! 

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  • jim
    05/04 10:42 AM

    Baja Burrito or Nur Deli in Mission Valley?

  • Emily
    05/04 10:44 AM

    None of the above.  Kadhai in Pleasant Valley is my fave.  (http://kadhaitheindianwok.com/default.aspx)

  • ladye jane
    05/04 10:45 AM

    Waraji off Duraleigh

  • Matt
    05/04 10:51 AM

    Out of the ones you listed probably Bella Monica, but the true answer to your question is the restaurant NEXT DOOR—Imperial Garden.  It wins my award for best Chinese in Raleigh without breaking a sweat.

  • Matt
    05/04 10:54 AM

    Er, ixnay the last comment, that is Stella Mare that is next to Imperial Garden (right off of Lead Mine Rd at Sawmill).  However, my previous point stands that Imperial Garden rules all.

    Does Lynnwood Grill count as a strip mall location?  If so, they should be included as well..

  • ben
    05/04 10:55 AM

    1. schiano’s pizza (pleasant valley)
    2. bella monica
    3. waraji

  • tj
    05/04 10:57 AM

    I second Waraji off of Duraleigh.  Best sushi in the Triangle.

  • rachael
    05/04 11:21 AM

    will someone tell me about the appeal of shabashabu? i ordered curry there once and got pink coconut milk. gross.

  • roi
    05/04 11:22 AM

    Red Dragon, HighPark Grill (old Profile), Irregardless, Coopers BBQ, and T.K Tripps.

  • Rob E.
    05/04 11:24 AM

    Bella Monica, definitely. Its growing popularity has changed from a spur-of-the-moment dinner out place to a special occasions place, because showing up without a reservation can lead to a lengthy wait.
    The Marketplace on Lake Boone Trail has some good food as well. Nothing that edges out Bella Monica, but it does have a number of places that I enjoy or that I’ve heard good buzz about—a higher density of good food then I expect to find at the typical strip mall: Sushi Thai, 2nd City Grill, Bear Rock, Chubby Tacos.

  • carrboro ninja
    05/04 11:33 AM

    I’m happy to see I’m not the only one who thought of Schiano’s, Ben is right on target. Also, El Rodeo in Pleasant Valley is a North Raleigh staple.

    Very interesting story, nice work Christian.

  • jyu
    05/04 11:50 AM

    Seoul Garden

  • Ken Metzger
    05/04 12:08 PM

    Some other ones: 
    Haru Sushi, Salsa Fresh, Bloomsbury Bistro

  • currincy
    05/04 12:27 PM

    Pretty into that Hardee’s on New Bern Ave., y’all!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • GD
    05/04 12:29 PM


  • Jonathan
    05/04 12:33 PM

    Gotta go with SUSHI THAI, but BELLA MONICA is right there with them…two completely different genres of food so their equal in my mind!!

  • kg
    05/04 12:45 PM

    cafe tiramisu

  • Betsy
    05/04 12:55 PM

    Royal India, on Capital Blvd.

  • Nathan
    05/04 01:12 PM

    Defenatly Bella Monica

  • oakcity
    05/04 01:18 PM

    Franks Pizza at Longview Shopping Center!!

  • Imagine Raleigh
    05/04 01:26 PM

    Oak Park shopping center just beyond Crabtree Valley Mall on Glenwood Ave.

  • jbee
    05/04 01:32 PM

    I voted for Dos Taquitos off Creedmoor off that list. Great place!

    My favorite strip mall place not listed is Baba Ghannouj (technically in Cary though, off Walnut St.)

    Waraji off of Duraleigh is really good as well.

    I have no idea why people would vote for ShabaShabu though, that place is quite terrible.

  • jbee
    05/04 01:33 PM

    @Betsy YES! Royal India is excellent! I forgot about that. I’m going there tomorrow night akshully!

  • ChiefJoJo
    05/04 01:41 PM

    I second the above mentioned:

    Baja Burrito
    Royal India

  • gd
    05/04 01:47 PM

    I like ShabaShabu.  I have NEVEr had a bad meal there.  I eat there once a week at least now…

  • Ginger Lover
    05/04 01:54 PM

    Baja Burrito,especially because of that handsome red bearded young man behind the counter.

  • charlie
    05/04 02:06 PM

    love dalat out of the choices here.. people just dont know about the lemon grass chili chicken

  • sadslacks
    05/04 02:12 PM

    Fortune Palace in the Stony Brook Shopping Center on Brentwood Rd right off Capital Blvd is THE BEST Chinese restaurant in the Triangle (for authentic non-fussy Chinese food)


    PS JYU- I CANNOT believe you of all people did not nominate Fortune Palace!

  • Stimmel
    05/04 02:13 PM

    BBQ Lodge in the Mini-City Strip Mall on Capital. It has the atmosphere of a church basement, florescent lighting and concrete walls painted piglet pink. But the NC BBQ and southern hospitality is as genuine as they come. They bring you a hot basket of hush puppies as soon as you sit down. And a glass of ice, with a pitcher of tea, when you order sweetea.

  • Puddin'
    05/04 02:36 PM

    C’mon people ... Chubby’s Tacos at Lake Boone!

  • Siler
    05/04 02:55 PM

    Dalat and Royal India are my votes.

  • jyu
    05/04 03:29 PM

    I officially add Fortune Palace to the tip-top of my list. How the heck did I forget?

    Fortune Palace
    Seoul Garden

  • currincy
    05/04 03:30 PM

    Quizno’s is so hot right now.

  • jim
    05/04 04:29 PM

    Silvia’s Pizza.  Best pizza in Raleigh.

  • Jonathan
    05/04 04:35 PM

    I voted for Dalat.  Last time I was there the woman (one of the owners I assume?) showed me exactly how to mix my pho and it was amazing.

  • mcg
    05/04 05:13 PM

    Although it is technically in Cary, I have to
    say my favorite sushi is from ASAHI.

    It is my favorite for 3 reasons.
    1. Good sushi.  Fresh and well prepared.  Also great appetizers.  Usually they give out a complimentary appetizer at dinner time.
    2. Nice atmosphere.  Very clean and usually quiet (unless its wed. 1/2 price sushi night).
    3. The owner “Choi” is the sushi chef and a very nice person to talk to if you want to.  He is always kind to greet you when you enter unless he is really busy and will remember you if you come back!

    There are a couple things to watch out for though.  1/2 price sushi night can be slow.  This is because there are only 2 sushi chefs, Choi and his wife and everything is done fresh by hand.
    Also it is a bit on the pricey side, but the food is so good I usually don’t mind!

    To get there, head out to the “end” of Walnut St. just past Cary High.  I mean “end” as in where you would have to turn to stay on Walnut, just go straight into the Strip Mall and around the corner to your left.  It will be on your right.  There is also a great little Asian supermarket tucked in back there (New with little fish smell).  Enjoy and say hello to Choi!

  • Miles
    05/04 05:34 PM

    Chubby’s is the spot.
    Now serving beer and margaritas.

  • Nate
    05/04 06:14 PM

    Wildflour Pizza off Creedmor is delicious. The owner also owns Cozumel Mexican too. Both great! Try them out.

  • Kurt Schlatzer
    05/04 06:35 PM

    J. Betski’s, followed closely by Zely & Ritz. I have to give a shout out for Chubby’s Tacos too.

  • Matt
    05/04 06:43 PM

    Have to disagree on Wildflour—very bland and terrible atmosphere…would rather eat at home.  Disappointing.  Also not a big fan of Schiano’s Pizza which was mentioned earlier.  Max’s Pizza is better (though still not great), located right next to Dos Taquitos at Millbrook and Creedmoor.

  • The Jenius
    05/04 06:54 PM

    Sawasdee wins for 2 reasons, food and its proximity to G’d up and rock tattoo

  • TSnow27604
    05/04 07:00 PM

    Salsa Fresh (Baja Burrito?  Really!?)

  • leahisgreat
    05/04 07:06 PM

    RIP Papa Lou’s!

  • pickle
    05/04 07:07 PM

    Greek Fiesta - theres one in BriarCreek (strip mall), but I go the the one on Western.

    And Imperial garden - best Chinese food in Raleigh.

    But from the choices - Dalat.  The Lemongrass chicken is the best!

  • Wes
    05/04 07:41 PM

    Wow and to think I was the only one that thought everything was in a massive shopping center upon the move here.

    Top 5 hands down with various types of food:

    1. Dos Taquitos
    2. Waraji
    3. Saffron
    4. Tony’s Bourbon Street Oyster Bar
    5. Schiano’s Pizza

  • joebee
    05/04 07:44 PM

    quail corners!

    how can you not love quail corners if you are a raleigh native. andys pizza, the bike shop, falls taproom, the shell station… sad to see the perculator (aka.cuppajoe) and the circle k go.

    tho the new coffee shop is really nice!

  • Skillet
    05/04 09:28 PM

    You beat me to it, oakcity. Frank’s in Longview! If you’re talking about pizza there simply is no other pizza in town, in my opinion.

  • beth neel
    05/04 11:05 PM

    Vivace (hip/wine)
    Blinco’s (sport bar)
    Milton’s (family)
    Peking Garden for the cheap(ish) chinese/thai

    I loved St. Jaques the one time I went, but it’s too $$$ for freq. visit…but great for special occasion.

    Capital Creations Pizza
    Amante Pizza (a lot like Capital and bit less $$)

  • stefanie
    05/05 01:48 AM

    French Bakery at Creedmoor Crossing (if it is still there).

    Casalinga in Mini City.

    Piccolo Italia in Cameron Village (does CV count?)

    I agree with Franks Pizza, mos def.

  • tim tyrrell
    05/05 02:27 AM

    Im from chicago and took my family to Mid town and by fare the best food ever…...........The mgr Pete was amazing and the staff couldnt have been better. Thank you for the great food and incedible experience…....

    Tim Tyrrell

  • Jim
    05/05 03:02 AM

    1. Dos Taquitos
    2. Royal India
    3. Pho Cali

  • jessica
    05/05 05:11 AM

    Bella Monica, Cinelli’s, Pho-Cali, Waraji, Milton’s (great for kids)

  • jess
    05/05 09:20 AM

    CHUBBY’S TACOS!!!!!!!!!

  • RaleighRob
    05/05 09:23 AM

    Interesting nothing from Cameron Village is here….Hello Flying Biscuit!  :-)

    I guess of the choices I voted Dalat but it’s one of the few I’ve tried.  (I’ll hit Saint Jacques someday…eventually!) 

    I agree with the previous commenter mentions of Royal India.  Thai House deserves a mention too.

  • Thomas
    05/05 10:28 AM

    Little Tokyo in Cary(might as well be Raleigh) is good.  Plus, its not really a strip mall unless it has a Laundromat.

  • kelly
    05/05 11:34 AM

    Everyone seems to agree and the poll shows some of the really great places to eat. However, some of the suggestions reflect that people tend to stick to what you know…go out and try something new even if you think a particular place is your “favorite”. You might find that a new place is even better.

    Oh, and stick to the Chubby’s location in Durham. The new Chubby’s in Raleigh was absolutely disgusting and nothing close to the one in Durham. I will never step foot in that location again.

  • rachel
    05/05 12:21 PM

    kuki in north raleigh.  fresh sushi, no frills.

  • tc
    05/05 12:48 PM

    I love alot of these places. 

    Dos Taquitos (original)
    Casa Carbone (better than Amedeos)
    Waraji (though this isn’t even my favorite strip mall sushi place, just favorite one in Raleigh)
    Bella Monica

    For me, my favorite is between Dos Taquitos and Margaux’s, those all these are so different, it’s hard to say I like one better than the other, it just depends on what I’m feeling. 

    I’ll add: 

    La Farm Bakery
    Nina’s Ristorante (off Lead Mine)

    and a dearly departed favorite….London Fish&Chips;, best Fish&Chips;I’ve had in the triangle.  Located in same strip mall as Dalat Seafood.

  • GD
    05/05 01:38 PM

    Kelly:  wow, glad I didn’t eat there the day you did. I’ve gone about 10 times and its been great everytime -

  • nicole
    05/05 02:07 PM


  • Kurt
    05/05 02:30 PM

    Hey, if Kelly does not like it….fine.
    Stay away.
    Less crowd for me.
    Spicy Carne Asada Burrito all day long.

  • BG
    05/05 03:04 PM

    Boondinis at Celebration has great lunch sandwiches!

  • tc
    05/05 03:06 PM

    I’ll also second Salsa Fresh. 

    mmmmm, get it ‘enchilada-style’

  • kristine
    05/05 03:23 PM

    Sorry guys, I’m with Kelly. I waited with great anticipation for Chubby’s to open their Raleigh location. Have been there 5 times now, with the first time being pretty decent. The other 4 times it has been so-so, with one time actually making me ill. Gave it another chance today and my pork taco was stone cold. Something is off with quality control in their kitchen. Husband and I took a vote on our way out today and it was unanimous to not go again. A disappointment as I love simple, fresh Mexican food.

  • Kurt
    05/05 03:34 PM

    Two down.
    Many more to go.

  • John
    05/05 03:39 PM

    I’m gonna try to stick to the rules so I will leave out places in Durham/Cary/Morrisville/RTP or those that aren’t in strips malls.

    I don’t see how any of roi’s choices fit strip mall (Red Dragon, HighPark Grill, Irregardless, Coopers BBQ, and T.K Tripps.)

    I haven’t been to about 1/3 the ones on the list or in other blogger’s votes but I am going to have to go with:

    -NeoChina (Raleigh, outside Walmart) - great service all the time, great selection and quality. (Red Dragon - please! - cute restaurant but food, cleanliness and service are lacking)
    -Waraji - strip mall or other, nothing I have had in the Triangle compares (Sono was close though and I agree ShabaShabu is disgusting)
    -Ninas Ristorante - excellent hideaway, reminds me of the nicer restaurants in Little Italy Boston, Baltimore and NYC (I found Bella Monica to be more hype than anything, they are overpriced, sloppy service and bland dishes - don’t believe the hype. However, Casa Carbone is pretty darn good too.)
    -El Rodeo Pleasant Valley - my fav of this sytle of Mexican restaurant, good service, strong ritas, consistent and fast (Dos Taquitos Creedmoor Rd is also nothing but hype unless you like overpaying for weak drinks and food poisoning. So what if its cute. I haven’t eaten at Chubby Taco Raleigh but the one in Durham is great for the price)
    -Kadhai Pleasant Valley - besides some of the Indian restaurants at 54/55 in Durham, this is one of the best places I have eaten Indian in Raleigh. Azitra in Briercreek has nothing on flavor or portions compared to Kadhi. Same with Saffron in Morrisville - overpriced and overhyped.

  • Jeff Snell
    05/05 04:44 PM

    Thank you for raising awareness of these restaurants.  Each has a passion for the quality of food and service they deliver and most (I would assume) have felt the effects of the overall economy.

    Dining out now perhaps more than ever is appreciated by these establishments and their employees.

    Remember your and others favorites when choosing how to spend your entertainment/dining dollar!

  • Andrew B
    05/05 11:37 PM

    I voted for Solomons, which I love, but that’s only because Andy’s wasn’t on the list.  I LOVE Andys.

  • David
    05/06 01:14 AM

    Imperial Garden

  • mwbsc
    05/06 09:28 AM

    Haru - Glenwood Village
    Bloomsbury Bistro - Five Points

  • Karen A. Mann
    05/06 10:30 AM

    I voted for Dalat mainly because you left of Zely & Ritz. And I am going to break the rules and give a plug for Kashin at Crossroads, which has the best sushi within driving distance.

  • neal2zod
    05/06 10:39 AM

    Agreed with Kadhai in Pleasant Valley - great staff, creative food, and the best samosas I’ve had yet. Honorable mentions to Sushi Thai (if you want decent sushi on a budget) and Waraji (if you want the best quality sushi and money’s no object).

    On another note - why do people like Dos Taquitos Creedmoor so much? Every single time I’ve been there I’ve been disappointed. It’s like someone decided to tack $5 onto every item on a Mexican menu and suddenly people think it’s good food.

  • tc
    05/06 02:08 PM

    Honestly, I don’t understand how anyone that likes mexican/latin cuisine, would not love Dos Taquitos on Creedmoor.  In my opinion (and let’s be honest, for the most part, this is ALL a matter of perspective), Dos Taquitos is the best Latin food in the triangle, without question and it has nothing to do with money or popularity, cause I’ve been loving that place since my first visit, nearly 7 years ago. (though in it’s prime, Patio Loco in Chapel Hill compared)  The Sopas are insanely good.  I’ve always considered Dos Taquitos to be more authentic latin food, and not tex-mex like El Rodeo.

    To me, Dos Taquitos makes El Rodeo seem like Taco Bell, and it’s really not that much more expensive than El Rodeo.

  • MR
    05/06 02:58 PM

    Defintitely Bella Monica! 

    Nothing compares to their food, service and atmosphere.  So delicious and AUTHENTIC.  They’re super busy but they always make you feel welcome, which sets them above the rest in my opinion.

  • Karen A. Mann
    05/06 03:12 PM

    Hmm. this is one of those topics where, after you post, you think of more ideas. I personally think El Mandado has the best Latin American food in Raleigh. Not as good as it used to be (these days you have to ask for pico de gallo rather than the Mexican-restaurant-style salsa they’ve started offering) but it’s still very good and very cheap.

  • Nick
    05/06 03:24 PM

    Can’t believe nobody has mentioned Casa Linga or Hot Point.

  • TSnow27604
    05/06 06:48 PM

    After reading about it, I had Chubby’s today for lunch.  Not bad and I liked the creativity (my burrito had pork and pineapple) but Salsa Fresh is far better and less expensive.  I too like Dos Taquitos Creedmoor but if we are talking money is no object - best Mexican, it is Jibarra all day everyday.

  • sarah
    05/06 08:14 PM

    Taqueria El Toro @ Chapanoke Square off S. Saunders (best tacos in town);  Dalat (my favorite: banh mi - sandwich, cheap and delicious); Vallarta on Capital (sit-down authentic-ish Mexican, esp. fun for weekend lunch with their roving three-piece band); Pho Far East on Capital (great, at least tied with Pho Cali).

  • neal2zod
    05/06 10:50 PM

    Not to beat a dead horse or turn this into the Dos Taquitos Board, but c’mon, their own website says it’s $12 for a burrito, $14 for tacos there. That’s ridiculous and TWICE the price of the El Rodeo/El Dorado cartel (which I’ll agree is average at best). But tc, your post really seems heartfelt, so I’ll go once more and give these sopas you speak of a try. In the meantime, my vote for best Latin food in Raleigh has got to be El Mandado (as someone else said) or Mi Barrio, even though I’m not sure if that’s technically in Durham or not.

  • tc
    05/07 12:16 AM

    Ok, I guess the issue is, Dos Taquitos on Creedmoor doesn’t serve lunch, I forgot that (probably cause I’ve never been there during the day, cause I live nowhere near there) so we’re comparing lunch and dinner prices.  Centro’s lunch prices are comparable with El Rodeo’s, not that I mean that makes me right, it was a miscommunication on my part.  Also the soups and salad specials that come with the dinners are awesome.  Again, just my perspective.

  • GD
    05/07 09:25 AM

    To those who said Chubby’s Tacos in Durham is better- I don’t see it.  I went last night based on this thread.  It tasted the EXACT same.  I’ll stick to the one in Raleigh now since I know it’s the goddamn same!

  • John Kuzora
    05/07 10:14 AM

    My favorite was Prime Only Steakhouse in the strip mall just south of 540 on Leesville Rd but it has recently closed down. In Wake Forest Blue Fins on Rodgers Rd offers up some great seafood at good prices and has great happy hour food specials.

  • ct
    05/07 12:12 PM

    Am surprised Casa Carbone doesn’t have more votes, given its longevity. But leave tables for the regulars there!

  • John
    05/07 12:30 PM

    I totally forgot to give props to Salsa Fresh. Definitely my fav over Chubby’s.

  • kurt
    05/07 01:30 PM

    I live directly between Salsa Fresh and Chubbies.
    To say that i am consumptive would be an understatement.
    Salsa Fresh is great. And priced better.

    However, to be fair.
    Chubby’s has a larger menu, greater originality in their ingredients, AND (THIS IS KEY) -hand-made tortillas. The flavor of their tortillas beats out Salsa fresh for me every time.

  • oakcity
    05/07 03:54 PM

    i think you all should meet at a strip mall and rumble over tacos.

  • abbsouth
    05/09 04:06 PM

    must give shout out to the late lamented Red Palace. if only they could regroup and reopen it was hands down the greatest Chinese in the region. homemade mushu pancakes. golly, i had thought mushu was boring until there.
    in its absence: Kashin in crossroads is excellent. Thaiphoon is quite good. Los Cuates is great. and absolutely Frank’s Pizza, nothing like it anywhere else.

  • hayley
    05/27 09:39 AM

    Definitely Casalinga in Mini City!!!

  • Marie
    06/09 09:20 PM

    Pulcinellas! By far - best Italian food in the Triangle (Wake Forest Road just south of Milbrook)

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