Taqueria coming to downtown Raleigh

jmgiglio@newsobserver.comSeptember 26, 2013 

A little slice of Mexico is making its way to downtown Raleigh.

Ben Shelton, the chef who started Lilly’s Pizza at Five Points, is opening a taqueria called Gringo A Go-Go in the former Ruben’s Downtown Diner spot in the next few weeks.

Gringo’s menu will be filled with authentic Mexican foods, including pinto beans with rice and cornbread, fish tacos, ceviche tostados, and a shrimp cocktail that’s similar to a gazpacho.

The decor also will have its own flavor. Shelton said he will hang disco balls with spotlights on the dining room ceiling. He has already added a giant green bike rack, which spells out the word “GRINGO,” to the front corner of the building.

“The goal is that I want it to be a little strange and fun,” Shelton said. “I want people to leave here and say, ‘I’m full. I had a great time.’ I want it to be really good.”

Shelton, who will be one of the restaurant’s cooks, also plans to serve nopales, a salad-type dish made of roasted cactus mixed with radish, onion, cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice and tomatoes. Salsa also will be a house priority, with sesame, peanut and orange varieties.

“Salsa was originally made to cover up rancid meat,” Shelton said. “But there are so many different salsas in Mexico, and you don’t seem to get any decent ones here.”

The Gringo bar, which uses stools made from tractor seats out of Mexico, will carry Mexican and local beers and liquors such as Mezcal tequila.

Shelton, who owned and operated a Raleigh taco and tamale truck in the early 2000s, hopes eventually to expand the menu to include items such as fire-roasted garbanzo beans and such delicacies as jumile, a beetle that emits pepper spray, and grasshoppers.

Gringo also will offer delivery service in downtown Raleigh.

The building, at North Person and East Edenton streets, first opened in 1932 as Blowe’s Service station, Shelton said.

Shelton, who wanted to maintain some of the building’s original features, removed drywall from the interior walls, exposing old brick that’s painted light blue and white.

“Everyone’s tried to cover this building up,” Shelton said of the interior walls. “I uncovered that wall at first and then that corner. And I loved it and kept going.”

The quaint spot, which also has an outdoor patio, holds about 49 people.

Gringo A Go-Go is at 100 N. Person St.

Barbecue pitmaster Ed Mitchell’s new Durham restaurant is on track to open in mid-October.

’Que, at the American Tobacco Campus, will offer what Mitchell is best known for: ribs, whole hog barbecue, fried and barbecue chicken, and fresh vegetables. His menu also will include beef brisket, turkey, and seafood such as mountain trout.

“We are doing a variety of barbecue that North Carolina has experienced,” Mitchell said. “So we will have some beef brisket that we will be able to convert to be chopped barbecue.”

He’ll also offer the two types of North Carolina sauces: vinegar-based Eastern style and the tomato-based Western style.

Mitchell said the hogs for his restaurant will be fed a strict peanut and acorn diet, which he said accents the flavor of the meat and is healthy for the animals.

“We want to put an emphasis on the products and how we’re raising and feeding them,” Mitchell said.

The restaurant will have a full bar, with beer and specialty drinks, including something Mitchell calls the “Pitmaster’s Brew.” What it’s made of, however, is a surprise.

Prices will range from $12 to $15 for lunch and $18 to $20 for dinner. The 4,000-square-foot restaurant includes a patio and seats about 150.

’Que will be at 759 Blackwell St. in the Diamond View III complex.

Saxbys Coffee, a Philadelphia-based gourmet coffee franchise, is opening two Raleigh shops: one near N.C. State University and the other at North Hills.

The campus restaurant, at 2604 Hillsborough St., is expected to open first, near the end of October, and will have a slightly different menu than the North Hills spot.

“At this point, we’ll serve only breakfast and not lunch,” said Lisa Cariello, who co-owns the restaurants with her husband Frank. “That may change depending on demand. We’ll start with our baked goods and go from there.”

Saxbys breakfast menu includes sandwiches made on a variety of artisan breads, pastries and bagels, Frank Cariello said.

The North Hills location will offer breakfast and lunch, including salads and sandwiches made by Catering Works, a Raleigh catering and food delivery service.

The 1,200-square-foot North Hills spot, which is expected to open in the middle of November, will hold about 30 people and has outdoor patio seating. It will be at 141-111 Park at North Hills Road, near Harris Teeter.

Both locations will feature espressos, frozen blended coffees called Frolattes, and specialty drinks that include an Almond Joy, which is made with coconut, chocolate and almond, and a White Rabbit that’s made from white chocolate and hazelnut.

The restaurant will offer high-speed Internet and lots of electrical outlets.

“We spend a lot of time and money designing coffee spaces that people want to be in,” said Nick Bayer, Saxbys founder and president. “We want people to come in and say, ‘The furniture’s nice, and the Internet is as fast as if I’m the only one here.’”

Mattress Firm, a Houston-based store that sells bed frames, pillows and mattress brands such as Serta, Simmons and Tempur-Pedic, is opening its fourth Raleigh location Friday. The 4,000-square-foot store is at 2913 Wake Forest Road … Anthropolgie, a women’s clothing, shoe and accessory store that also offers home decor and furniture, is opening a new 10,000-square-foot store at the Main District at North Hills in Raleigh. It’s expected to open in the spring.

Giglio: 919-829-4649 or; Twitter: @shoptalk_nando

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