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Dining before a performance in Raleigh

So I'm fairly familiar with the food scene in Raleigh and here is the situation at hand. Going to a performance 8pm on a Saturday night. Had wanted to try Poole's based on the reputation of Chef. Christiansen, but a few things had me questioning the idea..

1. Lack of reservations
2. Price/Quantity of Item

My back up plan(s) are 18 Seaboard, J. Betski's, Zely and Ritz or possibly a sushi option (Haru/Waraji).. These are all places I've not been to yet. Would you recommend any or all of these over Poole's. Does anyone know what is currently on Poole's Menu?

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18 Seaboard
18 Seaboard, Raleigh, NC 27604

Zely and Ritz
301 Glenwood Ave. Suite # 100, Raleigh, NC 27603

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  1. I have heard from a number of people that Poole's can be a rather slow experience - if you decide on them, give yourself a bit of extra time.

    J. Betski would be my choice.

    1. My only issue with Poole's is the strength of the pie crust. It's...very strong, almost like a bowl the nights I've been there. Everything else, I feel, is worth the money.But I haven't been there in a while, so I do not know what is currently on the menu or if the prices have changed, sorry.

      I can't recommend J Betski's enough. It made me a fan of German/Polish cuisine. The appetizers are all tasty--try the beet/horseradish creme fraiche salad or any of the in house sausages with mustard, or the pierogies! And the beer selection is precisely what you'd want with the food they serve. Nice atmosphere, great presentation, skilled cooking and great taste.

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      J Betski's
      10 W Franklin St, Raleigh, NC 27604

      1. I'll add another vote for J. Betski's. Can't comment on Poole's having never been there.

        1. So Betski's has been ruled out. Despite the reputation other members weren't feelin the love for it tonight. It's been whittled down to Z&R and 18 Seaboard.

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          18 Seaboard
          18 Seaboard, Raleigh, NC 27604

          9 Replies
          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

            I can tell you that we as a family had a fabulous dinner at 18 Seaboard last month. It's a great looking room, the service was spot on, and the food was very good. I'm sure you've looked at the menu so you have some idea of whether there are things you'd be happy ordering. There is plenty of fish, which I seem to remember your girlfriend likes. I'd happily go back there. That said, I've never been to Z&R so can't compare.

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            18 Seaboard
            18 Seaboard, Raleigh, NC 27604

            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

              AFAIK, hands down 18 Seaboard. I've actually walked out of Z&R due to what passed for service there. It may have been an off night - although I doubt it - but I currently have no interest in giving them a second chance. I have never had less than friendly service or less than a good meal at 18 Seaboard. I took my father (notoriously indifferent to food) to lunch there last week and he's still raving about it.

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              18 Seaboard
              18 Seaboard, Raleigh, NC 27604

              1. re: rockycat

                Is the performance at the Memorial Auditorium? If so, you can leave your car at Seaboard and take the R-Line to the show, then actually stop back in for dessert afterward.

                1. re: cackalackie

                  and, according to my husband and daughter, the dessert was deadly good. Some sort of chocolate thing with melted marshmellows.

              2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                So we wound up going to 18 Seaboard for dinner and past by Finch's (heard of it and seen it but never been). I was also on the look out for J. Betski's for the next time, but didn't see it though I think it is in the same complex or very nearby.. Anyways onward to that evenings meal.

                The interior of the restaurant is very nice and smartly laid out with the bar somewhat removed from the main dining area. We saw their private room which looked nice and somewhat like the stereotyped corporate meeting room table. The palette and brick wall worked well, but there was a lack of art on the wall. The menu is straight forward and I believe there were two specials on the night.. neither of which we ordered.

                That being said what we did order we found pretty underwhelming.

                I started with the grilled asparagus salad and this was probably the favorite of the night. It was plated beautifully and tasted fresh although it was mostly overpowered by the bleu cheese and bacon which was a shame.

                For the mains, my gf got the grilled salmon salad. She liked it okay but was hoping for more salmon and more salad in general. I think she liked the salads at Watts better. As for myself, I chose to go the route of picking an item from the woodfired grill. I went with the Tuna and told them to make it medium rare and chose champagne tarragon butter as the sauce. As for the sides, I chose goat cheese mashed potatoes and braised cabbage. The tuna came out fully cooked.. I mean white/gray all the way through. It was flaky but definitely cooked more than how I ordered it. The sauce taste of nothing more than of melted butter. I couldn't taste the cheese in the mashed potatoes but that may be due to the fact that some goat cheeses to me aren't very strong tasting. The cabbage was .. cabbage but it was tasty.

                Perhaps I ordered the wrong thing, but this was far from being a hit or anything memorable other than the space. I know the chef and this place get a lot of praise, but the first experience wasn't making either of us ache to return.

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                18 Seaboard
                18 Seaboard, Raleigh, NC 27604

                1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                  Oh, I"m so sorry to hear that bf! I also ordered the tuna (although I ordered mine rare, and rare it came) and thought it was wonderful. I did, however, have that same feeling that they'd left the tarragon out of the butter. At the time I figured it was just me or just the one time they'd forgotten, but now I'm sensing that they're not putting enough tarragon in. Lulu had the asparagus salad (without bacon) and loved it. Anyway, really sorry it wasn't a hit, as I was one of the people suggesting it.

                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                    J. Betski is nearby, but not visible from Peace Street. If you went a little further east after Finches there is a small lunch place on the north side of the street just before Peace College called Sunflower Cafe (I think). That is where you turn to get to Seaboard Station, the area J. Betski is located.

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                    Seaboard Station Restaurant
                    12 Charlotte St, Hamlet, NC 28345

                    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                      For future reference, if you're standing in the front door of 18 Seaboard, you could hit J. Betskis with a rock. Turn left out the door and walk across the alley and down to the end of the next building, maybe a 100 feet. Voila. There's J. Betskis.

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                      18 Seaboard
                      18 Seaboard, Raleigh, NC 27604

                  2. We have season symphony tickets for the Performing Arts complex and always eat out beforehand. Here are some local options in no particular order that are close enough to get to the theater in time:

                    1) Mo's Diner (you can catch the shuttle)
                    2) Second Empire (you can catch the shuttle) - It's a little less formal and potentially less expensive downstairs in the bar/grotto dining area.
                    3) Cafe Luna
                    4) Porter's Tavern
                    5) J. Betski's
                    6) 18 Seaboard
                    7) Buku (not recommended)
                    8) Posta Tuscan Grill in the Marriott (most convenient, but not recommended)
                    9) Sono Sushi
                    10) Duck and Dumpling
                    11) Napper Tandy's
                    12) Jibarra
                    13) 518 West
                    14) The Globe (get the creme brulee for dessert)
                    15) Red Room
                    16) Bogart's
                    17) Hi 5
                    18) Hibernian Pub
                    19) Five Star (not recommended)
                    20) Sitti
                    21) The Mint

                    That's 21 from me... Keep the list going, gang!

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                    Tuscan Grill
                    720 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

                    Jibarra Restaurant
                    7420 6 Forks Rd, Raleigh, NC 27615

                    Sono
                    319 Fayetteville St, Raleigh, NC 27601

                    Porter's Tavern
                    2412 Hillsborough St, Raleigh, NC 27607

                    18 Seaboard
                    18 Seaboard, Raleigh, NC 27604

                    Red Room
                    510 Glenwood Ave, Ste 101, Raleigh, NC 27603

                    Sitti
                    137 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh, NC 27601

                    Five Star Restaurant
                    511 W Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27603

                    Mo's Diner
                    306 E Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27601

                    Hibernian Pub
                    1144 Kildaire Farm Rd, Cary, NC 27511

                    Hi 5
                    510 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27603

                    1. Z&R is great. Good local produce and lots of vegetarian dishes.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: SEllis

                        Ditto for Zely & Ritz. Food is great, locally grown as far as possible. Excellent service, fine dining experience all around. I can't imagine not having excellent service at Z&R and I eat there frequently.

                        Poole's needs to be a destination dining experience and its worth the investment of time. Fabulous food! Go there for your main evening event unless you arrive at opening time and/or ask to eat at the bar. That will get you out quicker.

                        Someone else failed to put Gravy on the downtown list -- we ate there recently and the quality of the food -- always good -- has gone up to a new level of excellence.

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                        Zely & Ritz
                        301 Glenwood Ave Ste 100, Raleigh, NC 27603

                        1. re: jnwall

                          We may have had an off night, but the one time we went to ZR the service wasn't terrible, it was non-existent. We sat and sat and sat in a nearly empty restaurant, got menus and a glass of water and sat and sat some more with the bartender/waiter's back to us until we finally got up and left. I have no idea when he noticed we were gone but it was certainly after we were out the door. The experience left a bad enough taste in my mouth that I have no interest in giving them another chance. This may have been an atypical experience but there are too many other good choices downtown to need to risk a repeat.

                          1. re: rockycat

                            I had a better experience at Zely & Ritz, but I just found the execution across the board to be a little lacking. It's kind of a weird space and atmosphere. We also had long waits for things, despite being in a fairly empty room. The plating of certain things was a bit odd and really didn't present the food it the most appealing light (e.g., a cheese plate with a pile of cheese cubes that looked like they were swiped from a Food Lion platter). The dishes we had didn't really work as either small plates or as entrees. The service was friendly, and given their focus on local ingredients, I want to root for them. I plan to give them another try or two, but I can't see how it would be called top notch dining experience. I feel like they need to tweak some things a bit more.

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                            Zely & Ritz
                            301 Glenwood Ave Ste 100, Raleigh, NC 27603