Humble Pie is a local staple for Sunday brunch, and dinner the rest of the week. With its large, breezy patio and buttoned-down ease, this restaurant generously welcomes the punk, the polished, and, well, me, someone who has never fit in particularly neatly with either crowd. And while fried chicken might be an obvious choice for southern food, here you’ll get a fresh take: crispy buttermilk-style with sweet-spicy chipotle honey, sesame seeds, and rosemary. The rest of the menu—featuring dishes like broccolini with miso butter and fried oysters with malt aioli and raspberry—is all about fresh food that’s meant to be shared.

Photograph by Cole Wilson

Contemporary Art in the Warehouse District

Located in the warehouse district, directly across from Humble Pie, the Contemporary Art Museum is where “contemporary art, community, and culture converge,” says founding member Charman Driver. Through partnerships with emerging artists, the museum’s exhibits highlight of-the-moment, non-traditional art. The museum gazes to the past (it’s housed in a repurposed produce warehouse from the 1920s) and into the future, as it traces the city’s cultural evolution.

Photograph by Cole Wilson

Lunch on Freshly Baked Pita and Top-Notch Hummus

At Neo Monde, you’ll find some of the most consistently good, unfussy, and reasonably priced food in this city. Long before a “mediterranean diet” was ever en vogue, the Saleh brothers — from the mountainous region of northern Lebanon — were steadfastly churning out stellar home-cooked Lebanese food from an unassuming space located in one of Raleigh’s strip malls. Today, they have multiple locations in adjacent cities, like Morrisville. For me and my little family, tearing apart a freshly baked pita and dragging the bread through a bowl of thick, aromatic hummus will always be our most favored (and predictable) pleasure.

Break For Some Shopping and Live Music

If you’re in need of a break from eating to do some shopping, Nashona on Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh, is the place to be. This jubilant clothing line was established by Lilian K Danieli in 2012, and is my go-to when I want an instant mood boost. By melding vibrant African prints with modern American silhouettes, Nashona — which translates to “I sew” in Swahili — joyfully reflects the richness of Raleigh. And if you’re lucky, you might be there on one of the multiple occasions throughout the year when Danieli creates an upbeat vibe in the store, offering wine and live music while you shop.

A Classic Steak Dinner, or a Tongue-Tingling Plate of Fish

Mandolin, an elegant neighborhood fave, is a two-minute drive from where I live in University Park, but it takes my husband and I on a new and deliciously unexpected journey every single time we enter the dining room. The menu features seasonal produce that’s sourced directly from proprietor Sean Fowler’s family farm. The pickled octopus dish will always be our go-to appetizer, featuring a peanut sauce that leans into the salinity of the octopus. And no matter how much I try to switch it up, there’s just something about a steak—exceptionally cooked, with farm-fresh veg and black garlic demi-glace—on a date night that’s always a match made in close-to-home heaven.