Rosewater Kitchen & Bar; Photo by Jennifer Robertson

The Beautiful Balance

In December 2019/January 2020, Eatby Jane PorterLeave a Comment

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At Rosewater in North Hills, it’s the little things that make up the beauty of the big picture: baskets full of lemons, roses in glass vases on round bistro tables, rose gold light fixtures and plenty of greenery. 

Those who remember the Bruegger’s Bagels shop that occupied the space located between the Captrust and Bank of America buildings until 2017 would agree a substantial transformation has taken place. No more is it the generic bakery found in shopping centers and strip malls in cities large and small across the United States. Now, it’s the intimate, American-style bistro, serving Mediterranean small plates and comfort food dishes that Rosewater’s owner, Giorgios Bakatsias, envisioned.

“The space kind of winked at me,” says Bakatsias, a longtime fixture in the local dining scene. We’re sitting on Rosewater’s enclosed patio on a cloudy, rainy day but the space feels warm, like you’re in a greenhouse in wintertime, with its wood-paneled walls, soft lamplight and tall windows. “It was just a beautiful, sleepy garden and I saw it buzzing with energy, the piazza in the center of a community. I fell in love with the building, the architecture, the structure.” 

Giorgios Bakatsias; Photo by Jennifer Robertson
Giorgios Bakatsias; Photo by Jennifer Robertson

Bakatsias, whose Giorgios Hospitality Group also owns Vin Rouge, City Kitchen and Parizade in Durham and Chapel Hill’s Local 22 and Bin 54, personally designs all of his restaurants. This space, too, Bakatsias has made his own. 

“I wanted to mix the elements of what allows guests to feel happy,” he explains. “This, to me, felt joyful, whether rainy or sunny. I incorporated wood and elements of art and the right lighting. You feel it’s in this state of golden light, like at nighttime when everything radiates with it. It’s almost like a sunset, constantly.”

When developer John Kane of Kane Realty Corp. decided not to renew the Bruegger’s lease two years ago, he said at the time that he wanted, with this essential piece of real estate, to go in a different direction. Those wary of the chain restaurants and big box stores that often crop up in expensive new developments like North Hills were pleased to learn that the space’s new tenant wouldn’t be another national brand but a local entrepreneur. 

Mike Smith
Mike Smith

Mike Smith, the president and chief operating officer at Kane Realty, says the company is committed to supporting local restaurateurs and has been working intentionally to create great spaces for them and other local business owners. He points to Rosewater, as well as Coquette and Vivace, as examples of that commitment in North Hills. 

Downtown, Luang Prabang, a Laotian concept from the owners of Bida Manda and Brewery Bhavana, will occupy the marquee ninth floor space in The Dillon. And the upcoming Smoky Hollow development on West Street will, Smith says, have “a very targeted focus on local operators,” including local restaurants, bars, cafes, retailers and other business owners. 

“There are so many great local chefs and food purveyors in Raleigh and we are trying to create spaces and places in advance for what we believe is the need,” Smith says. “We know there is work that needs to be done together to make it a success. We want to make sure we’re thoughtful in the design as we think through it and try to anticipate what a local restaurateur is able to be.”

Bakatsias says roses signify balance to him, which is why he chose to name his newest restaurant “Rosewater.”

“Balance, whether it’s in food or spirituality, whether in fun and laughter, whatever life chooses to be and how it is, there is always some kind of balance that is necessary. [Here], we want to have this European romance but we spice it up some. I love the aroma of rosewater, but you have to use it in balance.”

Another aspect of life that requires balance? How we choose to build our communities. 

“I guess chains are necessary for this community to be successful,” Bakastias says, “but I was delighted that [Kane Realty] was responsible enough to realize that [this space] is a little jewel and they wanted it to be independent. I saw it, we both met and it was like this perfect marriage. I’m excited to see more of this so we can have a balance in the community.”

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