While S. Glenwood has traditionally been a beer and club-kid sort of culture, the recent opening of C. Grace switched things up with some classy cocktails. Now add the Empress Room into the mix and you’ve got the beginnings of a lounge and cocktail culture in the hood! Owned by the same family as C. Grace, the Empress Room is the newest take on an Asian themed lounge with a twist on tropical cocktails. Located in the space previously used by the Trim-Ivy and Bassment-Pourch, the Empress Room is a far cozier situation than either of those clubs. And I guarantee, you won’t recognize the place if you were a former patron used to grinding it out on the dance-floor…
Clamber up the steep stairs in front and the Empress Room doesn’t look like much from the front. But as soon as you open the door and step inside, you’ll be greeted by a huge gong and yes Toto, we’re not in S. Glenwood any more! You’ll notice the huge Buddha statue behind the bar, silhouetted in mood lighting and flowing water. Note the beaded booths decorated in fruity colors and of course, the turquoise blue bar top complete with inscription. Yes, the Empress Room is full of flava and it’s not subtle at all. Some of you will love it, some of you will not. I’m sort of mixed right now but since it just opened up, there’s still room for changes.
Thankfully the cocktails here are really solid, eight types for the men, eight for the women and named after historical figures in time. With the recipes dreamed up by the bar veteran Matt Bettinger who runs C. Grace downstairs, I had high hopes! I’ve tried out the Nero which is a wonderfully spicy take on the dark and stormy, along with the pina colada-ish Qin Shi Quangdi. Both were really well-done but they seem to take a bit of time given how complicated these cocktails are. Here’s to hoping for quicker bar service once they learn their libations. And while the bar is quite impressive, the ornate booths with Asian accoutrements may be a better spot for a small group. And the patio out front will eventually be a great spot for some cocktails and to people-watch on S. Glenwood.
So hang loose because the Empress has just opened up and I’m sure it’s going to evolve over the first year of its existence. But even now it’s pretty darn good! Think of well mixed, tropical cocktails complete with paper umbrella. Probably not for everyone but for every now and then, kneel down and enjoy the Empress Room. Cause she’s way different than anything else you’ll find on S. Glenwood today, gan bei!
403 Glenwood Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27605