When it comes to bars you pretty much get a huge variety of places to choose from. While the beer, wine and spirits may be mostly the same from place to place, what usually distinguishes a bar is its staff and clientele. So when it comes to the Cardinal Bar in Raleigh, I can tell you that its discrete location and funky space tends to draw a local hipster crowd. But its hot dogs? Well that’s a whole different ballgame which changes the mix quite a bit, here’s why!
If you’re looking for the Cardinal Bar, you’ll have to probably use your GPS because even though I’ve lived in the hood for 10 years, it still took me a bit to figure out where it was! Located in an older building that used to be home to the Cardinal Cab Company (thank your Uber and Lyft!), you’ll find it up on West Street in a quiet little stub off of Peace Street. Out front you’ll immediately spot the red brick chimney with Cardinal signage along with the large covered porch. Head on inside past the large, roll-up garage doors and you’ll find a brightly lit bar, a handful of tables along with a digital jukebox and some TVs overhead.
The crowd at the Cardinal is a bit mixed but definitely has a younger, hipster bent! It definitely feels like a neighborhood bar with plenty of regulars given the discrete location. With a small selection of beers on tap and bottled beer, liquor and mixed drinks are the sweet spot for an adult bevvy at the Cardinal. Oh yeah, and those hot dogs! I had heard through word of mouth and online reviews that they might be the best in Raleigh so color me curious. And hungry!
So after you order up a drink, look for the little hot dog order cards. It all feels a bit like Char-Grill but WAY simpler! Choose the number of dogs you want along with free and pay extra toppings and then add chips or make it a veggie dog! You’ve got some interesting topping options like sriracha, beer onions and hot sauce along with your more typical condiments. Drop off your card with the bartender and it’s time to sit tight while he goes to work at the corner grill.
So what makes the hot dogs at the Cardinal so special? Well they’ve got a couple of tricks up their sleeves! The hot dogs are braised in beer and the split-top buns (New England style) have a bit of mayo slathered on the sides to give you nicely grilled and browned surfaces. Topped with some decent chili, soft onions and cheese makes for a really great hot dog! I’ve tried a handful of them with chili, cheddar and onions, all perfectly put together. Add in a bag of crunchy kettle potato chips and you’ve got yourself a meal.
All in all I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the Cardinal Bar. Part neighborhood bar, part meeting place, part hot dog emporium, it’s a chill little spot to meet up with a friend and grab a quick bite to eat. Its secluded location means you’ll probably only run into people in the know and certainly not the usual Glenwood South crowd. Which is the perfect formula when you want to keep things on the down-low! Enjoy the Cardinal Bar for everything it is and everything it isn’t along with its sister bar, the Pink Boot.