(Click to enlarge - It's not the best picture in the world, but it's a fun "panoramic" courtesy of Nick's Droid cell phone.)
On Thursday night Nick and I ventured to the new Cherry Bomb Grill - now in the space of the former Joe's Place, which for the record, I cannot remember going to once in my 26 years in Raleigh. (Maybe because I never saw it open during dinner or weekends?)
Based on the early marketing for the restaurant and bar, I didn't think I was going to be much of a fan. It was a little too pin-up cheesy for me. Luckily, I am all for giving a local venue a first chance, because once we got there, it was a lot more toned down inside on the original concept - which I think was a great move.
Seating - +
The restaurant has a really accommodating open layout and bar. We walked in and were immediately greeted by the hostesses and waitresses and taken to a high-top table for two. (They were overstaffed for the evening, however - so the girls were just hanging around up front with not a lot else to do. Not necessarily a drawback, just an observation.)
Service - +
Our server was a little shy, but by the end of the night she finally became a little more personable with us (although I think it was mostly due to asking her what she had tried and liked on the menu so far).
Atmosphere - +
As I noted before, it was much better than I had originally imagined it to be based off the concepts they marketed before opening. The bar setup was accessible and had a nice TV display - great for game day. The restaurant is on the corner of a busy street in Downtown Raleigh, so I was bit surprised when all of the street-facing windows were covered with heavy, dark red curtains. (From a marketing standpoint, I'd rather see them left open so those driving by can see everyone inside having a great time.)
Food and Beverage - (neutral)
The bar also features three walls of draught brews - mostly micro-brews. Nice! (They lost points and a few dollars revenue for being out of Shotgun Betty, however, because that's Nick's go-to choice. With Lone Rider Brewing Co. being here in Raleigh, it should be the most readily in-stock brew. Maybe an early-opening oversight?)
The menu features a wide selection of appetizers, salads (with meat), entrees, and desserts. Nick had a burger and fries (fries were good!), but unfortunately I was left with few options as a vegetarian. I opted for the macaroni appetizer (sans the bacon) and that was it. (And obviously not fulfilling.) Our server noted that the lack of vegetarian options was brought up by their staff and would likely be remedied in the full menu being offered in the coming weeks as the restaurant gets situated and "fully open". I am kicking myself for not having dessert, though! There were four dessert offerings, including a peach something or another dessert that I sure would have sealed the positive deal for me. ;-)
Nick liked his burger just fine, and that's about all you'll get out of him in regards to a "review". It's not necessarily somewhere he'll be asking to go back to specifically for a burger like Tribeca Tavern in Cary (that review to come later). My macaroni was fine, but it tasted more like an Italian mac and cheese than a cheddar or some other based-dish. My preference goes to cheddars, pepper jacks, etc. So again, it was fine, but not something I'd go back just to have that one dish (very similar to Capital Club 16 - again, another review to come!).
Pricing - (neutral)
Our bill for two was less than $20, but had I opted for an entree it would have tipped just over that. I would say it's "about norm" for casual dining in Downtown Raleigh.
Overall - +
Their facebook marketing is a bit overkill (I'll "like" your page, but please get away from the "be our friend" kick... it's just too much), but I'll venture back for a drink when near the Downtown Raleigh Amphitheater again. I'd also give them another chance when they expand the menu to see if they offer more non-meat options. The new owner(s) have invested a great deal in upfitting the restaurant and you can tell that they've put some time into it. The music played when we were there was not as rockin' and rollin' as I expected (but I liked the music nonetheless).
The only other "hitch" in the evening was that an owner or manager never approached us to see how our experience was (even though I noticed him sitting at a table on his laptop during our visit). I have come to expect it in independently-owned restaurants, but it's not something that would keep us from coming back... it's just a nice touch that I think really ensures a positive experience when the owner thanks you for coming in and asks for feedback.
Other Cherry Bomb Grill Links: