Jesse Gephart, an actor with the Raleigh Ensemble Players, recently starred in one of the best-reviewed stage shows in the Capital City, Columbinus, which told the tale of the tragic school shooting in Littleton, Colo. Now, the man who played Dylan Klebold (in a show that was called one of the best productions of the last 20 years by The Independent Weekly), offers some creative ways to spend the day in a city that's just 170 miles from Charlotte.
Best Places to Eat
"The Borough is a great place to eat. They have a really interesting menu and all of their stuff has really fun names to it. They have a crab dip and it's called the 'Cranky Sailor.' Their French dip option is called 'I Put My Hand Up On Your Hip.' And they have a new thing -- it's their BLT with avocado -- and they call it the 'BLT&A.' I really love sushi, so there is this sushi bar called Sono and that's on Fayetteville Street, which is the new main drag of downtown."
Best Places to Shop
"My favorite mall is Crabtree Valley Mall, and it's one of the older malls here. But I like it. I think it has one of the better selections here. And they just got that brand-new H&M, which is the only one in North Carolina. Downtown has some great little shops -- more mom-and-pop establishments there. Around downtown there is a store called Stitch, and it's owned by this woman named Holly Aiken; everything is made in her shop. [The store sells] purses and shoulder bags, and she's branched out into other things. I actually have a Holly Aiken wallet."
Best Places to Hear Live Music
"I would say the Lincoln Theatre is a great little venue, and they have a pretty wide variety of acts that they bring in there. The atmosphere is cozy, but it's got this big stage to it. There are places to sit, and there is a pretty substantial-sized bar there. Depending on what type of music you like to listen to, there is the Pour House. It's always really crowded when I go by there."
Best Nightlife Spots
"If you are looking for a bar or a club type atmosphere, White Collar Crime is a popular place and they are pretty diverse. In terms of the gay nightlife, Legends Nightclub would be the place to go, and they're pretty welcoming and accepting of all people. If you're looking for a bar to hang out and sit down at a table or sit down outside, there is The Borough. That is the best bar in Raleigh, hands down."
Places to Avoid
"Shaw University is not necessarily a place to avoid, but that part of town is not the best ... especially in the evenings. Crime in Raleigh has gone down, but still, that's not an area where you want to find yourself alone. And don't go to a chain or something that you're really familiar with because Raleigh has a lot of mom-and-pop type restaurants. So, don't just say you're going to Chili's or Outback ... you can find that everywhere. Branch out and go somewhere else."
Raleigh's Best-Kept Secrets
"The first thing that popped into my head is the North Carolina Museum of Art. It's not that it's a secret, but I don't think a lot of people go there. They just had a huge remodel, and they have this permanent Rodin exhibit. The museum is awesome. It's all really beautiful and new. But in terms of a little hole-in-the-wall place that you might not know existed, it's The Rose Garden ... located next to Raleigh Little Theatre on Pogue Street. It's beautiful all the time, but now -- when the roses are in bloom -- it is breathtakingly beautiful."
• Legends Nightclub: www.legends-club.com
• The Borough: www.theboroughraleigh.com
• Crabtree Valley Mall: www.crabtree-valley-mall.com
• Lincoln Theatre: www.lincolntheatre.com
• North Carolina Museum of Art: ncartmuseum.org