Our Five Faves

Best Sweet Tea

Posted July 16, 2012
Updated July 17, 2012

When I was younger, I didn’t even realize that “unsweetened” was an option. As I’ve grown older, I tend to order a “half-sweet, half-unsweet” tea to keep an eye on the sugar without having to kick my sweet addiction all the way to the curb.

So who makes the best sweet tea in town?

It’s a question that’s been asked by many, including our own Bill Leslie and the Raleigh Philosophical Society, to name a few on the local front.

We tend to not particularly mention chains on our Five Faves list, so I’ll lump the two chains I’m going to mention into one vote and give reason to this Five Faves pardon, too.

I believe Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q (multiple locations) deserves a pass on this for two reasons. The first: the sweet tea. It’s always good and for many, it’s as much an SCNB signature item as their eastern NC barbecue, fried chicken or hush puppies. The second reason I think they deserve a pass is because even though they do fall into the chain restaurant category, they are still local to NC, headquartered in Cary, and the very first location was originally established in the WRAL viewing area.

Also, getting a pass due to their NC roots? Bojangle's (multiple locations). Founded in Charlotte in 1977, sweet tea comes free with many of the chicken entrees served at this quick serve restaurant. I tend to raise an eyebrow when someone orders a soda instead of the sweet tea. Something ain’t right there…

Snoopy’s and Cloo’s are local spots that both make my list largely because of using the "good ice." (Smithfield’s uses this ice, too.) You know what I’m talking about – pellet ice! Pellet ice and fresh-brewed sweet tea. You just can’t go wrong there.

At Pam’s Farm House, several Yelp reviewers specifically name the sweet tea (served in mason jars) as part of their decidedly Southern meal. If someone mentions a standard beverage as part of their dining experience in a positive review, you know you’ve done something right at the beverage station in the kitchen.

Skipping orange juice for breakfast and opting for sweet tea, instead? You’re likely to at Big Ed’s in Historic City Market – a Raleigh breakfast classic. And with their friendly service, your sweet tea will rarely dip below “half-full” before it’s refilled.

Venturing out & about to try the best sweet tea in town? Let us know where you find it. And a word to the wise before you embark – skip the “sweet tea” that comes out of a multi-flavor soda dispenser.

Editorial note: Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-Q is an advertising partner of WRAL.com, but did not provide any compensation for this editorial content. The reviews and opinions are strictly those of the author and other WRAL Out & About contributors. It is not an advertisement for the business featured.


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  • mille045 Jul 25, 2012

    Chick-fil-a has really ggod tea.. I buy it by the gallon.

  • Nash County Chick Jul 17, 2012

    Parker's in Wilson has the best sweet tea!!!

  • map1agmachining Jul 17, 2012

    Tricky Dick is Not A Crook

    I wouldn't say just the wait staff. I would say the people picking and handling the fruit to begin with. You don't see to many washrooms in the middle of field or plantation of fruit trees. Most of water they wash with is recirculated. Been there and seen firsthand.

  • Red Bird Jul 17, 2012


    You are just the life of the party aren't you? I agree you have to be careful about the lemons though.

  • Khanrahan Jul 17, 2012

    Red Bird, I love McAlister's tea too! Very good. And ejs198022, Ken Smith told me yesterday that his favorite sweet tea is McDonald's! so you are in good company there!

  • tmac Jul 17, 2012

    you forgot chick fil a

  • UpChuck Jul 17, 2012

    McDonald's tea makes me want to vomit. However, on a healthier fast food note, Wendy's has tasty tea.

  • Itchy Willy Jul 17, 2012

    @ Tricky

    I always wondered what those little black specks all over the lemons were.

  • ejs198022 Jul 17, 2012

    I going with Bojangles, Hardee's, and McDonald's...The reason I will go first with Bojangle's it never been a bad day on the tea there. Now Hardee's and McDonald's I am guessing the way it taste will depended on the workers attitude for that day. I am so in love the "pellet ice" or I like to call it "hospital ice" it is so good!!!! Yummy Yummy get into my tummy kinda thang !!!

  • funrun1 Jul 17, 2012

    Smithfield Chicken & BBQ gets my #1 vote. Makes me want one of their bbq sandwiches just emailing about it. :-) Bojangles tea has gone down since they started. Too watery and has lost it's southern flare.