Pogo, new Marbles restaurant, holds plenty of promise
Posted August 4, 2013
Updated August 5, 2013
I was thrilled when I learned earlier this year that Marbles Kids Museum was poised to make some major changes to its food offerings for families.
Back in February, Roly Poly, the sandwich and wrap spot, closed and construction began for a brand new concept that aimed to appeal to both the family and adult crowd. I was excited to hear about the broader choices beyond sandwiches and offerings that catered to late-night movie goers who visit for the IMAX feature films.
The result is Pogo, which now sits in an expanded, brightly painted space in Marbles' IMAX Theater building. It opened July 18. With hours from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday, the restaurant serves lunch and dinner and offers beer, wine and a small plate menu in the evening.
I've also been to more than my share of restaurants in the weeks just after opening. I know that, for even the best restaurant, the transition can be a tough one as staff figures out what works and doesn't work. There's a now popular restaurant in downtown Raleigh where I had to wait an hour for my food the week that it opened.
We didn't have to wait an hour for food when I visited Pogo a week after it opened. But our party - my eight-year-old daughter, colleagues from WRAL.com's Out & About, along with its editor Kathy Hanrahan's 10-month-old son - was warned as we ordered that we'd probably wait 20 minutes for food.
It was very busy. The dining room and outdoor patio were nearly packed. But the cashier also mentioned they were working out the kinks.
My eight-year-old settled on the hamburger from the kids' menu. We spent the extra $2 for a cookie, drink and side. She chose fresh fruit. I got the vegaMonster sandwich with hummus and veggies on a ciabatta roll with a side of broccoli salad. My fellow diners chose the Pogo Stix kebabs with sides of mashed sweet potatoes and macaroni and cheese and the chicken lickin' panini with fresh fruit.
It ended up taking about 20 minutes to get our food. Unfortunately, my daughter's burger was burned. When I complained, a replacement came very quickly and while the meat had a great beef taste and the tomato and lettuce that topped it were fresh, it was a still a bit too charred. Kathy's Pogo stix also where burned. (Update: I heard back from Pogo's owner who tells me they've made a change to the way the burgers are cooked: "We have moved our burgers off the chargrill and onto a flat top, yielding less burned flavor- hurray!" Yay!)
My sandwich was a bit skimpy on the fillings, which were otherwise tasty and fresh, and a little dry (perhaps it might be better as a wrap). My colleague Caitlin had the same complaint about her chicken sandwich.
But let's take a moment to talk about the broccoli salad. It was a creamy, tangy blend of fresh broccoli and other vegetables. I'm still thinking about it nearly a week later. That was absolutely delicious.
And that brings us to the sides. Kathy's little boy gobbled up the macaroni and cheese. And the 18 side choices are all tempting, though I'd love some descriptions for some of them so I had some idea of what I was getting (like the chipotle sweets and black bean salad). It might be nice to have some information about them.
The quality of the sides should come as no surprise. The sides are some of my favorite things at The Q Shack in North Hills (the macaroni and cheese and baked beans are family favorites). Pogo's owner, Tom Meyer, is president of Farmer's Table Restaurant Group and the guy behind The Q-Shack, Sprout Cafe at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham and Green's restaurant at UNC Hospital.
So I'll be back. I might choose the triple threat plate, which lets you choose three of the sides. You can bet I'll be getting that broccoli salad again. And I'll be hopeful that the issues have been worked out by then. Because after a day at Marbles with my kids, the last thing I want to do is go home and make dinner.