Helios was imagined as a handsome god crowned with the shining aureole of the sun, who drove the chariot of the sun across the sky each day to earth.
I am imagining in 2002, when Gray Medlin opened cafe Helios at 413 Glenwood Ave, he envisioned a chariot powered by coffee beans. And to give a little extra kick to the business, and his customers’ experience, he added local art, wine and food.
Stuff of the gods.
Since living in Raleigh for 9 years (would be 10, except I recently spent 1 in Brooklyn), I’ve gone from knowing about “that coffee shop on Glenwood South where so-and-so works” to an occasional customer…to preferring it to any other place downtown where I can take my laptop, order a happy coffee or tea (perhaps a bite), and enjoy my surroundings.
(Third Place is my all-time favorite, and not technically located downtown. To me, it’s got this mid-90’s family thing going on. Cozy-serious-Dad has coffee with grungy-intellect-Son. Post coming soon.)
Helios manages to keep that open-space feel while accommodating quite a few people. Each wall is lined with comfortable seating, tables and outlets. A few tables hang out in the middle of the room, and the bar is even a great choice because of the slight yet solid barrier between the you and kitchen.
The lighting above the bar is sun-like and hangs beneath an open white-washed, warehouse ceiling. You just can’t escape the sun here. It’s bursting in from the front doors where the walls on either side are also glass and square windows open up the middle section. On this window sill you’ll find what I think are homemade liquors sunning themselves to perfection. (There is also a garden across the street). And even in the winter the back door is open, something I always find myself grinning about. Maybe it’s a southern thing, or maybe it’s a nature-connectedness thing, but I love a back door slightly ajar.
Finally, you may have noticed a lack of detail in my food/drink reviews, and lack of them completely, but I hope to do more reviews like my posts on Bu.ku, Jibarra and The Pit this summer. For now I am on hiatus due to the saving of bones or clams, or whatever you call them – so suffice it to say, Helios’ coffee is damn good, their loose leaf teas are the jam, and the food is quality. Oh, and they have beer on tap. Like I said, stuff of the gods.
Join them for brunch on February 5th!