It’s 4 PM and you’re starving. You’re not really feeling the restaurants on Hillsborough Street (and besides, you don’t want to pay for parking), and you don’t want to drive to Cameron Village. Western Boulevard is a solid option.
Sure, every NC State student ventures to Western for the top fast food chains — Cookout, Bojangle’s, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, etc. But there are a lot of hidden gems that most students don’t know about. So before you sit in the double drive-thru and order a tray for the third time this week, check out our rankings for the best places to eat on Western Boulevard.
The Student Saver’s Restaurant Rankings
Okay, we know that Western Boulevard is a huge street. Western Boulevard proper starts at the intersection with Hillsborough Street near the North Carolina State Fairgrounds (where if you continue west into Cary, it becomes Chatham Street) and ends in Downtown Raleigh (where if you continue east toward Knightdale, it becomes Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard). We’re just going to focus on restaurants on Western in between NC State University and the I-440 ramp.
Here’s an updated map of all the restaurants in this section of Western Boulevard. They’re organized by fast food restaurants, sit-down restaurants, and bakeries. Enjoy! Keep reading to find our rankings.
Best Italian Restaurant, Hands Down: Amedeo’s
There’s always a handful of restaurants and businesses that define campus life outside the university. Hillsborough Street has many of them. But Amedeo’s rules Western Boulevard.
A Raleigh favorite since 1963, Amedeo’s Italian Restaurant is a locally famous restaurant with a hole-in-the-wall vibe. The food is outstanding, the student specials (half-off entrees on Tuesdays after 4 PM) are great, and the “museum” of NC State sports memorabilia is fantastic.
Yelp Price Range: $$
Top-Rated Foods: Cheese ravioli, calamari, and lasagna
Hours: 11 AM – 9:30 PM Sunday – Thursday, 11 AM – 10 PM Friday – Saturday
Best Tex-Mex Hot Spot: Wicked Taco
Wicked Taco is a refreshing addition to Western Boulevard. It’s the kind of place you can sit down with friends on a Saturday afternoon and enjoy incredible crunchy tacos with “wicked sauce” that won’t quit. Since taking the spot of the former KFC besides Cookout, Wicked Taco has broken the mold of burger and sandwich chains that line the mostly overlooked Western Boulevard.
Yelp Price Range: $
Top-Rated Foods: El Buli, Boss Hog, and Dog Named Shrimp
Hours: 10 AM – 9:30 PM Sunday – Thursday, 10 AM – 10:30 PM Friday – Saturday
Best Hole in the Wall: The Gourmet Factory
It’s easy to miss The Gourmet Factory when you’re driving down Western at 50 miles per hour. While it doesn’t look like much, the reviews say it all. The Gourmet Factory is an Italian restaurant that prides itself on its “modest” prices, its laid-back atmosphere, and its fireplace. Plus, they deliver!
Yelp Price Range: $$
Top-Rated Foods: Caesar salad, chicken gyro, and hot wings
Hours: 11 AM – 10 PM Monday – Saturday, 12 PM – 10 PM Sunday
Best Comfort Food Any Time of Day: Cookout
Of course, we can’t mention restaurants on Western Boulevard without mentioning every NC State student’s favorite. Cookout is a quintessential student experience, especially in the wee hours of the morning when nothing else in Raleigh is open and you are dying for a milkshake.
Every student knows the Cookout tray is by far the best deal in the history of fast food restaurants: an entree (choose from a burger, BBQ sandwich, quesadillas, or chicken sandwich), 2 sides (which include a corndog, chicken nuggets, and hushpuppies), and a drink. If you want a milkshake, just add a dollar. All of that for about $5.
Yelp Price Range: $
Top-Rated Foods: Pulled pork BBQ, any flavor milkshake, and sweet tea
Hours: 10:30 AM – 4 AM Sunday – Thursday, 10:30 AM – 5 AM Friday – Saturday
The Restaurant We Crave But Can’t Visit (Yet): Sushi Nine
This place had solid reviews and the best sushi special you’ve ever heard of. Sushi Nine unfortunately burned down just a week into 2016, and the building was demolished in March. Luckily, it looks like the owners will rebuild. For now, Sushi Nine is just a vacant lot with a sign on Western and the anticipation of a grand re-opening.
Keep Up with On-Campus Happenings Here
Eating at awesome off-campus restaurants is a rite of passage for NC State students. Just because you’re a commuter student doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the fun. If you’re looking for the best way to keep up with what’s happening, participate in all the unofficial Wolfpack traditions, and enjoy the whole “college experience,” read this student commuter guide and keep up with The Student Saver blog.
Did we miss your favorite restaurant on Western Boulevard? Let us know in the comments!