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Crabtree Tavern: Good Grub at a Snail’s Pace

Tucked behind Crabtree Valley Mall is a free-standing restaurant site which almost clicked in two previous incarnations. Owners of the former Tavola Rossa converted the restaurant to the Crabtree Tavern hoping that the third would be the charm. The Crabtree Tavern is a sports-themed restaurant with an upscale tavern menu.

Diners who frequented the belated Cactus Flower and Tavola Rossa restaurants will be surprised at the amount of renovation that went into the Crabtree Tavern. Gone are the numerous level changes throughout the restaurant, as is the carpet (replaced with a black and white tile floor). The bar area now sits in the former dining room, opening the P-shaped restaurant as one large cohesive room. A plethora of TVs hang throughout the restaurant, and offer diners (especially on Sunday) a chance to get a view of all of the televised games. Excellent music from a satellite service creates a nice noise foundation. However all of that is destroyed when an internet jukebox goes to work, overwhelming the experience at stomach-churning volumes.

The Tavern’s dinner menu (.pdf) selection is excellent. There are numerous appetizers that are perfect for community feeding, including the excellent beef brisket nachos. Higher quality tortilla chips would take this dish to the forefront of the Raleigh "nacho scene". To be avoided is the chili, which pales to Wendy’s and Sweet Tomatoes’ average offerings.

A popular item in the bar is the Beer Tower , a 3’ tall test tube holding almost two pitchers of draft beer. To keep the tower cold the bartender drops in a frozen, non-melting ice torpedo. The towers are priced in the $20-$25 range.

There is a fascinating selection of burgers, all offered on homemade buns. We tried the excellent Mountaineer which creatively marries a smoked tomato slice with barbecue sauce and goat cheese on a solid hamburger patty. Also good, but not as interesting as it sounds, is the Down Home Southern Burger. It features fried green tomato, county ham, pimento cheese, and mustard aioli. For some reason, though, the interesting ingredients get dominated by the beef flavor. We had good buns on one night, but on two other occasions the bread was noticeably firm.

The Entrees section of the menu is where the tavern has a real chance to make some noise in West Raleigh. I tried both the Shepherd’s Pie and the Chicken Pot Pie, and both were outstanding. The Shepherd’s Pie has a nice kick of ground lamb flavor, while the pot pie is extremely well blended, and stands as the best item on the menu.

We also tried the BBQ Brisket sandwich which was very good, but probably not better than the Q-Shack’s.

Where the Crabtree Tavern gets a failing grade is with the kitchen’s efficiency. I have dined in the restaurant three times now and it took 30, 40, and 45 minutes for our entrees to reach our table. With dining times climbing to one and a half hours for fairly simple food, I have to wonder how many diners are eager to return.

Crabtree Tavern has a very good chance to finally bring West Raleigh what it misses most: a reasonably priced, fairly quick restaurant that appeals to a broad range of palates. Ever since General Mills began screwing up Darryl’s, there has been a tremendous void. With the tavern’s location near the RBC Center and on Crabtree’s doorstep, a little bit of efficiency can take this restaurant where it wants to go. The question is whether or not they can step up to the plate.

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  • https://trisoccerfan.com Jarrett C.

    Had brunch there last weekend with a big group of folks to watch soccer on sunday morning (they are one of the few places open in the morning on weekends where you can watch the games from Europe that kick off well before 11am eastern time).

    I concur with you that the place has promise but our experience with the service was very similar to yours…and the restaurant was less than 1/3 full.

    We’re going to give them another chance next Saturday as Boxing Day soccer is a European Football tradition, but if they can’t figure out how to get my donuts and coffee out in less than 45 minutes this week, it will probably be the last time.

  • Chad

    I ordered take-out from there about a week ago. I was told it would be about 15-20 min.. When I got there the food was not ready(about 20 min. after placing the order). I waited another 15 min. then I left without my food. Sunday I decided to give them another shot. I ordered 1 beer finished it, had to wait about 5 min. before the bartender noticed. Needless to say I went to another bar. I will not be going back….

  • Bob

    I went there around 6:00 PM on Saturday night a couple of weeks ago. I loved it! The food was way better than Sawmill Tap Room. The server was attentive. The English manager even stopped by to say hello.

    As for service, it was very good. I like this place! It now on my regular rotation!

    Two thumbs up!!!

  • Jon

    We have been once so far (on Sunday) and would agree the chili was bland, not good at all. My club sandwich with fried green tomatoes was a nice offering however the delivery and presentation of it was a fail. My fries were also cold. The manager/owner did come by our table to ask us how everything was but that was as our food was delivered so we didn’t know yet. The decor is pretty bland but there are lots of flat screen TVs in all directions and the place seems to have potential. I think I prefer Tobacco Road Sports Cafe to this place but we’ll give them another chance at some point.

  • Daria

    I was burned at Tavola Rossa so needless to say I don’t have very high hopes for the new place if it is managed by the same people. It seems they don’t know how to run a kitchen properly. At Tavola Rossa I was served food that was still frozen in the middle.
    Perhaps I will try Crabtree Tavern some day but so far it is looking like not much has changed.

  • RonT

    I went to Tavola Rossa ONCE and that was enough for me. Little things matter, like when I mentioned to the waitress that I love eggplant, but wanted to taste a little bit before ordering an eggplant entre. She left the table and came back to tell me that she would have to charge me for the taste….

    That and ok food meant I did not go back.

    I am not sure of the significance in their being an English manager? Anything “English” in a post about food makes me question it, unless it is a post about fish n chips.

  • Bob


    Hi! The manager or whoever stopped by to check on us was really from England. I just added the adjective to provide a richer description.

  • Trent

    I have now been twice. I think it is absolutely ridiculous that brunch is served until 2pm on Sundays and you cannot get anything off a standard lunch menu until 2pm. The brunch menu is more like a breakfast menu. I have no interest in eating eggs while I watch NFL football.

    My 2nd trip was the other night and I really enjoyed my experience. The menu looks outstanding and I could not make up my mind what to order. I finally settled on the calamari and shrimp n grits. Both were very good and the food was served in a reasonable amount of time.

    I’m willing to look the other way for a new restaurant trying to work out the kinks, especially one such as this that fits into the mold of the type of sports bar that interests me. However, they have got to modify their brunch policy to include other standard lunch fare associated with watch a football game in the afternoon.

  • RonT

    Bob – thanks, I was just poking fun at the common perception of English food.

  • Subway Scoundrel

    I have to say I have never heard of tasting an entree before purchase. (RonT’s comment above) What do they do? Cook a 1/10th entree for someone to taste? Or do they take it from someone elses plate? I hope I am not that guy who has some taken away? Or why if I ordered a chicken sandwich? Do they cut off some for the customer before me so he could get a taste ? Again, never heard of a taste for an entree.

    If that is the case, give me a taste of 6 items, and let me taste 5 different beers. Then thanks. I am not hungry anymore.

  • Jessie

    I’ve been in twice since Tavola Rossa closed and for the most part have had really enjoyable experiences. The food is delicious… my favorite is the BBQ Brisket Nachos and Pimento Cheese dip. The first time we went our food did take 25 minutes to come out, but considering that everything is made to order and it’s barely been open a month… the food is worth the wait. Our server was pleasant and told us a lot about the menu and their beers, which is always helpful. I think if you give it a few more weeks they’ll work out the kinks and the staff (both servers and cooks) will be working at a faster pace. I’ve been recommending this place to all of my friends.

  • Susie

    ha! taste an entree? who does that?
    i had ‘when pigs fly’ when my husband and i went in. it was absolutely one of the best meals i’ve had in raleigh. we had planned on staying for a few hours for a game so we may not have noticed slow service, but we were never hungry and our beers were always full. can’t complain about that. we’ll be back soon and i can’t wait to try the other entrees.

  • Heather

    Went there for lunch on 12/31/2009 – service was beyond bad. When we asked our server to check on where our order was (after 30 minutes of waiting for burgers and fries) he told us that “you know, you’re not at Wendy’s and things take time to cook”. The manager did stop by but he’s comments made the satuation worse. He said “we sometimes get behind when we are really busy”…thing is, there were only 5 tables seated. So I guess busy is more than one customer at a time. No second chance for this place. Food was acceptable, but nothing else was. The restaurant will be lucky to be in business more than a month.

  • gd

    30 minutes for a burger is unacceptable. I want to try this place, but these reviews are keeping me away as of now.

  • RonT

    Just a note on Subway Scoundrel’s comment – have you ever had eggplant? It can be wonderful, but many many places serve it overcooked and horrible. When eggplant parmasean is on the menu, it is not cut and cooked to order, it is prepared in advance. So, although your sarcasm is mildly amuzing, it is an over generalization.

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