photograph by Anagram Photo

The trains that roll through downtown Apex today see a town much like the one that was there a hundred years ago. That’s because many of the buildings — roughly 60 throughout Apex — were built between 1870 and 1940, making this one of the most intact turn-of-the-century railroad towns in the state.

Formerly known as Log Pond (for the lumber produced there), Apex was named for its location at the highest point on the Chatham Railroad between Richmond, Virginia, and Jacksonville, Florida. Steam engines stopped at the top of the climb to replenish their water supply before heading to Raleigh with freight cars full of lumber, tar, and turpentine. Trains and tobacco carried the town through the early 1900s, until the Great Depression stalled its growth. Then, in the 1950s, Research Triangle Park was developed nearby. Since then, new residents have flocked to this little town, drawn by tech jobs and the intimacy of the tight-knit community.

Today, Apex is the fastest-growing suburb in the country, but it hasn’t lost the old-fashioned charm of that small town at the peak of the railroad.


Peak City Grill & Bar. In the 1905 building that houses Peak City Grill, diners sit in century-old church pews under original stained-glass windows and 16-foot tin ceilings. The restaurant’s rotating menu features creative dishes made with local ingredients, like cast-iron skillet rib eye, roasted vegetable paella, and the ever-popular shrimp hush puppies.

126 North Salem Street, Apex, NC 27502
(919) 303-8001 or



The Provincial. Chef Wayne Alcaide worked for high-profile chefs across the country before opening his own restaurant in Apex in 2006. In his contemporary, seafood-forward bistro, Alcaide uses locally sourced ingredients to craft simple yet inspired dishes, like his spicy tuna poke tacos, while his wife, Kristyna, makes luscious desserts.

119 North Salem Street, Apex, NC 27502
(919) 372-5921 or



Anna’s Pizzeria. Owner Yury Rojas remembers the hard work, family values, and love of cooking that his Aunt Anna instilled in him as he was growing up. Today, he carries on her legacy at Anna’s Pizzeria, where many of the recipes have been passed down through Rojas’s Italian family for generations. Try a slice of pepperoni or vegetable pizza with a pint of Brüeprint beer, brewed down the street.

100 North Salem Street, Apex, NC 27502
(919) 267-6237 or



Buttercream’s Bakeshop. This family-owned bakery serves custom cakes, cute cookies, and gourmet cupcakes made from scratch. Their European- and Southern-style buttercreams pair perfectly with nearly endless combinations of cakes and fillings.

1427, 101 North Salem Street, Apex, NC 27502
(919) 362-8408 or




Halle Cultural Arts Center. Apex’s original Town Hall, built in 1912, included not only government offices, but also an opera-style theater for silent movies, dramas, and musicals. Today, the Halle Cultural Arts Center continues that tradition in the same building, revitalized to host theater performances, art exhibitions, movies, concerts, and classes.

237 North Salem Street, Apex, NC 27502
(919) 249-1120 or



Syeni Salon & Spa and The Exchange Barbershop. Syeni and The Exchange are partner businesses located in the historic Tobacco & Mule Exchange building. Sip herbal tea with honey while waiting for a massage or facial at Syeni, or enjoy a beer and sit in a heated chair while having your hair cut by master barbers at The Exchange.

Tobacco & Mule Exchange, 225 North Salem Street Suite 103, Apex, NC 27502
(919) 387-4166 or



Moon & Lola. Kelly Shatat’s nationally recognized accessories store offers monogrammed necklaces, a “Charm Bar,” and pet-themed ornaments and cuff links that were featured on “Oprah’s Favorite Things.”

219 North Salem Street #100, Apex, NC 27502
(919) 367-6838 or





The Rusty Bucket. Pam and Mack Thorpe opened their country store in 2004 in the old Pope’s Five and Dime building on North Salem Street. Loyal shoppers, affectionately known as “bucketheads,” can find rustic home decor, antiques, an old-fashioned candy counter, and the store’s specialty: custom, solid-wood farm tables.

104 North Salem Street #A, Apex, NC 27502
(919) 290-2575 or

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Katie King is the assistant editor at Our State.