Busy Bee Cafe

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Busy Bee CafeBusy Bee Cafe
69 Ratings
Busy Bee CafeBusy Bee Cafe

Type: Bar, Eatery, Beer-to-go

225 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, North Carolina, 27601-1433
United States

(919) 424-7817

// CLOSED //

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Added by rtratzlaff on 04-18-2009

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Ratings: 69 |  Reviews: 29
Photo of socon67
3.9/5  rDev -11.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

Went here while visiting the area for work. Recommended thanks to the great folks on BA.

A - A mix of hipsters and the happy hour folks. Was here on a Tuesday evening. Since they have a seating area for foood, there can be some children. Overall not bad, but not ideal.

Q - Everything served in proper glasses. Every pour was correct. Nothing to be upset about.

Ser - Bartender was helpful, polite, and talked briefly about the selections. They knew their stuff, and I tipped well because of that.

Selection - Great mix of locals and rares. I've seen better lists, and certianly more taps. But seeing things like Struise Pannepot was sweet, and their sours list was actually amazing.

Food - Not many choices, but what I ordered ( a salad) was very good.

V - I'm from NY, so I found it reasonable. I had Duck Rabbit milk stout, Mother Earth Dark Cloud, and Foothills red plus a salad for under $30. I can live with that.

I may swing by tomorrow if I can. A great find courtesy of BA.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.65/5  rDev -16.9%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 4

The vibe in the Busy Bee is a little too hipster for me, the music is overly loud and indie or ironic and you certainly feel like people are giving you the you are not cool enough to be in here looks.

The beer selection is good, while not extensive. The beers that are available tend to be very good beers and are definitely served properly. I have not been disappointed in any of the beers that I have ordered and received at the Busy Bee. I found the prices on the beers to be a little higher than some similar establishments in the same general area of downtown Raleigh.

The service at the Busy Bee has been very hit and miss for me. I have had servers that had extremely good knowledge about the beers but were inattentive or very slow, I have had servers that were great but knew nothing about the beer, and I have had servers that were attentive and knowledgeable.

The food has been solid each of the times I have been though not outstanding - some items are definitely better than others. The menu seems to change around about every 6 months so it is nice to try the different items as they appear.

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Photo of bikehorn
4.1/5  rDev -6.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

I can't hide the fact that I love the Busy Bee.

I think the atmosphere is good, but occasionally a little hipster heavy for me. It's really a beautiful space with exposed brick walls a nice bar.

The food there is great. I've lived through a couple iterations of the menu, but the tots, fried green tomatoes and tofu are all great. I have also enjoyed several of the soups they've offered, as well.

The beer selection is very good - and to be honest, the folks there know beer...for the most part. They only have a handful of taps, but they have some good stuff offered. They also have an interesting selection of bottles (and cocktails) if you're into that sort of thing. I've had an experience or two where a server has led me WAY astray when I was ordering. For the most part, however, the beer selection and knowledge are good.

I've had many EXCELLENT servers and one rotten one. I suppose sitting out in front of the restaurant on First Fridays leads to poor service, or cold food, or slow food, or being forgotten, but the other times truly have been great.

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Photo of Metalmonk
4.36/5  rDev -0.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5


I entered the Busy Bee Cafe on the high recommendation of the friend who took me there, but I'm not sure I expected it to be THIS great.

The place is large, but more long than wide, and feels like a spacious, modern saloon. Very much an establishment focused on drinking great beer, all other concerns sitting on the periphery. (Even better would have been no TVs at all, but they were showing some baseball, so okay...) The service was fine, quick enough, but not overly friendly. No big deal.

It's the selection that amazes. No, maybe not the hugest tap selection, but they absolutely deal in 100% quality here. I spotted and tried a couple of beers that aren't even on the market yet, or might have just gotten there (like new offerings from both Dogfish Head and Ommegang). And every single beer they serve is something of some high degree of quality, something to fit just about any palate.

I was totally focused on our beer and our conversation, so there's probably not a ton more insight I can offer, other than this: 1) go there when in Raleigh, and 2) You won't be disappointed, and 3) Go There When in Raleigh!!!

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Photo of JebediahScooter
4.8/5  rDev +9.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Updating my review because we've been frequenting BB a lot since my last review and because they've been steadily making changes to the place. More taps have been added, and they have committed to keeping at least one sour on at all times, which is nice since my wife has discovered that she really likes Guezes. Bottle list has expanded to include more wilds and vintages.

They also got a cask engine recently, and they do Thursday Cask Nights with some great offerings. The dry-hopped Hoppyum cask was excellent a few weeks ago, and they got NBB Night of Foeder recently as well. They're doing a cask of Hannsen's Oude Gueze on thursday for their Belgian Independence Day party.

We've gotten to know some of the bartenders, and they'll bring us samples of new things they think we might like. The owners, Woody & Chris, are good guys who always come over to chat beer or tell us about cool things that they have coming up. They have worked hard to get a bunch of regional breweries to do one-off Busy Bee exclusives, and I've had BA versions of stuff from Lonerider, Foothills, Terrapin, etc over the past few months. A lot of other cool little things like an iPhone app with their currrent tap list and updates about what theyre going to tap next, letting people vote for kegs to tap on the website, brrewing with local homebrewers and posting interviews online, more and more beer dinners and events with brewery reps, etc.

Awesome guys who always have something creative in the works, and that makes for a fun and unique bar-going experience. Busy Bee is now our regular spot. <end update>

Went to the Busy Bee on 12/17 for my second or third visit. This place is pretty great! Lots of exposed brick with multiple levels and bars on two floors.

Draft selection is fairly small (probably 15 taps between the two bars), but it always has some really excellent offerings. You can tell their beer guy knows his stuff. Price is so-so on draft. Their bottle list is pretty nice with a lot of big name bombers/750s, but the bottles are marked up a fair amount. I'd say 75-80% of the stuff on the bottle list can be had pretty easily at bottle shops in the Triangle for less. I will definitely stick to draft.

I had a tough time deciding between the Avery duganA, Terrapin Wake-n-Bake, and Terrapin Moo-Hoo. I went with the duganA, and it was poured perfectly into proper glassware (a SN tulip...I also noticed that they serve in DFH Signature Glasses, which is my glassware of choice at home). It was on tap upstairs, which was closed due to a private party. I asked my waitress if she could still go up and get me a glass during the private party, and she came through.

The menu is pretty good, with small plates, soups/sandwiches, and large plates. The large plates are expensive. Each time I've gone, I've stuck to the small plates/sides/sandwiches. Two small plates make a nice meal. I ordered the loaded tots burger, which was outstanding. They have these loaded tots on the appetizer...fanciest tater tots I ever did see. They have sour cream, bacon, green onions, and cheese sauce. The burger wasn't on the menu but on special, and it was basically an order of the loaded tots plunked down on top of a burger. Great mac-n-cheese on the side.

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Photo of Beerness
4.33/5  rDev -1.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

I visit the bee somewhat regularly, definitely one of my favorite Raleigh bars. Including upstairs and downstairs taps, they keep a steady rotation of interesting and good beer. That, and the owners seem to have a serious liking for sours and bourbon-barrel aged beers, so I can usually find something randomly barrel-aged by Foothills or a nice sour like Allagash Vrienden. It's probably my favorite draft selection in Raleigh. Not to mention, they also have quite a large bottle list.

I've found the service to be pretty solid, and if you sit at the bar it's better. Great bartenders. Good food too, they have a rotating menu based on fresh & local, but I can't seem to not get one of their burgers...good stuff.

Also attended some events like the beer dinner with Sam from Dogfish and their anniversary parties when they pull out about 8 kegs of barrel-aged beers they've stashed away.

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Photo of ewright
4.05/5  rDev -7.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Was in Busy Bee about two weeks back on a Wednesday night. There were very few patrons in the place ... not overly surprising for a downtown location on a mid-week night.

We stayed downstairs, where they have about 16 taps. I had a Great Divide 17th Anniversary Wood Aged DIPA and my wife had Lagunitas Cappucino Stout. I was surprised to see a sour beer on tap, considering the relatively low number of overall taps.

The food selection is somewhat limited, but what we had was really good. I've only been once, but I get the impression that the menu rotates on a regular basis.

I'd definitely go back and have recommended it to out-of-towners coming to the area.

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Photo of Wolfpack2005
4.58/5  rDev +4.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Have been to this spot many times over the past year and have just got around to review.

Great laid back atmosphere especially if you get there earlier in the evening and can get a place to sit. Service IMO is always top notch, the bartenders definitely know there beer and are more than happy to give you samples and never act like your burdening them when you ask questions. Both bars have plenty of servers so that even when it gets crowded at night you never have to wait for a beer.

Excellent beer selection, they only have about 15 taps but they are always great craft beers as well as some rarities. Also with less taps they go through beer fast and always have a few new beers on tap each time you go. Plenty of bottle beers to choose from as well.

The food is a little average when compared to similar restaurants in the downtown area. But for about $9-$10 a plate its a pretty good deal to offset the expensive beers. The value overall is a bit on the pricey side just because the beers are pretty expensive, but they just started doing a $2 craft beer every night which definitely helps out the wallet.

Overall an excellent place to enjoy a beer, easily one my favorite spot in the triangle. Its a pub that anyone visiting the area needs to go if you enjoy good craft brew.

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Photo of slowbie
4.83/5  rDev +10%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Went to Busy Bee on 1/22/2010.

Not that busy for a Saturday night, so no wait for a table which was nice. The atmosphere was quieter and the decor is just my style. Exposed brick walls with a nice clean and classic bar.

First things first: the beer. This place is not a place with a giant tap list, but it is definitely a place that reminds me that you don't need a giant tap list to have great beer. Lil' Sumpin' Wild, FBS, Knob Creek barrel aged Foothills People's Porter, and DFH Burton Baton are just a few highlights from their 15ish taps. In the past week they've tapped two kegs of Hopslam, tonight they are tapping Backwoods Bastard, tomorrow Hoptimum, and on Wednesday a keg voted for on their website (looks like it will be Terrapin Big Daddy Vladdy). For the record I went for the barrel aged People's Porter and the wife got Brooklyn Cuvee Noire. There are a lot of bottled choices for those who want more options too, but I rarely get bottles.

The service was good and our waitress seemed to be knowledgeable about beer, although we didn't ask any tough questions.

The food menu isn't huge either, which wasn't a big deal because I once again found something I wanted quite easily. It's basically high end bar food, but I can honestly say that I have not had a better burger in the state of North Carolina. There are some more interesting choices too such as fish tacos, shrimp and grits, and chicken pot pie.

The beer is a bit more expensive than other places around, but I still gave it the $$ rating because the food is reasonably priced and they don't seem to do the rarity pricing that some places around do. I got a generous pour (listed as 12 oz. but I'm pretty sure I got a full 16) of barrel aged people's porter for $6, and I have a feeling that I could name a few establishments around here that would have sold me a 10 oz. pour for $8 or more. So don't expect to get a $3 pint, but the pricing relative to the quality of beer is actually very good.

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Photo of beer2day
4.4/5  rDev +0.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

Located one block off Fayetteville street and just around the corner from the Raleigh Times.

Small bar area. Lots of table seating and loft area for small gatherings. A couple of outside tables on the sidewalk.

Separate upstairs bar area. 8 taps up and down. What they lack in quantity, they make up for in quality. Always a very solid tap lineup with several beers hard if not impossible to find anywhere else in town.

The menu has some interesting twists on bar good. No kids menu, but a very kid-friendly place during the day and early evening. Nice brunch menu on Sunday. Try the crack tots ... two over easy eggs on a bed of seasoned tater tots. Crazy good.

Good tv coverage in the bar (only 2, though) but not obtrusive.

Not a cheap place to go out, but the quality of the taps make up for that.

Well worth a stop if you are in downtown.

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Photo of Ahoney67
4.28/5  rDev -2.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

This is the place that introduced me to best beer I have ever had. The Brooklyn ICS. A wonderful coffee stout. They also have tater tots and a great Mac & Cheese. They offer beer tasting dinners/parties constantly. Upstairs they have outside seating. Great place that over looks downtown and it's just a nice place to sit when the weather is good. The atmosphere is quaint with brick walls and the wait staff are very pleasant. They also have a coffee shop. So go and have a beer and dinner and on the way out grab a coffee for the ride or walk home.

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Photo of alohawahini
4.63/5  rDev +5.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

We spent our evening at the downstairs bar but later found out that upstairs has a very nice outdoor deck. The bartender was extremely liberal with samples. He even brought samples of beers we hadn't requested based on what we did like. I had a Brooklyn Cookie Jar Porter and a Dogfish 90 min. We sampled Foothills barrel aged hoppyum, Dogfish 60 min, Avery Maharaja, and Lonerider Chef's wit. They had a nice wide selection of beers, including plenty of local brews. We did order food, which was delicious, but the portions were a bit small. I was shocked that our tab was only $60 since I was quite tipsy when we left. Then I remembered all those samples I had consumed....

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Photo of blackie
3.94/5  rDev -10.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Spent all of a minute downstairs at Busy Bee before moving upstairs to the associated Hive, which as it turns out was not ideal - but this being my first visit I just followed the group. The Busy Bee seemed like a pretty chill spot, relatively quiet bar area with people having dinner at the tables. Without the quality beer selection, the Hive would be just another club scene - loud beat-heavy music, dance floor, and packed with people. Nearly lost my chalice twice. Like talking others in your group? Don't go upstairs. The back deck may hold some promise as an escape. Seems to be some kind of identity crisis going on here.

Nice draft selection here - Mischief from the Bruery was my choice, but there was a good 10 enticing options listed on the chalkboard. Pretty damn expensive at $8 for a small chalice.

Service was reasonably quick given the crowded bar, but there was really no opportunity for anything other than the money-for-beer exchange.

I'd go back to hang out or have dinner downstairs, but there'd have to be the promise of something fantastic or be an off night to make me climb that staircase again.

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Photo of silver0rlead
4.28/5  rDev -2.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

This is a really cool place that serves as a coffee bar, bar/restaurant and nightclub all in one. The food is tasty and reasonably priced and the draft selection both at the bar and in the upper level is excellent. The last time I went, I had a Brooklyn Manhattan Project (served in appropriate glassware) and a Founders Double Trouble (served in a DFH signature glass). Both were tasty and the Double Trouble was very fresh (I think they cellared the Manhattan Project keg for a few months to let it mellow out). They are also good about getting new stuff on tap and getting kegs of really rare stuff (like Hopslam and Sexual Chocolate). This has become one of my favorite beer spots in Raleigh, it doesn't have the sheer volume of beer that the Saucer has but the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed which I enjoy.

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Photo of frazbri
4.13/5  rDev -5.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3 | food: 4.5

Busy Bee Cafe is a bright and pleasant restaurant. I'd almost say it's more restaurant than bar, but that's not really right. It's a multi faceted place.

The first part you encounter is the cafe. (and I mean that as in coffee) Beyond that is the main body of the restaurant with the long bar along the left side. There is also an upstairs area and a rooftop patio. I'll focus on the downstairs.

The main bar has eight taps. Most notable was Brooklyn Backbreaker. They also stock some pretty impressive bottles. (Some rare, some pricey, but all worthy)

The menu is a step or two above standard pub fare. Yes, they do burgers and sandwiches, but they also serve shrimp & grits, organic chicken hoppin' john, and braised lamb shanks. I had the shrimp & grits as it's not something you find in my neighborhood. Good stuff.

Service was very good. The bartender kept on top of things, and seemed like a good fellow.

This is another place I would return to if I get the chance.

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Photo of apbarwood
4.45/5  rDev +1.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 5

The atmosphere was great for starters. Kind of a remodeled urban/industrial. Very cool vibe, relaxing, modern, etc. Quality was good. Great beers available and the food was all organic and local which is a huge plus. Service was great. The waitress was very helpful and was knowledgeable about the beers and food. She was quick to offer me samples of beers that I hadn't had before and had plenty to say about them as well. There wasn't a ton of beer but what they had was exceptional. They had the usual micros/belgiums/imports that you'd expect in a decent beer bar plus a nice selection of local brews and hard to find stuff. I had a pint of the Brooklyn Backbreaker which was served in the brewery's special glassware which was a nice touch. The food was phenomenal. One of the best burgers (and meals in general) that I've had in quite a long time. As value goes, the food is decent but there beer is both good and bad. I think paying $6 for a bottled Bell's Two Hearted is a bit much but then again they had a bottle of Orval for $8 which seemed a little more reasonable. Also, the draft of Backbreaker that I had was $5 I think or maybe 6. At any rate, you have to be careful as some beers seem very over priced while others seem pretty reasonable. I'd probably avoid the bottle list at all costs. Overall this is a great hangout that I plan on visiting every time I go to Raleigh. I'd highly recommend this place to anyone.

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Photo of GJ40
4/5  rDev -8.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5

I stopped into the Busy Bee for the first time. This place has a very interesting decor. The building itself is a classic with beautiful exposed brick walls and nice hardwood floors. They've then added comfortable and attractive tables and bars. I think it's got a nice feel. They also have an outdoor patio behind the second floor.

The tap list isn't large but it's got some good NC / eastern US beers and quite a few Belgians. They were a bit weak on IPAs though and the taps are split between floors so you're somewhat limited. They also offer some solid choices in the bottle.

Busy Bee is a nice addition to the growing number of craft beer options downtown.

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Photo of PhillyStyle
3.65/5  rDev -16.9%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3.5

Visited on 8/17/09:

Unassuming place from the outside, nice space, exposed brick and exposed duct work, 15 or so places at a nice wood bar with maybe 30 tables on the main level plus a few upstairs.

The atmosphere was good, the place had a nice buzz to it, but only about half full that night and seemed to be a little too bright. Also, they had a few too many servers so it made it feel a little uninviting as they were just standing around. But as noted in the previous review, it did have a nice coffee aroma to the place and did not have the typical funk that most beer joints have.

The food was a step up from the usual pub grub, but just barely. I had the burger, it was under done, but the Mac and cheese was really good and they tried to get a bit too fancy with the salad that I ordered.

The wait staff was helpful, knowledgeable and fast. They did provide a beer menu and told me what they did and didn't have that was on the menu. I think that there may have only been 2 changes, so it was pretty well up to date. The prices for both the beer and the food were reasonable.

They had 8 beers on tap with a few rotating. Nothing all that special, but a good selection. Also a good selection of 20 bottle and overall the selection seemed to be a little more Belgian in flavor, which is not a bad thing, but again, most if not all I had seen or tried before.

Overall a good stop but I would probably go to Woody's or The Pit before coming here.

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Photo of atsprings
4.47/5  rDev +1.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

After hearing about this place from rtratzlaff I headed over from Saucer to find a very hopping place for a Tuesday night. I had already been told that they had Obamagang on tap, and completely forgot about it upon seeing they had Brooklyn Coffee Stout as well as well as $7 bottles of Kentucky Breakfast Stout. I have been back a few times, and they were not surprisingly out of KBS on the next visit. The tap selection is very respectable with a rotating Aviator tap, Rare Vos, some good Belgians in The Hive upstairs, which also boasts a nice rooftop patio. The only BMC beer on tap was Miller High Life. The service was very good, especially for a place that had just opened. The menu is basic pub fare, and the burger I had earlier this week was tasty and reasonably priced. This place cleverly opens at 6am as a coffee shop, and the coffee certainly smells good, although I haven't tried it yet. The prices are very reasonable, especially compared to other places in the area, one in particular that's around the corner. All in all, it's looking like the taps don't get rotated quite as quickly as The Pit, but that place is an exception to the rule. This is certainly a place worth stopping in whenever you're downtown looking for beer, I know I will be.

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Busy Bee Cafe in Raleigh, NC
Place rating: 4.39 out of 5 with 69 ratings