BEER! Cripes, dude, if there’s one thing this town can’t get enough of it’s beer and I’m as stoked as the next resident. Raleigh is now home to a collection of local breweries and Natty Greene’s is the most recent addition to the club.
Located on West Jones Street off of Glenwood South, Natty Greene’s is a pub paradise full of pool tables, regulation-sized shuffle boards, an extra long bar, and more seating than a commercial airline! The space was once home to the old Raleigh Electric powerhouse, then came Southland Brewery (R.I.P.) and Prime Only a few years ago, but today the folks at Natty Greene’s have turned the warehouse building into a cozy, wood coated beer den. But, as simple and inviting as the decor is, the beer and food is the true matter at hand.
With over a dozen beers on draft, there is no shortage of quality brew to be enjoyed with everything from stout porters to heady IPA’s or mellow wits. As I toured the beer menu, sampling the pungent Guilford Golden, the hard-hitting Dark Horse Belgian Amber, and the smooth Wildflower Witbier I was pleased to find a food menu that matched in quality. At first it reads like a typical bar menu: Burgers, Sandwiches, Salads, Hearty Meat Plates, etc…but then the food arrives.
We started with a not-so-typical bar item: Cajun Fried Calamari. The calamari was covered in a crunchy batter full of chili powder heat, fried to perfection and served along side a heavy (but delightfully spicy) mayo-laced dipping sauce. All I needed were the lemon slices, but the sauce was good if you’re into that sorta’ thing. So far, so good!
Next up, the mains. My fellow diners chose the day’s specials including two chicken dishes, one was a grilled chicken panini with a healthy helping of crispy friees and the other a plate of blackened chicken smothered in deep, rich gravy accompanied by a back-yard-bbq style potato salad. I opted for the Cali Burger cooked medium rare (which is a sign the meat is ground in-house) topped with pepper jack, avocado, thin red onion, and tomato. It was a flavor explosion, the sinfully juicy burger mixed with the silky texture of ripe avocado, a hit of heat from the cheese, and a sharp bite of freshness from the onion and tomato. Exactly how a burger should be done. The burger, along with the sandwich and dinner plate, were also very reasonably sized: not too big that it felt like an overindulgence, not too small that it you left hungry.
Our hosts were incredibly gracious, helping us dissect the beer menu, suggesting their favorite beer/food pairings, and offering a tour around the brew house. I’ve since been back for lunch to sample a few of the other sandwiches, including the Cuban which is full of porky goodness and have been equally impressed by both the service, grub, and most importantly the $2 Pints on Thursdays. $2! That’s a PBR anywhere else in Raleigh.
Without waxing poetic on what is essentially pub grub, I can cheerfully exclaim that Natty Greene’s is a welcome addition to the Downtown bar and food scene. Casual and priced better than any other local brewpub I’m sure Natty Greene’s will outlast it’s predecessors in its new Raleigh home and may just squeeze out Isaac Hunters as Downtown’s Shuffleboard Headquarters.
The Verdict: 4 Stars.