Charlie’s Kabob Grill
12235 Capital Blvd., Wake Forest; 929 Heritage Lake Road, Wake Forest
919-554-0938 (Capital Blvd.); 919-453-6284 (Heritage)
In a nutshell: Flame-grilled skewers get top billing, but friendly service and a broad selection – including $5.99 daily lunch specials – have also done their part in creating a loyal following for this family-run eatery.
Try: kebabs (chicken breast, beef sirloin, lamb or kefta), chicken tawook wrap, veggie platter.
Cristo’s NY Style Pizza
1302 E. Millbrook Road, Raleigh
In a nutshell: A lot of pizzerias claim to serve up a slice of New York, but this little strip mall eatery does it better than most.
Try: New York style pizzas, naturally. But don’t overlook the rest of the menu, where you’ll find respectable renderings of everything from rice balls (arancini) to lasagna.
400 Southtown Circle, Rolesville
In a nutshell: JD Mooney honed his hickory-smoking skills for more than a decade with friendly and professional pig pickings before opening his first restaurant last summer. All that practice shows.
Try: beef brisket, pulled pork, onion rings, smoked baked beans.
Lime Fresh Mexican Grill
Multiple locations; see website.
In a nutshell: Food that lives up to the “Fresh” in the name, plus a condiment station that rivals a taqueria’s, elevate this Tex-Mex eatery above the national chain restaurant norm.
Try: Abuela’s guacamole, Cabo Cobb salad, fish tacos, Big Cali burrito (upgrade to steak for $1.50 – worth it).
110 E. Parrish St., Durham
In a nutshell: Since the March opening of a brick-and-mortar location, fans no longer have to chase down the Monuts mobile cart for homemade donuts and bagels.
Try: Start with a bagel sandwich – local tomato and bacon, say, or basil chèvre and cucumber. Then take your pick from the daily evolving chalkboard list of yeast and cake donuts, with options ranging from cider to bourbon peach.
Ocean Reef Seafood
3645 New Bern Ave., Raleigh
In a nutshell: Flounder, catfish, croaker, whiting, tilapia, shrimp – your choice (or a combo), fried to order in cornmeal and served up on a sandwich or a platter, with crinkle cut fries and slaw.
Try: Flounder sandwich, fish (take your pick; I’m partial to catfish) and shrimp combo platter.