Because the world is different these days, Preeti Waas believes it needs a different kind of restaurant.
She’s not calling it a restaurant, actually, it’s an emporium, an all-day space showcasing an ever-changing view into Indian cuisine.
Cheeni Indian Food Emporium will open this month in North Raleigh, a first of its kind food space combining a morning cafe, lunch and dinner spot, teaching kitchen and retail shop featuring high quality Indian spices.
“It’s full of so much, you never know what you’ll find,” Waas said. “I’m very fond of food halls, but this is not that. We’re not several concepts in one. We’re one concept that’s doing a lot. We’re multifaceted.”
The word emporium fit better than restaurant, Waas said, embracing the spectrum of food experiences she plans to pack into Cheeni. The new concept has moved into the former Caretta Coffee & Cafe in the Falls River Shopping at 1141 Falls River Ave. Waas was drawn to the location, she said, as a North Raleigh resident herself, one often struggling to find food she wants to eat.
“If I want good food, other than the American pub, I’m at a loss,” Waas said.
Waas first opened Cheeni as a coffee counter in the lobby of the Fayetteville Street YMCA in downtown Raleigh. It became a destination for chai and tremendous toasts and other baked goods, eventually expanding to the Alexander Family YMCA on Hillsborough Street.
But the pandemic’s impact on downtown Raleigh hit those cafes hard, initially closing the Fayetteville Street location, while the other remained open. Last month, Waas ended Cheeni’s run at the Alexander YMCA as she made the final preparations on the North Raleigh emporium.
Inspired by tiny restaurants in Spain and Europe and India, Waas imagined the new Cheeni to