What We’re Eating: Grata Cafe

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Give thanks to Grata Cafe for its all-day breakfast selection

grata cafe

By Amber Watson | Photo by John Michael Simpson

“Grata,” the Italian word for “grateful,” perfectly sums up the new eatery located in the former Elmo’s Diner space in Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro. Taking the place of a popular, long-standing diner meant that Grata Diner had big shoes to fill, and based on its increasing popularity, it is rising to the challenge. This all-day cafe is the perfect fit for such a unique space, with large, lofty ceilings, natural light that pours in from the tall mill windows and a spacious brick patio, welcoming diners to come by and graciously indulge.

Owner Jay Radford is especially grateful for the support of the Carrboro community who have enthusiastically welcomed a dream he held in the back of his mind for over 35 years.

Grata was founded on the key principles of community, diversity, inclusivity, kindness and, of course, gratitude. Here, Italian classics and inspired dishes are cooked from scratch with love and consistency. Jay welcomes all diners to enjoy one another’s company and comfort food as if they were enjoying it in his own home.

Giving back is a cornerstone of the business. Unlike many other restaurants, Grata has a no-tipping policy. Instead, every employee has a starting salary of $18 an hour, and any tips left on the table are donated to a different nonprofit of an employee’s choosing every month.

On the menu, diners will find breakfast served all day – think ciabatta French toast – and classic dishes with a twist, such as Italian sandwiches, subs, burgers, salads and creative “Grata Bowls.” The proceeds of select bowls are donated to local organizations like TABLE and The ArtsCenter.

“When I envisioned the food at Grata Diner, I saw plates and bowls filled with the traditional Italian dishes I had been cooking my entire life: amazing scratch-made meatballs, pastas, sauces and other classics,” Jay shares. Of course, these items hold a prominent spot on the menu – and in Jay’s own kitchen – but one of the most popular items with Grata guests are the omelets.

“Specifically, we have a very unique technique we use to create them, a technique I learned during the pandemic from a MasterClass done by Thomas Keller, the famous chef at The French Laundry in California,” Jay explains.

Each omelet contains three Latta Family Farms eggs, stuffed with all kinds of fresh veggies and/or meats. Popular options include “The Works,” with onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, Italian sausage, ham and cheddar (pictured above) and “The Caprese” with mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil and a balsamic glaze. All omelets are served with toast or home fries and house-made hot sauces to boost the heat to your liking. Something about being able to order breakfast all day at Grata makes these enormous, appetizing omelets hard to resist no matter what time of day you visit.

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Chapel Hill Magazine

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