## Monday, July 11, 2011

### Review of Tribeca Tavern, Cary

The Tribeca Tavern on Ledgestone Way in Cary is one of the recent additions to the Rocky Top Hospitality Group that includes The Red Room, Hi-5, and The Mash House. As a huge fan of the restaurants of the Rocky Top Group, we had very high expectations for the Tribeca Tavern.  Now let’s call it like it is, the Tribeca Tavern is a very casual, yet semi-upscale sports bar that specializes in burgers.
The Tavern is the cornerstone of a series of shops off of the intersection of High House Rd and Davis Drive. The building has a massive second floor, outdoor rotunda which between that and the two outdoor patios, it is easy to see why Tribeca Tavern has won awards for best outdoor dining.  Inside the restaurant, the décor is simplistic with clean tan colors and massive televisions on the wall.  Any table that doesn’t have a good view of the TVs gets their own one their table for their viewing pleasure.  There are a few massive pictures of people eating food that decorate the dining room as well.  No offense, but pictures of people taking massive bites of food is just creepy.
One of the things that makes me want to support Rocky Top restaurants is that they make a commitment to local ingredients.  Their beef, pork, fish, cheeses, and even pickles are made in North Carolina and they happily mention on their menu where most items originate.  Their menu has variety, but it clearly focused on sandwiches.  Their appetizers contain standard Rocky Top staples like Artichoke & Spinach Dip, Japanese Black Wings, and Cheesy Poofs.  They have pizzas and salads as options as well.  Their main course entrees also include the standards like Dean’s Shrimp & Grits, Pan Seared NC Mahi Mahi, and Jambalaya “Our Way”.  There are dinner options to make any palate happy, but there is no clear focus on a specific type of entrée.
Burgers and sandwiches are the clear focus.  In fact, there is an entire separate menu of specialty burgers.  And of course you can have your burger cooked any way and made with any type of meat: beef, Kobe, crab, chicken, lamb, bison, turkey, or even veggie if you are in to that.  What makes them unique is the toppings they put on the burgers.  Megan ordered a Southern Lovin’ burger which is topped with a fried green tomato, Holly Grove Farms goat cheese, bacon, and aged balsamic vinegar with a side of sweet potato fries that come with a rum honey sauce.  Now since neither of us like tomatoes, she left off the fried green one.  Her burger, just average; sure it was fresh ground beef, but for a burger place, I’d expect something amazing.  It was underseasoned to the point that there was none, but then the very limited amounts of cheese and vinegar left it flavorless.  Her sweet potato fries were very crunch and seasoned perfectly with a light dusting of cinnamon, but the rum honey sauce tasted like straight syrup without a hint of rum to be found.
I ordered a “Not So Sloppy Joe” Burger, which is a ground beef burger topped with a homemade beef short rib sloppy joe with pimento cheese on top.  The burger again was clearly not the star of the show, they are apparently relying on the toppings to give the burger its flavor.  The sloppy joe was amazing.  This beef short rib had to have been cooked for hours on end to give it the soft falling apart texture of a greatly cooked short rib.  The rib must have then been cooked in the sloppy joe sauce for an extended period so that the tomato sauce, peppers, and onion combination could permeate into the core of the meat.  It inspired the childlike happiness that I would remember from eating sloppy joes at the age of five, however this time with grown up ingredients like short ribs.  The pimento cheese was good, nothing special about it, but when added to the hot short rib and burger, the cheese melted into a creamy, saucy blend that was easily the best part of my meal.  I doubt I would order my burger again, because honestly, the burger didn’t add anything to the meal, but I would order the Tribeca Sloppy Joe sandwich and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to experience a grown-up Sloppy Joe.  I also ordered a side of onion rings and I would like to recommend one thing to the “chefs” at the Tribeca Tavern, paper towels.  The onions were crunchy and thoroughly cooked, yet they were clearly thrown on the plate straight from the fryer.  Upon picking up each ring, there was a puddle of oil under each one.  Sure, the onion rings were good, but oil puddles that were slowly creeping toward my burger are inexcusable in plating.
The Tribeca Tavern is a restaurant that I would be willing to try again, but it is out of respect for the Rocky Top Hospitality Group and the great experiences that I’ve had at their other restaurants as opposed to me actually enjoying the Tribeca Tavern.  They have a great idea in making a burger-centered restaurant, but they need to focus a little more on the actual burger instead of just their vast array of toppings.  Also, the other big drawback to the Tribeca Tavern is: "why I would go there and pay \$13-15 for each of their burgers when I can just to their other restaurant Hi-5 and get the same burger, made the same way, with the same name, by the same chain, for only \$5."
 Category Scale 1-5 stars Food Quality $\bigstar\bigstar$ Food Creativity $\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar$ Service $\bigstar\bigstar$ Atmosphere $\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar$ Value for the Price $\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar$

#### 2 comments:

1. "There are dinner options to make any palate happy, but there is no clear focus on a specific type of entrée.

Burgers and sandwiches are the clear focus."

Erm ... what?

2. Good comment and I understand why it might be confusing, until you take a look at the menu. They divide their menu into sections (Appetizers, Pizza, Big Salads, Burgers, Sandwiches, and Entrees). Tribeca Tavern has many burger choices and many sandwich choices which their waitress billed as their focus to us. However, it is their Entree section which lacks a focus or theme (unless hodge-podge is a theme). There is Mexican, Cajun, Southern, Seafood, Italian, English, and even California style cuisines. So, many dinner (entree) options to make a palate happy, but clearly no focus on an entree cuisine type. Nice variety, yes, but clearly no specialty in entrees. Their focus is all about the burgers, hence the separate burger menu. I hope this helps to clarify things.