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Will Downtown Raleigh Make it?

October 29, 2020

When it comes to the pandemic, we’ve heard many comparisons to the recession in 2008, or at least questions about whether it will be as bad. For businesses in Downtown Raleigh who have also dealt with damage from riots, I think the only similarity is the misinformation. Back in 2008, everyone was saying that “all the condos are going to become apartment buildings.” Of the 5 buildings that came online at the time, only 1 ended up as apartments. And so here we are in 2020 with a pandemic and riot damage and everyone is saying “downtown is closed.” Or “downtown won’t bounce back.”

It’s true that things are slow downtown, as they are everywhere, but ask anyone who lives there or goes there and it is OPEN! The DRA is doing a great job of creating events so that people can enjoy their favorite entertainment spots while feeling safe.

I was just talking with Jerome of Sosta Cafe and he reminded me that this was just yet another tough time. Starting with the recession in 2008, then construction of tons of apartment buildings that closed roads and limited traffic, then ownership change of buildings that risked his lease, etc. Been there done, that. These businesses are tough and resourceful.

With that in mind, Jill Mertens, a Metro Digs agent who lives downtown, has shared her Top 4 list of places to eat. So get out there and see for yourself what Downtown Raleigh has to offer.

Jill's Top 4 Outdoor Restaurants

As we manage our way through this pandemic, my husband and I try to be safe. Our weekly date night has been scaled back to every two or three weeks. And we only go to restaurants where we can eat outside. The criteria for defining our favorite spots are simple:

· We must be able to walk to it from our home in the Glenwood-Brooklyn neighborhood. Fortunately, this leaves us with lots of options!

· They must have outside dining- and more than just a few tables. We like a balance that allows us to feel like we are “out in the community” but still have enough personal space so that we are not concerned every time we hear someone cough.

· A comfortable atmosphere is important. While we love to go to a bar, we are now more cautious about being in a crowded place where notably more beverages are consumed than food.

· Lastly, we don’t like waiting in lines to get a table.

All things considered, here are our current favorites:

· Mellow Mushroom — a Raleigh staple, Mellow Mushroom has friendly service and a great casual menu served on a patio with plenty of space. My favorite item on the menu has to be either the Kosmic Karma or Mighty Meaty pizza.

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· Piccola Italia — A wonderful family restaurant with great food, we did not go to Piccola Italia often because they always had a waiting list. I was thrilled to learn that they now take reservations on their patio! Everything on the menu is good so resist the urge to fill up on bread! I really enjoyed the Eggplant Parmesan dinner last weekend and look forward to going back for more.

Mellow Mushroom outdoor seating in Raleigh, NC. Walkable from the Glenwood Brooklyn neighborhood, Glenwood South, Cameron Village, and Cameron Park.
Piccola Italia restaurant in Cameron Village, Raleigh, NC. Outdoor seating shown here.

· Transfer Co Food Hall — This is a bit of a hike from our house, but my definition of a great weekend day is a sunny walk over to Transfer Food Hall for bagels and coffee at Benchwarmer Bagels. Their # 6 sandwich with fried baloney, yellow mustard, scrambled egg and American cheese is sinfully delicious!

Transfer Food Hall in Downtown Raleigh. Outdoor seating shown here (photo taken pre-COVID).

· MoJoe’s Burger Joint — Back in the Glenwood South area, MoJoe’s is a good stop for a burger or sandwich and fries. We always enjoy sitting on the porch and watching all the people and cars buzz by.

Honorable mentions: Note that Taverna Agora on Hillsborough St and Plates on Glenwood Ave also meet our criteria- so we’ll have to visit them again soon!

What are your favorite restaurants with outdoor seating? Help us get the word out, especially now that it’s getting cooler. Who has the best warm outdoor seating? I saw that Trophy has a greenhouse table! Genius.


Metro Digs

Boutique residential real estate brokerage specializing in walkable neighborhoods in the Triangle Area, NC.

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