The Best Restaurants for Rehearsal Dinner & Intimate Weddings in the NC Triangle
Your wedding reception checklist is underway – caterer, cake, rentals, favors… Time to relax, right? Not quite – you have another event entirely to think about: The Rehearsal Dinner! But don’t fret; the rehearsal dinner is not nearly as intense to plan as the wedding itself (plus, if you don’t have a wedding planner to plan this bash, you can always task your groom with the heavy lifting here). In fact, dare we say it, for many couples, the rehearsal dinner can be even more FUN than the wedding itself. It’s a chance to relax with your family and closest friends and to get all the wedding jitters (and tears) out ahead of the big day!
When planning your rehearsal dinner in the Triangle, you’ll want to keep your guests in mind: Will they enjoy the food? Is the atmosphere warm and welcoming? Does it showcase something you love about the local culinary scene? While most of the SB&G Preferred Venues are happy to host rehearsal dinners, it is often the most convenient for size and scale to choose a restaurant. While the Triangle area has a plethora of outstanding eateries and fine dining establishments, it is important to consider privacy capacity, as well as experience. Today we’re highlighting several restaurants that are perfect for the occasion. Below, SB&G shares our top picks for restaurant rehearsal dinners in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
The elegant Moroccan ambiance of Babylon is amplified by its vibrant downtown location. Sections and rooms within the restaurant can accommodate up to 90 (indoors) and up to 350 (outdoors) with the use of their extensive patio which features an incredible tile-lined pool. Melrose Knitting Mill is a newly renovated space with large windows and exposed bricks located above Babylon that gives brides the option to wed or host the reception and have it catered by the restaurant.
Photo by Langhoff Creative
Jimmy V’s Osteria & Bar
Located within Sheraton Raleigh Hotel, Jimmy V’s Osteria + Bar is an Italian-American eatery that features traditional comfort foods made with locally grown ingredients. The menu emphasizes sharing, so guests can bond. This fun yet beautiful atmosphere makes Jimmy V’s an ideal place to host a party – our favorite option is outside on the patio.
Managed by Eschelon Experiences, and located in North Hills, Mura features traditional Japanese cuisine and tasty sushi. With traditions and motifs of Japan, Mura offers a warm, refined atmosphere for your special occasion. It has a tatami room that can seat 4-24 people and is great for events. They occasionally allow the whole restaurant to be rented for private events.
Empire Eats Catering manages two downtown Raleigh restaurants with delicious food and enticing atmospheres. Sitti, a Lebanese restaurant, is warm and inviting, with its communal dining table and antique Art Deco bar featuring Lebanese liquors, wines and beers. Sitti has a downstairs area with private dining. Next door, at Gravy, an Italian-American eatery, there is a charming wine cellar that accommodates groups up to 40 people. In the back lot of these two restaurants is Jiddi Space, consisting of an exposed brick and an outdoor patio, as well as a large indoor event room. Either restaurant can cater events in this space, and it is available for rehearsal dinner use, or full scale weddings.
This four diamond AAA-rated restaurant and venue in downtown Raleigh is listed as one of the Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America. Second Empire brings their famed dining experience to your special wedding and rehearsal dinner with customized menus. Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern (circa 1879) combines an atmosphere of classical history and elegance with delicious cuisine and world-class wines. They have several areas to entertain and host an elegant reception or rehearsal dinner.
Photo by Anna Kirby Photography
Impress your guests with a mouthwatering steak at a downtown Raleigh steakhouse set right on the bustling area of Glenwood Avenue. They also specialize in seafood fare. Sullivan’s has several warm and welcoming rooms that are available for private dining. Whether you’re going on a date or hosting a group of 30 or 75 people, you will be well fed and cared for at Sullivan’s by their event coordinators.
Rye Bar and Southern Kitchen
The handsome private dining room at Rye Bar & Southern Kitchen in the Raleigh Marriott is a newer hotspot in the heart of downtown Raleigh, and is perfect for rehearsal dinners. The warm and welcoming 60-seat space and seasonal menu with a sophisticated twist on traditional Southern cuisine is a certain crowd-pleaser.
Photo by Alex Boerner Photography / Indyweek
Rustic Italian food meets modern technique for a meal that’s perfect for a date night, a celebration, or if you want to feel like escaping for a night—the food will make you feel like you’re somewhere far beyond the main road in Chapel Hill. Earlier this year, the Four Diamond AAA-rated restaurant was newly renovated inside the sophisticated Siena Hotel. The modern yet welcoming new look comes with an impressive new menu, carefully created by Chef Teddy Diggs.
Photo by Bites of Bull City
Along with its striking design and warm interior glow, Lantern’s farm-to-table menu is sure to impress foodies. This downtown Chapel Hill restaurant is run by James Beard Award-winning chef and owner Andrea Reusing, who creates delightful dishes that are a marriage of Asian flavors and and locally sourced North Carolina ingredients. A private dining room connected to the restaurant (Lantern Table) gives groups the opportunity to gather over a great meal, celebrate and create wonderful shared memories.
Southern Season in University Mall in Chapel Hill has a hidden gem inside – Weathervane restaurant, which serves sophisticated Southern fare for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. The menus focus on local food producers and daily offerings highlight ingredients from the local farmers’ markets or artisans featured on Southern Season’s shelves. Private dining options are available in private indoor areas or the expansive vine-covered outdoor patio amidst an airy breeze.
Another Eschelon Experiences sushi and Japanese restaurant is centrally located in downtown Durham. The restaurant is vibrant, yet comfortable with booths and semi private seating. Like Mura, Basan has a tatami room that can seat 4-24 people and is great for events. Or check your event date to see if the whole restaurant is available for your larger wedding experience.
Counting House is the restaurant located inside the downtown 21c Museum Hotel Durham. For a dinner that’s truly unique, consider booking a private or semi-private space. The modern and visually stunning onsite restaurant creates North Carolina fare. Afterwards, treat your guests to after dinner drinks in an old bank vault that’s been converted to a lounge.
Photo at left Bites of Bull City and photo at right by Dara Blakeley Photography from SB&G 2016 editorial fashion shoot (featuring Lana Addison Bridal, Makeup for Your Day, and Jewelsmith)
Dashi, is one of downtown Durham’s newest restaurants with a unique global experience. Their upstairs bar area, or izakaya, is available for private parties up to 55 guests. This space has oodles of character and serves both innovative small Japanese plates and ramen dishes. Shelf the champagne and have your wedding party make toasts with saki!
Photo of Dashi courtesy of TripAdvisor