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Grocery store finally coming to downtown Raleigh

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Downtown Raleigh dwelling has developed a new flavor over the past five years. A reinvented community has emerged, rejuvenated with a simple promise emblazoned on marketing materials everywhere: "within walking distance." Yet one question remains: Where's the street with the grocery store?

There isn't one. Downtown residents still have to drive to either Cameron Village, past Five Points on Glenwood or head toward North Raleigh to pick up their groceries. But finally, there's a plan.

Market Restaurant (eatatmarket.com) currently shares a building with Escazu Chocolates (escazuchocolates.com) on North Blount Street. This year, both the restaurant and the cacao bean-to-chocolate bar facility will move into a vacant shopping plaza at the corner of Blount and East Franklin streets, just a few blocks from their current location. There, Market Restaurant plans to open a 4,000-square-foot grocery store.

"It will be some sort of a bodega," Market chef Chad McIntyre says of the yet-to-be-named store. "We're not going to be a grocery store that carries everything. No mops, brooms and motor oil."

What you will find are the following: local produce and dairy, honey from beehives right on site (McIntyre currently has about five behind his restaurant), and "a very strong butcher program" with fresh charcuterie and cheeses. He says the market won't try to be a one-stop shop, instead encouraging residents to buy bread at Yellow Dog Bread Company (yellowdogbread.squarespace.com), which will also open in the plaza, or walk to the wine and hardware shops in Seaboard Station.

"It's about making the community more active and trying to fill that one intricate piece as far as making a complete meal at the house," McIntyre says. "[Currently] if you want anything, you have to go all the way to Food Lion in North Raleigh. Which isn't a trek in the car, but if you live downtown and you're biking it, it's kind of a pain in the ass."

Hobby Properties owns the plaza. Renovations have begun, and McIntyre predicts an opening around November.

Construction on the restaurant side reveals a deck that will overlook the adjacent vacant lot, where Raleigh City Farm (raleighcityfarm.com) has already set its claim to create an urban farm. Last June, Jonathan Morgan, one of the farm organizers, said it would not function in the traditional community garden model.

"We want to move away from that model. Instead we're going to have a manager and run the operation ourselves, accepting volunteers to come whenever they want. Whatever we grow, we're going to sell," Morgan said. "My vision is people coming home from work and coming through downtown to pick up the most fresh vegetables."

McIntyre confirmed that Raleigh City Farm will be selling as soon as the crops are harvested. "If they're up and running before the store, then they'll probably have some sort of farm stand," he said. "Later, we'll be able to have a Raleigh City Farm section in the store."

McIntyre plans to utilize the farm not only as a nice vista for diners but also as a source for much of the restaurant's local produce.

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