There’s a spot on downtown Raleigh’s South Salisbury Street that’s been home to a vast number of restaurant concepts, none of which seem to have lasted very long there.
The building has housed everything from a pizza joint and a social lounge to a Greek and Indian restaurant. Over the next several weeks, the place will transform yet again. But this time it aims to cater to the downtowners by offering a restaurant, bar and arcade with upscale pub food, craft cocktails and old-school video games.
“It’s been a pretty strong concept around the country lately, and it’s been that way for five, six, seven years,” said Jon Seelbinder, owner of Level Up Restaurant + Barcadium. “I wanted to design a bar and restaurant where people could eat and drink and have a great time, and pull the arcade (concept) into it.”
Seelbinder hopes the place – with all original arcade cabinets and housemade dishes created by chef Saif Rahman – will draw a 20- to 50-year-old crowd that still loves pinball and games such as Donkey Kong Jr. and NBA Jam.
“They are all classic arcade and pinball machines from the ’70s, ’80s and 90s,” he said. “All in all, we will have 30 arcade games and 10 to 12 pinball machines.”
Level Up’s menu will evolve, Seelbinder said, and has items such as “miniwiches” made from bacon and egg, grilled steak or pulled pork; fried deviled eggs with Korean hot sauce, prosciutto and pickled and green onions; calamari, wings and ribs; and tacos with fillings such as skirt steak, tuna, fried chicken or cactus.
Food prices range from about $6 for black-eyed pea fritters to about $14 for the mini sandwiches.
The bar will consist of handmade cocktails and North Carolina beers that include Mother Earth, Foothills Brewing and Big Boss.
The 9,000-square-foot Level Up, with its walls of hand-painted murals of video game characters, will open in phases.
First will come the upstairs, which started serving drinks last weekend and will do the same this weekend. The full menu will be available on the second story seven days a week starting Thursday.
Seelbinder, who also owns The Architect Bar & Social House and The Green Light on East Hargett Street, expects to open the first floor in four to six weeks – in time for March Madness, he hopes. That space will include the former Subway restaurant next door, and have an open kitchen with a counter where customers can sit and watch as their food is made.
The two spaces together will seat 150 to 200.
He also plans to continue expanding. In about a year, he wants to open up the basement and add a rooftop patio.
But before that, he’ll focus on his next venture: a boutique market and brewery in the ground floor of the West at North condo complex.
The place, which has yet to be named, will brew its own beer and sell prepared foods like pasta salad, deli meats, dry goods, dairy, fruits and vegetables.
“We will provide a lot of necessities like milk and produce, but it’s not a full-service grocery store,” Seelbinder said.
The two parts will be in one space but designed separately.
The bar side will offer craft cocktails and food and become the focus of the place after the market slows down. The market expects to have quick-serve and grab-and-go foods from 11 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Seelbinder hopes to begin construction within the month, and open the market and brewery in phases, too. He expects to open the brewery in three to four months and six to eight months for the market side.
In the meantime, Level Up will aim to be something more than a typical sports bar. And with all of its plans for the future, it will be around for a long while.
Level Up Kitchen + Barcadium is at 126 S. Salisbury St., and the brewery and market will be at 400 W. North St.
The 1,022-square-foot boutique is expected to open in mid-March in the former Jitty’s Boutique spot at 2014 Cameron St.
Ashley Christensen’s wood-fire restaurant Death & Taxes and private event space Bridge Club are expected to open this spring at the corner of Hargett and Salisbury streets in downtown Raleigh.