Where Youssef 242 in downtown Hickory once stood, you will find Café Rule & Wine Bar, which has a new and improved location, menu, aesthetic, and even a new name. The restaurant has added live music on the weekends, Sunday brunch, and a full bar. But what’s most important hasn’t changed: fresh and local ingredients, delicious food, and friendly service. Café Rule is just breathing new life into its old practices — and doing it with style. “Our whole business model is about breaking the rules, so there are a lot of plays on the name,” says Meghan Stout, Café Rule’s marketing manager. “For example, we don’t believe in pairing a specific wine with a specific food.” Another instance of rule-breaking? Dessert is listed first on the menu.
Café Rule approaches familiar foods in innovative ways. For evidence, look to the House Bacon Stack appetizer, which boasts pepper bacon, fried green tomato, goat cheese, and chipotle mayonnaise. Save room for the Bloody Mary Shrimp & Grits with pickled okra and a fried egg. Even the collard greens have a twist; they are braised in an IPA from Charlotte’s Unknown Brewing Company. Keeping things local is crucial to sous chef Rick Dorherr, who makes weekly trips to Hickory’s farmers market, usually with his four children in tow, where he’ll stock up on fresh produce for the ever-changing menu. “Everyone in the farmers market knows him, and he has a great relationships with the local farmers,” says Stout. “Each fall they’ll go through seed catalogs to decide what they want to grow for the following season.”
In addition to renovations and new décor, Café Rule has introduced two new spaces for private entertaining: the chef’s table and its accompanying outdoor patio complete with plush seating and a fireplace. The table offers diners an exclusive, behind-the-scenes experience, including a large TV screen with a live stream of the kitchen in action. Throughout the meal, the chef will interact with guests and explain the cooking process and ingredient sources. It is certainly a unique experience, perfect for special occasions.
242 11th Avenue Northeast, Hickory • (828) 324-2005 • caferule.com
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written by ROSALIE CATANOSO