Bit by bit, Transfer Co. Food Hall readies for opening in downtown Raleigh

Transfer Co. Food Hall held a Deck the Hall event Monday, Dec. 17, 2018.
Transfer Co. Food Hall held a Deck the Hall event Monday, Dec. 17, 2018.

Transfer Co. Food Hall, the eating and drinking hub occupying the century-old former bus garage, is slowly starting to open.

Transfer had a public preview event Monday night and has had a series of pop-up events over the last couple months to pave the way for a soft opening. Over the final two weekends of the year, there are plans to open with limited vendors, project officials say. Tickets for a New Year’s Eve party featuring the food hall’s vendors go on sale Friday.

Transfer Co., located in the former Stone’s Warehouse at 500 E. Davie St., is the second food hall to open in downtown Raleigh, following this summer’s Morgan Street Food Hall in the Warehouse District.

“Last night was huge for us,” said general manager Nick Neptune the day after Monday’s preview. “It was our first real public opening. We’re doing everything we can to get the doors open.”

The first to open will be Locals Oyster Bar, a collaboration between Locals Seafood and Person Street Bar, and Che Empanadas, serving Argentine-style baked empanadas. Che Empanadas posted on Instagram that it will be open Thursday and Friday nights.

Eric Montagne, formerly chef at the now-closed Standard Foods, will lead the Locals Oyster Bar kitchen. Che Empanadas comes from chef Anabel Rossbach.

Benchwarmers Bagels, the wood-fired bagels and coffee bar collaboration from Jubala and Boulted Bread, should open soon after. Construction is complete, but the owners are awaiting the occupancy permit.

During Monday’s preview, visitors got a taste of what they’ll serve. Locals served drinks and food from a limited menu, including fried fish, shucked oysters and a creation called oyster poutine. Che Empanadas sold its full menu, and Benchwarmers served espresso drinks and bites of bagels, but couldn’t charge without a permit.

Transfer Co. Food Hall held a Deck the Hall event Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. Hart Roberts

Food halls are a national dining trend popping up in cities large and small, often taking out-of-use buildings in American downtowns and filling them with small food vendors by the dozen. The trend goes back centuries to the markets of Europe and food stalls of Asia, but in American cities, they often have provided expansion space for food trucks and local restaurants.

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Transfer Co. is still very much a construction site, but the transformation from an old dilapidated warehouse to a dining destination is well on its way. Around three years ago, part of the roof was missing and plants were growing in the concrete.

Now, Transfer is wearing holiday garland, is filled with communal tables and a meandering concrete bar. Large plastic partitions still cover the vendor sites still being built, but Neptune said most will finish up over the next few months, with a larger opening expected by March.

“We’re rocking,” Neptune said. “Seeing the turnout and the energy from the community meant a lot.”

Those vendors include Choate’s, an Indian street food concept; Ara, a Japanese izakaya; Dank Burritos, already with two coastal North Carolina locations serving tacos and burritos; and Captain Cookie and the Milkman, serving cookies and ice cream sandwiches.

Asheville brewery Burial Beer is also building a taproom and can shop, which Neptune expects to open in the early part of next year.

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Transfer has signed a barbecue concept as its restaurant anchor as well as a final vendor space, but Neptune declined to reveal the names.

In another part of the building, Videri Chocolate will move its production facilities across downtown, though that construction has not yet started.

The last piece of Transfer is grocer Saxapahaw General Store opening a second location in a new 16,000-square-foot building. Construction has yet to start on the grocery store, but Neptune anticipates it could open late next year.

The food hall previously announced a Palestinian concept called Falafel & Co., but that restaurant is no longer with the project.

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Transfer Co. is at 500 E. Davie St., Raleigh. Here is information on the vendors. For more, go to or

Ara: (previously called Sushinara) An Izakaya serving Japanese street food and sushi from Chef Jae Lee.

Benchwarmers Bagels: Wood-fired bagels from Jubala Coffee and Boulted Bread

Burial Beer Co.: A taproom-only operation from one of the Asheville brewery, one of the state’s best.

Captain Cookie and the Milkman: Homemade cookies and ice cream sandwiches

Che Empanadas: Popular empanada company is moving from home delivery to the food hall.

Chhote’s: An Indian Street food concept from Anson Fernandes, owner of Cary’s Biryani Maxx in Cary.

Dank Burrito: A Raleigh location for Beaufort and Morehead City’s popular burrito, bowl and taco restaurant from Clarke Merrill.

Locals Oyster Bar: An oyster bar and cocktails from Locals Seafood and Person Street Bar, plus a seafood market and ready-to-cook seafood

Videri Chocolate Factory: Production from the downtown chocolate factory is moving to the food hall.

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.