The lunch counter at Person Street Pharmacy used to be a place to grab a milk shake and grilled cheese sandwich while picking up aspirin, bathroom cleaner and a birthday card for your grandmother.
Located in the heart of Raleigh's fast-growing North Person neighborhood, the pharmacy's café space is ripe for revival, set to re-open this month with an updated nouveau retro look complemented by a menu of fresh foods made with local ingredients. And while you can still get a great milk shake, a full liquor license and restoration of the original soda fountains will expand beverage options to include everything from craft soft drinks to wine, beer and cocktails.
The venture is led by Chad McIntyre, former chef at the now-closed The Market restaurant and current owner of solar-powered Eco-Tech Draft Systems, and Craig Rudewicz, owner and flavor whiz at Crude Bitters and Sodas.
McIntrye has kept busy with Eco-Tech since his dream of relocating The Market to a larger space, and incorporating a fresh- and prepared-foods grocery, unraveled about 18 months ago. The project, now led by Chef Scott Crawford and called Standard Foods, will open soon around the corner.
While grateful to have more time with his young family, including a third daughter born in February, McIntyre admits he's been itching to get back into the kitchen.
"I've always joked about wanting to buy that space. It fits my rule of no more than eight minutes or eight miles to work," says McIntyre, who lives across the street from his former eatery, which has since become Stanbury. "My wife is pretty happy about it. I'll never spend the kind of hours there that I did at The Market."
When it debuts, the café will be open during the pharmacy's hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Service will focus on lunchtime and early supper soups, salads and sandwiches, including a few tweaked versions of standards favored by regulars of the old luncheonette.
"We'll probably have Hump Day hot dogs, which they used to do," says McIntyre, who hired former Market line chef Joey Jannick for the same role. "We'll also bring back chicken salad sandwiches, but not from big tubs. We'll make it ourselves using the best local ingredients."
That approach also appeals to Rudewicz, who has wanted a venue to showcase his soft drinks. Instead of Coke or Pepsi, the soda fountain will become the first location where seasonal Crude Small-Batch Soda will be dispensed by tap.
Rudewicz promises creative ice cream floats, fruity phosphates and a root beer that is sweetened with molasses and honey. "At the end of the day, soda is sweet, flavored water," says Rudewicz, who uses no preservatives or high fructose corn syrup in his products. "If you're going to drink soda, it ought to be the best tasting, healthiest kind available."
With choices like Pineapple & Ginger and Lime, Cucumber & Habanero, most Crude sodas and vinegar-based shrubs are designed more for an adult's palate than a child's. Flavors are complex and decidedly crisp, making them a satisfying alcohol-free drink option. However, the café's liquor license means they also can serve as cocktail starters.
Rudewicz plans to stay open late for First Fridays. Over time, he and McIntyre intend to have evening food and beverage service on weekends and on other event-related occasions.
"We'll never be a late-night bar and restaurant," says McIntyre, noting that The Station, Person Street Bar and upcoming Standard Foods have that covered. Likewise, he adds, they have no intention of competing with bakeries and coffee shops, such as Yellow Dog Bread Company and Slingshot Coffee Co.'s aptly named Weekend venture.
"Our goal is to be something different, a relaxed neighborhood place to have a healthy meal or a drink," he adds. "It's our neighborhood, too, so we're excited to be part of the scene."
This article appeared in print with the headline "A new dining prescription."