Capital Club 16 is a labor of love and a peek into the past
Passing through the curtained vestibule of Capital Club 16 is like stepping back in time to yesteryear, a golden age, the good old days. Soaring ceilings, dark wood, antique paintings and expansive windows lend the space on the ground floor of the historic, Art Deco-style Capital Club building a classic feel; it’s a timelessness that’s reflected in the restaurant’s menu, which brims with hearty but refined fare.
Owners Jake and Shannon Wolf opened the downtown eatery the better part of a decade ago with an old-fashioned aesthetic and a perennial desire to feed their community.
“Building something from the ground up, having it be worth its weight and creating an energy, creating a vibe, creating a place where people can come hang on a special occasion…and seeing it take off and become what it’s become, is rewarding,” says Jake Wolf, who is also the executive chef.
Guests come for the food, a mix of traditional American and European dishes with a German influence, and often leave as friends.
“We’ve met so many people who came in as customers and now they’re good friends of ours,” says Shannon Wolf, who runs the back end and plans the restaurant’s many events.
This summer, the co-working community HQ Raleigh expanded into the Capital Club building’s top five floors, giving the space a makeover and a shot of enthusiasm with HQ members adding to Capital Club 16’s already lively business.
“We’re excited that the building has this new life and energy,” Shannon says. “You can tell that they all love being here.”
Jake and Shannon first met growing up together in Southern Pines. They went their separate ways, he to culinary school at The Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, and she to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and then to Furman University in South Carolina before earning a master’s degree in writing from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Ten years later, they reconnected. By then, Jake was an experienced chef with stints in Atlanta, Telluride, Boston, and at a destination hotel in Schwendi, Germany. Shannon was living in New York City, working as a writer and producer on shows for networks, including Oxygen, Discovery and CBS. Jake moved to the Big Apple to be with Shannon, but when she became pregnant with their son, they moved back to North Carolina with their dog Tiny, a Brussels Griffon they call the “queen of the house.” They decided to open their own place.
“We looked at other areas, other towns, but we really liked the energy here in Raleigh,” Jake says. “There was a lot of restaurant activity going on (at the time) and we liked downtown.”
The couple’s restaurant vision shifted as they toured various listings but when they viewed the space at the corner of Martin and Salisbury Streets, they knew exactly what they wanted Capital Club 16 to be.
“We just fell in love with it,” says Jake. “We were still living in New York when we signed the lease so then we had a really fun time going around New York City trying to figure out some decor items that would fit in this place.”
They chose furnishings with history: Art Deco chairs from the now defunct Horn and Hardart automat, a restaurant with banks of coin-operated compartments filled with single-serve sandwiches and pies; tables built from salvaged North Carolina-milled heart pine lumber; a bar top crafted of wood once used to build docks along the Neuse River; and a bar and backbar made from reclaimed wood from the famous Lüchow’s Restaurant, a onetime mainstay in New York City that remained open for a century.
The couple decorated the walls sparingly, with family paintings and meaningful mementos, and they carried the heirloom idea through to the menu. The kitchen offers legacy recipes, such as Jake’s grandmother’s sausage gravy—a popular dish for Sunday brunch—as well as sausages and dumplings he learned to make in Germany.
The menu also offers seasonal and locally-sourced produce from area farms, including Raleigh City Farm, Laurel Branch Gardens and Farmers’ Collective, plus regionally-raised meats, sausages from Weeping Radish and Carolina coast seafood from Locals Seafood.
Dishes are eclectic, with a mix of carnivore and vegetarian fare. Items like the Farmer’s Veggie and Rice Bowl and The Sparrow sandwich with Carolina Moon brie, provolone, spinach, apples, caramelized onion and sunflower seeds share billing with the Bavarian Sausage Platter and the Rahmschnitzel. The brunch menu boasts favorites like the Steak and Eggs, a full English breakfast and Challah Bread French Toast with bourbon syrup and a cheese grit cake.
Capital Club’s drink menu is well-curated, with local and European beers, wines and classic cocktails, including the Old Fashioned and the Dark and Stormy. It’s no wonder the restaurant hops on the weekends, with busy dinners and bustling Saturday and Sunday brunches.
“What we do here is what we would do at home, what we’ve always done,” says Jake. “It’s a very comfortable feel, a culmination of different places that I’ve cooked and the food that I like to eat, and the food that Shannon likes to eat…We’re very happy here, and it’s a fun thing to be able to work for yourself and with your partner, and I wouldn’t want to change any of it.” ■