I don't know what has taken me so long to post a review of The Big Easy in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. They also have a location in Cary, NC. I have mixed emotions about my experiences here. The first time we visited was the night before Valentine's Day last year. It was late night, about two hours before closing. The crowd had thinned out and the atmosphere was pleasant. They have a nice late night menu of salads and sandwiches. They also had a wonderful cocktail menu of assorted bar specials.
We ordered drinks and two Half & Half Po' Boys. The meal was exceptional! The Po' Boy featured a full-sized catfish fillet and a sizeable serving of fried shrimp. It was served on a warm baguette and dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles and the most incredible remoulade sauce. My cocktail of choice was Paradise in Malibu, a combination of vodka, coconut, rum, Hypnotiq, and pineapple juice. It was absolutely divine! When we walked out we were in food heaven. It was that good.
It was a few weeks later when we finally made it back. It was a Wednesday evening and there was a group performing live jazz. It was a very pleasant experience. We both ordered the Fried Fish Platter and for the most part, were very pleased with the meal. The fish was fresh, the portion was not overly generous, but sizeable and the atmosphere was extremely pleasant. I only had one complaint. Someone was exceptionally heavy-handed with the salt. I was more sensitive to it than Big Daddy but it did not spoil the meal or the experience.
It was probably a month or so later that we were headed home from a book event and wanted a good takeout meal that wasn't fast food. Big Daddy called ahead and ordered two shrimp Po' Boys. And this was the beginning of their downhill descent. My first complaint was the portion size. Somewhere along the way, the shrimp fell out of our sandwiches. It was no way comparable to that first sandwich and I honestly felt cheated. But we chalked it up to a bad day because we'd had such great experiences prior.
Our next visit was Mother's Day! It was early on a Sunday afternoon and they had a sizeable crowd and tables were turning over quickly. We were seated upstairs next to a party with five young kids. Now what I have thoroughly enjoyed about The Big Easy is it's grown-up atmosphere. They do an adult's preferred thing very well, especially in the evening and late night. But it was Mother's Day! The group had apparently been seated for a good little while. The kids were restless and their parents didn't look like they were having a great time.
I ordered the Shrimp and Broccoli Pasta and Big Daddy ordered the tried and true Fish Platter. Although the broccoli was overcooked and mushy, my only complaint was the salt. When our food arrived, the table next to us were still waiting for theirs. This family was not happy and I wasn't thrilled that little Timmy kept coming to look in my plate, despite his mother's efforts to contain him. But the food was okay, not good, not great, and didn't inspire us to want to come back.
But being downtown tonight we thought we'd give them another try. We have been wanting Po' Boys and the memory of that first one was lingering. Our waiter was very nice and we have always found the staff extremely pleasant but he didn't have clue when we ordered the fish and shrimp Po' Boy. In fact, he told us they had never had a half fish, half shrimp Po' Boy on the menu and he'd been there some eleven months. However he did offer a half oyster, half shrimp sandwich. He also offered a fried catfish Po' Boy with a side order of shrimp for an extra fee.
The ordering process declined swiftly because I'm not a happy woman when I can't have the food I want my way. I blame the big guy who has spoiled me immensely. Because we were hungry Big Daddy finally ordered the half shrimp, half oyster sandwich and I ordered the fried catfish with the side of shrimp. Sadly, I wish we'd just gone someplace else to eat.
Big Daddy liked the oysters and shrimp. They were seasoned nicely. He and I had both ordered our Po' Boys with extra sauce on the side. We both got sandwiches with ALL the sauce on the side and it was not the remoulade sauce we remembered with such delight. This tasted rancid, the color was off and looked like it had been left out and turned. The bread was cold, hard, and crumbled between our fingers. The tomatoes were overripe and the lettuce was wilted. My sandwich had five shrimp and two very small pieces of fish fillet. The French fries were plentiful though. For some reason the waiter changed my order without asking and was able to give me that half-fish, half-shrimp sandwich I'd ordered in the beginning. But from start to finish the meal was a huge disappointment.
The highlight of the evening was the cocktail menu. Once again they had a nice assortment of specialty beverages. The music was also on point. But we don't know if we'll go back again. We never judge one bad experience without going back a second and sometimes a third time. We understand off nights. But we also look for consistency in presentation and taste. We're not sure what we'll get the next go round. We don't trust that what we order will stand up to what we experienced that very first time. They had set a very high bar and haven't measured up to it since.