Cliff Bleszinski Discusses His New Restaurant, The Station at Person Street
It’s been over a year since former Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski ventured out on his own. While he is working on a new game, Bleszinski’s first local investment is the new restaurant, The Station at Person Street.
Located at 701 North Person Street in Raleigh near the historic Oakwood neighborhood, the former Amoco gas station dating back to 1910 has been transformed into a local bar and pub. A large majority of the establishment’s 3,400 square foot space is outdoors with a covered bar that offers a view of the up-and-coming Person Street revitalization.
Bleszinski has partnered with long-time friend Niall Hanley, who owns Hibernian Irish Pub, Solas, Dos Taquitos Xoco, Glenwood South Hibernian and the Raleigh Beer Garden.
The food menu features French bread chicken pizza, burgers, fried chicken, bahn mi, brown butter beer grilled cheese, and a smoked salmon BLT.
“I’ve known Niall for about 10 years now,” said Bleszinski. “I met him in about my mid-20a when I started going to the Hibernian on Glenwood, and it took me a good three to four years to actually get to know the man behind the curtain.
“After that we became really good friends. He was a groomsman at my wedding and we just became really good friends. He never approached me about anything business-related for years until last year, when he said ‘there’s a window for something pretty cool that could happen.’”
Hanley is a veteran restaurateur.
“I’ve been in the restaurant business for 30 years, since pulling my first pint of Guinness back in Ireland,” said Hanley. “I opened Hibernian 14 years ago. I remember seeing Cliff come into the pub and Jerry McDermott, my manager, actually talking about this guy who was a gamer. I was going, ‘What’s a gamer?’ I thought he was being derogatory about the guy. But we started talking and I’m actually a bit of a techie myself, so it went from there and we struck up a relationship for years and years and the opportunity arose and we’re here.”
Person Street Boom
The Station is the latest in a growing number of establishments on Person Street.
“It’s all about embracing the history of the area,” said Bleszinski. “Any interesting or unique restaurant you go to downtown, they’ve embraced the original wood paneling or brick and that’s a similar theme here in the Oakwood community. You come out here on a nice 67 degree night and they just come pouring out. They have some food, have a pint, have a cocktail and they just seem to really be loving it.”
Hanley described the menu as “rustic American food.” The restaurant serves local fresh food.
“The whole Triangle has some very strong restaurant concepts, but we’re not trying to do anything over-the-top,” said Hanley. “The whole concept of The Station is to be a good neighborhood restaurant and bar. We want to cater to the customer that comes in. We change our specials weekly. You’re getting freshly made local, healthy, nutritious, delicious food with a few pints.”
Bleszinski and Hanley teamed up to purchase the property. Hanley knows restaurants and they also brought in Chef Scott Jankovictz to oversee the menu.
“It’s comfort food,” said Bleszinski. “When you get a cold night and you go inside and warm up or sit outside by the fire. When you get a nice night, this patio is packed. People love outdoor seating in Raleigh. Half of our seating is outdoors. And we get those random days in October, November, and December where it’s 65 and people just want to be outside and enjoy the weather.”
In addition to a full menu of “comfort food,” which includes fried candy bars for dessert, the watering hole has local beer.
“It’s just really amazing how the Raleigh and even the Holly Springs beer scene has blown up and people love local drafts,” said Bleszinski. “We have a number of them on tap. We also have Fullsteam, Aviator and other all that stuff.”
Hanley added that the local beer menu will be rotated based on what the customer dictates.
“We’re not really carrying a lot of the major imports,” said Hanley. “At Hybernian we don’t have Guinness, so it’s not about trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s just in this particular location we let the customer dictate what they want. If you’re selling four kegs a week of a certain product or you’re selling half a keg a week, times change, and we listen to customer feedback. But we’re trying to stay local. We’re trying to be conscious of that. We’re utilizing local product from the area and that includes our beer.”
Oakwood “Just Amazing”
Local is a big part of the new venture. The Station’s name links it back to the 1910 Amoco gas station. Bleszinski and Hanley expect Oakwood to take off, much like Glenwood has over the last decade.
“Oakwood is just amazing,” said Hanley. “From a community standpoint, the amount of people here that are so welcoming in regards to what we’re doing is astonishing. Oakwood is like this whole other hidden area that’s never been catered to by the city of Raleigh. You have distinctive areas like Glenwood, you have downtown. I see Oakwood becoming the next cool little area. I think that the residents are very selective with what they’re happy about and what they’re not happy about and it’s a great area.”
Bleszinski has further tied his roots to the Raleigh area. In addition to the new restaurant, the game developer is working on a new video game project that will be made here in the Triangle.