Joule, in Raleigh
We had breakfast at Ashley Christensen's new restaurant/coffee shop -- Joule, on South Wilmington Street, in downtown Raleigh -- this morning.
The are just getting started, but the food we had was really delicious. The grits with fried egg were the best grits I've had, and I've had a lot of grits -- rich and full of flavor.
Baked goods -- croissants, biscuits, muffins -- and an order of bacon and eggs were also really delicious. They are definitely off to a fine start.
Had breakfast at Joule this morning with my husband. Coffee was very, very good and a nice selection of different beans for pour-over. Food was very good, but expensive for what you get. Grits were a stand-out, incredibly creamy and rich.
Totally agree with Guilty Gourmand's assessment about the price as well as the discordance about location.
Overall, glad to have it as an option (especially when the coffee fanatics in my family will be visiting) but won't become a regular.
I've had the privilege of going to Joule several times for a variety of coffee and espresso drinks which were all excellent. Went for brunch Labor Day weekend but it was too crowded to get inside so haven't made it for brunch yet. Did make it for lunch today and had a great lunch as well. Here are my quick thoughts / impressions:
1. What I liked: Excellent coffee and drinks and very good food. I've tried the pour over coffee and the drip and tried several different beans and really enjoyed all of them. Haven't had french press yet but am sure it is great. The space inside is fun and hip and has a very nice open feel to it. Haven't been at night but am sure it's hipster heaven. The service has been very friendly and helpful and the place is well-staffed.
2. What I don't really like: The place is pricey. Given the quality, this may be appropriate and a good value but it is still pricey for my budget. A pour over cup of coffee to go is $4. It's a very nice cup of coffee and if I had a long time to hang out and enjoy a french press with a friend, etc. I could see paying $4 but I'm typically grabbing a cup of coffee to go or just wanting a quick cup in between meetings. The drip is less--$2.50 or so I think and not a bad deal I suppose but I've got to walk by a couple of very good and cheaper places where I can get more coffee for that price so it's a hard sale. I do not care for the "coffee restaurant" concept with wait service even if you're just getting a cup of coffee and a muffin, etc. Not sure how you could really split the space between regular food and coffee and not have wait service throughout but I have avoided going there when I knew I had a short amount of time and just didn't want to deal with that level of formality, etc. or the need to leave a "decent tip" when all I've gotten is a cup of coffee and a muffin. Speaking of wait service, while they have always been super friendly there, there is a lot of staff which is great but I for one could trade some of the level of attention, etc. for counter service with a less expensive cup of coffee. Also, I'm not crazy about the overall location there by the bus station walkway. I don't mean to sound snobbish but I think you would have to look really hard to find a greater contrast of people between those hanging outside during the day and those inside. I suspect many of the people outside may not have $7 to their names much less available for a smallish cup of coffee and muffin. Not much we can do about that or the location at this stage I suppose but I sometimes suffer guilt pangs passing through there and the Joule prices make those pangs even worse. I found the "glossary" on the menu a bit patronizing--suspect it can be very helpful but maybe better if it were just there and not labeled a glossary? On lunch (or I think it is really an all day menu), the food was great but it too was more than I typically want to spend for a lunch out with a co-worker or two. If we are going out to a business lunch, we're likely to pick a more formal / true restaurant place, etc. with broader offerings so I'm not sure exactly who the market is for this menu mid-day. I'm hardly ever going to want to grab some mussels for a Monday lunch outing so I'm hopeful they may add some soup or sandwiches, etc. of some sort.
Some will take this as a slam against AC, etc. which it absolutely is not meant to be. She has her image and idea of what she wants to open up / provide to the downtown market and more power to her. I am merely offering my impressions and the things that I personally like and don't like about the concept with a hope that others may chime in with their thoughts as well. In the end, I suspect AC will make some adjustments to perhaps broaden the menu or tweek the service concept but all that's her call and I say more power to her. I understand she was not out to simply kick the Wlimoore offerings up a notch and is going after a whole different thing but, that said, I really do miss the Wilmoore and its great coffee and casual, high quality sandwiches at a very good price.
re: Guilty Gourmand
I agree. I am one of the ones that love it--except for the price. Wish I could afford to eat there more often.
I have been back a couple of times for coffee when I have time to go and sit down and enjoy a pour over cup there. Always very good and very good service . . . but expensive. Last time I went, I had a pour over coffee and croissant and both were excellent but with tip it was around $10.
I understand they have revised the lunch / meal menu a bit and include some soups / salads / sandwiches, etc. now but I have not tried yet. I'm sure I will do so sometime and am sure they will be excellent . . . but expensive.