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A selection of dishes from Poole's Downtown Diner.

A selection of dishes from Poole's Downtown Diner.

Chillier temperatures and fall activities typically lead to heartier appetites during the fall and winter months. Fortunately, several Raleigh-Durham restaurants are up to the task to indulge area residents’ cravings for cold-weather fare.

Poole’s Downtown Diner, one of Raleigh’s top restaurants, is known for more than its creative cocktails and the decadent Royale, an open-faced burger with meat that’s ground in-house, seared in duck fat and served on homemade brioche. Its biggest claim to fame is the gluttonous macaroni and cheese, a staple on the restaurant’s ever-changing menu.

The Poole’s version of this classic cold-weather favorite is Macaroni au Gratin. Owner and Chef Ashley Christensen uses liberal portions of gruyere, parmesan and white cheddar cheese. Occasionally, she adds roasted tomatoes or caramelized onions for a twist. The resulting side dish has helped the downtown restaurant earn a reputation as one of the area’s best.

Christensen also serves up comfort food classics like chicken pot pie and pork shoulder meatloaf at Beasley’s Chicken and Honey, one of her more casual Raleigh restaurants. Diners can finish off their meal with a seasonal slice of apple pound cake, served with caramel ice cream and cinnamon crumble.

Over in Durham, local bakery Scratch has been selling mini apple cider donuts at the farmers market, putting local residents in the mood for fall despite warm October temperatures. Down the street from Scratch, Toast continues to impress with its tasty homemade soups, including the popular butternut squash purée and Calabrian onion soup, a tomato-based take on French onion soup.

Klara’s Restaurant is a new addition to the Raleigh comfort food scene, having recently opened in the spot previously occupied by Frazier’s.  Klara’s serves “modern” Czech cuisine, with Eastern European favorites like beef stroganoff, rich pork goulash and potato dumplings on the menu.  Diners can complement their meals with filling Czech beer.

For pasta cravings, Daniel’s Restaurant in Apex has served some of the best Italian fare in the Triangle since 1993. Restaurant-goers can indulge in spaghetti and meatballs or baked ziti in a homey, bustling atmosphere. This hot spot fills up quickly, so reservations are a must.

Laura Bastian is a freelance food and travel writer based in Durham, North Carolina.

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