Life in the Triangle

In 1999, my wife Kathy and I moved to The Triangle Area of North Carolina from California. Interesting area, the Triangle. Here are some of our experiences.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Frankie's of Raleigh - Review

My wife and I had the opportunity to visit Frankie's Restaurant recently. If you haven't yet heard of Frankie's, you probably will. Frankie's, already a staple in South Carolina, has just opened a new "fun park" in Raleigh. There are arcade-style amusements such as video games, manual games such as air hockey and basketball toss, as well as virtual experience games like auto and motorcycle racing. They have laser tag, miniature bowling lanes, and all kinds of games of chance, (including horse racing!) so you can win a boatload of tickets to cash in on valuable prizes such as a teddy bear for your sweetheart. For the smaller guests, there are "crawl around/climbing" adventures, and for those a bit older, a very tall "dropping" style ride sure to help the kids enjoy their lunch again and again.

All this is in a gigantic indoor arena about the size of your high school gymnasium. Outdoors they have mini-golf, bumper boats, a huge batting cage, and no less than three racing tracks.

Let's Eat

But I digress. Amid all this amusement is a full service Italian-style restaurant which boasts a menu that could stand alone against other similar restaurants in the Triangle. Always looking for a good Italian place, I decided to take my wife Kathy to Frankie's one recent Saturday to check it out. I pass Frankie's on TW Alexander Blvd off of Hwy 70 in Raleigh on my way to work at RTP every morning and so I was curious. I didn't tell her about the amusements.

She didn't quite know what to think when we first entered the complex, as you have to walk past quite a number of "amused" guests to get to the restaurant, which is situated inside the main arena of activity. But once you enter the foyer of the dining area, you feel like you are in more familiar surroundings. The entrance is inviting and tastefully appointed.

The host

I was somewhat taken by how young the host was - he didn't look like he was any more than about 16. Nothing wrong with that, of course. After all, this is all part of a "theme park" atmosphere, but his youth made it difficult to hide his lack of experience in greeting restaurant guests who may expect a more enthusiastic welcome. This young man will make a wonderful host in just another year or so - I could feel it. Youthful inexuberance aside, he seated us quite professionally.

I'll always remember good ol' what's-'er-name

I had similar sentiments over our server. I wish I could remember her name … oh wait. She never gave us her name. Unlike most restaurant patrons who may forget their server's name a few moments after it falls off their tongues, I try to make a point to remember our servers' names. It's a lot easier to get their attention when you can call them by name rather than to request, "that dark haired server" from a passing staff member. Alas, tonight that was not to be.

Like the host, this server lacked the enthusiasm one expects at a nice restaurant. She spoke quite softly and rarely made eye contact with us. Though we were two patrons sitting at a table with settings for four, I thought it was unusual that she did not take away the remaining two place settings. I don't know if that is her job or that of the host, but anyway, I was glad I had an extra set of napkins because I tend to be somewhat of a sloppy eater, especially when I am eating Italian.

As the server left our table to fill our drink order, Kathy and I pored over the menu. I should more accurately say that Kathy pored. I just glanced. I order the same thing whenever I go Italian - spaghetti and meat sauce. If they have S&MS, I am good to go. They serve it, however at $10.95, it seemed a bit on the high side, I thought. Any time I pay eleven bucks for spaghetti, my standards go way up and I expect a lot from that bowl of pasta. Anyway, Kathy spotted the lasagna, (about twelve bucks,) so she was good to go, too. Miss No Name returned with our drinks, took our order, and left.

A bit later, our bread and Kathy's $1.75 salad came. The bread was served with olive oil on a small dipping plate with about a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese on top.

The entrees

Then the food came. Kathy tried her lasagna, and at first she said it was good, though she later told me that it lacked "staying power," in other words, the first few bites are great, but then the remainder gets pretty bland and "boring" the rest of the way. This can happen if the spices are a bit overwhelming at first. It dulls the taste buds and affects the rest of the meal. She also mentioned to me that they didn't seem to give her enough sauce.

My spaghetti was good. Not eleven dollars great, but good. It was thick spaghetti, somewhat al dente as I like it. The meat sauce was pleasant, but unremarkable. Overall we both felt that the quality of the entrees we ordered did not justify their prices.

We still good here?

Other than that, the meal was enjoyable. However, the server never came back to ask us "How is everything?" as we have come to expect. Had she done that, she would have noticed that Kathy's sweet tea glass was completely empty. But alas, that fact was to remain a mystery behind those swinging kitchen doors. The Unknown One did eventually come back, and even though we were both clearly finished with our meals, she only took away Kathy's plate, leaving me to stare at my empty eleven dollar bowl for the remaining part of our visit. Then she returned to inquire about dessert, which we declined, and presented us with our check.

Closing ceremonies

In our minds, a thirty dollar ticket plus tip for two pasta meals, a salad, and two non-alcoholic drinks at an amusement park seemed a bit over the top. We think the planners of Frankie's wanted to give the parents someplace nice to go while their kids burned off their energy playing games and eating Frankie's snacks (consisting of the fare more typical of their age group: chili dogs, pizza, fries, tacos, and nachos.) However, I can sympathize with a family of four who may have wanted to eat together as a unit before sending the kids out for a few hours of wallet-burning enjoyment. A full night at Frankie's can turn into one memorable trip for which you may need to budget more than just your time. I placed the fancy black leather carrier with two twenties visible at the edge of the table.

A few moments later, our As Yet Unnamed server picked it up, and mumbled something we could only imagine was, "I'll be back with your change." I can only assume that's what she said because that is what servers typically say when they take your money at the end of your meal, but I wasn't sure. For all I know, she could have said, "Sorry you're still staring at your empty plate," but who knows? On her return, she somewhat startled us because she smiled broadly and rattled off, almost by memory, something like, "Thank you for visiting us at Frankie's! Come back and see us again, and have a nice afternoon!" Even though it was already about 7:00, our afternoon had actually been quite nice.

All in all, our experience at the restaurant was a good one, and I am sure that the service the staff provides will improve over time - after all, Frankie's has just opened recently in the Raleigh area and they are still "green behind the ears," as I am fond of saying.

The arcade

After our meal, Kathy and I circumnavigated the arcade area and observed some of the activities. We were too stuffed from our meal to want to participate in anything, but there certainly was no lack for things to do. It was enjoyable just watching the participants having fun. One memorable experience occurred at the batting cages. A father was coaching his son, who probably played after-school baseball, while the machine tossed variously placed baseballs towards the boy. With each pitch, the dad would toss his son a tidbit of advice.

"Choke up a bit on the bat, son!" or "Keep your eye on the ball, son!"

The look on the boy's face told a different tale, as if to say, Dad, I thought we came to Frankie's to have FUN.

But there is plenty of fun to be had at Frankie's. Visit Frankie's on line at, or better yet, come see them in person.

Place: Frankie's

Location: Raleigh, at TW Alexander Blvd & Hwy 70

Atmosphere: Fun park and restaurant

Dress: Casual

Cost: Reasonable

Host: B

Server: C+

Entrees: B

Atmosphere: B+

Value: C

Overall Rating: B+

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