Chapel Hill News

Cafe Symmetry offers eclectic menu, cafeteria style

Cafe Symmetry has opened in the former Panzanella space in Carr Mill Mall.
Cafe Symmetry has opened in the former Panzanella space in Carr Mill Mall. contributed photo

Café Symmetry has opened in Carr Mill Mall in the old Panzanella spot behind Weaver Street, bringing a refreshing balance of art, food, signature drinks at the bar and affordable pricing.

“We brought together local talent to design the restaurant, make the furniture and outdoor fireplace and showcase their art on our walls,” said owner and manager Cindy McMahan. 

The restaurant’s first featured artist is Jacques Menache, the founder of The ArtsCenter whose favorite format is large abstract paintings. A new local artist will be featured quarterly.

The café is filled with natural light, plants and waterfalls, with a menu full of wild caught fish, natural meat, fresh salads, bison chili, panini, vegan and gluten-free options and creative deserts like avocado pie.

But how does all of that add up to affordable prices? The average meal with a drink is ten to fifteen dollars.

“I wanted to start eating healthier and to open a restaurant that gave you those healthy options without the higher prices,” said McMahan, who also co-owns Elmo’s in Carrboro.

So, she cut out all wait staff and bussers from the equation. 

“I decided to make it cafeteria style,” she said. “We jokingly call it the ‘fresheteria.’”

“You walk through and pick out your food like you did in grade school. Only this time, you love what you eat.”

She continued her creativity at the bar with signature drinks like Passion Fruit and Beet Margaritas and Blue Berry Mint Martinis.

“We had fun with it,” she said. “The crew all came to my house and we made our own simple syrups and came up with a few great signature drinks.”

The café seems to have hit a good note locally.

“We have only been open for two weeks, and we already have regulars and know them by name!” she said.

The café opens from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. all week, with the bar staying open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.

In other business

▪ Vapor Girl Inc. held a ribbon cutting on their new store July 17. Vape Girl Inc. manufactures over 270 flavors of “e-liquid” extracted from North Carolina tobacco. Started in Chapel Hill in 2012, they now have a 5,000 square-foot factory as well as five full service vape stores in Chapel Hill, Durham, Burlington and Pittsboro. They are now located at 1821 N. Fordham Blvd. in Chapel Hill.

DeAnna Overmann has been a reporter in Orange County for fifteen years and resides in Carrboro. For questions and business news please contact her at

Artist’s reception Sunday

If you haven’t caught Jacques Menache’s art at Cafe Symmetry in Carrboro you have one more weekend.

Menache, an artist and electrician, and his partner, agent, and collaborator Mary Votta are inviting the public to a closing reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Cafe Symmetry will be open for regular food service cafeteria style and a choice of complimentary beverages will be offered to those attending the reception.

The show features 11 mixed media art works, some previously shown during Menache’s annual exhibits in the former Panzanella which previously occupied this space.

Menache paints microbiological landscapes, in mixed media, often quite large (5 by 6 feet) inspired by scientific observation through microscopes of all kinds, including the electron microscope. Some smaller pieces are proportioned as microscope slides and populated with amoebas, protozoa, paramecia and bacteria.

Menache was born in Paris, France, and moved to Mexico City at age 7, where he attended the french Lycee (High School). He studied art at the University's Academia San Carlos in the mid 60's where he had the good fortune of apprenticing with the muralist Siqueiros and other great Mexican artists.

It was there in art school that he met Amy Abernethy from Chapel Hill North Carolina and decided to move here. Jacques first went to NC Central in Durham in 1969 then enrolled in the MFA program at UNC and graduated in 1973.

staed the ArtsCenter in Carrboro in 1974.

Growing from a loft above Armadillo Grill, to a warehouse in Carr Mill and later to the old Piggly Wiggly on Main Street where the ArtsCenter is currently housed. Jacques resigned in 1988 and became an artist/ electrician.

Menache has wired many restaurants in the area and does commercial electrical work for Weaver Street Market.