Belle at the Jones House

With the opening of Belle at the historic Jones House in downtown Cary, Tammy Calaway-Harper has discovered her true calling: to bring a distinctive dining experience to each person who comes through the front door.

The experienced caterer turned restaurateur unveiled her intriguing farm-to-table café meets bakery/coffeehouse concept in August. Business has been humming ever since.

Originally approached by the Town of Cary to open a bakery and coffeehouse, Calaway-Harper graciously countered with an idea for a full-service eatery that sources local ingredients.

“The restaurant is named after my grandmother, who taught me to bake and cook,” she said during a recent lunch service packed with seemingly delighted patrons. “I’m so thankful that the Town of Cary has taken a chance on me. It’s a risk when you do something so unique, but I look forward to the challenge.”

Calaway-Harper knows a thing or two about overcoming challenges. She traded in a well-paid marketing job for the entrepreneurial unknowns of an artisan baking business known as Sweet T Cakery. And two years ago she lost her father when he was only 67.

More recently, the Akron, Ohio, native oversaw the significant renovation of the Jones House, a 2,200-square-foot edifice with a heritage that stretches back to 1896.

Left: A glass-front pastry case tempts guests with cinnamon rolls, bacon maple biscuits, muffins and more.

Restoration involved installing a new roof, refurbishing wooden floors and ripping out wallpaper.

“We took it down to the bare bones and started over,” Calaway-Harper said.

Reclaimed wood from the original Angus Barn emerged as well-purposed shelves, tables and a bar.

The main dining area, divided into several rooms, provides seating for 72. A wrap-around front porch affords space for another 14 diners.

Small plate dinners like this miso-glazed scallops and rice cake are among Belle’s farm-to-table specialties. Entrees include snapper with orzotto and pan-seared espresso pork belly with caramelized onions and sweet pepper and potato hash.

Besides a refurbished brick fireplace, interior flourishes include custom-made Edison lights, brilliant red metal chairs and board-and-batten-style walls.

“I’ve gone all over North Carolina to find just the right décor pieces,” she said.
Walls are adorned with white-framed chalkboards, antique metal signs and purchasable pictures taken by Cary Photographic Artists.

Just as she has given new life to the Jones House, Calaway-Harper wants to encourage sustainable practices by sourcing ingredients close to home.

Several varieties of quiche vie for consideration at Belle; homemade jams are popular too. At right, the bar features local beers on draft, an impressive wine selection, and signature cocktails like rum-based The Cary, and vodka-infused The Heliotrope. 

“Farmers have it rough, so we’re committed to purchasing meat, cheese and produce from local growers and producers whenever possible,” she said.

 That extensive list of purveyors includes Harris Robinette, Heritage Farms, Goat Lady Cheese, Chapel Hill Creamery, Hillsborough Cheese Company, Hilltop Farms, Screech Owl Greenhouses, Locals Seafood and many more.

“Because we are buying from local farmers, our food costs are higher, but it’s the right thing to do,” Calaway-Harper said.     

At lunchtime, Belle offers exceptional soups, salads and sandwiches. Open-faced egg salad tartine features farm-fresh eggs, baby arugula and sugar-baked bacon on sourdough.

The southern BLT is layered with fried green tomato and chipotle mayonnaise. The popular chicken salad sandwich contains grapes, celery and toasted pecans on ciabatta bread.

 Small plates at dinner range from pickled jalapeño-suffused deviled eggs to miso-glazed scallops with rice cake. Superb entrees include snapper with orzotto and pan-seared espresso pork belly with caramelized onions and sweet pepper and potato hash.

The ground chuck burger, with black and blue pimento cheese and house-made ketchup, might just change your life.

When it comes to execution in the kitchen, co-executive chefs Seth Wilson and Josiah Holboum pool their respective strengths and shape Belle’s seasonally changing menu.
“Seth came to us from Carolina Country Club, and Josiah was a sous chef at Mandolin in Raleigh,” the proprietor shared.

A glass pastry case situated near the kitchen showcases Calaway-Harper’s irresistible baked cinnamon rolls, bacon maple biscuits, cakes, pies and muffins. Starting at 7 a.m., when breakfast begins, most of these treats appear throughout the day.

Several varieties of quiche vie for consideration. Then there are homemade jams you can relish to your heart’s desire.

Belle also serves Carborro Coffee Roasters java, known for its single-origin quality and robust flavor. Weekend brunch is available on Saturdays and Sundays.

Calaway-Harper also finds fulfillment in having all of her children working alongside her at Belle. Daughter Lauren, an N.C. State student, serves as a hostess. Shannon, a Campbell University undergraduate, helps out on weekends, and Sam, a Cary High School student, handles expediting of food.

“They have been my constant support network,” she said.

Just outside the house, herb gardens contain rosemary, basil, lavender and thyme.
“In the spring, we’ll put in in tomatoes, sweet potatoes and all kinds of peppers,” Calaway-Harper said with a smile.

A full bar features local beers on draft, an impressive wine selection and signature cocktails like rum-based The Cary with homemade maraschino cherries, and vodka-infused The Heliotrope with blueberries and lavender syrup.

Open six days a week, Belle is closed Sunday evenings and Mondays. Lunch and dinner reservations are accepted.

Belle at the Jones House
324 S. Academy St., Cary
(919) 378-9724

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