Calavera Empanadas still plans to return, but will open in the Moonlight Pizza’s spot

Downtown Raleigh pizzeria Moonlight Pizza Company has closed.
Downtown Raleigh pizzeria Moonlight Pizza Company has closed. Drew Jackson

Calavera Empanadas & Tequila bar will return, but not on Fayetteville Street as originally announced.

Instead, it will move into a different restaurant that recently became vacant: Moonlight Pizza on West Morgan Street, Calavera owner and restaurateur Ken Yowell said.

“We like the great big patio and the great big kitchen,” Yowell said of the Moonlight space in the Boylan Heights neighborhood.

After Calavera sold its last empanada on East Davie Street last year, there were plans to revive the former Tasty 8’s hot dog restaurant. Yowell took over the Tasty 8’s space from Raleigh dentist Dr. Keith Wells after it closed in April 2018.

But after some demolition, construction stalled, and Yowell attributes the move from Fayetteville Street to a lease dispute. He did not elaborate.

Officials at Preferred Office Properties, the Atlanta company that owns the space as well as the Wells Fargo building across the street, told The News & Observer there is no dispute and that Calavera’s lease remains in effect.

But Yowell confirmed Wednesday in a text message that Calavera is moving to Moonlight Pizza. An opening date hasn’t been set.

Restaurant changes

The Calavera move is just one of Yowell’s latest restaurant announcements.

He recently opened the Acorn at Oak City next to his Oak City Meatball Shoppe on East Davie Street. It replaces Kaiju, a ramen and bao bar, which he closed Feb. 8, after less than a year of operations.

The Acorn at Oak City will serve breakfast and brunch daily, then move to small plates in the evenings, focusing the bar program on wine and spirits, Yowell said.

“The concept falls in line with the same feel of Oak City,” Yowell said. “Just good, homey comfort food.”

Kaiju was eagerly anticipated by a noodle-hungry Raleigh, and Yowell said the restaurant had built a loyal following. But he said it may have been too niche and suffered from competition.

“There were only really two Asian restaurants in that area when we started to conceptualize Kaiju,” Yowell said. “After construction problems, there were something like eight Asian restaurants in that area, a crowded field. .... We always knew it would be a niche spot, but it was a learning experience for us and gave us the opportunity to try a lot of styles of food.”

As for the original Calavera location at the corner of East Davie and South Blount streets, Yowell closed it because the space was too small. And when another restaurant owner took an interest in the space, it seemed like a good time to move.

That space is now The Davie, a two-story bar and lounge owned by prolific bar owner Dan Lovenheim.

Related stories from Durham Herald Sun

Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.