Since opening Frazier's 12 years ago, Urban Food Group has built an enviable reputation with a variety of concepts, from French brasserie (Coquette) to Italian trattoria (Vivace) to upscale-contemporary tavern (Porter's) to wine bar (the recently transformed Frazier's). With their latest venture, owners Kevin and Stacey Jennings turn their attention to American sports pub fare. Given their track record, you just know it won't be your run-of-the-mill suds-and-flat-screens joint.
Sure enough, they're calling Chow (8311 Creedmoor Road; 841-4995; www.chowraleigh.com ) a "pizza bar" - by which they don't mean "buffet" (it isn't), but baked-to-order pies served at a large open bar with overhead sports screen TVs. Topping options cover an ambitious spectrum from classic margherita to house-made sausage to short rib with smoked tomato sauce, taleggio cheese and caramelized onions.
Pizzas and calzones aren't the only temptations. The menu offers a wide assortment of burgers (made with beef that's ground fresh daily), salads, tacos with fillings ranging from chili verde to Carolina white shrimp, and appetizers such as chow-chow quesadilla and fried pimento cheese. The bar's taps dispense two dozen draft beers, nearly half of them local brews.
There are plenty of booths and tables in the dining room, as well as a patio and private banquet room seating up to 35. For those who'd like to work off a few (OK, very few) calories, pool tables and video games are in the back.
Also in North Raleigh, Payman Bazooband (another successful restaurateur whose diverse holdings include Brasa Brazilian Steakhouse, Baba Grill and Crazy Fire Mongolian Grill) has dipped his toe in the sports pub market. Tap City (6675-105 Falls of Neuse Road; 896-7560; www.tapcitysaloon.com) lives up to its name with 32 draft brews (and 32 in bottles), including half a dozen seasonals on tap.
Burgers get star billing here, with variations ranging from The Steeple Chase (a beefeater's bonanza featuring an eight-ounce burger topped with roast beef, horseradish sauce, grilled onions, mushrooms, provolone and American cheese) to The Angry Frenchman (smothered with sauteed Bordeaux red onions and brie, served on a brioche bun). An eclectic assortment of sandwiches and salads are also offered, as well as an appetizer list that spices up the usual pub offering with the likes of duck and sausage gumbo, barbecue pork cheese fries and Spicy Napoleon Dynamite (cheese-stuffed Tater Tots served with beer queso).
The entree list is brief, but heartier appetites should find sustenance among options such as Country Cordon Blue (the "country" referring to the ham) and Carolina Catfish Matrimony (fried catfish topped with andouille cream sauce and blackened shrimp). Prices top out at $18.95 for a 12-ounce rib-eye with fries and vegetable of the day, which means you shouldn't have to worry about experiencing the other definition of Tap City's name.