Raleigh, N.C. — Triangle Restaurant Week has begun, and the Out & About team is bringing you some lunchtime reviews from participating restaurants.
We visited Porter's Tavern on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh for their $10 lunch special.
The restaurant: Away from the hustle and bustle of lunchtime on Hillsborough is the calm of Porter's. The tavern is simply decorated and brightly lit from the windows facing the street – a perfect place for a relaxing meal.
The food: A step up from typical pub fare. Porter's has salads, sandwiches, fresh pasta and macaroni and cheese, which was named one of our Five Faves.
Caitlin: I decided on the shrimp and mussel linguine, and although I don't feel qualified to comment on the mussels (that was my first time eating mussels, shortly after which, I decided it would be my only time...something about the way they look), the rest of the dish was great. The linguine was cooked al dente, the slices of Toulouse sausage added the perfect amount of zest, and the grape tomatoes were a burst of freshness. I ordered the meyer lemon crème brûlée for dessert, but they had already run out; I got the Thai vanilla crème brûlée that's on the normal menu as a replacement. I was a happy camper, and if the TRW crème brûlée is anything like the one I had, you'll be a happy camper too.
Kathy: I had the braised short rib sandwich, which came with spinach and red onion jam on ciabatta bread. The sandwich was huge and the ribs were so tender. I also really loved the kick of the red onion jam. It had just a hint of sweetness. They gave me fries on the side, but it was really too much to eat for lunch. For dessert, I opted for the cappuccino cheesecake, which was served with a garnish of instant coffee and butterscotch. I really liked the butterscotch, but found the coffee grounds to be a little strong for me. And the cheese cake was a little hard, almost frozen – like it had been in the freezer just a little bit too long. I tasted Caitlin’s crème brûlée and it was decadent but a better option. Would have loved to have tried the lemon crème brûlée!
Tara: I have been to Porter’s a few times before for their brunch and never ending mimosas and have always been impressed! Therefore, I was eager to try out their lunch and see what their TRW menu had to offer.
I went with the “Wilted Frisee Salad with Grilled Chicken.” I am always worried when I see "wilted" referring to a salad; I am more of a crisp lettuce fan, but I thought I would give it a try. The salad was delicious! My favorite part was the sherry vinegar oil that was used for the dressing. It wasn’t too much where it made my salad soggy but the perfect amount to give it great flavor. The salad also had dates, bacon and red onion along with the chicken. The dates added a sweet flavor to the salad and the red onion gave it a different kick. The chicken was very flavorful and there was the perfect amount to go with the salad (I hate when the salad to chicken ratio is off). With the cappuccino cheesecake for dessert this was more than enough to fill me up and all for only $10.
The cappuccino cheesecake was a little colder/ harder than I imagined but was still very good. What I thought was chocolate on top was actually edible instant coffee which gave the cheesecake an extreme cappuccino flavor. The real surprise was the sauce around the cake. I had thought it was caramel but it was actually butterscotch which we agreed as a group is an underused flavor.
Lisa: I went for the Porter’s traditional lunch menu on this Triangle Restaurant Week visit because, surprisingly, there was no vegetarian option on their $10 TRW menu. I say that this is surprising because the standard Porter’s menu is already fairly veg-friendly, so I would have assumed their TRW menu to be the same. Nonetheless, I did not leave disappointed. I ordered the vegetable fritters for the table as an appetizer, simply because the description included “chow chow” – a southern relish staple! These were not battered and deep fried as the term “fritter” implies and that was fine by the four of us. What was served looked more like a veggie burger patty and if it had been served with lettuce, tomato, and a wheat bun, it would have made as tasty a sandwich as it did an appetizer.
For my lunch entrée, I ordered the butternut squash risotto small plate ($8.95, if I remember correctly). I was hungry and a little apprehensive that ordering a small plate alone wouldn’t fulfill my lunchtime hunger. I’m glad I skipped over the idea of ordering a side though, because by the time I had finished the small plate risotto, I was full. Not even interest in dessert!
The service: Our server was attentive and friendly, and was prepared with a solution when the kitchen didn't have any more of the crème brûlée I ordered. However, we were there a little longer than a typical hour-long lunch break.
Cost: Porter's TRW menu offers two courses, a main and a dessert, for $10. With only water to drink, our meals were filling, yummy and a great value.
The verdict: If you've never been to Porter's, this is a great time to check it out. We'll all be back again!