Hard Times Cafe Closing This Week

April, 07, 2009 , by Jedidiah

Hard Times Cafe Closing This Week
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No more free chili samplers and Frito Chili Pies. This is a bummer. Although a chain (but only restaurants in the Southern US), Hard Times Cafe has some of the best chili in town. They will be closing their only North Carolina location on Glenwood South at the end of this week.

This news comes very soon after its neighbor Enoteca Vin also shut its doors and leaves two restaurant spaces (with great outdoor seating) ready to be filled.

We hear the beer is cheap for the remainder of their opening.








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  • Bull City Rising
    04/07 07:38 PM

    Disappointed to hear this. I knew Hard Times Cafe from Richmond and Alexandria, and I’d drive to Raleigh every six months or so to dine there. Am going out of town tomorrow, so it looks like no more chili anytime soon. And with the Richmond location gone, it’s DC or nothing.

  • Sam
    04/07 09:42 PM

    Too bad, they had some of my favorite fries in Raleigh.  Anybody that can recommend a spot to fill my hand cut fry jones?

  • Jonathan
    04/08 12:11 AM

    That is very disappointing.  I really enjoyed that place.  :(

  • Lisa Jeffries
    04/08 02:03 AM

    What a heart-breaker! I loved having lunch or dinner out on the patio.

    Sam, Five Guys Burger and Fries?

  • miamiblue
    04/08 09:03 AM

    Certainly disappointing, but it is my understanding that the owner has been trying to get out of the restaurant business for over a year and a half. I assume he tried to find someone to take over the franchise but didn’t find any takers. Every time I went there he was there working.

  • Jenna
    04/08 09:59 AM

    How disappointing! I’m really going to miss their Frito Pie!

  • sarah
    04/08 10:18 AM

    It was one of the first restaurants to open on Glenwood South. It will be missed

  • neal2zod
    04/08 10:25 AM

    Say it ain’t so! I always thought Hard Times was a step above the typical Glenwood South sports bars. And their vegetarian chilli was great. It’ll be sorely missed.

  • Andy S.
    04/08 10:33 AM

    How sad.  My wife and I used to go there for lunch immediately after donating blood (gotta replenish fluids and protein, after all).  It had become a regular thing for us.

  • RaleighRob
    04/08 10:36 AM

    Now where am I supposed to find vegetarian chili? 
    Horrible news…they always seemed to have plenty of customers.

  • hackles10
    04/08 11:20 AM

    Tough for those of you who loved the foods, but I am looking forward to some new establishments in this space, as well as the Enoteca Vin space.

  • Billy Reed
    04/08 11:38 AM

    Where do I get Yeungs and Wings on Weds now?! CRAP!

  • downtowner
    04/08 12:33 PM

    Will they be open on Friday? Think I might go there, one last time…

  • sally
    04/08 12:43 PM

    Yet another place of which I will lament its closing - yet I never went ... (Just never remembered it!)

    (Fries = Five Guys)

  • pablo
    04/08 12:47 PM

    Best damn chilis Raleigh has ever had.

  • roi
    04/08 02:02 PM

    The question is:  Are there too many bars, cafes, bistros, trying to get and keep customers.  Every month more and more establishments are being opened and an equal number are closing.  Can Raleigh and the area support so many cafes, bars, grills, etc.?

  • PRGuy
    04/08 02:27 PM

    The place that introduced me to chili mac and Cincinnati chili. Sorry to see it go.

  • this is your wonderland
    04/08 03:12 PM

    Every time I’ve ever been to the Hard Times Cafe, it was dead - so clearly none of the people who think it has great food (as stated above) were regular customers

  • pablo
    04/08 03:17 PM

    Did you ever stop in during lunch? They usually had a brisk business. What do you consider regular? I was a once a month guy.

  • caroline
    04/08 03:32 PM

    Sad since it was such a convenient location and cheap, good food.

    Anyone know when they officially close?  I’d like to dine there once last time before they close doors.

  • joe
    04/08 03:37 PM

    Roi,

    Good question, one that has been in many posts on this board.  We always say we don’t want to be NYC, Boston, Atlanta (add the city of your choice), but we keep building and touting “upscale” restaurants.  I would love to see something like a Powells Bookstore and Busboys and Poets come to downtown Raleigh.  We have numerous institutes of higher learner here, but no food for the brain downtown after dark.  But then again, it wouldn’t be supported I guess because it’s not “upscale”.  Ed McKay with a coffee shop and space for entertainment would fill the void—I would go!

  • Seann
    04/08 09:59 PM

    Hard Times indeed!

  • mgd
    04/09 12:00 PM

    Now see if Raleigh used the PLENTY currency then this wouldnt happen… LOL

  • MMI
    04/09 02:32 PM

    RaleighRob,
    For veggie chili, Mitch’s has a great black bean version.


    As for this establishment, I tried it twice, and it just wasn’t good.  Bad service, bad food.  I guess I never saw that lunch crowd, because it looked like wasted space to me.  I’m not hatin’ on the place, but I won’t be sad to see someplace new go in there.  I never knew how they stayed open as long as they did.

  • MMI
    04/09 02:35 PM

    Joe makes an interesting nomination—one that would include an injection of Retail to G’wood South.  Still, I suspect that the rent on this location would be prohibitive for an outfit like Ed McKay’s.  One can hope, though!


    Let’s hope the new tenant makes good use of that awesome patio.

  • pablo
    04/09 03:35 PM

    I do like the black bean chili at Mitch’s. Hardtimes is/was more for chili purists. I went by today for lunch and my last combo plate of the texas and terlinga red (onions & parmesan on top) and a Gaelic ale to wash it down. Good thing I went by because TONIGHT is their last night. They had planned on staying open for the rest of week, but have run out of food and beer due to a rush the last couple of nights when word leaked out they were closing (thanks newraleigh!). They were a couple of regulars getting their ‘last supper’ as well. One of them ate 3 times a week! They were open for 10 years. The owner raised three kids (now 17,15, 9) while running the place, so it wasn’t as hopeless as some posters have suggested. They added something to this side of Raleigh that a lot of newbies just won’t get.

  • John
    04/10 10:45 AM

    I am actually surprised to read so many swan song goodbye’s for this place.  I went there once years ago and got sick from it.  Needless to say, I never ate there again.  From time to time, I’d meet a friend over there who was finishing up eating.  And, each time I went there, it was almost empty.  I wondered for a long time how they stayed in business as long as they did.  That patio space is probably the best on Glenwood.  It’s level and convered and right in the middle of the neighborhood.  I’d love to see that patio have a lively fun atmosphere on it daily.  Perhaps a sit down Mexican restaurant would flourish there?  I think the neighbhorhood needs something more than just the Tex/Mex Armadillo Grill and certainly think that neighborhood needs more casual and less expensive dining venues.

  • pablo
    04/10 10:58 AM

    “..certainly think that
    neighborhood needs more casual and less expensive dining venues.”  <AGREED!!>

  • mgd
    04/10 11:13 AM

    Does anyone know why this place failed?


    It was less expensive and more casual. 


    I can only think of a few options why a business closes:


    1.  The owner doesnt know what they are doing.  Which I dont think is the case here of he was open for 10+ years
    2.  If its a franchise like this they franchise itself could go bankrupt. 
    3.  The business is not what people want currently.

  • miamiblue
    04/10 11:19 AM

    mgd: I don’t know for certain, but I think it had more to do with the owner wanting to get OUT of the restaurant business than the business actually failing. I know that as of SparkCon 2007 he was trying to find someone to take over the franchise, but I guess he didn’t have any takers and the time had come to just hang it up.

  • Kristie
    04/10 11:28 AM

    It’s interesting to read the varied comments here.  My husband and I loved Hard Times.  We went there every possible Friday night for the last 9 years.  And I know several other regulars who also were made Hard Times part of their lives.  Hard Times was special because it was a relaxed atmosphere with wonderful people running it.  Every restaurant or business has an off day here and there - I’m sure those of you who post questions about its strength aren’t hitting all 10s every day either. 
      HARD TIMES WE WILL MISS YOU!!!  AND WITH SUMMER COMING TOO!  ARGGGGG!!!!!!

  • matt
    04/10 02:15 PM

    I will miss it. I come from Maryland, where there are a few. This particular Hard Times location was just too big - easily three times the size of the others I’ve been to - and I can’t imagine that the rent wasn’t just prohibitive. I suspect another Hard Times in a smaller building would still do OK.

    I just mentioned it because no one else has - the place was freakin’ huge.

  • pablo
    04/10 03:26 PM

    Interesting. I did not know the others were considerably smaller. Could be the right opp for somebody who enjoys the restaurant biz. There are plenty of smaller places available.

  • matt
    04/10 06:57 PM

    Yeah - If you noticed, the food was produced and served from a very small area and then delivered across the vast emptiness.

    It was far darker than it should have been, too.

  • pablo
    04/10 07:11 PM

    Now that you mentioned it, I always sat at the bar. Geez, I bet a restaurant consultant could’ve really helped them out years ago.

  • matt
    04/11 09:31 AM

    The one I went to most often was about the size of Mecca.

  • Chad
    04/13 04:27 PM

    MGD, you left off one other reason a business closes…. It SUCKS!!! Hard Times Cafe was disgusting.

  • Harry Seaward
    04/15 10:06 AM

    I am with Chad, this place was terrible and food was disgusting.  I hope something decent moves in because it is a great space.

  • Jon
    04/15 07:12 PM

    Dang. Loved the Fritto Pie. Sorry to see them go.

  • matt
    04/16 06:44 PM

    Geez, keep beating up the deceased, whyn’t you?

    I hope NOTHING moves in, just to spite y’all.

  • 204 B Pritchard Ave. CH, NC
    04/17 11:29 PM

    Chad, Chad Chad, thanks for the underwhelming comments Chad.

    Soft Times will be missed indeed.

  • packman 71
    06/05 07:42 PM

    Chad is a Bozo.. Hard Times was one of the best places to eat in Raleigh. Great food, good service and the owner was a good guy. The only struggle they had is it needed to be a later night place on weekends to manage the lease payments that the location required and the owner chose to spend that time with his children.. I commend him for it, but Hard Times will be missed.. Only restraunt in town where you could get a three way (chili that is) for under $8 bucks.. I hate that I did not get to have a last meal there..

    It will be missed

  • Ron
    06/29 07:26 PM

    I had only visited Hard Times a couple of times and wasn’t too impressed.  In the end, a restaurant is a business and it needs to be profitable.  And that means regular customers that make it profitable.  You can have plenty of customers but if you don’t run the restaurant right in the back end and don’t have customers willing to pay enough to keep you in business, end of story. 

    Raleigh is growing up but slowly.  Glenwood South is one of the busier spots and there’s little business between Sunday and Thursday.  What makes a city all growed up when there’s enough business/traffic on the off nights and in bad weather.  And right now, we’re not there yet…

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