Q&A with Todd & Jenessa from Parkside Restaurant, Raleigh

Todd and Jennessa from Parkside Restaurant
Todd and Jennessa from Parkside Restaurant

Today we chat with Todd and Jenessa, owners of Parkside Restaurant in downtown Raleigh as a part of our series called interviews with locals where we interview local Raleigh business owners and entrepreneurs to share their story with our community!

If you haven’t eaten at their restaurant yet, we featured them in our guide to the Warehouse District and they’re super popular for their brunch menu but any time is highly recommended (I love their burger).

Where did you grow up and go to school? How long have you lived in Raleigh?

Todd: I have lived in Raleigh all of my life with exceptions of a couple of years for work (Austin, Texas ). I went to Sanderson High School, and NC State University.

Jenessa: South New Jersey, St James Catholic High School and Wilmington University in Delaware.

How did you get into the industry you are in now?

Todd started washing dishes at 15 years old at TGI Fridays on Wake Forest Rd in Raleigh and Jenessa started working at a diner in a small town in high school. We have both had restaurant jobs ever since.

We have worked at multiple styles of restaurants with the majority being Todd working at Sullivan’s Steakhouse for 13 years and Jenessa at The Palm Steakhouse in Philadelphia/Atlantic City for 9 years.

Give us your 30 second elevator pitch for your business?

We are a local couple sourcing local food to feed our community, and having fun doing it

Most popular item that you sell at your restaurant?

Chicken and Waffle Sandwich.

parkside restaurant raleigh things to do 5

Your favorite item that you sell at your restaurant?

Auntie Nessa and Short Rib Stroganoff.

Parkside Raleigh
Auntie Nessa / Short Rib Stroganoff

What would a traveler learn about Raleigh by coming to your restaurant?

That we have the longest running neon sign in North Carolina, and that this location on Martin St has been a restaurant for over 100 years. Historic!

If we start talking you would also learn that my grandma used to take my mom there when she was a little girl and it was called Warren’s, and my mom took me there when I was little and it was Joe’s Place.

This location holds a very special place in my heart!

Parkside Restaurant
Parkside Restaurant

If you had a friend visiting Raleigh, where would you take them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

There are quite a few but maybe the first day we would do breakfast at Big Ed’s Restaurant City Market, lunch at Sitti (Lebanese restaurant), and dinner at Mulino Italian Kitchen & Bar.

Best thing about living in Raleigh?

The people are awesome and friendly, and the close proximity to the mountains and the beach.

Least favorite thing about living in Raleigh?

Public transportation is lacking big time.

How did you pivot in your business during the 2020 pandemic?

Focused our menu on to-go options, and faster cook times. Promoted our to-go business and pick up lane.

In hindsight, what do you wish you had in place before the pandemic hit to better prepare for it?

Outdoor dining.

Can’t miss attraction for an out-of-town visitor?

NC Museum of Art is fun, but really just chilling out in Downtown Raleigh is our favorite.

Your favorite business in Raleigh that you like to frequent?

Deco Raleigh (indy brands and local makers).

What are you reading right now?

Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty.

What is one book every budding entrepreneur should read?

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins. And if that entrepreneur is into restaurants then Setting The Table by Danny Meyer.

What excites you the most about doing business in Raleigh over the next 5-10 years?

The possibilities are endless!

What concerns you the most about doing business in Raleigh over the next 5-10  years?

Growth without public transportation and options for cleaner living. If we don’t get ahead of it, it becomes extremely hard to catch up to the growth.

Which local Raleigh entrepreneur inspires you to do better?

Maggie from A Place at the Table. David Meeker at Trophy Brewing. And Jason Smith at Cantina 18.

If you had $1 million dollars to donate to a charity, who would you give it to and why?

Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Charity because my Mom passed away from Pancreatic Cancer last year and it is vicious.

I would have to take a few bucks and give it to The Make A Wish Foundation, No Kid Hungry and  Wake Med Children’s Center. Nothing breaks our hearts more than kids suffering or hungry. Anything to take their minds off of their situation for a minute is always a big win.

What is your favorite task that you perform in your business each day?

Talking with our guests is the most fun but not really a task, so I guess it would be creating a food feature and taking pictures to post and share.

Drink of choice? Which bar, brewery, or coffee shop in Raleigh do you get it at?

Todd likes beers at Crank Arm Brewing and Trophy Brewing, and Jenessa loves the Espresso Martini at Bittersweet!

Crank Arm Brewing
Crank Arm Brewing

How do you relax?

Go to the beach, play guitar and just talk and laugh together.

What is your “WHY” for doing what you do?

For a sense of purpose and accomplishment, to help people, to have fun, to make money and be our own boss and have time freedom. But even with the difficulties of running a restaurant, it is super fun for us and we love doing this every day.

It doesn’t always feel like work when we are working with food, pairing drinks and talking to friends and making new friends every single day. It’s rewarding.

Do you plan on retiring?

Not sure how we would define retire, but we are always up for taking it easy!

Favorite getaway spot in North Carolina?

Beaufort.

Favorite American city?

Austin, Texas because Jenessa and I fell in love with each other there.

Favorite international country?

Spain.

When you hear the words “THIS IS RALEIGH” what comes to mind?

For some reason I immediately think of my mom and my uncles goofing off way back when I was young. Makes me laugh and feel lighthearted. So I guess the short answer is I think of people having fun and laughing together.


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