After Robert Plant played a show at Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium Friday night, the 69-year old Led Zeppelin frontman and his band were hungry.
Though it was a half-hour till midnight, and the kitchen at Garland was closed, no restaurant on earth ever closes for a rock god.
Plant and his backing band, the Sensational Space Shifters, made their way to the restaurant owned by fellow rockers Cheetie Kumar – Garland’s James Beard Award-nominated chef – and Paul Siler of Birds of Avalon.
News of Plant’s latest bite in Raleigh went out over social media over the weekend, with Kumar herself sharing a selfie with Plant.
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“It’s one of those things you’ll always remember,” Kumar said.
Mutual friends had put Garland on Plant’s radar Thursday night, but a long rehearsal dashed dinner plans. But after Friday’s show, Plant and the band made their way to West Martin Street, past the crowd waiting outside King’s and Neptune’s, which Kumar and Siler also own, and through the doors at Garland.
There, amidst the night’s last few tables, Robert Plant had a midnight snack.
“After the show, they were looking for a place to have a drink, and when you’re Robert Plant, when you walk into a restaurant, you kind of stand out,” Kumar said.
The evening’s cleaning was starting, but Kumar was able to whip up a buffet of dishes from Garland’s small plates menu, including her warm hummus, fried cauliflower and a beet and persimmon salad. The restaurant is known for its fusion of Indian and Asian flavors with a locally sourced ingredients and a bit of Southern flare.
“They were extremely excited about the food,” Siler said. “I can say that about Cheetie’s cooking. I think they were expecting chips and salsa and then were like, ‘Whoa, this is crazy.’ ”
Kumar was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award’s “Best Chef: Southeast” in 2017.
Siler lamented not being able to serve Plant a proper dinner, but said the trade-off was the hang time. Instead of squeezing in a dinner, they had open-ended time with a rock legend.
“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” Siler said. “It’s impossible to have the circumstance we had with the band.”
Plant and the band ended up singing “Happy Birthday” to Kumar after the meal, even though it wasn’t actually her birthday
But such details are sometimes unimportant.
“I guess they sang for their supper,” Kumar said.
Plant invited Kumar, Siler and North Carolina producer Mitch Easter to his Sunday show in Charlotte. In turn, they helped Plant get chef’s table reservations at another North Carolina hot spot, Kindred, Joe Kindred’s much lauded restaurant north of Charlotte.
Plant seems to have some affinity for Raleigh, often stretching his legs far beyond the tour bus when in town. Seven years ago while in Raleigh, Plant dropped in on Schoolkids Records near NC State and Poole’s Diner on a night when chef Ashley Christensen was throwing a Triangle Wine Experience dinner.
Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson