My husband and I celebrated the sale of our North Carolina home with a prix fixe meal at this modern, French-inflected New American restaurant on Hayward’s downtown stretch. Using an Amazon Local deal, we dined on three courses each for only $40 including a glass of champagne. It was the second time I’d been to Bijou, and I love their bold design scheme of golds and greens with a luxurious dividing screen between lounge and dining room.
It might seem contrary to the ambience, but both Sunday nights I’ve been have been popular ones for watching football in the lounge. I’ve enjoyed that contrast of upscale dining with regular old sports-fan enthusiasm. On our previous trip, I also enjoyed the creative cocktail list and a delicious cream of cauliflower soup. For this dinner, the best course ended up being my first one, a puff pastry served with lobster, carrots, and peas in a Pernod sauce.
The puff pastry was almost overbrowned, which is the perfect time to serve it in my opinion. The delicate sauce showed off the succulent lobster bites, and the peas and carrots hearkened back to a traditional pot pie.
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Poole’s Downtown Diner
426 McDowell Street
This highly praised foodie haven from Raleigh celebrity chef Ashley Christiansen was Number #1 on my must list for places to try before leaving the Triangle. And I am super glad I did. It’s a foodie haven for a reason. But I was surprised by how strongly I felt it might not be for everyone else.
Poole’s exterior is nondescript enough to walk right past if you aren’t looking, just glass walls with a simple logo engraved on the door. Inside, the atmosphere is upscale diner: lots of shiny metal, three semicircles of counter seating, and appealing blacks and reds.
Bordering the walls are their famous chalkboards, where all menus reside. Yes, that’s all menus, including the wine list, drink list, appetizers, entrees, sides, and dessert.
This practice of chalkboard menus is very trendy—one might say Poole’s started it in this area—but most restaurants supplement chalkboards with a paper menu. Not here. You must stand up and walk around to get a good view, which is awkward but barely a blip of inconvenience for the devoted foodie.
Order a cocktail from the bar while you’re waiting for a table. Because you will be waiting for a table unless you arrive before 6:30 on a weeknight as there are no RSVPs taken. This is another common practice for busy restaurants. It gives them one less detail to worry about and adds to their hype with a crowded storefront.
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