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58 Reviews
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Provided by Citysearch
Not very Attentive to detail or common sense!

I was very disappointed with a phone request involving a birthday surprise. I spoke with a hostess whose name I have decided not to mention. I explained that I would like to surprise a relative who had a reservation later that night by treating them to appetizers and drinks. All details were covered and my credit card was taken. I later texted them to see if they enjoyed their treat and was told they had already ordered dessert NO appetizers and one drink and their server had never mentioned any birthday surprise or that they could have ordered an appetizer and more than \none drink and it was already paid for! When I spoke to the on duty manager and the hostess they just said sorry \nthe waiter was going to surprise them when he brought the bill! I asked how that would be any benefit for non \nordered appetizers and drinks?? They apologized to the\n diners never offering to even comp their dessert or really any concern over the oversight to them or me! Totally \ndidn't care that they ruined the surprise or that the bill \nwould have been more had they revealed the big ""surprise"" of appetizers BEFORE dessert was ordered!?\nI guess the surprise at the end was going to be ""Surprise you could have ordered appetizers and drinks and they would have been free.....so sad too bad you didn't! Happy Birthday!""

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Provided by Citysearch
Best restaurant in Raleigh, NC, hands down !!!!

We just celebrated our anniversary in a party of 4 last night and the entire evening was just incredible. Service was impeccable, food for all of us was simply superb and the ambiance of this historic house is lovely. Upon arrival for our reservation, the maitre d' surprised us with a menu signed by the owner and the chef. He also presented us with a gift certificate from our jeweler and friend Margarita, which was not only extremely thoughtful and generous, but a huge surprise since it was not expected. We travel all over the country and also abroad and after eating there last night, we agreed this is absolutely the finest food and best service available in Raleigh and we can't wait to return.

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Provided by Citysearch
Still Hungry

Me and my wife went there last night hungry and left hungry. I orderded a item from the starter menu and for $12 bucks I got two shrimp with the head on them and two 1/8 inch sausage slices. I ordered Monk Fish for the entree and I'm not kidding for $28 bucks the fish was half the size of a candy bar! The total price for the meal with only two glasses of wine was $155 dollars. We stopped at BoJangles before the night was over because we were starving. Way Way overpriced and not nearly enough food!! Ver y Disappointted!

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Provided by Citysearch
Love it...

My husband and I love Second Empire. We go there for every special occasion – the lamb is to die for! \n\nEveryone seems to complain that SE is too expensive but I believe you get what you pay for. The portions are perfect and the staff has always been professional, pleasant (yet non-intrusive) and the atmosphere is beautiful. \n\nWe look forward to celebrating with Second Empire for years to come!\n

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Provided by Citysearch
A little too much hype

The food was good and the atmosphere was romantic but I expected more for the price.

My boyfriend took me here for our Christmas date and I was definitely not wowed like I thought I would be. The prices are a little too high for what you are getting. I will however say that the meals were delicious.

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Provided by Citysearch
A little too much hype

The food was good and the atmosphere was romantic but I expected more for the price. \n\nMy boyfriend took me here for our Christmas date and I was definitely not wowed like I thought I would be. The prices are a little too high for what you are getting. I will however say that the meals were delicious.

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Provided by Citysearch
First time there and so dissapointed!

My fiancee and I was looking for a place for our church lunch rehearsal. We were excited about the location and that it's such a cute historical home. So we thought we try out the menu that would be the same for our lunch rehearsal. The appetizers which weren't on the special events menu was awesome (we had the duck salad and the crab dip)! But then things just went down from there. We ordered 2 out of the 4 menu items to try, the pulled chicken penne pasta and the seafood paella. This is from the pub menu downstairs. Upstairs is a different menu. My fiancee wasn't impressed with the chicken penne pasta, and mine had hair in the shrimp. Yuk! We told the waiter and they said the chef will examine it. Then later they came out with another paella dish but lesser scallops this time. We both couldn't eat our dish. They all came out so burnning hot! I don't know why they won't let it cool before serving their dishes. Someone could burn their tongue from the dishes. So we thought, well okay, the entree isn't so great, let's try the key lime pie. And another disappointment. They should have a pastry chef there right? Wrong, the key lime pie tasted like it came out from the box, not homemade at all. They add a layer of cheesecake to the top. We were like, huh? After dinner was done, we waited for 15 minutes for our check. Our original waiter didn't seem to care about us afterwards. And he did try to push us to drink liquor/beer/coffee to up the tip on his tab early. Very disappointed, we won't go back. Giving this a one star since of the waiter who didn't really serve us came to apologize for the hair and the event coordinator too. But we walked out of there feeling as if we overpaid for everything that was bad and bad service. No compensation, just an apology. We won't be having our rehearsal here or coming back.

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Provided by Citysearch

Terrible experience. Food was WAY overpriced for the quality. Waiters were not very friendly and the atmosphere was stale at best. Avoid this place and visit other restaurants and this is not a very friendly place to have a meal.

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Provided by Citysearch
Totally honest review of Chef table in Kitchen

I normally don't post about restaurants but I wish I had read more about dining at the chef table. I booked a table for my husband and I for a nice celebration dinner. He went on the web-site and found something called the ""chef table"" nad booked us there instead. Please note you must secure the reservation with a credit card, which was okay with us.\n\nWhen we arrived we were taken into the kitchen. Wow, the lights were SO bright in there (of course, they need to see what they are cooking) and it is very loud and hot. I thought we would be seated in the corner of the kitchen with a nice view of what was happening....nope, we were seated right in front of where the food was coming out; it was a bit uncomfortable to say the least. Everyone from the dish washers to the servers staring at you and trying to get around our table. I was so nervous and felt 'on display'. I also expected a warmer 'welcome' but everyone was so busy running around it never happened.\n\nWe sat and (yes I looked at my watch) almost an hour before anyone brought us something to eat, and that was because I finanlly asked someone for bread. \n\nThey encourged us to get up and walk around the kitchen and ask questions and help out. I felt very out of place....and I adore cooking. Everyone we met was very nice and kind...very hard working people. We had three courses of food, which were yummy but tiny and we also got to taste 3 wines. The chef picked everything and his selections were nice. \n\nI wish I had been eating the same food in the dining room and I wish more had been explained about eating at the chef table. Our bill was $331.00 for 2 people and I am certain I could have gotten 3 courses for so much less in the dining room. I am sure it is worth a bit more to have the kitchen experience, but for what we got, I found it over priced. I also felt it was rude for them to add over $50.00 in gratuity; it was out of line. First, not a sole even waited on us; we would have had better service in the dining room...and second, we agreed before hand to pay the money, why not allow two grown adults to leave there own tip? It was not like there were 6 or more of us.\n\nI will return to the secnd empire and I will make sure I sit in the main dining room or in the tavern. I think the concept of this was nice but it failed to live up to the standards I would have expected. I hope this was helpful.

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Provided by Citysearch
Terrible Tavern Service

Unfortunately we did not get to eat at the famed Second Empire. We made reservations 2 weeks in advance for a special family dinner celebrating 4 birthdays. We reserved a table for 4 in the tavern and were very excited about the meal and knew it was going to be an expensive meal but thought it would be perfect for the occasion. We arrived on time for our reservation, were seated and watched in amazement for 20 minutes while every other table in the dining room was taken care of by multiple servers. They didn't even notice us until we started to put our coats on. The staff was very appologetic but at that point it was too late. We were ready to order bottles of wine and appetizers and the waitress who brought us water said she ""wasn't our server"" and wouldn't take our drink order - I was shocked. Waiting 20 minutes for the server assigned to our table is too long.

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Provided by Citysearch
Long time fans dissappointed

I have been visiting the Tavern for over 5 years and have always felt it was one of my favorite places in Raleigh to take friends and colleagues. Last night we had a terrible experience with poor service and the quality of the food. \n\nFirst, we sat in a mostly empty restaurant for over 20 minutes without a waiter acknowledging us. After bringing this to the attention of the staff, it took another 25 minutes to have our entrée orders taken. From the “comfort food” menu, I ordered fried chicken. The “Colonel” does a better job! While the manager knew we were not pleased, he never made an attempt to apologize.\n\nWe left very disappointed knowing how good this restaurant has been in the past. I doubt we will be back anytime soon with so many other great establishments opening in downtown Raleigh.

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Provided by Citysearch
One of the best meals I have had in my entire life!

My husband and I had the pleasure of eating at Second Empire for his company dinner. To sum up this experience in a single word it would be: amazing. \n\nNot only was the taste of the food amazing, but also the presentation and the way the chefs combine the different flavors. We both had the salmon which was cooked perfectly. \n\nThe atmosphere is quiet and intimate, but not so stuffy that we felt out of place. Would definitely recommend eating here for a memorable occasion.

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Provided by Citysearch
A wonderful experience

We just dined at Second Empire last night, and I couldn't wait to write a review. It was our first time there and we splurged on the chef's cheese selections, wine, dinner, coffee and dessert. Be prepared for a sizable bill if you choose to linger over a long dinner like we did, but it was truly worth every penny. Every bite was amazing. The sauces and accompaniments chosen for each dish are unique and compliment the meat or fish perfectly (I noticed there were vegetarian options upon request too). Also, I've been to fancy restaurants where the food is delicious but in tiny portions - not so at Second Empire! Despite my best efforts, I couldn't finish my meal, and even my husband had a hard time finishing his! After dinner, we lingered over some of the best coffee I've ever tasted, and waited until we had room for their perfect chocolate souffle. \n\nAside from the food, the atmosphere was wonderful too. The host and wait staff were more than personable - they treated us as genially and warmly as if they were entertaining us in their own home. Upon hearing that it was our first visit, our waiter gave us a brief history of the home, the restaurant, and the chef. After dinner, the host gave us a quick tour as well, showing us the additional dining rooms downstairs. \n\nOur experience at Second Empire was truly a culinary treat, and a relaxing, pampering experience. We will be back again and again.

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Provided by Citysearch
Just what you expect

Great food, romantic, and staff is eager to please. If you are in town for business then head here or Frazier's, but skip Magnolia. (Magnolia is just a big, snobby fish in a little pond.)

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Provided by Citysearch

We went here for my birthday 11/08. The service was fabulous. They asked me when making reservations whether or not we were celebrating an event, and I told them it was my birthday. When we arrived, my menu had a happy birthday message printed on it as well as being signed by the owner and head chef. This little attention to detail was continous throughout our experience. It is, however a bit pricey. Expect to be paying top dollar, however I feel that you have to pay to get a real fine dining experience. We usually go to steak houses in the area for events like birthdays and anniversaries, but we have now found our new special event restaurant. The only drawback I saw was that the chef seemed to be into the ""new thing"" of doing some purees with the entrees, so if you are not into purees or sauces, you probably won't like everything going on in some of the dishes. Expect to get a real sort of ""top chef"" kind of dinner where everything in the dishes complements each other, but if you are the kind of person who likes to be able to change things around in your entrees, this may not be the place for you. Each dish is obvously clearly thought out and executed superbly, but it's not the kind of place where you can pick your sides. We absolutely loved our experience and will be coming back for more soon!

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Provided by Citysearch
The Best Fine Dining Experience Ever!

I have always been attracted by Second Empire's curb appeal and vintage ambiance. Due to a tight purse, I always would sigh in passing and say to myself that one day Im going to dine there. Well, a year or two passed and I couldnt stand it anymore. One of my dear friends came in from out of town to visit. She had to go to dialysis and still remained her chipper and high spirited self. I came to grips that everyday can be a special occassion. Just because.We splurged and laughed like old times. Staff was very courteous and attentive. Food was just wonderful. I cant even recal everything that we ordered, but I know I dined sufficiently and savored every morsel. I think I'll take my sister there when she comes to visit. We were seated in the dining room by the bay window wich was quite nice.

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Provided by Citysearch
You better stop here bub

My wife and I were flying into Raleigh this January and wanted a good meal for lunch. I read that Second Empire was a Wine Spectator awarded establishment and that it was set in a old mansion. We dined in the tavern. We were were very impressed with the setting, which was converted from an old root cellar, with exposed brickwork all around. There were I believe three dining area; one close to the street with windows, the other by the bar, and another used for the main upstairs dining room as overflow. The wine cellar also located off to the side. My wife had the trout (she always tries to get the local specialty) while I had a risotto with duck comfit.. I asked the water for a wine recommendation for this meal and I think we settled for the Malbec for South America. There was a corn muffin server lady (???) and she brought us each a small warm muffin with 'nice' butter. Got my taste buds flowing. This was a good start. Our meals arrived not long afterwards and both were very good, especially the trout. Full of flavor and well prepared. My risotto had peas and nice chunks of duck. fish was served with beans and other veggies and I was sorry when it was gone, ( I eat other peoples meals, no one can stop me.) Dessert was great also, something called Chess Pie, another special. I recommend this place and will go back given the opportunity, perhaps for dinner upstairs. Oh, and our waiter, who resembled Michael McDonald (Stewart' from MadTV) gave us a tour upstairs in the mansion and a history lesson at the end of the meal. We felt we got good quality and service for the price, which was around $50.

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Provided by Citysearch
Great food and service

My husband took me to Second Empire for my birthday. We enjoyed the food and were pleasantly surprised at the prices. It wasn't cheap, but we were expecting $50+ entrees, based on what we had heard, rather than $20-$35 entrees. The dishes were complex and well prepared and our server was knowledgeable and attentive. He was able to guide us in making choices that we ultimately enjoyed, based on our preferences. (Rock Shrimp Risotto appetizer per his suggestion was divine!) The only downside for us was that there was a loud large party in the dining room, so a little of the romantic ambience was lost.

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Provided by Citysearch
Great Food

It takes a lot of work and pots to make a single great dish. I think it is important for people to pay respect to the hard working chefs and staffs in the kitchen. A restaurant business is something I do not want to go into because it is extremely hard to survive without being mean. It will be an ideal work place if everybody is nice to everybody but the reality is far from it. I read the comment below and I understand the stress and tough time he had while working as a server. I usually leave a lot of tip for servers regardless of the quality of service because it is a special occasion for me when I dine here so why not share the occasion with my server too. Anyways, I hope the story about the owner is not true. If it is true then it is sad.

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Provided by Citysearch
Reserved but Not Pretentious

My boyfriend took me here as a surprise! He had made reservations at 7pm, but due to the storms and failed traffic light at Crabtree, we were 30 minutes late. Unfortunately, he did not have the number to the restaurant to inform them about our delay. The maitre'd had already removed us from the list, but without hesitation or much discussion, forgave our lateness and immediately took us to our seats. Our waiter, Ryan, was excellent. As a worldly traveler, I find that most upscale restaurants often have snotty, pretentious waiters, but Ryan was not. He did not hover and gave formidable suggestions on entrees and wine pairings. My Foie gras appetizer was excellent and my boyfriend's sea scallops were cook to perfection. Excellent choice on the wine, I must say for our entree of bison! One negative and not at all the fault of the Second Empire, but there was a table near us where 4 individuals were rather loud and boisterous for this environment. My Southern upbringing has taught me to use my inside voice and not encroach on other's dining experience while at a nice restaurant. I guess not everyone has manners or has the luxury of being raised not jerked up as a child!

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General Info
Located in downtown Raleigh’s historic Victorian Dodd-Hinsdale House (circa 1879), Second Empire combines history, atmosphere, exceptional service and gourmet cuisine for an unforgettable dining experience. Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern features our award winning Contemporary American Cuisine in two dining atmospheres. Upstairs enjoy the ultimate dining experience in an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere of charm and grace. Downstairs in the Tavern and beautiful Atrium room enjoy a lighter fare menu and more casual environment. The Capitol Room, Raleigh Room, Pine Room and Atrium Room are available for private parties seating up to 55 people or various combinations of rooms for parties up to 300 people. Second Empire is very proud to be the recipient of the DiRoNA Award (Distinguished Restaurants of North America), the AAA Four Diamond Award (Raleigh’s only restaurant with this award) and the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 1998.
Extra Phones

Fax: 919-829-9519

Regular Hours
Tue - Sat:
Fine Dining Restaurants, American Restaurants, Banquet Halls & Reception Facilities, Bars, Caterers, Concert Halls, Restaurants, Theatres, Wedding Reception Locations & Services, Wedding Supplies & Services
  • Restaurant
  • Tavern
  • Private 
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Payment Options
Price Range
Central Raleigh
Other Information

Cuisines: American

Wi-Fi: Free

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full Bar

Parking: Street, Lot, Private

Bike Parking: No

Attire: Dressy

Takes Reservations: Yes

Outdoor Seating: No

Pets Allowed: No

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