With all the national press and the Iron Chef appearance you would think that we have tried Ashley Christensen’s Poole’s Diner by now. But, we often only make it to Raleigh on the weekends and since they don’t take reservations the couple of times we have gone by the wait has been too long for our hungry stomachs. So, this time we planned ahead and went early on a Saturday after a visit to the NC Museum of Art. We arrived around 5:30pm and were seated at the diner counter while they prepared for the dinner crowds; table seating begins at 6pm.
The space retains all the elements of a classic diner. The low stainless steel diner counter, with red topped bar stools, invites guests as the primary feature of the long space. The remaining space is filled with a few booths and tables. The lighting is dim but nicely reflects off of the steel surfaces creating a glow throughout the room. Allowing diners to get drinks before the seating is opened creates a comfortable, informal feel and a nice lively din. G and I sat and enjoyed a couple of perfectly made dirty vodka martinis while we waited for our table.
The food at Poole’s is anything but diner food; rather it revolves around Southern dishes made with local, sustainable ingredients. The menu changes frequently and is written on chalkboards that line the walls of the restaurant, which may or may not be easy to see from your seat. All the items are served a la carte and the sides are shareable size portions. We started with the decadent pimento cheese appetizer. It was prepared with little mayonnaise and an aged cheddar cheese which adds a nice sharp, tangy flavor. We then tried the butternut squash soup which was rich and delicious! It was served with a drizzle of honey which added a wonderful earthy sweetness to each spoonful. We shared the braised beef ribs with kale entrée and the brussel sprouts in sherry sauce side dish. The braised beef ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and rich in flavor and the kale added a nice heartiness to this overall dish. The brussel sprouts were absolutely wonderful! The sherry sauce was enriched with a good amount of butter which made these the most deliciously, addictive brussel sprouts. Finally, we ended with the chocolate panna cotta which was just delicious. The silky, richness of the panna cotta was offset by a nice nutty crunch.
The retro, comfortable feel of the space and the wonderful food really make Poole’s one of the highlights of the dining scene here in the Triangle. I know I will be back but only after trying the new ventures by Ashely Christensen.
426 South McDowell Street