There are many reasons why Raleigh is such a great place to live, work and play. A big part of this is thanks to people like AJ Viola. AJ is one of the owners of BREW, a local coffee shop also serving up local beer. AJ and his good friend Mike opened BREW in September of 2014, and since opening, AJ has been running the day-to-day operations ?from behind the bar. AJ moved with his wife Cynthia to Raleigh in January 2009. They are coming up on seven years of living in this great city.?
We caught up with AJ to see what his perfect day in Raleigh looks like. From his favorite brunch spot, biking on the greenway trail to his go-to spot for a cocktail with his friends and everything in between.
7 am: My morning motto is “No coffee, no talkie,” so I usually head straight to BREW after I’m up and at it. While I am one of the owners of BREW, I still love being able to enjoy it as my local shop as well. We have so many regulars and neighborhood people, that it’s the place I would want to be even if I didn’t have a part in it.
10 am: We love brunch. Even though the list for truly great breakfast places in downtown Raleigh is a little short, we always find ourselves at Humble Pie. Their tapas for dinner are amazing, but when it comes to brunch, there’s nowhere else I’d want to be. I usually get the breakfast burrito or the shrimp and grits!
12 pm: After carb loading at breakfast and if the weather is right, and let’s be honest…it usually is this time of year, Cynthia and I will jump on our bikes and head out towards the miles and miles of greenway trails that Wake County has to offer. We usually swing by to see the guys at Oak City Cycling Project to make sure everything is running well and then we’re off.
One of our favorite places to ride is south on the Neuse River Trail towards Clayton. We’ll end up in downtown Clayton at Deep River Brewing Company for a mid-ride beer and snack with the food trucks that are usually there.
5 pm: Once we’re back home, all we can think about is dinner. We both love to cook, but if we’re too tired to do that we’ll start the tough process of figuring out where to eat. We always have a hard time choosing where to eat because there are so many great restaurants just in the downtown area alone, and because of that we always enjoy restaurant hopping! We’ll start out with a walk over to Person Street Neighborhood Bar, for a drink and to enjoy the weather on their beautiful back patio.
7 pm: We always make it a point to swing by Sono on Fayetteville St. for the Ishiyaki BBQ appetizer. It is incredible. Steak grilled right at the table on a hot stone! I have recently fallen in love with ramen (no, not the kind I ate in college every day). One of my new favorite places is Pho Pho Pho on Glenwood South. We usually split a bowl of the House Pho and Ramen. With the weather starting to cool down this hits the spot.
9 pm: After dinner it’s time for dessert (if we have room). Our favorite dessert and cocktail place downtown is BitterSweet. Their cookie plate is always a win. Add in an affogato and one of their delicious cocktails and you are set.
11 pm: If the night is still young and I don’t have to be up too early the next morning I will head down to my one of my new favorite spots, Havana Deluxe for a great cocktail and a cigar. With a great bourbon and Scotch menu you can’t go wrong. Bring your own cigar or Mike will gladly help you choose the best one for you.