September 6, 2015
Downtown Raleigh’s annual Hopscotch Festival is underway this Thursday afternoon, recruiting big-name acts alongside local and regional must-see favorites. Although it’s the impressive and eclectic musical line-up that brings national attention to the festival each year, the food scene is certainly a sector that shines out in festival glory. The literal thousands of eager music-lovers that usurp the city streets are bound to get hungry over the three-day festival, and luckily Raleigh restaurants are just as eclectic, and as eager to perform, as the musicians reigning over the multiple stages.
Below is CLTure’s interview with two featured veg-friendly restaurants, The Fiction Kitchen (428 S Dawson Street) co-owner, Siobhan Southern, and Thai/Japanese Shabu Shabu GM Peter Simpson (3080 Wake Forest Rd in the Holly Park Shopping Center) General Manager, Peter Simpson, discussing the Hopscotch music and food partnership. For instance, when concerning local economy, The Fiction Kitchen transforms into Nacho Mami’s Tacos each year during Hopscotch and augments their menu to a lower price point with faster service and longer hours.
CLTure: How has Hopscotch Music Festival affected the local economy in Raleigh over the years?
Siobhan Southern (Fiction Kitchen): I’m not sure that I can give you an educated answer about that, but I do feel like that festival put Raleigh “on the map” in a new way. Obviously an influx of thousands of people has a huge impact on the downtown area, but it also deters a lot of regular clientele who may not have any interest in the festival and decide to avoid downtown that weekend altogether. I will say from a personal view, our restaurant has a slight increase in customers, but they tend to be customers on a tight budget who usually have only a short time between shows. For that reason we choose to transform into Nacho Mami’s Tacos each year during Hopscotch, and augment our menu to a lower price point with faster service and longer hours. Our goal is to not only attract the busy festival concert goers, but feed them so well that they come back more than once over the three days.
Peter Simpson (Shabu Shabu): Over the years, Hopscotch has been an annual event that attracts lots of people from other states to Raleigh. This in turn enhances revenue greatly to the city.
CLTure: Is Raleigh a well cultured culinary city? Is the average palate starting to become more complex or is it still very much a meat potato city.
Siobhan Southern (Fiction Kitchen): The food culture in Raleigh has grown immensely in the last 10 years. Southern comfort food and barbecue are still overwhelmingly the most popular things (I would guess) overall, but there are several new restaurants in the downtown area that are pushing the envelope and pushing people’s palates in new, necessary directions.
Peter Simpson (Shabu Shabu): More than ever before Raleigh now boasts of varied culinary cultures from far and wide. It’s no longer the traditional American cuisine.
CLTure: What are some of the most popular dishes on your menu and your personal favorites?
Siobhan Southern (Fiction Kitchen): We have become very well known for our vegan versions of some classic Southern comfort foods like “chicken” and waffles, biscuits and gravy, and Eastern N.C. pulled “pork”. However, my personal favorites are often the ones we change every few days like the soup, the locavore salad and the farmer’s plate. While we source the vast majority of our food locally, those three items always highlight the bounty of fresh local produce we receive daily, directly from the farmers who grew it!
Peter Simpson (Shabu Shabu): The most popular plate at Shaba Shabu is chicken red curry followed by pad Thai shrimp. Wolfpack and shaba rolls are the most popular on our sushi menu.
CLTure: Has the vegetarian food scene in Raleigh grown substantially in the last few years?
Siobhan Southern (Fiction Kitchen): I would say vegetarian options everywhere have increased in the last few years. For decades, vegetarian options on menus have been pretty limited to salads, bean burritos, hummus plates, cheese pizzas and overcooked vegetables. We opened Fiction Kitchen because we craved locally sourced produce prepared thoughtfully and creatively, that would be as satisfying as all the comfort foods that we grew up eating, but just happen to be vegetarian. While we are still the only 100% vegetarian restaurant in town, I think we have succeeded in creating an inviting atmosphere where the words “vegan” and “vegetarian” don’t seem so restrictive, and omnivores are surprised at how much flavor a vegetarian meal can have when it’s done right.
Peter Simpson (Shabu Shabu): Most of the North Carolina restaurants are now, more than ever, catering for the vegetarian communities. It is a must-have concept just like the gluten-free menus.
CLTure: Who are some of your favorite Carolina bands?
Siobhan Southern (Fiction Kitchen): Horizontal Hold, Soon, Whatever Brains, Birds of Avalon, Shitty Boots, Black Zinfandel, Deep Sleeper, Fleshwounds, Heads on Sticks, Wahyas, Bandages, Enemy Waves, Grohg, Natural Causes…. really there are so many local bands I could go on and on.
It’s 2015, an era when people have accepted, if only slightly and in the back of their minds, an earth-friendlier responsibility to their diets and ways of life. Vegan diets do not restrict any fun from your tastebuds, and Raleigh restaurants stick out against the meaty alternatives that can weigh down any festival attendee. So, in the midst of the heat-heavy downtown streets, be sure to hydrate and check out the following other veggie oasis’ for top-notch veg-friendly eats.
Shabu Shabu: (3080 Wake Forest Rd in the Holly Park Shopping Center)
Irregardless Cafe: (901 W Morgan Street) “Veteran cafe offering a global menu of locally-sourced fare.”
The Remedy Diner: (137 E Hargett Street) “Alternative diner serving a vegetarian- & vegan-friendly comfort-food menu, plus local craft beers.”
Aladdin’s Eatery: (6325 Falls of Neuse Rd OR 8201 Brier Creek Parkway) “Vegetarian & Vegan Middle Eastern”
Gringo A Go Go: (100 N Person Street) “Home to incredibly fine-flavored Mexican food, delicious house-made beverages, and just an all-around good time.”
Sosta Cafe: (130 E Davie Street) “Cafe serving coffee, espresso, panini & desserts in a simple space showing off local artwork.”
Sitti: (137 S Wilmington Street) “Modern versions of Lebanese dishes served in an airy room with a communal table & art deco bar.”
Lilly’s Pizza: (1813 Glenwood Avenue) “Casual stop for gourmet pizzas made with organic ingredients, including vegan & gluten free options.”
Full 2015 Hopscotch Music Festival Lineup