Our little city is growing! Maybe some credit goes to T&L placing Raleigh on the to visit list in 2017, but the downtown neighborhoods are booming! I’ve never seen so much activity as I have this weekend!
After working from the comfort of sweats and a couch all week-long, I “forced” myself to wrap up work early, actually throw on some make-up and real pants and hit a few of he new haunts, all which happened to be right on the same street.
First up was the Watts and Ward bar. It’s an underground speakeasy in a massive space. The bartenders are all friendly and dressed for the period, happy to answer questions. The craft cocktail menu was extensive and I selected the Carolina Lily champagne cocktail after discussing with the bartender which would be the least sweet sparkly drink. ( I detest sweet drinks). He promised me this one was not. Full of vodka, strawberry-rhubarb syrup, lemon, and sparkling rose, I figured what the hell.
NEWSFLASH: It was sweet. Every cocktail bar in Raleigh seems mix saccharine sweet drinks, even if the menu doesn’t read that way. I don’t understand this phenomenon, but I wasn’t totally surprised.
Next stop, Brewery Bhavana by the wonderful folks of Bida Manda. This has been open for a few weeks; I’m just late to the party.
The space was STUNNING. All white errryyyythang. It’s hard to imagine this was previously a dark, Irish pub. At 6PM on a Friday, the place was absolutely slammed. I found a seat at the bar and hoped they served not just beer.
They did! A couple margaritas and other cocktails were available, but I opted for vino. Quite the interesting way to order wine. The red list read like a dating website and the white list required me to Google some descriptors, so I just tasted all of them. I liked none of them, and ultimately settled on a Sauvignon Blanc (#2) which I couldn’t finish quickly enough.
The space is also a book store (with a kids corner, so they can play while parents pursue the brewery) and a flower shop. The books and magazines seemed interesting, but there was really no where to open a book and browse, especially if you’re holding a drink. The bookshelves flank the dining area which is just a bit awkward.
The flowers were gorgeous, but $25 for a small bouquet….I’ll probably have to stick to Kroger. Somehow, I failed to take photos of all of this, but maybe you caught the experience on my IG story Friday.
REC: Return. Demand the place be open in the afternoon, because it would the perfect Saturday afternoon. Casual drinks in a light airy space and BOOKS. Then, you could actually take flowers home as opposed to drag them bar hopping. PRO TIP: they don’t serve food at the bar and the menu looked delicious – all dumplings and buns.
Finally, the Royale. A new French spot I was dying to try. The restaurant was quite dark and played Wrecks and Effects throughout my time there, so you know I was happy. They also served Languiole knives which is another favorite.
So, being in France, I started with a tequila cocktail called the Marguerite. My middle moniker was proving quite popular this week (more on that later) so I had to try one. It was a killer date. Tall. Strong. Spicy.
Then, I tried a spring salad of all my favorites – arugula, grilled pineapple, pine nuts, and manchego. It was a large salad, very fresh, but didn’t pack a flavor punch.
For my main, I had the tuna crudo. Again, a generous portion – I could have used more chips ( a little confusing). But, again, NO FLAVOR. The tuna wasn’t even salted, I swear. SKIP THIS.
REC: I wanted so much to love this place. I’d return and try a steak frites and if that doesn’t deliver…I’m done. I would recommend this as a drink spot – but the bar is small. It would be a fun start to the night. Or end for a dessert and cocktail served with a side of classic hip hop.