Coffee Shop

1 Weekend, 8 New Raleigh Hotspots

Last summer, the husband and I moved away from the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina after spending eight years watching the cities expand and their food scenes skyrocket off the heat-charts. Seriously, the New York Times is obsessed with the place! So I was excited to head back for the weekend in mid-September—my head’s still spinning from the other side of the country over all the new foodie destinations that have sprung up just this past year.

Downtown Raleigh

Downtown Raleigh

While my husband gave a presentation at NC DevCon, I decided to spend my weekend exploring as many of downtown Raleigh’s newly opened spots as possible. Why Raleigh and not the rest of the Triangle? I had no car and was staying downtown. It’s that simple. I needed to focus on places I could walk to.

After our flight in, my first stop was Jose and Sons (327 W. Davie St.) for dinner. It’s the newest incarnation of one of my favorite Triangle restaurants, Jibarra, located in the fast-redeveloping Warehouse District right by the train depot.

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Jose and Sons is now more Southern-Mexican fusion, whereas it had been pure upscale Mexican food in the past. While I remain skeptical about the value of $8 guacamole—

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–and the shrimps and grits didn’t have nearly enough heat for me—

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–I have to give solid props to the Booze and Mango cocktail.

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That’s dessert in a glass, and it’s a beautifully balanced one, too. Vanilla rum, Grand Marnier, cream, and what Jose and Son’s calls a mango popsicle and I’d call a mango-flavored ice cube make for a worthy night cap.

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Red Blossom Tea Tasting at Café 4

Dragon Pearl white tea

Dragon Pearl white tea

Last week, I took part in a free Chinese tea tasting held at Café 4, one of my favorite coffee shops round these parts. One of these days, I’m going to give Café 4 its own post to highlight how awesome it is, but for now, just know that you can find it right near these guys.

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Yep, Café 4 is housed in Castro Valley’s Neighborhood Church, easily recognizable by those three crosses whether you’re driving or BARTing in. The coffee shop resides in the church sanctuary’s foyer.

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And yes, it is that beautiful. But enough about Café 4 for now. We’re talking tea!

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Namely, the teas offered by Red Blossom Tea located in San Francisco’s Chinatown. This company flies to China multiple times a year to procure their wares, and the care they take in making quality selections shows.

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I was impressed by how easily Alice, daughter of Red Blossom Tea’s founders, explained the basic concepts of what they look for: which mountain the tea comes from, what elevation the tea is grown at, and what time of year it’s harvested.

The dried versions of the teas we were about to sample.

The dried versions of the teas we were about to sample.

I was also impressed by how easily she and her assistant navigated the 20 of us gathered for the tasting.

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I did not expect that many people for a tea tasting at a relatively unknown coffee shop! Good job getting the word out, Café 4.

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Zocalo Coffee House

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Zocalo is a large, 16-year-old coffee shop in San Leandro, one of the quite appealing little cities in the East Bay just south of Oakland. The shop feels very welcoming with a friendly, smiling staff and a mix of families and laptop junkies like myself on a weekday afternoon. Ye olde local art on the walls and a mix of hanging curtains and dark-amber lighting fixtures give the cavernous open room a touch of personality.

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Plenty of places to sit, and there are outlets to be found against the walls and free Wi-Fi. They have pretty much every type of seating you could want including a children’s play area in back.

There’s a small selection of baked goods, but that doesn’t mean an uninteresting one. I had a bacon-scallion scone, which bore a lot of resemblance to a cheddar biscuit both texturally and in flavor.

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It was very fluffy, and much like a quiche, the fillings travelled to the bottom of the scone except for the thick layer of cheddar, bacon, and scallions sprinkled on top. That made for a good mix of ingredients without feeling too heavy. There was a lot of cheese throughout the treat.

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