Kamado Grille, North Raleigh
The first of it’s kind, Kamado Grille is a newly opened concept restaurant that utilizes the Kamado Joe grills for cooking their food.
When I first heard this was happening here in North Raleigh, I was slightly confused and very excited. There wasn’t a lot of lead up marketing. I watched as the spot was being built, but couldn’t find any info on line about what to expect. Finally, they opened! I read over yelp’s reviews and while they weren’t all good, they seemed concerned about each and every reviewer that gave them less than 3 stars. That attitude drew me in! I decided to reach out to Brooks Briz, Kamado Grille’s Chief Marketing Officer, to see if he would give me a little inside picture of how they run their show.
The place is gorgeous. Every aspect was carefully chosen to bring the outdoor barbecue experience inside. It’s comfortable, but also quite exceptional. From the river scene through the middle to the giant TV screens displaying images that inspire the owners and chefs. To a degree, it is a little over the top – if the food is good, you shouldn’t have to have all of these beautiful distractions. It isn’t necessary – but it’s a nice touch.
I loved the lighting and the fact that they offer both indoor and outdoor seating.
The outdoor area is really neat – kind of an all season room. I love this – sometimes you want to have the feeling of sitting outside, even on the coldest of winter days.
For warmer days, they offer some outdoor games – a ping pong table, corn hole and bocci ball.
The staff were incredible! Well trained and enthusiastic about showing us around the inside. As you can see above, they use their own lump charcoal – the pieces can get really big. The entire kitchen smells like grilling. I think I’d gain so much weight if I worked there. Or just spend the entire shift feeling hungry.
Alright, so it’s gorgeous. But what about the menu? Let’s start from the top. Kamado Grill offers a full bar, beer and wine with some interesting sounding cocktails, great choices of local and national brands of beers and good prices on all. When we were seated, we were introduced to our “experience guide” (or server) and given instructions on how to use the iPad ordering system. We were also offered traditional menus to supplement. I have to say, I’m not even a little bit a fan of the iPad system for ordering. I did really like our waitress. Would have been very happy to have her taking our order all night.
I wanted to like the iPad system, I really did. I went in with an open mind, even after reading some of the complaints about it. The biggest issue with it, in my humblest of opinions is how this type of ordering system will change the service industry. I worry that, especially with the job market how it is in this day and age, this will decrease the amount of available jobs. I asked the waitress how she felt about it to which she replied “This is actually my first job waiting tables.” So, she won’t really know the difference between tipping as a traditional waitress and at a place where the job is supplemented by technology. During our Q and A, I asked Brooks how they were intending on supplementing the wait staff to compensate for the fact that most people will assume they don’t work as hard – he went into a response about how they picked their staff based on their attitudes, not necessarily their experience waiting tables. They put a lot of effort into training the staff, and focused on their attitudes and the customer service aspect. I will say, our waitress was delightful! I just worry that some people won’t care how sweet you are, they tip based on their perception of how much work you’ve done for them. There was a really great piece on NPR’s Planet Money talking about just this issue.
Aside from that, the other challenges to the iPad system were that the items on the paper menu didn’t match the items on the iPad. There were two beers we really wanted on the paper menu that weren’t available, and the seasonal beers mentioned on the paper menu weren’t listed either. When we went in to order our food, we were kind of confused by the “select your options” piece. When I picked the appetizer plate, I wanted it as listed on the menu – but you have to go through and pick the things that are already listed. Call me old fashion, but I like to talk to a person. There is a button that allows you to call your server. We used it once or twice and Erica rushed over each time to get our answers to us.
The first thing we ordered was the Grickle and Cheese Board ($8). It’s loaded with grilled pickles, artisan cheeses, apples, smoked olive and caper tapenade and some toasted bread. The cheeses were very good and the bread was grilled very nicely. I didn’t see any sign that our pickles had been grilled. They were kind of a room temperature, no grill marks, but were very good pickles. I wished there was more bread, because we had plenty of cheese left over. I am certain if we had asked, they would have accommodated us with more. The serving plate was very pretty as well. There was a lot of attention put in to each detail, and you could see it in the dishes they used. They looked like paper plates – a nice touch!
For my main dish, I ordered the Reverse Seared Pork Bomb ($16.50). The pork is slowly cooked and then seared before serving. The reviews on this dish were extremely varied. Biggest complaint – that it was dry. My serving was incredible! This pork bomb was above and beyond delicious. Not only was it extremely juicy, the sauce was outstanding. They make a sweet bourbon glaze – and it was super sweet, very smoky and just absolutely perfect. The side dish I chose was the veggies. They were not good. I’m not a huge fan of grilled veggies to begin with, but these were cold and didn’t have a lot of seasoning. The other guests at my table enjoyed them enough, but certainly wouldn’t have ordered them again. When asked how I liked my dish, I was honest about the veggies and was promptly brought a replacement.
I hate to say it, but the mushrooms were worse than the veggies. Again, cold and lacking seasoning. Mushrooms need a sauce, burgundy or some sort of reduction that supplements the flavors. Otherwise, you’re left with a watery mess.
Dish number two was the Black Angus Coulotte ($15). It was seasoned with a compound butter made with shallots, jalapeño and brown sugar – and it was great! The steak was hormone free, antibiotic free angus beef and was cooked perfectly. It could have had a bit more seasoning, but really overall it was delicious. The side chosen for this dish was the smoked gouda mashed potatoes. They were seasoned well, but again they were cold.
My favorite dish of the night (I know, I raved about that pork) was the Maple Miso Salmon ($17). It was a scottish salmon that was cooked on a cedar plank with a miso glaze. The piece of salmon we got was so perfectly fatty and delicious and the skin was unbelievably crispy. I was so impressed. We ordered the Goldsboro Cheese Grits as the side. They were well liked by all, well seasoned, very cheesy but again cold.
For dessert, we picked the chocolate cobbler ($6). The ice cream saved it! They make their own ice cream in house using this really cool device called the PacoJet.
They can make pretty much any flavor, very quickly, and believe me when I say it’s delicious. I loved loved loved the flavors!
The rest of the dessert was ok – the cake was a little dry and the ganache wasn’t quite as deep and chocolaty as I would have liked but it all went well together. The above picture shows how they assemble the cake batter into little grilling dishes. They have the batter all made and just scoop it out into perfect portions. Love the dishes – great presentation.
As a “replacement” dessert, they brought us this plate of white chocolate bread pudding. They use white chocolate bread from La Farm Bakery in Cary.
I have to say, this is not what bread pudding looks like.
THIS is what bread pudding looks like. Ian, my photographic genius friend, had never had bread pudding, and thought the first plate was pretty good. He and his wife returned a few nights later and were served the piece of bread pudding pictured above. While I thought our piece tasted like wet french toast, he said that the piece they were served was very tasty. I think I’d enjoy that piece, and I don’t like white chocolate.
I do appreciate their focus on customer service and hope very much that the technology doesn’t interfere with what the servers are being paid. The company seems to have a good heart and great focus on giving back to the community and inspiring others. The staff really did go above and beyond to make us feel like a welcome part of their day – even while they were busy preparing food.
The head chef, Eric, took a minute to give us a run down on the food, how it’s prepared, how much he loves his job and the cooking classes that will be offered coming up here pretty soon.
Aside from some inconsistencies (bread pudding, side dishes), I really enjoyed my time at Kamado Grille. The important parts of the meal were outstanding. For a place that had only been open two weeks, I think they are doing very well. I’m excited to see where they go from here. They really do aim to please so if you go and don’t love your food, let them know and they will try to fix it on the spot.
Thanks again to everyone for your hospitality! I am looking forward to my next visit. And thanks, as always to Ian Wilson my delightful friend behind the camera and my other “dinner buddy” for joining.