by Mimi Montgomery
photographs by Kelsey Hanrahan
Jake and Shannon Wolf aren’t just the owners of hot downtown restaurant Capital Club 16 – they’re also husband and wife, and they have a long North Carolina history.
The couple first met in high school in Southern Pines, where Jake’s dad was the tennis director at Pinehurst Resort and Shannon was an avid tennis player. They both eventually left the state to pursue careers: Shannon as a television producer in New York; Jake as a culinary school student and then chef. His studies and work took him around the globe from Colorado to Germany, but when he reconnected with Shannon and they got married, he settled in New York and took a job as a chef in the German restaurant Zum Schneider.
The Wolfs decided it was time to head South again when Shannon became pregnant with their son Johnny, now 6. After exploring cities in North Carolina, the couple settled on Raleigh and went to work opening their restaurant. “We just liked the energy here,” says Shannon. “It’s such a great downtown community.”
They loved the space they found, too, in a building at 16 W. Martin St. that once housed the Capital Club, a men’s social club of the 1920s and ’30s. It had a restaurant and card rooms on the 11th floor and a ballroom and gymnasium on the 12th floor. The ground floor, with its high ceilings and Art Deco architecture, was the perfect place for the couple to create their restaurant, they say. “We’re both kind of history buffs, so we wanted to pay homage to the building,” says Shannon.
The Wolfs’ fascination with history is apparent in the restaurant’s decor, from its wood Art Deco chairs, which once stood in an old automat restaurant called Horn & Hardart at Times Square, to the paneling in the bar, which once graced the famed 100-year-old German restaurant Lüchow’s in Manhattan.
The restaurant pays homage to its owners’ histories, as well: paintings on the walls were found in Shannon’s grandmother’s basement in Wilson; old black-and-white photos of both of their families adorn the walls; and Jake’s repertoire of simple American cuisine with German influences is a nod to his roots as well as to his previous culinary experiences.
But it’s not all a look back. The Wolfs are very much involved in the present Raleigh scene, as well. They frequently partner with the nonprofit Helping Hand Mission, and also host the Sunday Supper dinner series, in which the restaurant joins forces with local makers of various provisions to deliver a dinner to benefit a local charity.
This month, the Wolfs have created a delicious concoction to benefit Walter readers everywhere – a strawberry cobbler cocktail, complete with fresh mint. The Wolfs say ingredients at Capital Club often make their way from the kitchen out to the bar – which is a particularly handy trick for the home mixologist who wants to create a seasonal drink out of what’s already in the fridge. Luckily for us, strawberries are just coming in season. What better excuse to stock up and start mixing cocktails?
Strawberry Cobbler with Backyard Mint
1 1/4 ounces vodka
3/4 ounce semi-dry Riesling
1/2 ounce triple sec
3 fresh strawberries, quartered
3/4 ounce strawberry simple syrup* (recipe below)
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1 heavy dash Peychaud’s Bitters
1 big sprig of backyard mint
1 orange slice
1 strawberry for garnish
Old Fashioned or rocks glass
In the cocktail shaker, muddle strawberries with simple syrup, lemon juice, wine, vodka, bitters, and triple sec.
Fill cocktail shaker with ice cubes and shake. Strain cocktail shaker over glass filled with crushed ice. Mound more crushed ice on top of cocktail and garnish with a strawberry, orange wedge, and a big mint sprig from your backyard. Serve with a short straw and enjoy!
* Strawberry simple syrup
This makes enough for 6 servings.
Can refrigerate and store.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Mash strawberries with a fork and combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and let cool. When cooled, strain out the strawberries.
*To crush ice, put 2 cups of ice in a cloth napkin and use a kitchen mallet to crush (or use a blender).