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Blog post: New restaurant for Elmo’s space in Carrboro

When Elmo’s Diner closed during COVID-19 last March, Carrboro residents wondered when the restaurant would reopen. The months passed, lockdown orders came and went, and still the restaurant remained closed.  

Then came word in September that they had decided to close permanently, although Elmo’s ownership seemed to leave the possibility open that they would return. “We have not sold to anyone, so we do not know the future of the space,” the last post on their Facebook page said.

But since then, that prime spot in Carr Mill Mall has changed hands. There is definitely a new tenant now. Grata Café, which will focus on Italian cuisine, is currently sprucing it up and getting ready to open.

“Eat with gratitude,” is the slogan displayed on its web site (, which also states that “grata” is Italian for “gratitude.”

The owner is Jay Radford, founder of the Not So Normal 5K races in Carrboro some years back that raised money for a variety of causes. Radford is also the man who is behind the “Mom in the Chapel Hill NC” blog, having taken over from its founder in 2013. Radford’s wife, Rachel, is owner of Ceremony Salon in Carrboro.

“As I look back over the extraordinary events of the past year, I find myself steeped in a profound sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the health of my family, the incredible community that Carrboro has been and continues to be, and for all the day dreams that are becoming a reality before our eyes. The totality of my life experiences to date have brought me to the beginning of a closely held dream of owning an Italian-themed eatery,” Grata Café’s web site states.  

The restaurant did not respond to a request for comment. No details are provided on its menu or concept. But its social media provides some clues about what’s in store.

Elmo’s had been in Carr Mill for 29 years when it closed.

Word around the mall is people were so anxious for Elmo’s to reopen that notes were being left on the doors, asking if they needed help with fundraising.

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