Cary, NC — Last weekend, on Saturday, March 28, 2015, I participated in a Triangle Food Tour of Downtown Cary. On the tour, I visited six downtown restaurants, sampled food from each and, with the help of a tour guide, learned some interesting facts about Cary’s history.
A Downtown Cary Food Tour
Triangle Food Tours are offered in Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Cary.
In a food tour, you’ll walk with a knowledgeable tour guide and a small group through downtown areas while stopping at some of the best restaurants in that town. At each stop, you get to taste the restaurant’s menu items and meet the owner.
Within the past year, several new restaurants have popped up all along Academy Street, so I took the Cary food tour to update CaryCitizen’s guide to downtown Cary restaurants. Our tour guide, Ruben, took us to the six Downtown Cary eateries listed below.
If you’re wondering why a drugstore is a dining hot spot in Downtown Cary, then you haven’t been to Ashworth’s. It’s not just a drugstore; rather, it’s an old-fashioned soda fountain that sells Jesse James hot dogs, freshly squeezed lemonade and orangeade, flavored sodas, and warm sandwiches made with homemade chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad and more.
People that live and work close to downtown know it as a great place to grab a quick, delicious lunch. And, of course, it’s also a great pharmacy. Ashworth’s is one of the only drugstores in the area that delivers prescriptions to Cary residents for free. The staff is constantly supporting the community by hiring local students and working with nearby schools.
Address: 105 West Chatham Street, Downtown Cary
Also located in Ashworth Village is a bakery that has been known as Blue Moon since 2002. Its reputation for high-quality, fresh baked goods is unmatched in Cary and, inside, you can find a wide assortment of breads, sandwiches, cookies and, most notably, cakes.
Blue Moon has a menu of 30+ specialty cakes, but customers can order special occasion (or anytime cakes) however they’d like. The bakery expertly decorates the cakes based on customers’ requests. On the food tour, each member of our group tried a slice of white cake with raspberry puree and a white chocolate mouse.
Address: 115 West Chatham Street, Downtown Cary
Belle at the Jones House
Belle, a farm-to-table restaurant with a charming atmosphere, rests inside Downtown Cary’s historic Jones house. Owner Tammy Calaway-Harper served us her own take on the brunch classic, chicken and waffles, and explained to us how special Belle is.
She named the restaurant after her grandmother, decorated it with personal touches and made it her mission to cook with as many locally-sourced ingredients as she could. The rosemary in the honey we tasted was even picked out of her garden out back. Belle serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but customers can also drop by for a homemade baked good and a cup of coffee. The environment, which offers porch sitting in warmer weather, is unmatched.
Address: 324 South Academy Street, Downtown Cary
Crosstown Pub was the newest stop on the tour. The family-owned restaurant recently re-located and re-named their prior business to move into the heart of downtown. They have 13 beers on tap, 11 of which are local. Crosstown also features a full menu of hand-crafted appetizers and entrees, including their specialty, fish and chips.
During the tour, our group enjoyed bruschetta and beef jerky–both homemade–and a sample of IPA beer. Crosstown Pub is a great addition to Downtown Cary because it offers affordable, yet quality, food in a laid-back, friendly atmosphere. It’s the perfect place for lunch, dinner or to grab a snack and beer.
Address: 140 East Chatham Street, Downtown Cary
Chocolate Smiles has been around for 31 years. Its current owner, Melanie, enthusiastically shared with our group an inside look at how “real chocolate” is made. Chocolate Smiles buys real chocolate, made with cocoa butter instead of oils, from a chocolate maker.
Then, using tempering kettles, she and her staff of “chocolatiers” turn the blocks into tasty chocolates–any kind you could imagine. Right now, to celebrate Easter, the shop carries a large assortment of chocolate bunnies and eggs. Melanie explained to us that the “snap” you hear when you bite into the chocolate lets you know of its quality.
Address: 312 West Chatham Street, Downtown Cary
Academy Street Bistro
Brian Fitzgerald worked as a chef in New York before he came to Cary to open Academy Street Bistro. At the bistro, customers can enjoy a fine dining experience in an open, elegant atmosphere. The menu changes every couple of months, and Chef Fitzgerald expertly plans and creates each item. Our tour group sampled wine, soup, a crab cake and a salad.
Address: 200 South Academy Street, Downtown Cary
A Little Bit of Cary History
Triangle Food Tours aren’t just about the food. Tour guides are trained to share with the group interesting information about both the restaurants they visit as well as the landmarks they pass.
For example, have you ever noticed the long, 150 foot mural on the side of the mattress warehouse on West Chatham Street? Ruben, our tour guide, told us a bit about the mural, which was completed in 2003 and depicts Cary from 1850 to 2002.
Take a Food Tour
On TripAdvisor, the food tour was ranked #1 out of the 13 best activities to do in Cary. It was also described as, “The best way to get to know the town.”
You can make a reservation online to take a Triangle Food Tour.
Story and photos by Jessica Patrick.