With its iconic vintage railcars, roaring fireplaces and Art Deco decor, Southern Rail has long commanded one corner of the Carr Mill Mall complex in Carrboro. Along with The Station, the historic train-depot-turned-bar that has hosted acts like Nick Lowe, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Dex Romweber (without once charging a cover), you’ve got one of the most unique places to grab a bite or a drink in the Triangle.
And for $450,000, it could be yours.
After eight years at the helm, owner Mike Benson is selling the entire establishment to focus on the expansion of another venture in Washington, D.C., and to spend more time with his family.
“I’ve got two daughters, ages 8 and 11, and I just can’t get enough of hanging out with them,” Benson says. “Running this restaurant full-time isn’t quite as appealing as it used to be.”
The restaurant, which is partially housed in several rail cars (with additional indoor seating and a pet-friendly patio between them), represents a $1.2 million investment for Benson, who outfitted the cars with a HVAC system, electrical, plumbing and a full kitchen.
He only has one requirement for the sale.
“I truly love this place, and I worked so hard to build it, that I just don’t want it to go to someone who is going to do something terrible with it!” Benson says, laughing mightily.
“But really, the kitchen has always made solid, diner-style food, but I’m not a chef. I went to arts school! I think a good, food-driven chef could really kick the restaurant up a notch.”
With the recently renovated Cat’s Cradle, Fleet Feet Sports and completed Hampton Inn all within eyesight of Southern Rail—plus Weaver Street Market and Carr Mill Mall next door—the location doesn’t lack for foot traffic.
And for Benson? He and his daughters ran the Reindeer Romp in Cary this weekend. Now, they’re hoping to gain a competitive edge in Wilmington, where the 5K courses are notoriously flat.