By Kristy Tolley
Herons | Cary, N.C.
James Beard semifinalist and acclaimed chef Stephen Greene is at the helm of this AAA Five Diamond-rated restaurant. Housed within The Umstead Hotel & Spa (also Five Diamond rated), the restaurant boasts original artwork and floor-to-ceiling windows that provide gorgeous outdoor vistas. Herons serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and Saturday brunch. Begin your day with a crab cake benedict or freshly pressed juice. Four-course dinner selections include pistachio crusted lamb with black rice grits, zucchini linguine and aged tamari, as well as turbot served with smoked blue corn polenta, spring succotash and creme fraiche. The seasonally-driven menu is crafted with care, featuring innovative dishes that are as beautiful as they are delectable.
919-447-4000 | TheUmstead.com
The Fearrington House Restaurant | Fearrington Village, N.C.
Situated within the AAA Four Diamond-rated The Fearrington House Inn, this charming Victorian-style restaurant has maintained its AAA Five Diamond designation since 1995. With exceptional service, seasonally rotating upscale dishes and locally sourced ingredients (some procured from their onsite gardens), it’s no wonder. Savor twice-baked goat cheese souffle, crab sausage with apple and vanilla, seared duck breast with pear and rose sauce and other dishes. Their extensive wine list is impressive, too, featuring almost 500 labels. Make sure to save room for their signature hot chocolate souffle. This rich dessert filled with lava-like chocolate filling topped with whipped cream has been a menu staple since it first appeared on it in the 1980s. For an intimate gathering (of up to 12 guests), reserve the Wine Room — perfect for wine dinners or special occasions.
919-542-2121 | Fearrington.com
Saint Jacques at the Burke Manor | Gibsonville, N.C.
A meal at AAA Four Diamond-rated Saint Jacques might convince you that you’ve been transported to a cottage in the French countryside instead of sitting in a historic bed and breakfast in a small railway town in North Carolina. Originally from France, the chef and innkeeper (with his wife Lori) Lil Lacassagne creates authentic French cuisine in this sophisticated, cozy and romantic restaurant. Indulge in a multi-course meal of escargots; pan seared foie gras served on a crushed apple crusty tart finished with balsamic syrup; and filet of beef pan basted in rosemary butter served on a chicken jus braised potato Boulangere alongside roasted bacon zucchini. Top off your dining experience with a rich classic creme brulee.
336-449-6266 | BurkeManor.com
Il Palio Ristorante | Chapel Hill, N.C.
For the past 31 years Il Palio Ristorante has earned the AAA Four Diamond distinction — and for good reason. The traditional flavors of Italy and casual sophistication dovetail nicely here to showcase the culinary roots of rustic Italian cooking. Executive chef Adam Rose uses local ingredients to craft authentic Italian favorites, as well as local classics. Il Palio’s knowledgeable sommelier will help you navigate their thoughtfully curated wine selection, which features wine from Italy’s 20 regions. Wood grilled crostini, burrata stuffed ravioli, linguine shrimp fra diavolo and veal saltimbocca are just a few items to choose. They also offer a family style chef’s tasting menu designed by the chef and specifically tailored to your party’s palate and dietary preferences.
919-918-2545 | IlPalio.com
The Dining Room at Abingdon Manor | Latta, S.C.
For an elegant meal in an intimate and romantic setting, this charming AAA Four Diamond-rated restaurant in a quiet neighborhood in the historic district of Latta is a sure bet. The gourmet six-course prix-fix dinner service is served on delicate china atop beautifully appointed tables. Your meal is enhanced with the sound of jazz music playing softly throughout the dining room. Menu items rotate nightly and reflect what’s available locally at the moment. Options might include a demitasse of butternut squash or Peruvian locro soups, herbed stuffed and grilled beef tenderloin with a balsamic glaze, coq au vin or lobster thermidor with mushrooms in rich sherry infused cream sauce.
843-752-5090 | AbingdonManor.com
Langdon’s Restaurant and Wine Bar | Mount Pleasant, S.C.
This local favorite is Mount Pleasant’s only AAA Four Diamond-rated restaurant — and has been since it opened in 2003. The menu is the perfect fusion of Lowcountry cuisine and contemporary global flavors. The dining room offers up romantic and upscale vibes with industrial design elements, and works from local artists adorn the walls. Local seafood like jumbo lump crab and the daily fresh catch may be the star of the menu, but don’t sleep on their meat-based dishes like their black skillet steaks and the dijon-rosemary encrusted rack of lamb.
843-388-9200 | OwensDiningGroup.com/Langdons