Don’t be confused—I didn’t travel to Saudi Arabia. Mecca is a small down-home lunch counter and restaurant in downtown Raleigh. I went there for lunch yesterday and was thrilled by what I found. It’s a gem.
My dad recommended this place when I first moved to Raleigh. He would frequently join the courthouse bailiffs for lunch in the county seats across N.C.. I suspect that’s how he got the inside scoop on Mecca and the privileged information of a great number of other local joints between Manteo and Murphy. Location makes this place a prime lunch spot for the downtown crowd. I noticed several people picking up lunch to-go and take back to the office. Suits strolled in for a casual business lunch. Others parked it at the counter. It’s accommodating and relaxed for all walks of life.
So what’s on the menu? Something for everyone, made the down-home Southern way. I didn’t read much further than “Pan-fried, ocean fresh filet of trout w/ coleslaw.” But they have a two-page menu of favorite comfort foods.
Entrées come with a choice of two vegetables (also listed above), yeast rolls and hush puppies and coffee or iced tea. I selected cheddar cheese mashed potatoes and buttered June peas. The food was delicious and simple, portioned perfectly to fit snugly in the little plate compartments. The coleslaw was the sweet variety. Mashed potatoes were smooth and cheesy. Peas cooked to mushy. The frying batter was nice and not too heavy on the trout. The sweet tea is remarkable.
Here are some of the other lunch entrées ordered at my table.
As you can see, these are portions for grown-ups. Hungry grown-ups.
The Mecca is clearly one of Raleigh’s great institutions. It’s been around for nearly 80 years! And I imagine much of their winning formula has remained unchanged over the years, despite the many changes around it. The Progress Energy building now looms overhead, Busy Bee and Slim’s are located around the corner, Bail Bonds and parking garages moved in down the street, and Fayetteville street activity is just a block away. But inside Mecca you’ll still get simple Southern food, mindful service and a friendly crowd.
I love the decor at Mecca: the tile floor, a wall of wooden booths, an old cash register and a bright red counter with matching chairs. Photographs behind the counter tout the patronage of Mayor Meeker and former governors Martin and Hunt, as well as other local celebrities. And behind the counter, next to the range hood hangs a framed portrait of FDR. While I was paying my bill (cash only!) I overheard someone say that the N.C. Supreme Court Justices were supposed to be coming to Mecca soon to eat and have a portrait taken. And that’s just neat!
I’m looking forward to adding Mecca to the rotation. And I hear the spaghetti’s good. Next time…