The giant new development on Route 54 doesn’t look like much from the street – just a massive brick complex, seemingly dominated by a parking garage. But, this past week I got to check out the scene inside the plaza, which feels surprisingly hip thanks to the restaurants and shops mixed in with the office space.
My first trip was to drop off my sister at the Aloft hotel – I figured anyone going to spend two years in Ethiopia living in a mud hut deserved a good night’s sleep on a comfy bed! A Living Social deal meant that the price was a mere $55 & included two cocktails; while current specials aren’t as good, they’re certainly not too shabby. Their funky lounge feels more like a club, and my sister’s experience echoed a previous positive review from some visiting friends. The hotel is part of a boutique chain run by the W.
Later on, Harold and I returned to try out the latest branch of Saffron – we had been to their weekend brunch in Morrisville and overall, liked it. Our meal here was good considering that we used yet another Living Social deal to get half off. Otherwise, I’ve never seen Indian food so expensive outside of high-end concept places in NYC. Unfortunately, I’m not sure $20+/entree for Indian food is going to cut it in North Carolina, although I did notice they’re on restaurant.com, for those seeking continued bargains.
Across the street, Piola’s outdoor patio seemed busy, although their gourmet wood-fired pizza & pasta isn’t too different from nearby Brixx. Still, we’ll give it a try along with the other East 54 additions (sushi & sub shops).
Last but not least, Harold’s long been a fan of the summer concert series in their stage area – a little odd that you have to sit out in the parking lot to get a good view, but we’ll take it! We dragged camping chairs onto the concrete in front of the performers, which turned out to be a decent way to maximize use of the space, especially since cars were blocked off from that end of the complex. John Cowan – a former Doobie Brother – was a crowd pleaser, and local restaurants offered food & drinks. Especially appreciated? Being a two-minute drive away from home.
I should mention that Cowan was the third free performer we’d seen just in that evening – earlier, we caught some blues on the front lawn of the Carolina Inn, and then went to the American Tobacco Campus to enjoy the Mostly Mountain Boys. There, we grabbed some Mellow Mushroom to go and made a picnic out of it. Mellow Mushroom isn’t real pizza in the New York style sense (See thick whole-wheat crust/failure to drown in olive oil/lack of hot gooeyness!), but it is yummy. Hard to complain, in fact, about anything the ATC has to offer. Our only regret is that we might have to miss the upcoming rubber ducky race and Music Maker benefit concert in October. Go in our place and at least bet on the race outcome!