Your experience at the relatively new Terrafin Station in Raleigh may well depend on which door you enter.
One funnels you into the restaurant side, which is quiet, with dark wood and imposing booths, yet unfussy enough to be family-friendly. The other entrance dumps you directly into Terrafin's bar area, a lively space with a dozen or so TVs observing the proceedings.
This is the second location for the family-owned business, and its menu is nearly identical to the original Terrafin Station, which has been in Garner on Old Drugstore Road for about three years. Both spots follow the typical American fare playbook—a dozen appetizers, a few soups and salads, a handful of burgers and sandwiches, plus a standard lineup of steak, fish and pasta dishes.
While the menu may lack imagination the kitchen compensates with execution. Served with mango chutney, the tangy, crunchy pimento cheese fritters are the one unexpected appetizer. The "fresh catch of the day," the flounder, was slightly blackened and flavored with a light lemon butter sauce. It has a clean, fresh taste and melts in your mouth.
The BBQ chicken consists of two grilled boneless pieces, smothered in barbecue sauce and a lava flow of provolone and cheddar cheese. A copious amount of bacon tops it off. Odds are you will clean your plate.
Most dishes are accompanied by one or two sides that include seasonal vegetables, fries, cole slaw, baked potato and broccoli. Among the best of the sides are the garlic mashed potatoes, an ideal combo of lumpiness and garlic; sweet potato wedges, artfully stacked on the plate; and the fruit salad, an uncomplicated mix of strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple and grapes, crisp and refreshing).
Want to try the cheesecake? Good luck. It sells out quickly. Should you have to go with a Plan B, then opt for apple crisp with a dollop of ice cream and drizzled in caramel.
Yes, we did mention there is a bar, and Terrafin's is a comfortable place to grab a few drinks and hang out. If you're lucky, Anton will be working; he smoothly handles a busy evening while making customers feel like they're the most important person there.
Weekday drink specials include a solid contingent of North Carolina brews on draft, which are just 3 bucks on Monday: Aviator, Highland, Lonerider, Big Boss, Red Oak, Deep River, Foothills and Mother Earth. Thursday features $4 well drinks—and the house brands are all in the midrange, not lower-tier rotgut‚ plus a $3 bartender's choice draft, which recently was Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale.
For those of you who prefer the grape, the wine list includes such selections as Biltmore Reserve chardonnay, McWilliams shiraz, Ghost Pines merlot and Ecos de Rulo cabernet.
Whether you opt for door number one for a casual dinner or door number two for a bit of tippling and fun, you'll find Terrafin Station a welcome non-chain, non-gimmicky addition to an area in need of just that.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Arrival: Terrafin station."