The windows at 301 Fayetteville St. are covered with paper, shielding prying eyes from the construction crews transforming a concrete slab into what a Raleigh couple hopes will be the next hot dining spot in downtown this spring.
ORO will combine global cuisine, from soul food to French and Asian influences, at a price less than $15 an entree, Cara Zalcberg Hylton said.
Hylton and her husband, chef Chris Hylton, said the menu was inspired by their travels.
"We're taking the things we love about every restaurant around the world and bringing it to this place in Raleigh," Cara Hylton said.
They said they wanted the restaurant to have a global flavor, but also include options for the less adventurous diner.
"You don't have to be a foodie to eat here, just love food," Cara Hylton said.
Another concept that appealed to the couple is allowing tables to be able to taste a variety of small plates. To reflect that, the menu will offer tasting trays - like a cocktail tray featuring different house favorites. Sixteen different wines will also be on tap, so customers don't have to buy entire bottles.
While variety might be a consistent theme, the Hyltons said they are also focused on making it as local as possible. ORO will feature local beers on tap and local ingredients when available.
The couple also hired local contractors to work on the building and teamed up with a Charlotte-based company to install a 17-foot wine unit in one of the corners of the restaurant.
"Being part of the local community is important to us," Cara Hylton said.
The couple moved three years ago to Raleigh from Washington D.C., where Chris worked as a chef and Cara was a business consultant.
In Raleigh, they have made a name for themselves at The Mint, where Chris is the culinary director and Cara the restaurant manager.
Originally from Jamaica, Chris Hylton has been cooking for 22 years.
"I don't feel like I work a day in my life," he said.
That is evident by the chef's commitment to making customers happy. He recalls one instance at a restaurant he worked at where a family came in with a young child who only wanted to eat McDonald's. So, Chris Hylton had the kitchen cover for him so he could pick up McDonald's for the child.
'When you walk in as a guest, it isn't my restaurant anymore. It's yours," Cara Hylton said.
ORO's menu will also feature vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options throughout the menu and low calorie cocktails.
As for the decor, expect an intimate setting with subtle hints of gold throughout (a nod to ORO's Spanish meaning, which is gold), and a glass fireplace upstairs. Diners downstairs will also have the option to sit at the kitchen to watch their food be prepared.
The couple said they want diners to have fun, enjoy the food and feel like they have been transported.
"We want them to come here and feel like they are somewhere else, like they are on vacation," Cara Hylton said.
When ORO opens this spring, it will serve lunch Monday through Friday and dinner Monday through Sunday.