Boylan Bridge Brewpub review
The Boylan Bridge Brewpub (corner of Boylan and Morgan in downtown Raleigh) is absolutely my favorite place to grab a brew and a bite on warm evenings. Here’s why:
One of the best views of the fabulous Raleigh skyline (well, at least compared to Cary) can be seen from the outdoor patio tables. Even in the summer, the openness seems to attract a light cooling breeze that if you close your eyes after a few margaritas, almost makes you feel like you’re on the beach. Real estate people say there are three important factors for any piece of property: location, location, location. The Boylan Bridge Brewpub has it. Conveniently located at the edge of the city, with plenty of free parking almost all the time. The crowd is a mix of young and old. You’ll see young office rats escaping for a few hours of relaxation, couples with children, and a smattering of local artists, musicians and filmmakers who all enjoy the ambience. You might even see me there blogging or working on a manuscript on my iPad. The outdoor patio is dog-friendly (the friendly wait staff will bring a water bowl for your dog without your needing to ask!). And there’s a bicycle rack right out in front. The outdoor patio view of downtown Raleigh is unequalled, and even the indoor dining area is cheery, light and spacious with lots of windows and high ceilings. And I love that they DON’T blast music like some dining/drinking establishments. And even when crowded, the din never seems out of control.
The menu includes both light fare (salads, soups, and appetizers), as well as interesting and delicious sandwiches and hot entrees. It isn’t a huge menu, but management is always listening to feedback and tweaking the menu with an occasional new or modified item. My favorites are the black bean burger, the Asian chicken wrap, and the spicy chicken Philly sandwich. I had a burger there a while back (before I swore off red meat for a New Years Resolution) that was quite delicious. Beware of the nachos and the large order of french fries: they are humongous orders suitable for either a small family or an offensive lineman. And for the vegetarians, aside from the black bean burger and the vegetable lasagna, they’ll fix you up with tofu in place of meat on almost any item on the menu.
I saved the best part for last. The joint is based around a microbrewery in a large back room. There are generally a half-dozen varieties of delicious fresh-brewed beer on tap, available in pints, pitchers and growlers—and the selection constantly changes and includes “seasonals”. If you aren’t sure which one you want to try, you can order a “flight”: a sampler of six three-ounce (I think) jumbo shot glasses of different varieties. They will in fact let you have a free taste of anything before you order. Beyond their own home-crafted beers, they have a variety of other beers as well. In addition to the standard bar fare, there are some notable mixed drinks on the menu, including a couple I find delectable when looking for a change of pace from the delicious brews: such as the Boylan Bash and the Yuzu Martini.
“The Bridge” is a marvelous hangout that has become more and more popular (especially during the warm season). Their growing success however means you might have to wait for an outdoor table on a pleasant evening. But you can always stand along the wall admiring the view while waiting for your pager to go off. That certainly beats standing in a line at most joints. A couple of suggestions I’d make: add more rain protection for the patio tables—it seems a shame to have to go indoors during a light drizzle. Also, some of those big outdoor heater thingees would make sitting outside during the colder months more pleasant. I suspect they will eventually get around to that. They do really listen to suggestions. If there is a weak point, it is that the service is too often a bit slow and inattentive. I don’t know if it’s because they’re understaffed or it’s just an attitude problem the owner needs to correct. But I notice it does tend to cut stars off many of the other reviews I’ve seen of the place. This dampens the overall experience. As cool a location as it is, they do need to improve the service. If you do go there, say hello to the owner, Andrew, who you’ll see occasionally strolling around saying hello to customers. He’s a very affable person and fairly talented brewmeister.
Chang Scale: 4.0
Reasoning: the vibes, lovely view, convenient location and general ambience kick the rating up from a basic “okay” 3 rating, while the slow, inattentive service knocks it down from a 5. If the quality of service continues to deteriorate, I’ll probably knock the rating down to a 3.5 soon enough. At least on the flip side, they don’t hassle you every few minutes and they’ll let you nurse a beer as long as you want. The food and drink are as good or better than the average bar. It is definitely NOT standard bar food as I’ve seen written by a few reviewers with an axe to grind over the poor service.
B.C. January 2013