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The Many S’s of Side Street Restaurant [updated]

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Oakwood lies a restaurant specializing in all the S’s: soups, salads, sandwiches, and sweets. Continuing on the “Side” theme, the menu is broken down according to what type of “Side” you’d like: “A Bit on the Warm Side”, “The Green Side”, “The Lighter Side”, “Our Best Side”, and “Side Kicks”.

Side Street Restaurant is a sole proprietership run by Mary Lu Wooten, although both of her brothers also work there. She bought the place in the summer of 1979, which means that this year will mark the 30th year in operation. Previously named the Corner Cupboard, the name was changed to Side Street by the previous owner prior to her taking over. When she first began running the restaurant, there were only 4 or 5 places to eat in the downtown area, including the Capital Room in the now gone Hudson Belk on Fayetteville Street.

According to the official web site, the building once served as a grocery, grill, laundry, and a church. The earliest tax records of the building date to 1916, but there is evidence that it was built around the turn of the century. Initially, the restaurant only occupied the space seen in the image above. As business grew over the years, she expanded to the neighboring spaces (which have seperate addresses) until eventually it occupied the entire building.


The original menu from 1979

In addition to serving as a restaurant during lunches and dinners, Side Street also offers catering for cocktail parties, corporate events, weddings, and other social events. You can also have a private party here when the restaurant isn’t normally open for business (all day Sunday as well as Monday and Saturday evenings).

A group of friends celebrating a local holiday gather outside Side Street in 1996. Notice the little canine habitue (left) mentioned in a comment below.

Another group of friends celebrating the same local holiday in 1991. This photo was taken in the same dining room shown above

When dropping in to grab a bite to eat shortly before closing time (9:00PM) I was the only customer; but I didn’t feel awkward or out of place. Mary Lu described Side Street as “More of a home than a business”, and I can see why. In addition to the charm of a locally-owned and operated restaurant that’s been in the neighborhood for several decades, the interior décor included several photographs and paintings of the neighborhood from years past. I was also surprised at the depth of the menu and all of the “S” options provided. I opted for a long time favorite: a toasted cheese sandwich with a cup of tomato dill soup (and it was delicious).

Located about a block away from the Governor’s Mansion, it’s a short trip for lunch if you work downtown, and a quick trip for dinner if you live downtown. Visit Mary Lu sometime and experience one of the many “sides” this place has to offer. Be sure to bring cash though–Side Street doesn’t accept debit/credit cards.

Menu 1
Menu 2
Menu 3
Beverages

225 North Bloodworth Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
919-828-4927


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