Review #18: Crabtree Tavern (Raleigh, NC)

Scott’s Review

BBQ Bacon burger (Classic Rocks)

I’ve always been wary of dating restaurants I meet on the Internet. It’s just too easy to slap on a sexy homepage and strut one’s virtual delectables across something as deceptive and inedible (believe me—I’ve tried) as a computer monitor. But there I was again, ready to play the burger field with a restaurant about which I knew nothing, save for its name, address, and a clear understanding that it likes sports.

At first, I was sure I’d been duped again. Online, the place fancied itself an “upscale sports bar,” but its collar—from the mellow, homey atmosphere to the “Go local sports teams!” décor—couldn’t have been more blue. I thought that our tête-à-tête would be brief and unmemorable, that we would exchange pleasantries but not phone numbers.

My number? It's 867-5309.

But when it came down to what really matters in life—our innermost feelings about patty seasoning, where we stood on the big issues like shredded vs. whole-leaf lettuce, our shared belief that the blend of fixins is greater than the sum of its parts—we managed to do just fine. Not a sizzling romance, perhaps, but a perfectly agreeable burger-burgiatrist friendship—one, with wings as good as theirs, with benefits.

Not ready to bring it home to the folks, but a good, solid burger.

Scott’s review: 3.25 out of 5.

Michael’s Review

Classic Tavern burger (Classic Rocks)


Imagine coming home from work. The house is relatively quiet, dinner is on the stove, and nothing to attend to but a spot in a comfy recliner. That’s what the Classic Tavern burger is. Nice build, crisp lettuce, juicy tomato, flavorful patty, perfectly melted cheese. It is simply an easy burger to enjoy. John and I seriously considered ordering another one and splitting it.

No one thing was outstanding about this burger. However, it does not fall into the same category as Scott’s “extra-medium” Spirits burger. The total experience was greater than the sum of its parts.

The cook at Crabtree Tavern got it right. Everything came together into a truly enjoyable burger. It was a potato bun away from approaching Mojoe’s perfection. The dry kaiser requires a full point deduction, though.

Michael’s Review: 4 out of 5.

John’s Review

Classic Tavern burger (Classic Rocks)

Always judge a book by its cover, that’s what I say. Then you’re more apt to be pleasantly surprised in life. Take, for example, the TSB visit to Crabtree Tavern…

As we drove up a slight grade toward the restaurant and it revealed its façade, I was struck by the fact that the size and shape of the building was reminiscent of a chain restaurant, and there was a quirky glass entrance that felt like it could go with some sort of restaurant-chain theme. Turns out that the Crabtree isn’t part of a chain, but chain-bar-food expectations were set nevertheless.

Mmmmm...pleasant surprise.

As we entered the restaurant and panned across the unusually open layout of the place, I noted the big central rectangle of a bar, booths along walls, railings dividing sections of tables on the open floor, tv screens with sports, and lots of banners, framed ads, and other typical sports bar & grill accoutrements. It was a bit of a barn of a place…unusually open, capacious, and lacking the many typical nooks and cozy spaces of its peer establishments. Perhaps because of its size and openness, but also its healthy number of jovial customers, I felt at once exposed at our table, but glad to be a part of that sprawling and bustling crowd of jovial diners and drinkers. Once I took it all in, I found myself in a good mood and glad to be where I was. At the same time, there was something quirky and inchoate about the place, and thus my expectations for the burger dipped from chain-level to dubious-chain-level.


Great service and a spanking good burger! Another #$&^!#$*&^$%!!! Kaiser roll, but a decent one (as far as they go), and it managed no to distract too much from a shockingly well-cooked and flavorful patty as the centerpiece to a well-built and balanced ensemble of fresh vegetables and melty, greasy, gooey cheese. This was a strong burger, and I’m pleased to say that once again—thanks to my own cynicism and characteristic prejudgment—I was very pleasantly surprised. Only the tiniest of room for improvement with the patty and the frustrating faux pas of the Kaiser hold this burger back to a tap-dancing 4.5.

P.S. Until we’ve visited a burger joint more than once, there’s always a risk that we’ll later regret our most positive reviews. Have no reason to doubt that Crabtree would come through for you if you follow my recommendation, but feel obligated to offer the caveat, lest you suffer an off night like the one I had recently at Bonefish Grill—one of our highest rated burgers despite the being out of their forte and, on my second visit, I was served a rock-hard, over-seasoned brick of a burger on an over toasted bun. Crabtree has earned its review, so go, and I’ll cross my fingers that you don’t get “Bonefished.”

Crabtree Tavern on Urbanspoon