image courtesy of flickr
When my wife and I lived downtown, more than 5 years ago, there wasn’t much going on. Walking around the city at night, we wouldn’t see too many people; it was rather bleak. This was before Fayetteville St. was transformed from a desolate concrete stretch to an open boulevard and before places like the Raleigh Times existed to draw people away from the entertainment hub of Glenwood South. A lot has changed since then, but one of the most notable and welcome developments is the opening of some good restaurants downtown. I’m thinking of places like, among others, Poole’s Diner, The Pit, Dos Taquitos Centro, Sitti, the Busy Bee Cafe, and, very recently, Beasley’s Chicken & Honey. Another place that figures squarely in downtown Raleigh’s renaissance is Capital Club 16, a restaurant that, even if it’s culinary star doesn’t shine quite as bright as some of the other places mentioned above, has nevertheless become a hip urban nightlife destination.
The restaurant is housed in a lovely, grand space on the corner of Martin and Salisbury Streets. It’s inviting and feels sophisticated, even a little luxurious, while retaining it’s pitch-perfect of-the-moment coolness. Part of what makes it work is the gorgeous furniture – all beautiful rustic dark wood and marble tables along with stately but sleek vintage chairs. The dark browns and black contrast nicely with the white walls. It’s as nice of a place to take a date as it is to conduct a lunch time business meeting.
The menu is small and has a bit of a German bent to it, with schnitzel sandwiches and various sausages on offer. I ordered one of the night’s specials, a “Chicago-style beef” sub with fries ($10), and my wife ordered the burger with pimiento cheese ($9). Despite arriving au jus, mine was closer to a Philly cheesesteak than to a French dip. Regardless, it was one of the better renditions of either I’ve had in a while, with a bit of a salty and wine-tinged bite. The extra jus was completely unnecessary. Unfortunately, the hoagie roll was a bit weak for the job, and became rather mushy during the course of the meal. The fries were decent, pleasantly airy and crispy, but nothing memorable. My entree also came with a very small cup of vegetables in vinegar. I didn’t care for it, but it wasn’t much to discard: one little crinkle-cut carrot coin, a tomato fragment, a celery sliver. I also thought the plating could use a little improvement, as my pickle spear was buried under a mountain of fries, along with a few other mysterious pieces of cooked celery. Service was attentive and professional. It was a solid meal, but nothing to get too excited about.
Although I’d go back to Capital Club 16, I don’t feel inclined to hurry back, and it wouldn’t be at the top of my list of downtown eateries. There are too many other good choices now, with even more on the horizon. Still, thanks in part to places like this, things are looking up for downtown Raleigh,