After 21 years of serving authentic Cuban and Argentinian cuisine, family-owned Oakwood Café has closed its bright red Edenton Street storefront for good.
The quaint eatery is one of the latest local restaurants to shutter as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on downtown Raleigh’s culinary scene.
“Downtown is dead,” cafe owner Norberto Meccia told the INDY.
Speaking on the phone Monday while cooking risotto at home, Meccia says business had been fine prior to the pandemic, but after the state banned dine-in service at restaurants in March, Meccia saw his sales drop by about 80 percent.
“Who can survive that?” Meccia says. “Nobody.”
The cafe is at least the fourth restaurant downtown to close permanently this month, beginning with Ashley Christensen’s decision to close Wilmginton Street burger bar Chuck’s and followed by the closure of twin Salisbury Street eateries Linus & Pepper’s and Virgil’s Tacos last week.
Oakwood Café specialized in authentic Cuban staples like picadillo and ropa vieja as well as Argentinian classics like churrasco with chimichurri sauce, according to the website.
Meccia ran the business with his wife and daughters. Now that the café is closed he’s not sure what will come next for his family.
“Social security is not enough,” Meccia says, “but we’re gonna do something, soon we’re gonna do something.”
Veronica Creech, director of economic development for the City of Raleigh, wandered into Oakwood Café when she and her husband moved to the neighborhood. It was a delightful experience, she says, noting the variety of flavors and international influence captured on the menu.
Watching the pandemic’s effect on the local restaurant industry has been sad and deflating, Creech says.
“At the same time,” Creech says, “when I speak with restaurant owners one-on-one, there’s a mixed bag of resilience and tenacity and determination, all the way to, ‘We did everything we could do, and we just can’t wrestle this bear.’”
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