On a Saturday, after shopping in Raleigh, we were a bit peckish. So, we decided to try a place that we had talked about for at least a year, but had never gone, the Cleveland Draft House. The grey-bricked building is very impressive, though it definitely looks out of place. The parking lot was packed with cars, but most of those customers were in the bar area, not the dining room. Megan and I entered the waiting area at about 2:45, and waited, and waited. No one came to help us or seat us. Apparently, after a ten-minute wait, we started walking around and discovered the blonde, high school-aged hostess watching soccer in the dining room. Finally, we sat down to a dining room with only two other occupied tables. The decor is strange. Movie photos are lining a place with big screen TVs all showing sports. The theme seems mismatched to the intent of the restaurant.
Since we were not in the mood for a huge meal, we decided to order some appetizers. We each started with a cup of the beer-cheese soup. For starters, it was the soup of the day. I have never heard of beer-cheese soup not being a staple in a draft house restaurant; it should have been a sign. I definitely believe that a good brewery/restaurant can be measured by its beer-cheese soup. This soup was awful. Most beer-cheese soup has cheddar (or white cheddar) mixed into a roux with beer added. The Cleveland Draft House included very finely chopped red and green peppers into their soup. While, there was a slight taste of yeast, there was no discernable beer taste to the soup. I honestly believe this was watered-down queso from the previous day. Between the look of the soup and the taste of the cheese that was definitely American instead of Cheddar, I think I am right.
We then had Chili-Cheese Fries. The fries looked as if they were properly fried twice and were crunchy. Cheddar cheese was melted on the fries, however, the cheese was not distributed equally and basically fell to the back of the plate. The chili was another big disappointment. I like thick, rich, hearty chili; their chili was none of that. Since chili is the one soup they have every day, I would expect it to be better. The Cleveland Draft House chili on our fries had almost no meat, it was huge chunks of tomato and onion with lots and lots of beans. I wonder if their chili was vegetarian? I doubt it though, since it is not advertised that way. The worst part was that the chili was very watery. At the bottom of our plate of fries was a thin, brown water that made the bottom layer of fries soggy. This dish was almost as big of a failure as the soup.
Our experience at the Cleveland Draft House was horrible. The waitress never refilled our sweet tea and the food was awful. I mean really awful. We had heard good things about the Draft House, but we saw none of them. Perhaps we just ordered wrong, but chili-cheese fries and beer soup should be simple things for a draft house to get correct. I’d love to give them another chance, but I just can’t seem to build up the desire to pay for another letdown. I guess there is a reason why there are no photos of their food on their Facebook page, or the internet at all. Oh, and on our way out, there were three families waiting to be seated, including one with a baby and one all senior citizens. I asked how long they had been there and answers ranged from 10-15 minutes. I then directed them to the hostess, still watching soccer around the corner in the dining room; neglecting her job. Perhaps neglect is just the theme of the Cleveland Draft House.
Scale 1-5 stars
Value for the price