Chef Ashley Christensen, Raleigh, NC, North Carolina, Poole’s Diner, Where to eat, Where Chef’s Eat, Chef’s Recommendations, Eating in North Carolina, Beasley’s, Chuck’s, Fox Liquor Bar, Fried Chicken Tips, North Carolina Local Food and Drink, Gin, Beer, Salt, Outer Banks, Where to shop, Where to drink, Cocktails


6 things | Raleigh-Durham

Raleigh Farmers Market

Photo Credit: Kel and Val [flickr]

Find | Cheese

Chapel Hill Creamery

You can find this outfit at the farmers markets. They have all cows’ milk cheeses and they just make some really neat stuff. Our particular favorite that we’ve been working with a lot is called Calvander. It's an Asiago-inspired cheese and it’s fantastic.

Available at:

Carrboro Farmers' Market (Saturdays)

301 West Main Street, Carrboro, NC 27510

Durham Farmers' Market (Saturdays)

501 Foster Street, Durham, NC 27701

Find | Farmers Markets

Raleigh Farmers Market

We'll buy, on any given trip, 70 pounds of heirloom tomatoes, six gallons of butter beans, six gallons of different types of creamer peas, which come to market at different time throughout the the season, and these little amazing pointed heads of cabbage. Through the colder months the offerings are a lot less broad, but it’s an amazing resource to have so close.

1201 Agriculture Street, Raleigh, NC 27603


Q. Tell us about Poole’s Diner.

A. Poole’s is located in an old diner from the late 1940s. When I originally took over the lease, I didn’t know exactly what the concept would be; I just knew what kind of feeling I wanted to create.

The menu changes a little bit every day, so we write it on large chalkboards situated around the room.

I love the idea of ordering a handful of different things and sharing, so that really drove the format of the menu; the dishes are small to medium in size. The menu is Southern that’s a little bit more distilled and cleaned up, as opposed to over-the-top, deep fried, sweet flavors that you general associate with the South. So it’s Southern with a little bit of French influence.

Q. What influenced your fried chicken at Beasley’s?

A. My mom is from Memphis, Tennessee. She’s an amazing Southern cook, taught by her grandmother. I grew up eating her skillet-fried chicken and my dad, an amateur beekeeper, always drizzled the chicken with honey. It’s such a simple thing—that combination of salty and sweet. It became the center of the concept at Beasley’s; I always pictured it like the chicken shacks of my childhood.

Q. Your Mac and Cheese at both Poole’s and Beasley’s sounds epic.

A. Both are pretty kick-ass. At Poole’s, it’s made to order with three cheeses and cream, reduced down and cooked under the broiler. The cook who’s making it is tasting every single order that goes out of the kitchen. At Beasley’s, we do my mother’s mac and cheese, made with a custard base and baked. It’s more in the vein of a casserole that you’d find at a family reunion or a Sunday church picnic.

Q. You only sell North Carolina beer at Beasley’s?

A. Our draft system at Beasley’s is dedicated to only North Carolina beer and we sell five-dollar pints. We collaborated with Fullsteam Brewery in Durham to brew a house beer that pairs with fried chicken. It’s called Beasley’s Honey White, and is brewed with peppercorn and the same honey that we drizzle on the chicken.

Q. Are the cocktails made with local spirits?

A. We do a bunch of different cocktails working with a gin that’s made in North Carolina. We’ve got what’s called a Cardinal Collins. It’s made with Cardinal Gin from the mountains of North Carolina. There’s a moonshine called Troy & Sons. Technically, it’s not moonshine it’s really white whiskey, but they call it moonshine. We’ve got a few different cocktails using that. We try to really embrace as much locally as we can.

Q. You also have Chuck’s in your group of restaurants.

A. It’s next door to Beasley’s and it’s named after the chuck muscle of the cow, which is what we use in the burgers. The menu is made up of eight different burgers, each of which is pretty unique across flavors and textures. One, called the Last Word, has truffle cheese and shredded Dino kale tossed in a hazelnut vinaigrette; another, the Spirit Animal, comes with cream cheese, roasted poblano chilis, grilled tomatoes, and crushed tortilla chips.

Q. Tell us about Fox Liquor Bar.

A. The bar is really fun. Karin Stanley, who is a partner at Dutch Kills in Long Island City and tends bar at Little Branch in Manhattan, created a beautiful program for us. It’s a really neat sub-terrain space, perfect for craft cocktail joint.


Raleigh, NC


Photographs courtesy of Ashley Christensen


Poole’s Diner


American / Southern

426 S McDowell Street

Raleigh, NC 27601

T: 919.832.4477




American / Southern

237 South Wilmington Street

Raleigh, NC 27601

T: 919.322.0127




American / Burgers

237 South Wilmington Street

Raleigh, NC 27601

T: 919.322.0126


Fox Liquor Bar



237 South Wilmington Street

Raleigh, NC 27601

T: 919.322.0128







Recommended By

- Chef Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, KY

Recommended By

- Chef Edward Lee


Smoked Salmon Salad at J. Betski’s

Photograph courtesy of J Betski’s

Eat | Restaurants

J. Betski’s

This place makes wonderful German food. The menu is a little on the richer side, obviously, being German food, but they make everything in-house so it’s incredibly fresh and flavorful. At lunch, they do a smoked salmon salad with an avocado mousse, which is the kind of thing that I probably would have never ordered if someone didn’t say, ‘Oh you've got to try this salad.’ It’s kind of mind blowing. They have a beautiful wine list, with a focus on German and Austrian wines, and a really neat beer program.

10 W Franklin Street #120, Raleigh, NC 27604

T: 919.833.7999

Vin Rouge

This is probably my favorite restaurant in the country, that’s how much I love it. Matt Kelly is one of those cooks who cooks for cooks. The food is just full of flavor and appropriately seasoned, really fresh and rich in all the right ways. He has a really beautiful raw seafood program, with an incredible selection of oysters well beyond anything you’d see elsewhere in North Carolina. But the thing that gets me is all the poached seafood. His food is always so perfectly executed.

2010 Hillsborough Road, Durham, NC 27705

T: 919.416.0466


Coffee at Cafe Helios

Photograph courtesy of Cafe Helios

Drink | Coffee

Cafe Helios

Located in the Glenwood South area, they serve Counter Culture coffee, plus tea, beer, wine, liquor and local and organic food. Their sweets are from local Bittycakes bakery.

413 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27603

T: 919.838. 5177

Whiskey in Durham

Photograph courtesy of Whiskey

Drink | Cocktails & Whiskey


They have a huge whiskey focus, but great Prohibition-era cocktails too. It has a classic feel to it, with big dark wood, big leather chairs, and dark panel on the walls. It has an awesome supper club feel to it, but all cocktails. It’s a great joint.

347 West Main Street, Durham, NC 27701

T: 919.682.6191

F.E.D. Recs on the Go

Download the F.E.D. iPhone app and get more of chef Ashley Christensen’s Raleigh-Durham recommendations as well as more recs from other chefs, sommeliers and bartenders.


Local Products

North Carolina

North Carolina is such a unique state being that we have the coast and the mountains, and Piedmont in between. There’s so much wonderful produce at our fingertips. Here are three ingredients that exemplify our agriculture, in my mind.

Honey: I always try to sample honey whenever I travel in the state, because I think it’s picks up the characteristic of its place so well.

Apples: The apples grown in the North Carolina Mountains are amazing.

Peas: It’s really interesting when you go to a market in a community and check out the local peas. In the summer, I love White Acre Peas. We get about 500 pounds of them over the course of the summer and put them up so that we can cook them all year long.

Find | Salt

Outer Banks Sea Salt

This is a really amazing sea salt that’s coming from the Outer Banks. I haven’t seen it in many places at all, but I started buying it directly from them. This is going to sound hilarious, but it’s very salty. Each salt has a different way that the salinity is expressed. This salt has a wetness to it; it’s a really salty, sea briny, salt. We use it for finishing different sliced meats.

Drink | Gin

Cardinal Gin

We’re seeing a lot of different distillers pop up all over North Carolina. It just wasn’t something that we had much of in the past. Naturally, we have a little hometown pride, so it’s been exciting to use the newer local products. I tasted this gin at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival and I thought it was so cool. It’s heavy with botanicals and you get a lot of notes of mint and juniper. It’s really light and clean.

Drink | Beer

Fullsteam Brewery

Their motto is that they make plow-to-pint beers and they’re using all these great longstanding North Carolina ingredients. Sean Lily Wilson is the owner, or Chief Optimist, as it says on his business card.


The El Toro cream ale is brewed with roasted grits, which is just so brilliant to me. The great thing about small-batch projects like this is that the batches change a little bit each time as they tinker with new recipes and techniques.


Fullsteam also does a persimmon beer, a kumquat beer, and a brew called Hogwash, which is a smoky, dark beer. Sean suggests pairing it with barbecue, but we agree to disagree, as I’m opposed to the smoke-on-smoke approach. Sometimes it’s fun to fight with your friends… especially over beer.


Pro Tips

Poole’s Fried Chicken

Photograph courtesy of Ashley Christensen

Fried Chicken

One of the best tips I can give for fried chicken: brine your bird! It keeps it much more juicy and flavorful.


I read a lot about wet batters, which I think is really interesting, but the fried chicken that I make (and that my family has always made) relies on a method where the chicken gets dipped in buttermilk, then dipped in seasoned flour. The buttermilk and the all-purpose flour create this light, crispy and almost bubbly exterior.

Brown Paper Bags

My mom used to always save the brown paper grocery bags for her chicken. She would put the flour in the bag, then drop the buttermilk-dipped chicken in the bag, fold over the top, and shake it really well.  It ensured that the flour got into all the little nooks and crannies; it also kept your hands clean, which is an added bonus.


I think the best fried chicken is made in a cast-iron skillet. With cast-iron frying, you’re constantly exposing it to oxygen as you’re flipping it.


The heat of your oil should be around 300 degrees or maybe a little lower; too low, and your meat won’t cook through, but too high and exterior will burn.


You should start with your pan filled about halfway full with a neutral oil. Flip the chicken multiple times as you’re cooking: I think the interaction with oxygen between dunks in the hot oil creates a crispier exterior. That’s the fried chicken that I grew up on. That’s always how my mom did it.