Mouthful

Brewery Bhavana sets opening for brewery, dim sum restaurant, flower shop in downtown Raleigh

Brewery Bhavana – a hybrid restaurant, brewery, flower shop and book shop – is going to open its Moore Square location at the end of March.
Brewery Bhavana – a hybrid restaurant, brewery, flower shop and book shop – is going to open its Moore Square location at the end of March. jbanov@newsobserver.com

Brewery Bhavana – a hybrid restaurant, brewery, flower shop and book shop – is going to open its Moore Square location at the end of March, its owners said.

Brewery Bhavana is the brainchild of brother and sister Vansana and Vanvisa Nolintha, who opened the Laotian restaurant Bida Manda next door on South Blount Street more than four years ago, and brewer Patrick Woodson.

A specific date hasn’t been set yet, but they said they hope to open the last week of March.

The spot occupies the former Tir Na Nog space, the Irish pub that closed in late 2015 after 11 years. Since then, Brewery Bhavana’s owners have transformed the dark, wood and brick pub into an airy, open space with white walls, a skylight and dangling light fixtures that incorporate their vision of creativity and collaboration.

“Bhavana” means “cultivating” in Sanskrit, and the owners see that theme in everything from the food to the decor.

Vansana Nolintha and Woodson discussed their vision in the restaurant, surrounded by plates still wrapped in plastic, as workers continued to get the front of the restaurant in place and the chef and cooks practiced making dumplings in the kitchen.

They acknowledge the confusion they hear when they tell people the Bhavana concept.

“I think to us, we’re perplexed with the combination ourselves,” Nolintha said. “I don’t think there’s any real connections other than these are existing relationships in our lives that we want to celebrate and honor. ... Every corner has a maker that’s passionate about it. The space is really a reflection of that.”

The word “maker” is used often and refers to those who run the bookstore, flower shop, brewery and restaurant. Indeed, the appreciation for everyone who has contributed to the restaurant is evident; the back of the menu will list all of the makers, “from the plumber to the person who put up the wallpaper,” Nolintha said.

They hope their place sparks community among the seemingly different concepts housed under one roof.

“The whole space exists as one,” Woodson said. “We want it be one cohesive experience.”

When a customer walks in, the flower shop and bookstore are immediately in front. The bookstore has a collection of 400 to 500 books about art, food, travel, literature and nonfiction.

The flower shop will be open at all times. It will sell custom pieces and bouquets, but also will have single stems and smaller bouquets for gift giving and impulse buys.

On the far left side of the restaurant is the taproom. Twenty taps will pour Belgian-inspired beers crafted by Woodson along with a few “guest” taps pouring local beers from Bhavana supporters – Trophy, Fullsteam Brewery and Ponysaurus.

Woodson, 30, got his start as a homebrewer and met Van, 31, a few years ago. Within a few months they decided to collaborate.

Many of the beers are farmhouse ales, or saisons, while Woodson said there will be some dry beers, too. A tasting at State of Beer on Wednesday was overwhelmingly successful. That was the first time the beer had been served to the public, and Woodson was pleased.

Woodson hopes they complement the food menu served in the dining room on the opposite side of the building.

Dim sum will be the star of the restaurant with 20 kinds of dumplings. There also will be regional Chinese dishes and soups along with classic Peking duck. The executive chef comes from Tao Asian Bistro in Las Vegas and has been busy training staff the delicate and labor-intensive craft of making dumplings.

And while diners are sipping beer, eating dumplings or buying flowers, they’re also invited to browse a library of up to 5,000 books on the back wall of the space. The books are donated from people in the community – from elected officials to restaurant mentors and family members to strangers.

Everyone is asked to donate a book that’s been important in their lives. Nolintha said it will be a “living archive” of people who live in the community.

They “really represent the hopes and dreams and those important places in our heart, that’s reflected on that shelf,” Nolintha said. “It really represents a moment in time.”

The Nolinthas and Woodson had been talking about the idea of opening a restaurant and brewery for years and had been searching for a space. When the Tir Na Nog space unexpectedly became available, it was a “monumental moment” for them, Nolintha said.

“It was one of those overwhelming moments in time, and you just surrender to the moment,” Nolintha said. “And the reason why things didn’t work out, there was something right coming our way.”

That’s how it’s been throughout the process of building Brewery Bhavana, which went through a few name changes along the way. When it was first announced in 2015, Plenty was the name.

The hybrid concept always has been a constant, though. Nolintha said he remembers when they first announced their plans.

“People were like, ‘What in the world? Why? What are they doing?,’ ” he said with a laugh. “It’s interesting now that the story of the combination of flowers, books, beer and dim sum, it’s out long enough that people are, ‘Of course, that’s exciting.’ 

Info: Brewery Bhavana is at 218 S. Blount St., Raleigh. brewerybhavana.com, facebook.com/brewerybhavana/

Jessica Banov: 919-829-4831; @jessicabanov

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