Chef Scott Crawford announced Monday that he is leaving the Umstead Hotel in Cary to open two new restaurants in downtown Raleigh by 2015.
Crawford is partnering with developer John Holmes of Hobby Properties to open Standard Foods, a restaurant and grocery store in the Person Street Plaza. They hope Standard Foods will open by the fall in the space that was once slated to become the new home of the now-closed Market Restaurant.
After Standard Foods opens, Crawford and Holmes will focus their newly formed Nash Square Hospitality Group’s energies on Nash Square on the west side of downtown Raleigh. They hope to open the second restaurant, a take on a classic American tavern, there in 2015.
“This is a critical moment in downtown Raleigh’s growth; with Scott Crawford on board, I’m convinced we can have a powerful impact,” Holmes said in a press release.
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Crawford, 41, revealed Friday via social media that he would be leaving the high-end hotel owned by Jim and Ann Goodnight in Cary. Crawford has worked for five years as The Umstead’s food and beverage director as well as executive chef at its fine-dining restaurant, Herons. In that time, Herons received the Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond awards for the first time. Herons also got a rare five-star review from the N&O’s restaurant critic, Greg Cox. Crawford also has been a semifinalist for a James Beard Foundation award for best chef in the southeast.
About his step away from fine dining restaurants at hotels, he said, “I really want to do a casual version of my food. To me, it’s exciting to reach a broader audience. I want to have fun and make this a fun place for the people of Raleigh.”
The Nash Square area, bordered by Raleigh City Hall to the north and The News & Observer on the east, is what initially intrigued Crawford about the downtown area.
“That area seemed to be a bridge between downtown and the warehouse district,” Crawford said.
Crawford fell in love with a building that Holmes owns on the south side of Nash Square along Martin Street. While they were discussing a partnership to open a restaurant on the first floor of that building, what will become Nash Tavern, Crawford said Holmes suggested a partnership at the Person Street Plaza.
Crawford explained that Standard Foods will be “a modern version of an old grocery store. You know the butcher. You know the grocer and there’s a restaurant.”
The grocery store will have an extensive prepared food section (“I want to have a soup case that you walk up to and say ‘Whoa!’” Crawford said.) In deference to other bakeries and restaurants in the area, Crawford said they would focus on frozen custard and cookies as the store’s dessert offerings. (“Those may not sound exciting but they are going to be,” Crawford said.) Standard Foods also will offer a box lunch program with delivery by bicycles.
Nash Tavern, Crawford said, will be similar to Blue Duck Tavern in Washington, D.C. Crawford said it will offer a broad spectrum of dining experiences for dinners: a casual experience with shared plates and sides served family style, or a tasting menu with a great wine list and an ambitious craft beer selection.
The Nash Tavern will join a lonely stretch of downtown. There’s not much dining along that block of Martin Street except for the Berkeley Cafe, which was recently renovated and taken over by the owners of the now-closed Sadlack’s.