When it comes to bars and lounges, I’m usually a fan of independent, slightly grungy type places. Maybe not quite divey but a step or two up. But as the Triangle has grown and evolved, we’ve seen a move toward hotel bars over the last few years. In my experience, they tend to be a bit sterile and over-priced but I’m always open to trying a new one out. Late last year, I did get an invite to the Willard Rooftop Lounge and was impressed with the space and view. And I finally had a reason to go back when I had friends visiting and had an excuse to revisit. Here’s what to expect if you decide to check out the Willard Rooftop Bar and Lounge in Glenwood South!
Head on over to the lower end of Glenwood Avenue where you’ll find the AC Hotel! Wind yourself past the lobby and you’ll find a bank of elevators, two in front for hotel guests and a third one in back for rooftop access. Pop out of the elevator to the right and you may find a hostess for busier evenings. I’m pretty certain they have reserved tables and seating for most of the patio, especially the prime spots on the south side with the fireplaces. Most of the lounge seating is first come, first served but you won’t have an open or clear view for sunsets. In the parlance of photographers, they call the lighting and time around sunset, the “golden hour”.
For food, the Willard is focused on Mediterranean small plates and the usual charcuterie but I wouldn’t plan on a meal here. The bar at the Willard is reasonably efficient offering up a smaller selection of beers, wines, and cocktails at decent prices but service will bog down come busy periods. One workaround I had during a busy visit was to just order a bottle of cava and ask for three glasses which makes service a lot easier for the bartender and for multiple people.
My recommendation is to come on a slower evening, Sunday to Wednesday, and get to the Willard about 45 minutes to an hour before sunset. The golden hour happens well before official sunset and you’ll need to arrive early for a prime spot. Overall, while the Willard can be a bit sanitized given its hotel bar background, it’s got some wonderful views of the Oak City and worth a visit. I lived in this neighborhood for over 12 years and was pleasantly surprised at the view. Just arrive early and get settled in for a splash of golden hues and colors sprinkled over the Raleigh skyline…