Durham >Bars & Clubs > Federal Lounge
914 W Main St, Durham, NC | Directions 2770136.000719 -78.910084
Neighborhoods: Downtown, Brightleaf
I was in the Durham area this weekend and mosied into The Federal solely based on the Yelp attention this joint has received. The reviews were dead on – delicious, beautiful food disguised within a dark, vintage dive bar. In retrospect, neither I nor my lunch mate had any complaints about our lunch – everything was perfect. As directed, we started lunch with an order of “Fed fries” – cut potatoes tossed in an oil/garlic/parsley mixture – good balance, the herbs were not overpowering and we easily polished off the entire basket.
My lunch mate and I split the chicken sandwich & grilled cheese sandwich. The chicken was so tasty! – The Federal can really work with herbs. They don’t monopolize the entree, but subtly highlight flavors in the food. I didn’t ask for any accessory sauce – which is usually the cause w/chicken, so truly tasty marinade. The grilled cheese was introduced as the menu favorite by the waitress – if I was still vegetarian I would have been turning cartwheels, but the chicken sandwich was undeniably superior. Both sandwiches were grilled like paninis (my fav) and were generously garnished with tomatoes, avocado and spring greens. The side mixed green salad was selected as our sides, since we carbed up earlier. Beautiful greens – there’s always something elegant about mixed baby greens with balsamic dressing – a bit out of place considering The Fed’s motif, but delicious none the less.
The Fed featured several beers on its chalkboard, and by the traffic in&out to its barstools — its a decent little bar for a drink(s).
Overall: Raleigh > Durham… but The Federal definitely has it going on… stop in.
just right – What's not to like....well I suppose everyone has their "thing", but this place is nice and low key. You can wear just about anything in there and not feel out of place. The best part, is the food is ALWAYS bangin'
Good stuff, great place, and if you haven't checked it out it should be top of your list.
Poor Customer Service – I was a fan and a promoter of this local restaurant and bar, until I experienced one of the most disrespectful customer service exchanges with one of the waiters/hosts.
I immediately left the restaurant b/c I didn't want to make a scene. I actually had a co-worker with me, who was excited about eating here for the first time. I raved about their delicious entrees and hamburgers. I telephoned the restaurant when I returned to work to attempt to make sense about what just happened and the waiter continued to reinforce her negative disposition. She would not even provide me with the owner's contact information, so that I could make a formal complaint. When asked to speak to another employee, they just co-signed her unacceptable behavior.
Needless to say, I haven't been back to the Federal since this incident. In fact, I share my unfortunate experience every chance I get.
Overall, best value in the Triangle – I've eaten at the Fed, well, probably more than 100 times. I keep trying elsewhere, but nowhere matches the combination of outstanding food, great service, and reasonable (okay -- more than reasonable) prices. The Fed is the only place in the Triangle where you can get oxtail barbecue, rabbit stew, frogs legs, venison -- no telling what's going to be on the specials menu -- and never pay more than $15 for an entree. And the beer . . . . just think Foothills on draft, plus beers from Triangle, Highlands, Terrapin, Brooklyn, etc. etc. Get there early, or be ready to wait to sit in the main dining/bar area.
some problems – The food was good. I had a some kind of delicious beefy wrap with a side salad. The side salad is one of the best I've ever had at a cheap restaurant. Lightly dressed. no disgusting tomatoes. Both times I've been the salad has been good.
My companions had a burger (good) and carnitas (good). The beer selection was good and the waitress was good about bringing refills of water/soda. She did, however, disappear when it was time to get the bill.
We first got seated in the back room where it was so loud that we couldn't hear our server. She also only had one menu to give us. We then indicated that we would like to wait for a seat up front or on the porch, but they had a weird system where you wrote your name down on a waiting list that no one looked at.
we eventually got a table on the porch, which even though it was a very humid evening was lovely and fun. Definitely go if you get to sit on the porch!
Great Place to eat late – They have a great special menu and serve food very late on the weekends. Not at all what you would expect by peeking in the door. Duck confit with grilled asparagus or risotto at 12am in a smoky bar? I was pleasantly suprised by the food. It can be crowded and smokey but at least it's not Honeys. ow almost forgot good service too most of the time
Our Favorite Place – I'm not sure where the complaints about the service come from. The third time we went there, we were greeted by name even though our visits were weeks apart. It's true that Ben and the other bartenders look a bit intimidating because of their size and tatoos, but they've always been approachable and friendly to us. And the food--wow. Throw down some white tablecloths, dress the staff in black and white, and you'd think you were in a high-end joint.
The specials are always worth trying. My favorite from the past was one with scallops, lime, bok choy, ginger, garlic, and spices. Unbelievably, the scallops were cooked perfectly--not a hint of rubberiness, and even the best restaurants fail in that respect. Recently I had mussels in a chipotle cream sauce that was a perfect complement to the seafood. As for the regular dishes, we love the carnitas and the pork sandwich, both of which feature meat that is tender, moist, and perfectly spiced. And if you can find a seat on the outdoor patio you can have the perfect evening. Go early, though, to get a table on the weekend.
good food, good beer, TERRIBLE staff – The Federal has gone downhill in the last few years - I've been going there with varying regularity since its inception - much much less frequently these days. The food is still excellent, the beer selection is solid, the atmosphere and music are fine, if a little loud..
However, good food and good beer isn't that rare in Durham these days, so The Federal isn't that special in those respects anymore.
What The Federal lacks hugely is any sort of quality staff. The bartenders are either rude or unapproachable, while the wait staff is flat-out terrible - rude, slow, mendacious, you name it. They look like they would prefer you dead.
Not worth going there.
More Wait staff Please – Let me start by saying that I really like the food and the atmosphere at Federal. It is a great place with so much potential. Where they seriously fall short is the lack of waiters / waitresses. The ones they have have to run around constantly to keep up with the lunch crowd (and it can definitely get crowded for lunch). Often times there are only 2 of them vs. close to 20 tables if it is nice enough to eat in their outdoor area. Those are terrible odds. We often decide not to go there because we know that it will take longer than the typical "lunch hour."
Very nice lunch – Great sandwiches and soup. 1/2 soup + 1/2 sandwich for $5.00.
We had the spinach and potato soup, which was great. The penne chix panini also very good.
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