Charlotte · Restaurants

Restaurant Review: Big Ben Pub in Charlotte, NC

I wrapped up restaurant week with a visit to Big Ben’s with a couple of friends.  Man do these restaurants get busy during this week and the servers really hustle! We had a pleasant time and it’s a cool place to come to watch a soccer game.

Parking is intense here, few spots and lots of folks going in and out, swinging around other cars, so be careful.  I did see a Valet, but did not use.  There was no one at the stand so I can assume he was parking or fetching another car.  There were a few cars in line to use him, so everyone was swinging around them to get in and out.

When you walk in, it really has the air of a British pub…or at least what I imagine one looks and feels like.  There are flags hanging from the ceiling, a bar and television sets everywhere.  The atmosphere was cool and lively.

We were seated at our table which had to be bussed first, so we hung around the hostess station while that happened.  I had reservations, but it was no big deal as they were crowded and busy.  After being seated it took a minute for our server to acknowledge us and he was clipped and curt.  Still, not a huge deal, but did dim the experience a bit.  Our drinks were brought out and the sweet tea was really good.  My friends had a mixed drink and a chardonnay.

For starters I ordered the Ploughman’s Platter off of the regular menu.  That was the biggest disappointment of the night.  A few cubes of cheese, crackers, big pile of lettuce in the middle of the plate with a spoonful of cole slaw, a pickle and 2 spoonfuls of relish along with a boule of brown bread.  It felt like stuff I’d grab out of the fridge to feed popcorn visitors!  Don’t waste your money on that, it was truly ridiculous.

We also tried the sausage rolls and those were delicious.  These are kielbasa sausage wrapped in puffed pastry and served with spicy mustard and their house-made relish.

Jennifer was trying to be healthy and ordered a garden salad.  It was fine.  I thought the dressing was good.  She gave me some to eat with my lettuce on the ploughman’s platter.

Our entrees arrived swiftly…too swiftly.  We were still trying to eat our appetizers and had to shift things around awkwardly. The meals were good. We sampled Haddock and Chips, which was a HUGE amount of food!  Very impressive looking. The fish was well cooked, it simply lacked seasoning.

I had the Cornish Pasty which was a puff pastry filled with ground beef, onions, gravy, peas, carrots and potatoes.  It was so darned good!  I truly enjoyed it, very flavorful and seasoned perfectly.  It was served with delicious mashed potatoes and they poured more of that brown gravy on top of them and the pasty.  The only problem was that the gravy and mashed potatoes were cold on top and barely warm on the bottom.  I guess mine had been sitting in the window awhile.  Also accompanying was mixed veggies, which were barely cooked and not seasoned at all.  I LOVE veggies, and first dove into the squash and zucchini only to find it terribly bland.  So disappointing.

We also had the Steak Diane, and it was good.  Nothing special but very good.  It was a well cooked steak with a creamy sauce, accompanied by roasted potatoes and those same flavorless veggies.  I had a bite of the steak and determined it was nicely grilled and cooked to temperature.

The Queen’s Feast came with dessert, so my friends chose the Sherry Trifle and the Bread and Butter Pudding.  The waiter actually brought the apple crisp (you couldn’t tell because the thing was covered with so much stuff).  By the time we realized the mistake, we didn’t see the waiter again to ask him to correct the mistake.  The one bite I had of each was enough for me.  Both were sub par, lacking flavor and finesse.  They were both topped with Cool Whip and it kind of ruined the dessert.

While I was not wowed by the restaurant, I do think it is a good representation of an English pub.  I think if you go there expecting pub food, you will be pleasantly surprised, especially if you are drinking 🙂

Concord · Restaurants

Restaurant Review: Basilico Italian in Concord NC

Photo credit: adrixipali

Restaurant Week is cause for celebration!  Basilico is on the list and one that I’ve had on my list for a good long while to try.  I should tell you we didn’t order off of the Restaurant Week menu while we were there, but their offerings were amazing.  They just didn’t have the salad and dessert I wanted.  Even ordering individually, we came out just as well or better by ordering individually.

When we arrived, the place was packed.  They seated us right next to the singer for the night, and I was apprehensive. I was concerned that it would be too much, I wouldn’t be able to hear my partner and frankly lots of different noises at once is distracting.  And it did get a tiny bit much at times, with customers coming up to sing with the singer, but this place had such a family vibe I didn’t even mind, and actually enjoyed it!  We all sang happy birthday to 3 different people that night, and you could see in their faces they loved it.

Our server was great!  She earned her money too, because this place was full!  She took our drink orders quickly and checked on us frequently.  Other servers jumped in when necessary to help, too.  Love that family atmosphere.

Complimentary Rolls with Marinara for dipping

They bring you complimentary rolls with marinara sauce to begin your meal.  These might have been my favorite part of the meal!  They are just amazing!  Warm, crusty on the outside but so tender inside.  They are dusted with Parmesan cheese which makes them just a little bit salty.  A perfect foil for that tangy marinara sauce.

The Wedge: Crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with tomato, red onion, bleu cheese dressing and crumbled bleu cheese and crispy bacon bits.

We both had the Wedge salad.  I don’t know what it is about the wedge, but I love its simplicity. This was a great example of a Wedge, not too much blue cheese, plenty of bacon, very fresh.  On this occasion my wedge of lettuce did have the core still in it, but I swiftly removed the offending piece and proceeded to enjoy.

Chicken Marsala:
Baby bello mushrooms in a traditional Marsala wine reductions over linguine.

Our entrees were just amazing.  My Chicken Marsala was so tender and juicy!  I asked for a little side of the marinara to eat my noodles with and mixed with that sweet Marsala sauce for a perfect bite!  My friend had the linguine with clams and it was equally delicious!

Signature Zeppoli:
Fried sweet dough tossed with powdered sugar.

Even though we were so stuffed we ordered the famous zeppoli.  This fried dough with powdered sugar sprinkled on top comes with two dipping sauces: chocolate and caramel.  It was so darn good, people were looking and pointing and the table next to us asked us what it was!  I gave her one to try and she ordered one for her table, too.  It was just a comforting delight.

This restaurant is high on atmosphere and fun and the food is really great, solid Italian fare.  I know I’ll be back!

Charlotte · Denver · Destin · Hickory

Best of Restaurants: Cheesy!

Oh, how I adore cheese.  You could melt it on a cardboard pizza top and I’d probably eat it.  These dishes are my favorite cheesy dishes at restaurants I’ve tried.

Pimiento Cheese Spread from Boschamp’s in Destin, FL

Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese at Safari Miles in Denver 

Pepperoni and Mushroom Pizza at Tony’s in Hickory, NC

Pizza Sub from Penn Station East Coast Subs in Charlotte, NC

Mushroom Gruyere Sandwich from Papi Queso in Charlotte

Shepard’s Pie from Metro Diner in Pineville

Charlotte · Denver

Thanksgiving Dinner Out?

There is a first time for everything!  This year my children are going to the mountains with their dad for Thanksgiving, so the rest of my family decided we didn’t need to cook a huge meal…and we’d treat ourselves to dinner out!

If that’s something that appeals to you, here are some restaurants around Lake Norman and Charlotte that are serving Thanksgiving dinner!

CHARLOTTE

 

Eddie V’s “Even the gravy is served with a side of glamour.  Join us for a traditional holiday dinner with all the trimmings.  And for anyone who chooses to abandon Custom in favor of lobster, our full menu will also be available.”

  • Thanksgiving is served from 11-8pm
  • Pricing: Adult $43  Child $15
  • Reservations: Online Reservations  
  • Interesting menu offering: Baby French green beans with sundried tomatoes

Fleming’s “Let us host your three-course Thanksgiving, including your choice of Herb-Roasted Turkey or Petite Filet Mignon.”

  • Thanksgiving is served from 11-8pm
  • Pricing: Adult $45  Child $22
  • Reservations: Online Reservations  
  • Interesting menu offering: Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake

Capital Grill “We’re hosting Thanksgiving for turkey and steak enthusiasts alike.”

  • Pricing: Adult $43  Child $15
  • Reservations: Online Reservations  
  • Interesting menu offering: Slow roasted turkey with brioche stuffing

Chima Steakhouse: “Let us cook for you this Thanksgiving.  Complete Rodizio plus Thanksgiving favorites.”

  • Thanksgiving is served from 12-8pm
  • Pricing: Adult $43  Child $15
  • Reservations: Online Reservations  
  • Thanksgiving menu offerings:  Roasted Turkey – cranberry sauce – stuffing – mashed sweet potato – green bean casserole – cornbread

Ri Ra Irish Pub:We are open through the holidays and look forward to welcoming you, your family and friends to the pub to enjoy lots of festive fun. Feast on tasty bites, cozy up with our winter warmer drinks and celebrate the season with us.”

  • Thanksgiving hours 11-10 pm
  • Reservations: Online Reservations  
  • No special Thanksgiving menu posted

JP Charlotte: “Thanksgiving Brunch at the Westin in Charlotte.”

  • Thanksgiving is served from 10-3pm
  • Pricing: Adult $58  Child $24   Under 5 FREE!
  • Reservations: Online Reservations  
  • Interesting menu offering: Roasted Pumpkin and Carrot Bisque

The Palm: “Join Us for Thanksgiving Day!”

  • Pricing: Adult $59  Child $24   
  • Reservations: Online Reservations  
  • Interesting menu offering: Charred Brussels Sprouts

New South Kitchen “Traditional Thanksgiving feast complete with all the fixins!!!.”

  • Thanksgiving is served from 11-7pm
  • Pricing: $35 per person
  • Reservations: Online Reservations  
  • Interesting menu offering: Deep Fried Turkey

Buca di Beppo “Start a new tradition and leave your Thanksgiving meal to us so you can spend time with the ones you love. We are open for Thanksgiving and invite you to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.”

  • Thanksgiving feast begins at 11 am
  • Reservations: Online Reservations  
  • Interesting menu offering: Spicy Italian Sausage Stuffing

Bistro La Bon Never Too Soon To Start Thinking About Our Thanksgiving Smorgasbord

  • Thanksgiving is served from 10-4 pm
  • Pricing: Adults $37 per person  Children 5-10 $16 per person  
  • Reservations: Online Reservations
  • Interesting menu offering: Squash Lasagna

Harper’s:  gather ‘round our southern table”

  • Thanksgiving is served from 11-4 pm
  • Pricing: Adult $32  Child $15
  • Reservations: Online Reservations  
  • Interesting menu offering: The Best Prime Rib

Macaroni Grill: “Dine in and celebrate at our table. Regular menu will also be available.”

  • Thanksgiving is served from 11-9 pm
  • Pricing: Adult $25  Child $12
  • Reservations: Online Reservations  
  • Interesting menu offering: Traditional Cheesecake with Pumpkin Crème Anglaise

LAKE NORMAN

The Foundry in Denver:  “Giving Thanks at the Foundry”

  • Thanksgiving is served from 11-2pm
  • Pricing: Adults $39 per person  Children 12 and under $15 per person  
  • Reservations: Reservations can be made by calling 704.585.8780
  • Interesting menu offering: Mediterranean Cod Artichokes, Spinach, Lemon Butter Sauce, Capers

Chillfire Grill in Denver:  “Giving Thanks at the Foundry”

  • Thanksgiving is served from 10:30-5 pm
  • Pricing: Adults $29 per person  Children 12 and under $13 per person  
  • Reservations: Reservations can be made online: Reservations
  • Interesting menu offering: SMOKED SEAFOOD PLATTER: salmon, NC trout, dill cream cheese, fried capers, red onion, croustade

North Harbor Club (Cornelius) “WE FEATURE A THANKSGIVING THEMED BUFFET CURATED WITH SOME CLASSIC THANKSGIVING FAVORITES ALONG WITH OUR SIGNATURE SIDES.”

  • Thanksgiving is served from 11-5 pm
  • Pricing: Adults $36 per person  Children 12 and under $16 per person  
  • Reservations: Reservations can be made by calling: CALL 704-896-5559
  • Interesting menu offering: Cajun Seafood Stuffing

Epic Chophouse: “This Thanksgiving, enjoy a grand meal in the company of family and friends at Epic Chophouse. Join us for an incredible Thanksgiving meal featuring fresh fruits and salads, deviled eggs, shrimp and grits and Norwegian salmon fillet. Of course we’ll have traditional favorites like oven roasted turkey, prime rib of beef, Chef’s famous fried chicken and more!”

  • Thanksgiving is served from 11-4pm
  • Pricing: Adult $33  Child $11   Under 4 FREE!
  • Reservations: Can be made by calling 704-230-1720.
  • Interesting menu offering: CRANBERRY AND APPLE ORCHARD SALSA
Charlotte · Uncategorized

Restaurant Review: Halcyon in Uptown Charlotte

Halcyon has been on my wishlist forever, but sometimes parking in Uptown Charlotte is a hassle.  It definitely was yesterday afternoon, but we persisted.  We circled the restaurant maybe 7 times, each time finding a parking lot with a “Full” sign.  On our 8th trip we found a parallel spot a few blocks away and got in in only 2 tries 🙂  Nerve wracking!!

It was worth the concentration and anxiety.  Once we walked to where GPS said Halcyon was, we wandered around another 10 minutes trying to figure out where the heck it was.  We followed signs, we went down an alleyway….I eventually gave up and asked another patron walking around near the Levine Center where the heck it was.  Turns out, you go up this gigantic staircase into the MInt Museum (there is an elevator on the inside of the building!) and there the restaurant is in all its glory.

The restaurant is beautiful, as you’d expect. When we walked in, I was struck by all of the organic decorative touches.  The hostess station sits atop the most beautiful wood table I’ve ever seen.  I couldn’t quit rubbing it.  I slipped around the hostess and snapped a quick picture of a long dining table waiting for patrons because it was so beautiful and simple.  The light fixtures look like a nest of twigs.  I was really wowed.

Look at that gorgeous table!

Huge windows overlooking Downtown Charlotte and check the light fixtures!

Love the organically shaped plates.

Despite the beauty inside, it couldn’t hold a candle to the beautiful fall weather we had yesterday, so we opted to sit on the patio.  Unlike many places, the outdoor furniture was comfortable and also lovely.  And the view!  Could not be beat.

View of Uptown Charlotte from Halcyon

The food was just as amazing as the view.  We scoured the menu and tried to order something different from each other so we could taste everything possible!  With so many delicious choices, that was easy.

Lunch Menu

First we ordered tea all around.  It comes unsweetened and they serve it with a simple syrup.  So, I was charmed the first time this happened to me, but now I despise this trend.  I can never use enough to even taste it.  Just give me some Sweet and Low and I’ll be happy.

My food, however, was without flaw.  I ordered the Local Catch of the Day which was pan seared Snapper.  They placed it atop a mix of summer veggies with a roasted red pepper vinaigrette on the bottom.  Seriously one of the best things I’ve eaten in a very long time.  The fish, though prepared simply, was so flavorful and flaky; cooked perfectly.  The skin was crispy and the inside was white and tender.  The veggies were sauteed lightly and the broccoli was charred so that was a perfect contrast of flavors.  Finally, that vinaigrette sauce: I wish I could come home with a cup full and slather it on everything.  It was tart and perfect when you dragged your fish or a vegetable through it.

Local Daily Catch with summer veggies, charred broccoli atop a puddle of roasted red pepper vinaigrette

My friend Paula got the Pork Belly BLT.  It was gorgeous!!  It’s this open-faced sandwich made on a brioche bun and stuffed with thick cut heirloom tomatoes, pimiento cheese, pork belly and drizzled with herb aioli. The fries are in a class of their own.  So crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside and seasoned to perfection.   Paula was very happy with it!

Pork Belly BLT with fries

My friend Jennifer got the Open Faced Lamb Sausage Pita, and she let me take a bite of the sausage!  It was just so spicy and tangy.  The pita had spinach, the sausage which looked to be spiced with a tomato confiture, topped with tzatziki sauce, herbed goat cheese and a beautifully fried egg.  Served with those amazing fries!  Superb.

Open Faced Lamb Sausage Pita

We were all so darn full from our delicious lunches, but we did decide to indulge in one small truffle 🙂  It was just a ball of ganache, rolled in cocoa powder and served with a few blueberries.  But it was oddly rich and perfect.  Just the little bite of sweetness we needed to end our perfect lunch.  Jennifer also got a latte which she said was great!

The perfect bite: Chocolate Truffle with blueberries

Latte

This restaurant is perfect for an al fresco dining experience with a beautiful view, or a date night when you want to impress someone.  Take a moment and look around the museum while you are there!

Lincolnton · Restaurants

South African Wine Dinner at Crafted Southern Speakeasy

Crafted Southern Speakeasy is not just a place to get hand-crafted cocktails and a bite to eat.  No, it is sooo much more than that.  They have events there that are really thoughtful and upscale!  I’ve been to tea parties, maker’s workshops where you make a seasonal craft, trivia nights, game nights and now I’ve been to a special 5-course dinner with wine pairings.  This was definitely a night to remember!

We were an intimate group of only 12 and the representatives for Babylonstoren were on hand to guide us through the pairing with each dish.  It was very informative and delicious!

The room was beautifully decorated.  I just walked around before the dinner really began and snapped pictures because I was so charmed by all of the little touches that were brought in to enhance our dinner.

Now, let’s get down to the reason we’re here: the food.  Oh wow.

Oyster with Shallot Mignonette & Orange Zest Paired along side Babylonstoren Chenin Blanc: Delicious subtle yet briny oyster perfectly matched with the tart mignonette.


Mixed Greens Salad paired along side Babylonstoren Chardonnay:  This salad was lightly dressed, but packed a big punch of flavor with the shaved Parmesan on top.

Lamb Lollipop over Cauliflower Mash alongside Sherried tomatoes with Fresh Grilled veggies paired with a Babylonstoren Babel Red Blend: This was my very favorite dish of the night! I didn’t even know lamb could taste like this!  Perfectly seared and seasoned. And what a revelation that cauliflower could taste this yummy!  Game changer!


Osso Bucco paired with the award-winning Babylonstoren Nebuchadnezzar red blend: I could tell this was cooked well, but I was unprepared for how much I was going to have to work for just a little bit of meat!  This was my first time trying oxtails, and it reminded me of pot roast with more fat and tendon.  The risotto, though.  That was the real deal.  Speckled with sauteed mushrooms, I could live off of that stuff.  The tender carrots, infused with that oxtail flavor were also winners.

Strawberry Basil Shortbread served alongside Babylonstoren Rose: This surprisingly delicate dessert was the perfect finish to the bold dishes we’d sampled.  The strawberries were plump and ripe and lightly macerated with sugar and the shortbread was dense enough to hold up to the sweet juices those berries gave off.  But my favorite component was this Chantilly cream that sat atop this dessert.  It was like eating a sweet cloud.  I still think about that cream.

What a wonderful night at Crafted Southern Speakeasy!  We will be back for many more!