Saturday, January 24, 2009

Review: Poole's Downtown Diner

Poole’s Downtown Diner
426 S Mcdowell StRaleigh, NC 27601
(919) 832-4477

F. and I went to eat at the relatively new Poole’s Downtown Diner on Friday.

I had read about it both on New Raleigh and in the very late arrival of the September Bon Appetit. It mentions chef Ashley Christensen of Enoteca Vin fame. Indeed, Poole’s, in my opinion, had the menu of Vin and lacked the pretentious vibe. Our waiter was cool, calm, and had character. He was also appropriately attentive. F. and I arrived around 6h30, and by 7h15 the little entry way and first curvature of the bar was jammed packed with mainly a middle aged (30s-50s) crowd.

The menu was divided into “Apps,” “Vinagariettes,” “Mains,” “On the side,” and “Poole’s Pies.” Baguette with homemade butter was available for $3. As an appetizer, F. and I shared the “Duck and chicken liver pate with two mustards and toasted brioche” ($9). The pate was fabulous: smooth, tasty, with the slight unctuousness of organ. The mustards cut the pate’s heaviness perfectly. However, the toasted brioche was a little brittle to be an ideal surface on which to spread pate. We found it tasted much better on the warm, chewy baguette. Other sides included roasted Beauregard sweet potatoes ($7), carrots in brown butter and thyme ($6), macaroni au gratin ($9), and haricot verts with roasted tomatoes ($7). Mains included a roasted chicken with garlic mashed potato ($14), flounder with Crowder peas ($13), the “royale,” an open faced burger ($12), and the *special of bone-in NY strip with au poivre sauce and pomme frites (for a wopping $39 – considering the other prices on the menu, I felt it was a sneaky overcharge). We had the “roasted beets with avocado and blood orange vinaigrette” ($9) which was divine. The avocado’s creaminess complemented the even soft texture of the roasted beets. Roasted golden beet cubes garnished the dish. The blood orange vinaigrette was light and flattered the sweetness of the dish. The macaroni and cheese was in F.’s opinion the best he had ever had, and I agree that it was flavorful. The only bad point was that the steak was unevenly cooked. We ordered it medium rare, and while in the nook of the bone it was a nice red rare, the perimeter of the flesh side was definitely considered at least medium, with nary a blush of pink in the meat’s center; at $39 one expects a perfectly cooked steak (granted, we did not know the price going into the meal, so I can’t really say we “expected” perfection. Nevertheless, it was a disappointment.)

Overall, I give Poole’s downtown diner a B+. It would have easily been an A if the steak was evenly cooked.

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