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.by