(Closed as of January 2013)
Burgers, burgers, burgers! Have you ever stopped to think how many of them you’ve eaten over the course of your life? Everything ranging from Mickey D’s to White Castle to Red Robin and more. Burgers are one of those food categories where it’s REALLY hard to get a bad one. Same deal for me with pizza and pasta. But your mouth knows when it gets a really good one, and for that reason alone my friend, you need to check out Draft in downtown Raleigh. As part of the Rocky Top Hospitality group, Draft took over the sunken space that used to be the Hi 5. With a very similar menu to Rocky Top’s Tribeca Tavern, Draft does burgers and beers a little bit better in my opinion!
Head over to 510 Glenwood and take the stairs down to the lower level. There you’ll find the inconspicuous and industrial doorway to Draft. Step on through and you’ll be thinking, wow! You’re in a whole different world at Draft, maybe the second happiest place in the world because how can you go wrong with great beers and burgers? Lots of dark polished woods, gleaming beer taps and dim lighting give the place a tavern-like feel. Great space for a casual date, night out with the boys or even solo at the bar.
Pop open the menu, it’s simple but with tons of options. Draft has a set of Mash House brews on rotation and plenty of other high-quality NC brews on tap, about thirty choices total. The food menu has a solid choice of appetizers, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and salads but if you’re coming to Draft for a salad, shame on you! With twenty different specialty burger choices, ten different cheeses and seven different base burgers (ground beef, kobe, bison, chicken, lamb, turkey and veggie) you’ve got nearly an unlimited combination of eats.
Given how big the burgers are at Draft, I’m hesitant to recommend getting an appetizer but let’s throw caution to the wind. For appetizers, I’ve tried out the pickle chips, potato skins with short-rib and grilled Asian wings. Loved the plump wings with a tangy dipping sauce, highly recommend! And Draft still has the crab dip appetizer and Japanese blackened wings from the old Hi 5 menu.
But lets move on to the burger main course, you really have to appreciate Draft’s focus on local North Carolina ingredients. House-ground Angus beef from Ayden, NC, locally smoked bacon and sausage along with fresh Neomonde buns. They pride themselves on the quality of the ingredients here and you will taste the difference. But with prices ranging from $11 to $15 (with a side), you have to be good!
I’m a sucker for meat on meat so anything with bacon works for me. The Hurricane burger is stacked high with pork shoulder barbeque, slaw and bacon. The double-patty Wolfpack comes with monterey jack cheese, bacon and fried onions. Or go with the Pirate which is somewhere in between, with cheddar, chili, slaw and bacon. All of these burgers are meant for two-handed eating or you’ll have to take a knife to Draft’s meaty beasties. My strategy is to pop the top bun on, squeeze down slowly to compress this burger bad-boy and slice it in half for easier eating. Sides of onion rings, house-made potato chips, twice-baked potato and mac n cheese are also done really well, not that you’ll need more food after the burger!
In addition to the great burgers at Draft, service is prompt and professional. Beer specials pretty much every day of the week give you some low-cost quaffing options. And if that wasn’t enough to get you to visit, they also have five full-size pool tables (9′) in game rooms available for rent ($7/hour). A shuffleboard table completes the entertainment options.
The Triangle is experiencing a burger renaissance with the openings of Bull City Burger & Brewery and Chuck’s in addition to Draft and Tribeca Tavern. A year ago I covered some of the best burgers in the Triangle and I’m happy to say that Draft may be the best of them all. Depending on when you stop in, Draft can have a different feel when you visit. It walks the fine line between restaurant, brewpub and sports bar really well. But what I guarantee is that you’ll get a great burger, solid service and fresh beer. And that’s a formula that’s hard to beat any time, bon appetit!