Jason Howard Opens Newest Concept, The Rainbow Luncheonette


The Rainbow Luncheonette is officially opening Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Somewhere over the rainbow—er down North West Street in Downtown Raleigh—you’ll find Jason Howard’s The Rainbow Luncheonette, opening next Tuesday, Nov. 8. The six-days-a-week breakfast, lunch and dinner counter will be dishing up elevated greasy spoon plates in what he dubs a really cool-looking, colorful (hence rainbow floor) Waffle House on steroids. Of course, the unique vibe is no surprise—Howard, after all, is known for his purposefully simple and unique concepts (think The Cardinal and The Atlantic Lounge, among others).

Jason Howard (Food Seen)

Belly up for comfort foods such as corned beef and hash, biscuits and sausage gravy, pancakes, steak and eggs, and build-your-own breakfast sandwiches. And for quick fuel, a to-go coffee station and a grab-and-go biscuit and hash browns station allow you to pop in for a quick bite without having to stick around (though you definitely should). 

“So you literally can stop going to McDonald’s to get a biscuit—you can just come here,” Howard laughs.

Oh, and did we mention alcohol (think mid-grade-shelf liquor, beer and wine) will be served starting at 7am? “There’s just not many breakfast places [around here] where you can get alcohol,” says Howard. “And I don’t see nothin’ wrong with a bourbon and Coke with your steak and eggs.” We’ll cheers to that.

For lunch, dig into the likes of a fried chicken sando; Brasstown Beef burger; pork belly and collard green open-faced sandwich; and a rib sandwich, a knockoff of the Golden Arches signature—plus a daily blue-plate special (fried chicken, fried catfish, lasagna). But be sure to save room for dessert, as Howard promises the pies (made by his mom), and pound cake (slathered with butter, sauteed and served with a scoop of ice cream, just like his mom used to do) are “f*cking insane.”

“It’s really short-order food, a little more thought-out, in a fun atmosphere—with alcohol” says Howard. “I really just want a simple place for people to feel comfortable in, and get a good meal at a decent price.”

And if the joint hasn’t already piqued your interest… on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the diner will be open from 6 to 10pm with just one thing on the menu: a handcut New York 12-ounce strip steak from Brasstown Beef out of Western NC, accompanied by a deep-fried baked potato, a house salad and Texas toast—with a beer or a half-bottle of wine.

“And that’s what you get,” says Howard. … The steak nights were inspired by The Beefmastor Inn, which, like The Rainbow Luncheonette, serves just steak with a baked potato and a salad (the “salad bar” being on a Lazy Susan in Tupperware bowls). And that same Wilson mainstay served as inspiration for him to get into business, period. If you’ve ever been, you’ll notice a crazy resemblance to The Cardinal, says Howard, adding “it’s the most simple of simple things.”

Because it’s a Jason Howard concept, the steak meal will be wildly affordable, despite the fact that Brasstown Beef isn’t cheap. “I don’t necessarily like paying $65 or $70 for a steak,” he says (and, well, who does?). “I just want things to be simple and fun and cool. … We’re just a bunch of short-order cooks who have worked in the business a long time.” 

And, as to be expected, The Rainbow Luncheonette will boast a casual, come-as-you-are vibe. “There’s nothing really like that Downtown—everything is so serious and chef-driven and branded by somebody’s name,” he says. “These things are classic old-type concepts that can last forever because they’re not really pinpointed to a certain trend. That’s my business model. … Over time, they’ll always be there.” And you can bet his new spot will leave the same lasting impression. @therainbowluncheonette


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Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.