Whenever I move to a new area or visit for an extended length of time, one of the first things I am sure to do is scour the nearby shops and eateries for my own little nook or cranny to fill. I spend a lot of my time reading, writing, or just relaxing while I work and I prefer to do it in a calm environment that can offer some good food or drink when needed, and does not mind me hanging around. When I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina I found my niche rather quickly in Mitch's Tavern. Mitch's Tavern (often simply referred to as "Mitch's" by the locals) is a quiet little pub that offers students, professors, and workers a place to eat on Hillsborough Street for both lunch and dinner. When I walked into Mitch's for the first time a warm swept over me and a feeling of home settled inside me; I knew that this would be my area.
When you pull back the old wooden door leading to Mitch's you are immediately met with a worn, well-traveled wooden staircase. The staircase is steep and takes you to a dim but cozy little pub overlooking Hillsborough Street and the North Carolina State University campus. There is a wooden bar that is clean but shows many little knicks (I got a strong feeling of history in this place, and I like to believe that each of those nicks had a story of its own), and wooden booths and chairs set at dark wooden tables. The wooden floorboards complete the "old city tavern" feel of the restaurant, and the walls are lined with character. There are old beach bikes hanging from the ceiling, toy planes flying over the bar, photos, autographs, and cool little memoirs (famous newspapers and wanted posters) all over the walls. Each way you turn there is something else "cool" to look at that makes you realize you are not just at another bar and grill. I doubt I'll be able to return to one of the plethora of gimmicky bar and grills sprouting up all over the nation after visiting Mitch's. Call me spoiled, but it just would not feel the same.
While you may be first pulled into Mitch's because of the decorations, character, or dining experience, you'll probably come back for the food. This is not just bar food for you to munch on while you pound back the brews, this is food you can tell the chefs pride themselves on. From the honey filled melon to the Cuban sandwich, Mitch's offers a great variety of real flavor at easily affordable prices. A few of my personal favorites include:
The Vegetarian Chili – This is a chili filled with beans and spices, and flavored with mixed and minced vegetables. It comes with tortilla chips and toppings (salsa, sour cream, and cheese is placed on top of the chili), and if you're looking for a little extra "bite" there are jalapeños mixed in.
The London Broil – This sandwich was what first made me drag all of my friends to Mitch's and is always my recommendation if someone does not know what to order. Thin slices of real steak are layered between two pieces of toasted bread and are slathered with spiced mayonnaise. The sandwich is served with potato chips and pickle, the perfect lunchtime meal.
Mitch's is also a historic part of the downtown Raleigh area. It has been there for decades, and has seen many college professors, graduates, honored guests, and celebrities pass through its doors (with signatures an comments from some of them!). It has become an iconic part of the near-university area, and besides just being open for lunch daily it has become wrapped up in many student activities (some university sponsored and some not) such as meet-ups, exam week specials, and the accused Halloween night "Hillsborough Hike" (a bar crawl that centers around costumes and local pubs). If you are looking for a place to eat, hang out, watch the news, or even to get some work done in Raleigh be sure to take a look at Mitch's. I've been all over the city since, and have found quite a few memorable restaurants, but I always come back to Mitch's in the end. You just can not beat that London Broil.