When we head to cities for pop-up shops, there's no way we're going to miss out on experiencing new food, drinks, art, local brands...everything the locals love and rave about. Recently we headed to Raleigh, NC to set up the HELM pop-up in the Raleigh Denim Workshop, and while we were there we discovered some new favorites around the city.
This is an amazing space, with killer made-in-house chocolate (you can watch the whole process!) and super in-house roasted coffee (which you can also watch), to boot. The charm of the experience is amplified by the fact that it’s housed in an old, refurbished, red brick building. We went here for morning and afternoon pick-me-ups. (On the coffee-front, we also had a few great cups at 42 & Lawrence, and they know what’s up.)
We dropped in here only to be suprised by not one, but two astounding shows. CAM is a simple, clean, concrete and white, naturally well-lit gallery, and it’s just the perfect size to not feel overwhelmed. The top level main gallery show was titled “threshold” / New paintings by Jason Craighead - beautiful large canvases elegantly drape with multi-layered abstract work along with blocks of full black in juxtaposition with hues of soft pinks, natural and rose’. A lot of emotion, reminiscent of what you might see on the cover of a more timid Radiohead album. The downstairs gallery was called “Over/Time: Imaging Landscape” by Tama Hochbaum - it was comprised of photos of nature, mostly trees, aligned and laid out in straight lines and angles to create their own shapes. They also have community art classes and there were some fun works by children - gotta love that!
We met a local guy who told us about this place, and he warned us that it was not likely that we’d get in, but we were lucky to find open seats at the bar! The ambiance was like an old diner dressed up in a trendy yet classic manner - just dark enough to feel cool, but not too dark to see the masterpiece on the plate in front of you. Every single choice on the chalkboard menu for the evening (choice wines and local beers included) looked creative and divine. We opted for the Snapper Schnitzel (atop a summer squash salad heirloom tomato relish) and Cornmeal Fried Okra with Spiced Piquillo Aioli. If you do end up having to wait, we say it’s plenty worth it. They call themselves “A Modern Diner with Reimagined Comfort Food” - we call it Heaven.
In this large and open, pleasantly crowded, and nicely done up warehouse-meets-shipping containers space, there is every food imaginable under the sun. It’s hard to pull off something like this and make it all work ergonomically, aesthetically, and with class, but they definitely made it work here. It’s like an entire city block or more!? You could have something different here every day for a month and still have more to choose from, but here’s what we ate, and it all gets a good solid “A”. The first night we grabbed Veggie Ramen Miso from “The Bowls,” and at lunch the next day it was the Butter Chicken from “Curry in a Hurry.” Both were perfect temp, featured balanced spices and boasted nice presentations, especially considering that it’s all in paperware/to-go dishes. On our way out we got two big scoops of fluffy gourmet ice cream on waffle cones that they bake in front of you at Mama Birds Cookie + Cream, and oh man, this ice cream was hands down a highlight!
We grabbed some adult bevs here with our pals from Raleigh Denim. They had a gagillion beers on tap lined up on a striking marble wall that conjoined to a mile long marble bar, and every seat at that bar was full. The rest of the impressively engineered finish-out was just as architecturally balanced as the bar and taps, and we heard from a few locals that what the kitchen serves up was also to die for. To top off the tastefulness of it all, there was a naturally lit, shoppable library and seating area smack dab in the middle of the place - so awesome!
After all this gloriously glutenous consumption, we hit a drop-in, pay-cash class at this gym, and we definitely shed off what felt like more than we ate. Clean finish out, super cool equipment and a great coach for a class that didn’t disappoint. Great showers with fancy soaps made this gym a must for our next visit.
We definitely weren’t able to make it to all the stops we wanted to this round, but we’ll be back at the end of this month and plan to dine at Bida Manda Laotian Restaurant, catch a movie and bite at the Alamo Drafthouse Raleigh, and jog the Loblolly trail. Let us know what else we need to check out by shooting us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.