Raleigh’s First Eatertainment Concept, Jaguar Bolera, Now Open

Games, grub and guzzles galore found at Raleigh’s first eatertainment concept.

Raleigh Iron Works’ newly bowed eatertainment concept Jaguar Bolera is truly a feast for the senses—NTM a playground of various social activities for all ages (think duckpin bowling, karaoke, darts and foosball—even “makertainment” craft kits). 

From the moment you walk into the colorful, vibrant space, your eyes are immediately drawn to the stunning wallpaper, intricate design details and furnishings, and pockets of play areas—and, naturally, your nose will certainly perk up from the smells wafting from the kitchen. In short, it’s sensory overload—in the best way—and you’ll no doubt find yourself wanting to dive deeper into the space to take it in from top to bottom. 

The thoughtful design can be traced back to a single artificial muse manufactured by the Jaguar Bolera team: a “1950s gal in her heyday who hung out at the social club,” explains founder/CEO Robert Thompson. “We spent some time thinking about her life and the objects and activities of someone in the 1950s—and you’ll see that spread throughout the venue.”

See: the brooches embedded in the host stand, light fixtures mimicking rattan garden baskets (she likes to garden), lots of flowers (note the custom-made pedal-shaped chair backs), her plateware-inspired pictures, a mirror encased in a tortoise-style frame (a nod to her sunglasses, natch), and womenswear patterns like vintage tweed and plaid—never mind the poodles in the unisex bathrooms (she, like Elvis, loves poodles). 

All together, the design-forward environs make for the perfect backdrop to relish in the massive eatertainment concept, this version of which also involves a scratch kitchen and craft beverages. As the name nods (jaguars are indigenous to the American South and Mexico), Southern and Mexican fare shine at the hands of Culinary Director and current Top Chef contestant Manny Barella, with the cuisine taking inspo from his youth South of the Border and past restaurant experience across the South, not to mention a stint at an Austin ’cue joint.

Doubling down on the food-first MO, Thompson maintains: “Bowling is an activity we have, but what we are is a restaurant that serves fantastic food. It’s great that Manny ended up being offered to compete [in Top Chef] because it makes my job easier trying to get my message out there that we’re serious about the food.”

At the capable hands of Barella, the menu perfectly marries the two cuisines in dishes like pork belly burnt ends (find better pork belly—we’ll wait), smoked brisket tacos, lamb birria taquitos, shrimp and grits, and pork ribs al pastor. To boot, less expected yet authentic plates like beet hummus are an ode to a dish Barella used to throw on the grill and eat while his family was cooking steaks in Monterrey, Mexico. Sunday Funday will also be in full force thanks to brunch selects like churro monkey bread, huevos rancheros, chilaquiles and lemon ricotta pancakes. 

“I’m pouring my Mexican heart and Southern soul into every dish on the menu,” says Barella. “From the pimento cheese and sliced brisket to the cochinita pibil and lamb birria taquitos and every dish in between, I’m excited to share the flavors of Jaguar Bolera with Raleigh.”

Moving away from the traditional casual dining setting, the social destination plays into a food hall-style service where guests order at a counter—and the food finds you via a pager that tracks what table you’re at (the future is here, y’all). “The idea that we’re using a tech approach to stuff but still doing real scratch and careful food is what excites me,” emphasizes Thompson. 

Not to be left out, when it comes to imbibes, there’s 73 self-pour taps of beer, wine, cocktails and NA bevs—including a nonalcoholic margarita (!). Boozy ops include a nitro cold brew martini; strawberry Aperol spritz; and (our fave) the Jalapeno in the Coconut. Pro tip: For a refreshing ’tail, the vodka-based Garden Party is, well, a pleasant party on your palate.

“Both the host of the party and the life of the fiesta,” the new eat-drink-play space promises to be the cat’s meow. And they’ve only just scratched the surface, with pickleball and pingpong expected to launch early 2025—though the concept’s already a winner in our books. Game, set, match!  jaguarbolera.com

Jaguar Bolera Menu Spread

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About the Author

Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.