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Dec 16, 2007 04:54 PM

The Latest Poole's Downtown Diner-Raleigh

Anyone try the newest incarnation of Poole's Downtown Diner in Raleigh yet?

I had dinner there on Saturday night. I'm curious to see what opinions anyone has formed yet.

Dinner for three was $80 without tip, took two hours and we were still hungry afterwards. I know they've just opened and should cut them some slack, but this was nuts. If they don't improve immediately, they won't make it to April. It was kind of diner food as promised, but sides aren't included. The sides aren't cheap....$7 for mash potatoes, because they were fried? The service was dreadful. She dropped off our drinks and didn't come back for an hour and a half until the food arrived. I'm not quite sure why the food took so long, most of it seemed to to be cooked ahead of time. We had the roasted chicken, pot roast, fried flounder, winter greens, sweet potatoes, and fried mashed potatoes. All I can figure they had to cook to order were the fried flounder and fried mashed. The portions were small. They only have the menu on a chalk board on the wall, which will be a problem when (if?) they get busy. There seemed to be a lot of people working that night too.

After we ate, we were still a little hungry, so we went to Mitch's for chili and beer. We had great service and it was cheap. Clearly, we should have gone to Poole's for a drink and they had dinner at Mitch's...which is now nonsmoking, by the way.

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  1. First off, I had no idea Mitch's was non-smoking, so thanks so much for mentioning that!

    Secondly, I thought that the menu was meant to be "accessible." I was thinking of pricing more in line with Raleigh Times than Vin. I can't believe sides could be $7.

    I'll wait a while and then check it out. And I'll be interested in hearing from others who go...

    1 Reply
    1. re: cackalackie

      I'm having a hard time getting over $7 mashed potatoes, myself. I was going to order the braised greens, $4, and at the last minute thought to ask what was in them...I hate mustard and turnip greens, and sure enough, they were mustards, turnips and collards (which I kinda like). So, I said, "I guess I'll have the mashed." We left feeling like we spent $80 on appetizers. I live in Raleigh, not SF or NYC. Don't get me wrong, the food was good. But for that price, it should have been awesome.

    2. WOW! i understand they are trying to cater to the new $$$ class in Raleigh and i'm fine with restaurants opening up with that purpose but i hate that they took an old place that had a local following and jazzed it up (and out of my price range.)

      4 Replies
      1. re: ERGGGGG

        I'm not so sure the prices are reflective of the reaal estate so much as the four day work week here. They're only open Wed through Sat, no Sunday brunch. Other places downtown, like the Borough, work hard to keep prices low. Hopefully The latest incarnation of Poole's gets it together soon.

        1. re: eightlegeddj

          We ate there twice after Christmas and loved it. The service is a bit slow -- they are, after all, just opening up -- but we thought the food was great, and CHEAP for the quality. All entrees were under $15, for goodness sake. We had fabulous lamb and fabulous fish. Ashley has another winner, as far as I'm concerned.

          1. re: jnwall

            But if you have to pay $8 extra for a side, isn't that like $23? I'm just asking......

            1. re: cackalackie

              The sides are meant to be shared by 2 people. I really liked the food there. The service is slow because they make everything to order, still I'm hoping they'll pick up the pace a bit. On the negative side, I really don't like the single blackboard as the only menu concept. I have ADD so, I'm a bit forgetful.

      2. my poole's diner experience was fantastic. sat at the bar with clay......great bartender, very attentive especially considering he was the only bartender in a busy space. la vie en rose made with ashley's own rose it was beautiful. loved the menu setup...very similar to restaurants in france. gets you involved in the restaurant, looking around, milling about, saying hello to other tables, seeing what others are eating. ordered off of each menu to try. prices were not an issue...if that were the case, i would have stayed home and cooked. had the duck confit with a poached egg....fantastic! the salad was perfectly balanced with just a hint of saltiness that made the greens pop. my dinner date had the fried chicken, who can go wrong with that. i had the pork belly "chop"......i was in pork heaven....glad to see that a pork state is catching up to the likes of new york and san francisco. the sides which are meal unto themselves were wonderful. mac and cheese......we're not talking kraft, wonderful crusty top and HOT not warm as others like to offer. money and luck....if you don't know what that is, skip your new year's day food. all in all a treasure for raleigh.

        1. Went to Poole's last night (Friday night) for dinner. The food was very very good, though, as others have noted, the dining experience comes with some affectations that can get irritating. The prices are pretty reasonable, if you aren't looking for a smorgasboard. We came straight from wine tasting at Seaboard Wine, so we didn't need drinks or apps. We each ordered an entree and shared a side, and the bill was about $35 before tip. If you're drinking, though, it could add up fast - the specialty cocktails looked delicious, but were also $8-9. Wines by the glass were reasonable at $6.

          As others have reported, the only menu is on a chalkboard on the wall. You could swivel around and see it easily if you were at one of the copious counter seats, but those at tables have to walk over and stand around the chalkboards. I can see some of the idea behind this - you're up, you're mingling, etc. - but the novelty wears off. Also, I feel that if you're going to do a menu like this, don't have cutesy names for your dishes that require explanations from the wait staff. We had to go memorize the menu, then come back and wait for our waitress, then ask her what a "Royale with scotch whiskey cheddar and caramelized onions" and "braised luck and money" were. We'd guessed (correctly) that the Royale was a burger, and I guess maybe we should have guessed that "luck and money" were pintos and collards, but . . . in any case it was a lot to keep in your brain while waiting for your waitperson. And I think even if you aren't going to have printed menus, you should have a printed wine/beer/cocktail list (they are listed over the bar). If I were drinking, I would have had to interrupt my meal to walk the length of the restaurant each time I wanted to try something different. (And then memorize my selection until my waiter came back around).

          As I said, the food was definitely the highlight. I had pan-fried NC flounder topped with roasted tomatoes, in a delicious broth. He had the "Royale," which was a baseball-shaped burger with a thin coating of cheese and a big nest of caramelized onions, open-faced on a piece of toast. They grind the meat there and the burger was rich, unctuous, and delicious. The collards and pintos were addictive, very salty and with a liberal application of bacon.

          The place was nearly empty when we arrived at 7, maybe half full when we left at 8. We parked in the deck across the street and practically took our lives into our hands dashing across McDowell with the construction barriers blocking our view of traffic, but once some of the construction is done hopefully it will be easier to reach. I don't think that will be soon, though.

          One other odd detail I just have to share - for reasons that are not apparent, they are storing an empty mirrored display case in the (tiny) women's bathroom. This not only fills up half the room, but places a mirror directly across from the toilet at waist level, affording you a view of yourself that seems calculated to reduce the appetite!

          In short, it's worth a trip - the good food at a reasonable price outweighs the quirks. Maybe once they get more established they'll break down and print up a drink list, at least!

          1. We tried Poole's for the first time a few nights ago. I love the simplicity of the food. I love the quality of the ingredients. Everything was wonderfully prepared and the service was good. But, yeah, it's not cheap! $100 for two mixed drinks, a beer, a glass of wine, an entree and four sides. I'll throw down some money for great food, but $8 for a shallow (albeit delicious) bowl of corn soup? I don't know.... I feel like there are tons of places doing the local, fresh, simple, perfectly prepared thing that don't cost $100 for two. Or maybe I need the atmosphere to be a little nicer for the bucks? For $100 I think ding-ed up corners, dusty trim, and casual (but as I said, good) service seems out of place. I guess I can't put my finger on it, really. It just didn't quite add up for me. Not that I won't try it again. It's just that $100 is special occasion food for me, and maybe Poole's doesn't have enough of a special occasion feel.