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Aug 23, 2012 07:11 AM

The Angus Barn - Raleigh, NC

Ok, I searched the Southeast forum and the General South Archive forum and couldn't find a single thread dedicated to the Angus Barn, so I thought I'd start one.

I've lived in the Triangle for 12 years and last night I had my first dining experience at The Angus Barn. I was with a group of people from my workplace and everyone's meals were being paid for by my employer so we were free to order whatever we wanted, regardless of price, so we ended up ordering a wide variety of entrees. I've gotta say, I just don't understand why this place is so popular.

Everyone's entrees were plated very basically. Basic to the point of being downright ugly in most cases, but I guess that's steakhouse presentation for you. I don't eat a lot of red meat, so I went with the tuna steak special that was recommended by our waiter. It was served with a very good spinach salad and very average garlic mashed potatoes. The tuna steak itself was the most bland, unseasoned piece of fish I've possibly ever eaten anywhere.

In addition, the pricing at this place seems completely out of control when you consider the food you're actually getting for the price. The atmosphere is interesting, but I couldn't help but feel like I was eating in a tourist museum dedicated to old-school steakhouses.

This dining experience reminded me that I'm very lucky to live in Durham close to so many wonderful and creative restaurants.

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  1. It's true what you say about the gem that Durham/Chapel Hill is, but every so often, all you want is a thick cut of juicy, medium rare prime rib with a loaded baked potato and creamed spinach, a caesar salad to start, and maybe some blueberry cobbler a la mode for dessert. That meal satiates an appetite that none of the Watts Grocery or Lantern or Panciuto or Tonalis of the world can replicate. To that end, The Angus Barn in my experience is close to without compare in doing the classic "prime rib" meal to perfection. Even such venerable institutions like House of Prime Rib in San Francisco don't quite provide as juicy a steak, as complementary a pairing of starters, side dishes and desserts.

    If you're going to Angus Barn for fish, you're already up the creek without a paddle, as that's not what Angus Barn's "fach" is. I understand that people who aren't "foodies" or are otherwise unadventurous and passive sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that a meat-and-potatoes type place with low lighting and leather-bound menus like the Angus Barn is the end-all, be-all of fine dining (and we saw the adverse reaction to Townhouse Grill in Chilhowie, VA when the Shields converted it from a "steakhouse" type place to the most exciting molecular gastronomy in the Southeast). So I don't agree that the "Angus Barn" genre of restaurant should be used as an excuse to pan other culinary accomplishments or as a way to avoid expanding one's palate, but likewise it really is in of itself an important facet of cuisine that I would very much hate to see disappear. As it stands I feel not enough metro. areas have something like the Angus Barn (Charlotte certainly doesn't).

    5 Replies
    1. re: mikeh

      I agree with Mike H. If I want a steakhouse experience, I'm more likely to want The Barn than Bin 54 but there is room and benefit to both of these. Perhaps it is over-hyped but it is a true institution and deservedly so I believe. It has been a special occasion place for my family from throughout the state for years. I have defended the Barn elsewhere so won't do that here but I agree it is something special.

      As to the benefits of living in Durham, one of those to my mind is the fact that although the address is Raleigh the Barn is I'm pretty sure a bit closer to the downtown Durham courthouse than the downtown Raleigh courthouse.

      1. re: mikeh

        I agree with this entire post. Also, the orange cheese is better than the white cheese :)

        1. re: mikeh

          The very reason I was sad to see The Ranch House here in Charlotte close. And they actually had good fish too (and legendary "cocktale" sauce). Fortunately we still have the Beef & Bottle.

          I agree, every city should have a few of these.

          1. re: mikeh

            I agree with the prior posts but if you're running a steak house the steak had damn well better be great (especially at AB prices) and the last couple of times I went, it just wasn't. Bummer because everything else was really good and the service is always great.

          2. i've eaten there a few times in the past year, and i have found the angus barn meat underseasoned and really not that tasty. i have been meaning to make it to bin 54 so i can make a strong(armed) recommendation for that locale instead.

            2 Replies
            1. re: cervisiam

              You probably want to eat steak so that you can fully compare, but if you do make it to Bin 54 try to get there on a week night and sit at the bar. Appetizers are half-price and most of them are very good. The tuna tartar with wasabi mayo is wonderful. The gnocchi with lobster not at all bad. And usually a nice selection of wines by the glass (the wines seem to change, so I can't promise).

              1. re: cervisiam

                I totally agree. I took my dad there for his birthday last year after not going for many, many years and we were all very underwhelmed with the steaks-most notably the lack of seasoning. In the past year or so I've had steaks at places that are not steak houses (Watts, Pops, The Admiral in Asheville) and they were all far superior to what I had at Angus Barn.

              2. I agree completely with the comments about lackluster steaks at AB. The real problem for me is that I can cook a steak that I prefer to what I get out almost all of the time and doing it takes basically no cooking creativity or talent, just a decent homemade marinade, an extremely hot grill, and a nice piece of meat...tri-tip is my favorite. So it's not what I choose to spend hundreds of $$ on when I eat out.

                I've never eaten at the chef's / wine cellar table though - I hear that's pretty good.

                The do have a world-class wine list which is very fairly priced for some things.

                5 Replies
                1. re: D R C

                  I was invited to eat a meal at the wine cellar table over the winter. A friend set everything up so I have no idea what kind of options are available, but we started with some snacks and a cocktail hour. Perfectly fun, with pickled vegetables, cheese spread (I hate the stuff, spouse loves it), olives and a few other snacks served around an open bar. The menu started with decent crab soup, moved on to a simple salad that was fine, an intermezzo (which I could do without, especially while drinking good wine), then entree of beef tenderloin and lobster tail, and finished with a molten chocolate cake. Surprisingly, the lobster tail was the highlight of the meal. Very tender and served with a fresh tomato and basil sauce that tasted better than it reads. The beef was middle of the road in quality and they cooked it whole and sliced nice sized slabs. It was cooked between MR and M, which sucks if you like tenderloin rare. I ate the middle of my piece and left the rest. Sides were not memorable. Chocolate cake was ok.

                  All in all, it was a fun night and a very cool setting. The service was excellent and their wine list was much better than my last visit 9 years ago. I believe the total for the two of us was $275, as there were some service/room charges added to the base cost of $100 per person. I don't know if our friends had paid anything to set the whole meal up, but I think considering the service and setting it was a fair price to pay. My major quibble with AB on two visits separated by 9 years is the average quality of beef. Both visits I was served what tasted like standard issue choice beef.

                  1. re: veganhater

                    I've eaten in the main restaurant twice and just won't go back. The one meal downstairs in the wine cellar was wonderful, and is worth returning to. Those meals in the wine cellar give Chef Royal opportunities to demonstrate that he is an Iron Chef.

                    And one day I'm going to try the hamburger upstairs in the lounge.

                    1. re: AreBe

                      And a Magnolia Grill alumni too if I'm not mistaken.

                      1. re: LBD

                        You're saying that Magnolia Grill alum trumps Iron Chef? :-) I'd probably agree with that :-). I want to think Walter Royal was the first sous there, followed by Scott Howell.

                        1. re: D R C

                          Seeing how Bobby Flay beat Rick Bayless yeah maybe :))

                2. Anyone been to the Argentine Steakhouse on (9th Street) or that place out past Allen and Sons on old 86 that looks like a wood shack?

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                    Are you talking about The Farm House, down the dirt road behind A&S? If so it's been years and I don't really recall anything good or bad, just that I ate there. It's been around forever.

                    I've worked on Ninth Street for a long time and have never eaten at Metro 8, never heard anything bad though.

                    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                      LulusDad has been to Metro 8 for a couple of work dinners. He said he liked it well enough (he's a big steak eater). I think he'd rather walk the extra block or two and head to Vin Rouge though. That may just have to do with the atmosphere, but I'm guessing it is both..

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Vin Rouge's hanger steak is pretty amazing. I'm not a huge red meat-eater, but I'll order the steak at Vin Rouge over and over again! (but where they really get me is the huge bowl of chocolate mousse...)

                      2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                        Since this turned into a thread about Steakhouse's, does anyone know anything about Peddler Steakhouse in Raleigh.

                        1. re: chazzer

                          I know people who love it. It's old school. They say the food is really good too - but it's not very trendy (except in a retro way). I keep meaning to check it out.

                          1. re: cackalackie

                            It is old school indeed. The salad bar could use some updating. Their sides are so-so. Their meat is sometimes spectacularly tender, and sometimes just pretty good(is there such thing as a bad ribeye? I don't think so!)

                            It is, I believe, the only place around here where you can have the meat brought out to you before it's cooked, and you can tell them how thick you want it and I'm a sucker for that schtick. There's always a part of me that wonders if I'm being charged the right amount(because you tell them you want a 34oz and the guy cuts it and cooks it, and there's no scale anywhere), but our bills have always seemed reasonable and the portion in line with what we've seen at other steakhouses, so I never felt it was a problem.

                            I finished that 34oz steak, and my buddy his 36oz, though he cheated by having it cooked down to almost nothing by ordering it medium-well, and they were kind enough to give us free ice cream. Nice folks and good steak.

                            1. re: gryphon

                              At Beefmastor Inn in Wilson they bring out a huge slab of ribeye (the only menu item) and cut it to order. A little further afield but tasty!

                              1. re: meatn3

                                I heard rumors that Beefmastor underwent an ownership change not too long ago. Do we know if that's true and if the quality has been upheld?

                                1. re: mikeh

                                  I heard that too and posted a query earlier in the year. No one had a recent experience to report.

                                  I've since looked at their website and the last change in ownership was 2007 to an employee of 18 years. I had never been there prior to 2007. I have been there half a dozen times between 2007 - 2011 and the quality/consistency stayed the same.

                              2. re: gryphon

                                Peddler restaurant on Glenwood will bring their ribeye and strip out to the table on request and you can request the thickness you want.

                          2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                            My BIL's old employer used to send him to CH for trainings 20 years ago. When I brought him to Allen & Sons a few years back he thought the area seemed familiar so we drove a little further - and found The Farm House. It was raining so I ran in for a menu. Once he saw the menu and heard details of the decor he conformed that he used to eat there frequently and said it was quite good.

                            The aroma was wonderful! Place had a lot of wood and looked (decor-wise) like it was the '70's. The menu focused on a smaller number of items. IIRC there was chicken and fish in addition to steaks. I don't recall a vegetarian option.

                            After that "discovery" I searched for reviews but found very little. Based on the aroma I'd give it a try if I had the cash and the inclination and was in the area!

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              Metro 8 is good. I've had decent steak and seafood options there.

                            2. i read ur original post...and skipped the responses....

                              i ate there many years ago...

                              it wasn't any better then..

                              i have no idea why this place is so highly regarded by some..

                    's not very good...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Cpt Wafer

                                I completely agree with the original writer. The Angus Barn is a waste of time, money, and beef.

                                I've eaten there several times in the past 30 years of living in Raleigh, and I have never had a memorable meal at this place.

                                The sides are ordinary, bland, and boring. The steaks are also ordinary, bland, and boring.

                                I've never eaten the fish there, but why bother?