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Raleigh - best in downtown?

Gasp inducing, I know, but my husband and I haven't spent a night together without Lulu since she was a baby. I'm thinking (hoping!) I can talk the babysitter into an overnight and my husband thought it might be fun to go to Raleigh since we seldom get to eat there. I recently went with a friend to Buku (hi friend!) and enjoyed it very much and noticed that there were a few hotels down that way. And that Poole's is nearby. Is Poole's the way to go? We'd like something with amazing food, a fun atmosphere, not stuffy. I don't eat pork or much other red meat. Places we love for special nights out are Vin Rouge, Elaine's, Mateo (and other, but you get the idea). I'd love to hear what people think they'd do, if they were us. Thanks very much in advance!

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  1. For what you describe I'd probably pick Poole's. I like the food at Mandolin better but it's not downtown. At least 2 or 3 years since I've gone though, we normally drive from Raleigh to Durham or CH :-).

    7 Replies
    1. re: D R C

      We like to drink and not worry about having to drive. And lets face it, after about 7 years without a night fully on our own, this is a creative way to kill two birds with one stone. I had also thought of the Stanbury (forgive me if I have the name a bit wrong) but it looks like it is fairly far from downtown too. Willing to cab but would prefer to just walk.

      I understand why Poole's doesn't have a menu on their website, but it does make it harder for me to figure out if it will suit my tastes. That part is a little frustrating. Anyway, thank you so much for your response.

      1. re: LulusMom

        I think Elaine's is the closest in your post to Poole's. I want to like it, the food is good, but it has a critical mass of little annoyances that don't bother many folks, all documented here pretty well over the past few years. Stanbury is good, have eaten there 2 or 3 times, but I think the food is a bit better at Poole's.

        p.s. There's an annoyance I haven't seen yet LOL, no menu on the website. Most places post at least a seasonal sample. And on the other extreme, look at Oakleaf, which is updated each day with every detail.

        1. re: D R C

          Totally get it. Is one of them the whole "no reservations" policy? And the noise? Best to be prepared with a list of the bad points before presenting it to my husband as the best choice. And thanks again.

          1. re: LulusMom

            Exactly. No reservations, noise, hard to see the blackboard, few wine values, spartan main dishes. Ultimately, it's as expensive as some places I like better. Especially if you're only going once or twice, you should eat there, even if just because of the Beard nomination and foodie street cred.

            1. re: D R C

              I'd rather trust you on what food you like best. I don't much care about my foodie street cred, and the Beard nomination? Eh, I've been to restaurants with those that didn't do much for me. I feel as if I've seen raves on here about Poole's over the years, but doing a search I'm not finding more than "you should go to Poole's." Now I'm feeling conflicted. Eeek. I really *do* appreciate your thoughts. Places you like better would be very interesting to me.

              1. re: LulusMom

                Why thank you so much :-). Seriously, I like your original idea, and also that it was your first impression. That whole area has picked up so much since Poole's first opened, and I think you guys could have a great time. Maybe if you're lucky there will be an event at Meymandi or the convention center that you two want to see at the same time.

      2. re: D R C

        Just saw carolinadawg link this thread with several others in response to a Raleigh question - reminded me that a couple of Mandolin trips this year were ok but not at the same level as last year. Interesting how things can evolve over time.

      3. You should have drinks at Foundation on Fayettville St, last time we went to Poole's we placed our name on the waiting list and walked over to Foundation for drinks.

        10 Replies
        1. re: chazzer

          Fantastic - this is great information. Thank you so much. You're also pro-Poole's I assume.

          1. re: LulusMom

            The food is great, it can be crowded and nosy but should be fun. Stanbury also has great food a little more like what you see in Ashville Restaurants, but may not be within walking distance from other places or your hotel.

            1. re: chazzer

              Yeah, I thought of Stanbury, and I really would like to try it. There are always cabs, right? maybe that is the way to go. Less 'tude and I have some idea about the menu. Really on a fence about this. What are some favorites at each (or other places)?

              Sorry to be a pest about this. I just get to Raleigh so rarely and the chance to do so and also have an unlimited amount of time solo with my husband makes me want this to be the best it can be. I really appreciate the help.

              1. re: LulusMom

                I'd take Stanbury over Poole's. The atmosphere/attitude at Poole's doesn't work for me but that's just my take on it. I can't fault their food. I prefer the atmosphere at Stanbury, cool without being overwrought, but there you have the walking distance problem.

                1. re: rockycat

                  I'm thinking as long as there are cabs we'll be ok about the distance. Just how far is it from downtown? And, as stated below we could always have a drink afterwards once back near the hotel. I really appreciate everyone's help.

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    Stanbury is super close to downtown… and with a wee bit of a walk, you guys can take the free R line bus back downtown to your hotel. I'd definitely go with Stanbury over Pooles.

                    and…. I will be your chauffeur! Pick any place you want; I'll take your guys to and fro!

                    1. re: Tehama

                      You are So sweet! We haven't even figured out which weekend yet, but we're actually pretty good walkers. But thank you so much. And thanks for the input on restaurants too - was looking forward to hearing what you thought.

                2. re: LulusMom

                  The pork thing may be an issue for you at Stanbury, you may want to look at a menu or call and ask.

                  1. re: chazzer

                    Very good to know - this is part of why I was asking what people especially loved there. The menu I saw (some random click on the web) looked doable, but I have this problem at Elaine's sometimes - even the fish dishes have pork and I'm stuck with the veg entree. I have absolutely no problem with veg entrees except when it is obvious that the chef's heart isn't in it, which is, I think, the case there.

                    1. re: LulusMom

                      I vote for Stanbury. There is meat on the menu, but there are plenty of creative dishes that don't have meat in them. We had a lovely green bean salad that reminded us of a classic green bean casserole with smoked blue fish. What I love most about Stanbury over Poole's is the sense of humor. At Poole's the atmosphere has such a seriousness, while at the Stanbury, their menu is whimsical. The night we were there was a Saturday and rather than the traditional Muzak, they had a Dead Show playing at a level that allowed conversation, but also enjoyment. To me that's a good sign.

                      Also, you guys could take a rickshaw there.

          2. I vote for Stanbury. Yes, you'll have to take a cab, but the vibe is better and the food equals or surpasses any that I've had at Poole's. You can always walk to grab a post-dinner drink at Foundation or Fox's after your taxi.

            1. Also: as far as I know you can't make a reservation for a small party at Poole's: first come, first seated. And unless you are there when the doors open it's usually a long wait.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pheebs

                We're pretty early eaters (having a 7 year old has done this to us), so it isn't likely we'd be there at peak hour, but yeah, nice to have a reservation and know what you're dealing with.

                So - what are some favorite items people have had at Stanbury?

              2. If you go to Stanbury, rather than a taxi you could almost take the 'R-line' (free restaurant shuttle, http://www.godowntownraleigh.com/_fil...) and walk from stop R3 around the Peace campus. I'm not completely sure it's safe though :-).

                3 Replies
                1. re: D R C

                  You give with one hand and take with the other DRC. What do you mean about the safety issue? I don't know Raleigh at all, so I'm not sure if you're kidding or not....

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    I would feel comfortable walking by myself at night in that area.