Isaac Hunter’s Tavern, probably Raleigh’s most historical tavern, has decided to branch out, focusing on food this time. I love a good pub, anything combining good food and local beer has my seal of approval, so I was excited when we found that Joel Lane’s was having a pre-opening tasting. The question before this place is of course, can it meet Isaac Hunter’s reputation?Joel Lane’s (410 Glenwood Ave, Ste 350, Raleigh, NC 27603), named after the “Father of Raleigh”, is set among the bars and tapas joints along downtown Glenwood ave, so it’s definitely a refreshing change of pace. Its focus seems to be pub food and sandwiches done well, with a good local brew to round out the meal. The menu for the night was casual, mostly sandwiches, with the odd plate of spaghetti featuring the specialty of the house, homemade meatballs. To start things off, we tried their fried mushrooms and loaded tots. We’re blessed in Raleigh to have numerous places offering loaded tots, so I’ve become a tot snob, if there is such a thing. The idea of the loaded tots sounded good; pepper jack cheese, sour cream, and green onions, but with the creamy pepper jack sauce on the bottom and creamy sour cream on top rendered the tots soggy within minutes. The taste was good, but the texture soon become mush. What was more successful was the fried mushrooms and “zesty sauce.” The mushrooms weren’t greasy and were seasoned perfectly and we spent a good 10 minutes figuring out what made the zesty sauce so good (Cayenne? Paprika?)
After some salads (which weren’t great, but not terrible), it was time for the main courses. The meatball sandwich was a must, and after weeks of eating light, only a club sandwich would do. Unfortunately, once again, while the taste was there, the execution was lacking. With a club sandwich, you need either thick, solid bread or you need to toast it. Joel Lane’s club sandwich used soft pumpernickel, which wasn’t toasted, so the sandwich collapsed when I picked it up. You shouldn’t have to use a fork and knife for a sandwich, which is what I was forced to do. Luckily, it was tasty; the turkey and roast beef was tender, the tomatoes were bright and ripe, and there was a slathering of shallot mayo on the sandwich which brought it all together.
The meatball sandwich won in the battle of the mains. It was seasoned well, the sauce was tasty, and there was plenty of melty cheese on top. You couldn’t ask for more, except it was advertised as being a jalapeno meatball, and the spiciness was not there. I tasted other seasonings, but no heat at all. If it hadn’t been sold to us as having jalapeno, it would have been a true success.
Finally, desserts! We had a choice of raspberry brulee cheesecake and fried poundcake. Matt went for the poundcake, and because I’m a sucker for all things brulee, I went for the cheesecake. Again, it was an issue of advertising; just as a raspberry cheesecake, it was great. But when I hear “brulee,” I want brunt, crisp sugar, which my cheesecake did not have. Matt picked the true winner; the fried poundcake was like being at the state fair, without the greasiness. The fried coating was nice and crisp, the inside was surprisingly light and airy, and the cherry bounce drizzle was the quote on quote “icing on the cake.”
Overall, I think it’s a good start. There’s little things that could stand some reworking, but Joel Lane’s shows a lot of promise. I can see myself spending many a Saturday afternoon drinking a pint of Big Boss’ Monkey Bizness and a fried poundcake. I see many a week of healthy eating blown here.
~Becca “formerly Julia”