“The Porch” combines comfort food and ambiance

Local tex-mex restaurant in Winston-Salem remains popular among Wake Forest students

Most Wake Forest students are familiar with The Porch Kitchen & Cantina, commonly referred to as “The Porch.” Nestled in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem off W Northwest Boulevard, the restaurant has gained impressive popularity among college students over the past decade. The Tex-Mex cuisine and lively atmosphere draw crowds every night of the week.

Claire Calvin opened the restaurant in 2014 as an extension of her meal delivery service, “Dinners on the Porch.” According to Calvin, the original business concept was conceived from a perceived demand for fresh, home-cooked meals without the hassle of grocery shopping or going to a restaurant. After about a year, her passion for gastronomy and for this new profession led her to found a conventional-style restaurant that she named “The Porch”, in a nod to her predecessor. The menu, Calvin says, is inspired by his time in Houston, Texas, and his desire to bring some of that unique Tex-Mex flavor to North Carolina.

When asked about her plans and expectations for The Porch when it first opened, Calvin reveals that she hadn’t expected so much attention from the students.

“I think it all happened very organically,” Calvin said.

Although the business was never intentionally marketed to this demographic, the laid-back and festive atmosphere, comfort food, and its proximity to the Wake Forest campus make it a top dining spot for students. It may come as a surprise that what started out as a food service and later a family-run Tex-Mex establishment has become a hot spot for young adults, but it retains its reputation as an all-ages destination.

The porch is known for its comforting atmosphere. Calvin attributes this in part to the staff and describes the work environment as “tight” and collaborative. She says the crew is truly a team and each individual brings a unique energy to the restaurant. “It’s just a very inclusive and welcoming group of people,” she explains. Calvin herself often finds herself on the floor on Friday and Saturday nights. She has a very hands-on style of ownership and “is always there to a certain degree”, in addition to juggling her responsibilities as a mother and her other businesses.

The menu itself includes a wide variety of dishes, ranging from “Dirty, Spicy Tots” to “Dr. Pepper Pot Pie” to a “Petaluma Salad”. There is an option for everyone, whether you are from mood for an adventurous combination of southern and Mexican comfort, a salad or a bowl of rice, or just a plate of old-fashioned tacos.The Porch also has a pretty extensive drink menu, which includes many classic cocktails and unique local choices, such as the “Millworks Lawnmower”, made with gin, lemon, simple syrup, mint and ginger beer, and the “Salem Drop Martini”, a blend of lemon juice, simple syrup with herbs and vodka. One of Calvin’s favorite dishes, “Sweet Pete Puffy Tacos,” is the epitome of Tex-Mex: a fried chicken taco drizzled with Texas Pete honey.

The enthusiasm among Wake Forest students is undeniable, as evidenced by the increase in attendance over the course of the school year. Calvin expressed her excitement for the students to return to Winston-Salem this week, as she looks forward to the visits. Sophomore Sadie Nipon calls The Porch her “must-see” dinner destination and says, “It’s so hard to find time to get off campus, so when you do, you want it to be worth it.” The porch never disappoints.

“The vibes are unmatched, and you can almost always bet you’ll run into other groups of Wake kids on the weekends,” sophomore Claire Whitworth says. Even during move-in times or Parents’ Weekend, it’s a popular place for students to show off Winston-Salem to friends and family.

The Porch will continue to be a favorite of Wake Forest students, with its hours from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. While the character of the restaurant adds immensely to the experience, anyone wishing to savor one of the delicious dishes from the house can also take advantage of the delivery and pick-up options on offer. Porch can be found on Instagram and Facebook, where he has over fifteen thousand followers across both. Calvin is very open to suggestions and encourages student contributions and new ideas. She also discussed her plans to open another restaurant — slated to open in the spring of 2023 — in Winston-Salem that she says will be even more appealing to the college-age population. The tradition of The Porch is likely to remain, however, as the students of Wake Forest will continue to uphold it.

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