H-Street’s back, alright!
On a Friday night, a palpable energy is pulsating through the open dining space of Raleigh’s newly-minted H-Street Kitchen. Only two weeks into its infancy, the new Hillsborough Street gastropub was clearly anticipated judging by the bustling crowd, both young and older, seated throughout the expansive two-level restaurant.
The space, that once housed Hillsborough Street’s Varsity Theatre, is cozy yet inviting to passers-bys–important since it’s the latest inductee to the line of shiny outposts that have injected new life into one of the university’s main arteries. As part of the modification efforts, dubbed the “Hillsborough Street revitalization”, H-Street Kitchen joins the likes of Gonza Tacos y Tequila, Jubala Coffee, Pieology and Crêpe Traditions as a new neighbor, and as phase two of the street improvement project continues.
What H-Street Kitchen gets right is that it serves its audience beyond the black-red-white motif that likely is palatable to N.C. State fans. It bills itself as a place to congregate with friends and family, and to dine on good food and drink (H-Street Kitchen features 16 rotating taps). Like a gastropub, most of the food menu is comprised of elevated (yes, elevated) comfort foods like sandwiches, burgers and salads made with premium ingredients. Most sandwiches and burgers hover between the $9-$11 range, plenty affordable for a nice night out, even for students on tighter budgets.
Chef Adam Rose (previously of Chapel Hill’s Il Palio and Elaine’s) is not afraid to add some unexpected flourishes to the menu either. On it is a Southern spin to a Japanese staple: a pulled pork and collards ramen. Spaghetti is imbued with Southwestern flair in a dish called Chicken Spaghetti, made with chipotle-braised chicken, adobe and queso fresco. And, for those that are homesick while in Raleigh, H-Street Kitchen pays gastronomical homage to the beloved matriarch with Missing Mama, a Thanksgiving meal replete with turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry.
The night that I dropped in, I was particularly enamored by the Brussels sprouts at H Street Kitchen. It came in a sizeable portion, nicely embered, and bathed in a delightful tangy and savory “Saigon” vinaigrette that seemed to be a whisked concoction of rice wine vinegar, fish sauce and honey. At $5 from its snacks offerings, I thought it was a steal.
The veggie burger was especially delectable as well. Veggie burgers, though plenty en vogue (according to Grub Street) at the moment, can generally be hit-or-miss at restaurants, but H-Street Kitchen’s version, smashed with lentils, sweet potato, kidney beans and pistachios, held its shape up well. The hefty, moist veggie patty exuded a nice piquant flavor, and was not too dry and didn’t collapse after a few bites. It was particularly well-suited to the lemon and tomato salad that complemented the burger on top. The hand-cut fries were equally as tasty–crispy, not too salty and plentiful to share in its portion size.
Burger traditionalists might want to veer towards the Benny burger, a towering feat stacked with a fried disc of pimento cheese served over roasted peppers, pepper jelly and an all-natural Angus beef patty. My husband “wolfed” it down in minutes, with nary a fry left on the metal serving plate.
Our bill that Friday night, with craft beers, totaled a shade over $30 with tax and tip, which I thought was a great value given the quality of the fare. Service was bright and friendly, though a tad behind at the busiest time during the night. Still, I think H-Street Kitchen, with its solid menu and price point, will be very popular amongst the community and will hopefully become embedded as one of the street’s mainstays, joining the ranks of nearby institutions like Mitch’s Tavern and Player’s Retreat. It certainly is off to a rousing start; Hillsborough Street is finally “woke” and that’s something everyone can get behind.
H-STREET KITCHEN | 2420 Hillsborough Street Raleigh NC 27607 | 919.745.1983