Raleigh Restaurant Review
Rating: RRR ½
“This restaurant is helping Apex earn it's motto "The Peak of Good Living."”
“Overall, we received good service and great food. I'm sure that I'll be heading back for dinner some time soon.”
The News and Observer
Night Life: Summer Search for Best Suburban Pubs
August 11, 2006
“Peak City Grill and Bar is the hottest thing to hit downtown in a long time.”
“The indoor dining area and outdoor patio often fill with a crowd of locals that varies from families to young people sipping cocktails.”
October 9, 2005
“Now it's a special one-of-a-kind, locally-owned restaurant, and THE new hotspot for an indulgent lunch, enjoying happy hour with your coworkers, and dining in casual style”
“126 N. Salem Street has been transformed into a warm and inviting space with a definite new urban energy”
The News and Observer
December 23, 2005
“With the arrival of Peak City Grill & Bar in August, Apex nightlife became more vibrant than ever.”
“Peak City Grill backs up style with substance -- in the form of good food -- to keep them coming back.”
Adams creates the peak of fine dining in Apex
By Wendy Lemus, staff writer
Sitting in his second-story office with polished wood floors, Steve Adams looked out onto Salem Street as sheets of torrential rain pounded the Peak City Grill & Bar.
Nearly a year after opening the Apex restaurant, the gray-haired, bespectacled owner says putting his heart and soul into the project — and his finances on the line — are what landed him this quaint view of a bustling business district
He gambled on a vision he had to bring fine dining in a casual atmosphere to what he called a “horribly underserved” Apex population, which has grown by a third to 30,000 in the five years Adams has been here. It seems to be paying off. Since opening last August, the Peak City Grill has added what you might even call a “night life” to this ’burb, with its seasonal menu and live jazz music. Some shops are staying open later to take advantage. And the historic building was recognized in December by the Town of Apex for renovations that preserved its original charm and character.
“So much of me is in this building,” said Adams, who had a heavy hand in the restaurant’s restoration and “Old World” design. The cracked-wall look was intentional, as was stripping years off architectural elements from the 1905 building to their bare-bones origins. The building, owned by the Seymour family until purchased by Adams, had been a hardware store, general store and feed and mill store over the years.
“I have always been interested in real estate,” the mortgage banker said. “I love the idea of preserving old, beautiful buildings.
Adams isn’t stopping at this Salem Street corner. He recently purchased a building across the street, which he plans to renovate for varied uses — condos, office and retail.
As he did with the Peak City Grill, he has a vision — for one, condos with “really modern amenities surrounded by old, classic brick,” the kind empty-nesters or young couples might buy for the convenience, or sheer hipness, of living within walking distance to work or the coffee shop.
No doubt, the Apex Chamber of Commerce loves a guy like Adams — an entrepreneur with a proven ability to hammer out a business plan that can benefit downtown.
“Oh, yeah, he’s definitely brought more people to downtown at night,” said Sheryl Bynum, president of the chamber. “First Fridays [monthly art walks] have happened in large part because just a lot of people are here on Fridays.”
Out of towner
Adams is from High Point, but he had never heard of Apex until about five years ago.
Sick of paying what he called outrageously high property taxes in a New Jersey town not far from New York City, he moved his mortgage business and his family to “The Peak of Good Living,” where it reminded him of the small towns in New Jersey — “throwbacks to the older days, thriving town centers that counter the mall mentality.”
The family built a home on several acres off Olive Chapel Road.
The brick building at 126 N. Salem St., built and still owned by the Seymour family, was up for sale. Adams thought, “I’d love to be able to restore this building.”
Thanks in part to the profitable sale of beach property, Adams’ plans were under way by late 2003 — despite some naysayers’ comments that an upscale steakhouse wouldn’t thrive in family-friendly Apex. Demographics in hand showing a fairly well-off population, Adams thought otherwise.
He also had to convince the banks the project was sound.
One big supporter was the Town of Apex.
“I think they recognized more than I did the impact this would have on downtown,” Adams said.
With a green light on financing, Adams worked with contractors to refurbish the 10,000-square-foot building, spending $1.6 million.
“The banks think I way overspent but I wanted ‘wow,’” he said.
“Wow” was mixing new design with old architectural style.
Plaster was ripped off the walls, exposing the original red brick. Paint was scraped off the “wonderfully aged” stamped, square, zinc ceiling tiles. Original wood beams were exposed and stained. Steel beams were textured in warm colors to match the beige-and-copper color scheme.
“I was incredibly fortunate to have worked with a group of craftsmen. They really were craftsmen who took a great deal of pride in their work,” Adams said. “I’m pleased with the level of beauty.”
Adams especially wanted a “Cheers”-like bar where people could come after work, have a beer and chill with friends among the granite counters, dark wood and bistro-like atmosphere. He said he would like to see that part of the business build.
Adams found church pews for sale on the Internet that, once refinished, became restaurant seating. Including the patio and bar, the place seats about 250.
The building’s second floor was turned into full-service executive suites that Adams leases, as well as his own office where he runs his mortage business, Regency Home Funding. High ceilings, exposed wood beams and the original red brick walls juxtapose with sleek, modern office equipment and sky lights.
Turning a profit
On summer evenings, downtown patio diners catch a Salem Street breeze as window shoppers stroll by. Live jazz music floats through the doors. Weekends, there can be a wait, which is why Adams bought pagers that could reach diners browsing nearby shops.
Inside, the chef prepares fresh fish and steaks to order. Blue cheese chips are a favorite appetizer. “He made a big gamble, but I’m glad he did it,” said Salem Street Soda Shop owner Wade Baker, whose family has owned businesses downtown for years. “It peaks interest in downtown and makes other people want to invest. ... Ten years ago you couldn’t even get the banks to loan money on some of these buildings.”
Adams said the restaurant began turning a profit in its third month. “I think I surprised a lot of people, what the result was,” Adams said.
He even surprised himself, a little. “It has way exceeded the pro forma of what I expected to see,” he said.
Name: Steve Adams
Title: Mortgage banker; owner of Peak City Grill in downtown Apex
Family: Three boys, Nick, 18, Nate, 16, Charlie, 14; wife, Julie. The older two boys have jobs at the restaurant.
Awarded: Blue Ribbon, First Place Award for Best Commercial Renovation, Town of Apex, December 2005.
Time spent at 126 N. Salem St.: Between the Peak City Grill and Adams’ office upstairs, about 14 hours a day.
Work habits Adams takes two or three shifts a week as manager on duty at the restaurant. “It’s important that [customers] know I’m interested in what’s going on here,” he said.
Favorite Peak City Grill appetizer: Crisp Fried Chicken Livers
Favorite wines: Estancia Meritage, a red blend; and Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay.
Favorite beer: What else? Peak City Brew, an Irish red beer.