a newly revamped spot with fresh margs, mexican food + sprawling patio
by Avivah with Offline
What: A casual yet festive joint for all your fave Mexican dishes—plus tons of tequila!
When: Tu-Th: 11:30a-10p, F: 11:30a-2a, Sa: 12p-2a, Su: 12p-10p
Why we love ‘em:
- Delicious Mexican flavors you can get any way you like—in an empanada, on a taco, etc.
- A giant selection of tequila plus cocktails made with the freshest of juices and ingredients
- Brightly-colored decor and a giant patio for a fun night out every time
- Late night eats—open until 2a on Friday and Saturday night!
**Pssst: Calavera is one of our Premium partners, so we headed over there to get the DL on how to have the best experience possible. Not in Premium (or not even sure what we’re talking about)? Learn more here about this monthly subscription for exploring your city (or ask one of your Premium friends for a referral to score your first month free!)**
You may know Calavera as that bomb empanada spot, and we’re not saying you’re wrong, just that that’s a bit of an understatement since they’ve dreamt up a new vision for their iconic Raleigh restaurant.
Let’s walk you through it: Calavera launched in Raleigh eight years ago, when the city had barely even heard of an empanada. In their original location in the heart of DTR, they were well loved for these flaky, savory hand pies—so much so that what started as a bar that happened to serve some food naturally evolved into a full-fledged restaurant.
They’ve since moved locations to a larger spot in Boylan Heights (right behind One Glenwood), and are ready to spread their wings even further with a menu that goes way beyond just empanadas. Beyond the OG empanadas that made them Oak City famous, they’re about to wow you once more with their newly revamped of Mexican classics. These guys continue to win Raleighites over with their festive decor, creative margaritas, and drool-worthy dishes (and tequila, can’t forget the tequila).
One thing that hasn’t changed? You’ll still be greeted with the same fun and quirky environment we all fell in love with. Their brightly-colored restaurant is filled with painted Mexican skulls and other fun decor that is sure to put a smile on your face as soon as you walk in the door. Plus, the patio is bigger and better than ever, with giant picnic tables and string lights that will have you wanting to spend all your evenings at Calavera.
What to order
Nachos for the Table
Before we get into the main empanada, we’ve got to talk about these nachos. Pros know that no meal at Calavera is complete without ordering a big ole sheet pan piled high with nachos to share with the table.
Affectionately named The Macho Nacho, these babies come with the works: black beans, rice, corn, queso, scallions, jalapeno, tomato, and your choice of chicken tinga, ancho braised pork, or guac for a veggie option. For lunch, you can even snag a half order as your main meal.
They’ve also got plain ole chips and guac, queso, or salsa—all house made and ready for you to devour.
Any of Your Mexican Faves
Empanadas used to be basically your only option when it came to your main meal. While it’s a delicious option considering their empanadas are hand made with flaky dough and delicious fillings, baked to order, it could be a little limiting if you were craving something else.
No longer! With their new expanded menu, Calavera now has multiple ways to eat up your Mexican faves. While they’ll still have a limited selection of empanadas, they also offer tacos and quesadillas in a variety of flavors to round out the menu. Try your favorite empanada flavor in a taco, treat yo self with a gooey quesadilla, or order one of each and share around the table!
A Little Somethin’ Sweet
Most Mexican restaurants aren’t exactly known for their desserts, but Calavera is the exception and you should definitely leave room for something sweet. Their King of Kong empanada has a cult following, and with a filling of banana and Nutella, we understand why. They also rotate through one seasonal dessert empanada (like pumpkin pie for the fall!), and serve up fresh churros that taste like the adult version of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Don’t Forget the Drinks!
No Mexican meal is complete without a little tequila or fruity drink on the side, and Calavera delivers. They’ve got one of the biggest tequila and mezcal selections in DTR—currently 60+ options on the menu—which you can get as shots, in features flights on Fridays, or mixed into a drink.
They’ve also got a selection of Bebidas Especiales (aka cocktails) featuring juices made in house, fresh citrus and herbs, and plenty of salt rims. There’s tons of fun Margaritas (the Spicy Pineapple is our top pick), Mojitos in a variety of flavors, and other classics like the Caipirinha or Paloma.
- Don’t let the construction around One Glenwood deter you—Calavera is open in their new location!
- Looking for parking? They’ve got a small lot to the left of the restaurant just for Calavera customers.
- Calavera is open for lunch every day, with lunch specials available from open until 3p.
- They’ve also got nightly drink specials Tuesday through Friday. They change these specials regularly, so check their website for the latest!
- Watch for seasonal desserts and drinks to rotate through the menu.
- You can usually walk into Calavera and get a spot, but you can make reservations through Open Table if you want to be sure you’ll have a table on Friday and Saturday nights when they tend to be busiest.
- The Calavera staff recognizes that change can be hard, so if you miss something from their old menu, tell them! They might just bring it back on at some point.