Don’t let the name or the décor fool you: the meal you will enjoy at Poole’s Diner is far from the “greasy spoon” fare you might expect. Instead you will be treated to upscale Southern cuisine, made all the more special by the relaxed surroundings.
Poole’s has been in the same spot since 1945, which says a great deal about the consistency of the neighborhood and loyalty of the patrons. The place started as a pie shop, and it retains the charm and shiny chrome trim and red leather banquettes of its roots.
We arrived at 6:30 pm on a Tuesday evening, barely beating the mid-week crowds (which quickly pushed the wait for a seat to an hour). Don’t bother calling ahead for a reservation – they don’t take them.
On to the food. The menu is chalked on a blackboard daily, so every item is a special, with a rotating selection depending on the season and availability of locally sourced goods. It is pretty folksy, but reading the menu start to give you a sense of the special meal to come.
For starters my companions and I decided to mutually test the waters with a chicken liver mousse, as well as a tomato pie. The “pie” featured fresh, locally grown tomatoes, sliced and layered with cheese, then baked. The taste was similar to eggplant parmigiana, quite nice.
A crisp and cold salad was next, followed by the main course. Our party was nothing if not diverse in their choices: tile fish, roast chicken breast, and pork belly wrapped in bacon. All were delectable. Although stuffed to the gills, we were all overcome by temptation and feasted on carrot cake and rhubarb pie. No crumbs were left behind.
The wait staff was a cut above, clearly well trained and comfortable working together. We truly felt like they were fully invested in our enjoyment.
For a great experience in modern Southern cuisine in an attractive retro-chic setting, put Poole’s Diner on your list. Just be sure to get there early.
426 S. McDowell Street
Raleigh, NC 27601