New downtown Raleigh restaurant will be a hot spot for breakfast, lunch, dinner & drinks

On the ground floor of a skyscraper in the state’s capital city, one of North Carolina’s largest restaurant groups is planning a new kind of project.

Carolina Ale House owner LM Restaurants is working on a new all-day cafe and restaurant in downtown Raleigh.

The restaurant, Birdie’s Barroom & Kitchen, will open this summer at 150 Fayetteville St. in the very center of the city. Birdie’s plans to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in a sprawling ground-floor space of the Wells Fargo building. The space was formerly occupied by Cafe Carolina.

Best known for its popular Carolina Ale House brand and the Hillsborough Street restaurant Taverna Agora, LM Restaurants is making a play for downtown Raleigh. Most of the company’s brands are on the outskirts of downtowns or in suburbs, but Birdie’s looks to be LM Restaurants’ most urban project yet.

“Fayetteville Street is not only Raleigh’s Main Street, but the Main Street of North Carolina,” said LM Restaurants VP of brand strategy Katherine Goldfaden.

Some have pointed to a post-COVID lull in Downtown Raleigh as businesses and restaurants adapt to an environment where some office workers continue to work from home. Goldfaden said Birdie’s represents a belief that the city’s center is on the rebound, pointing to past bets from LM Restaurants and founder Lou Moshakos — the flagship Carolina Ale House on Glenwood South and Taverna Agora on Hillsborough Street — as two among only a few restaurants in that area at the time.

“We have a history of coming in early and helping set the tone,” Goldfaden said. “We trust the traffic will come, but we don’t mind being early on the street.”

Birdie’s will move into the former Cafe Carolina space, which has been vacant since 2017.

With Birdie’s, LM hopes to create a new shared space downtown for those who have lived here for decades and those just starting to call Raleigh home.

“We wanted that meeting house, watering hole where everyone knows each other and everyone knows your name,” Goldfaden said. “Raleigh has been a transient town for a while now, no one is really a local anymore. Raleigh needs that place where you can be known and be seen.”

Think of Birdie as the matron of Raleigh

Birdie’s is named more for a vibe than an actual person, inspired by a kind of character in hospitality who holds the party together.

“The quintessential hostess with the most-ess, we lovingly named her Birdie,” Goldfaden said. “We created this persona, this matron of Raleigh.”

Birdie’s will have room for about 125 diners, spread out over 80 inside seats and an outdoor patio that’s connected by a two-sided bar.

Raleigh artist Autumn Cobeland has been commissioned to create a mural inside Birdie’s above the coffee bar. There will be banquettes and bar stools and an 8-person corner booth tucked between windows.

“That will be the table everyone wants,” Goldfaden said.

In the morning, Birdie’s will be a place for grab-and-go coffees, or sipping lattes by the window while answering emails, Goldfaden said. Lunch will still have some counter service sandwiches, but also space for full-service mid-day meals, while the evenings will focus on cocktails and sit-down dinner.

“We recognize that the people who work downtown will see (Birdie’s) as an amenity and we’re crafting the menu to meet them where they are,” Goldfaden said. “A business lunch needs to feel different than a coffee shop.”

Joining ‘the energy and buzz’ downtown

Over the last couple years, the Triangle’s biggest restaurant openings have been part of larger developments on the outskirts of the city center or in the suburbs. Projects like Raleigh Iron Works and Fenton in Cary have added buzzy new restaurants from some of the top local chefs. The latest LM Restaurant opening was A’verde Cocina in Cary with celebrity chef Katsuji Tanabe.

“Sometimes it’s a long game in restaurants,” Goldfaden said. “’Everyone is leaving downtown’ is the easy headline. But that leaves us ripe for growth and change. The energy and the buzz is here. It’s the right turning point.

“This is a commitment to Raleigh and to North Carolina,” Goldfaden said.

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