Columbia SC · Gainesville · Mooresville

Best of Restaurants: Barbecue

I’ll admit, barbecue is not one of my favorite foods.  So, if I say it’s good, it probably will be to you, too.

Smoked beef brisket from MOJO Hogtown Bar-B-Q in Gainesville, FL

Beef Brisket from Big Bulls Bang’n BBQ in Columbia, SC

Creole Barbecue Shrimp from Table 31 in Mooresville

Charlotte

Cousin’s Maine Lobster

Cousin’s Maine Lobster

Last night Cousins was at D9 brewing for their summer concert series, along with 4 other trucks.  We decided on them because Lobster.

We placed our order from the pretty extensive menu (considering it is a food truck) and paid.  Our order was ready super fast!  I got a combo with a  Maine Lobster Roll (with mayo), tater tots and a water.

The Lobster roll was served cold, which I was fully expecting.  It was refreshing on the hot night and was good.  Not great, but good.  The tater tots were delicious, hot and fresh.  The bottled water was warm, so that was disappointing.

Had my buddy not given me a taste of her Lobster quesadilla, I might have given this truck a 3.  The quesadilla was so good!  it was served with a fresh salsa and a chipotle ranch dressing squeezed over all.  It was rich, but really delicious.  I’d definitely get that on a return visit.

Give them a try if you love lobster!

Maine Lobster Roll

Lobster Quesadilla

Tots!

 

Asheville

Day Trip: Asheville

Asheville is most definitely one of North Carolina’s jewels.  It’s a hip city with a vibrant downtown, plenty of breweries, tons of culture and shopping, diversity galore and a happening restaurant scene.  Seriously one of my favorite day trips.  Also, my bestie from college lives there so we always have a blast!

The Sights

So much to see and do here, and I didn’t have time in one day to do them all.  I’ll share other fun stuff I’ve done (just not on this particular trip)

Biltmore Estate

If you get a chance at Christmas, you have to go to the Biltmore for a look around.  Here’s the trick: make a reservation at one of the restaurants at night so you can go in a little early and check out all of the beautiful lights!  This was one of my favorite fun things we did!  There is one area, it looks like a patch of woods that has thousands of lights draped from the tree limbs.  There are adirondak chairs in there for relaxing and many people take picnics in (I’m told these lights stay up all year long).  It has to be seen, too cool to talk about.

Food

I thought because I visited on a Sunday I didn’t really need reservations.  I was wrong.  Every place on my wishlist was reserved up on Saturday when I went to plan this last minute jaunt.  So, don’t be me.  Plan your trip so you can get in to the restaurant you want!  But seriously, everywhere is good, so even if you mess up like me, you’ll eat well.

The French Broad Chocolate Lounge

No trip to Asheville is complete without coming to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. It is iconic! We arrived 10 minutes before they opened and were the first in line!

We selected a few items to take home: Marshmallows, chocolate chip cookie and a sticker.

The rest we had at the table to sample and all were very special. We tried the liquid truffle, one in milk chocolate and the other in honey lavender. The word that leaps into my mind is indulgent. They came in espresso cups but even that was too much for one person. It was just so rich! You must at least try these once, though. My daughter liked the flavor of the lavender honey, but not the garnish that sort of ruined the smooth texture. It was pretty though.

The salted caramel cheesecake was amazing! Smooth and creamy with a brownie bottom atop a squiggle of that caramel. And the size really wasn’t overwhelming. Perfect!

We also sampled a pecan tart. The filling was so thick it was almost like treacle, but so good! The crunch from the pecan topping and the crust made this a welcome sweet sticky relief.

If you are in Asheville, make sure you stop by. They truly have something for everyone and you will feel so spoiled! Even if you aren’t hungry, they will pack it to go!

Sake Sushi in Black Mountain

Not reaaaallly in Asheville, but we hit this place on the way home from Asheville while we were doing a little antiquing in Black Mountain.  There’s a cool new community called Cheshire Village that it so cool you should just do a ride by to check it out.  While there, stop at Sake Sushi for some really great Asian food!

We had spicy crab rolls, bento boxes and garden salads with ginger dressing.  We loved the sushi so much!  Small rolls, and perfectly flavored.  The salad was refreshing with real ginger in the dressing.  The bento boxes came with a spring roll, 3 pieces of a California roll, steamed rice and your protein.  We tried Katsu chicken, Katsu fish and Shrimp Teriyaki.  We all agreed that the chicken was best.

Regeneration Station and Junk Recyclers

Do you like repurposed furniture and funky finds?  This place is for YOU!  Huge warehouse full of every kind of houseware, vintage and otherwise that you can think of.  Each booth is as different as can be so you’ll never get bored.  Plus: they let you bring dogs in, so I had just as much fun looking at pooches as I did the cool stuff.  Quirky and funky rules here!

Here’s a cool blurb from their website:

“Tyler Garrison, founder of Junk Recyclers, started a full-service junk removal company focused on salvaging unwanted items and diverting them from the waste stream. Not long after, The Regeneration Station was born as an additional way of minimizing the waste that goes to landfills and contributes to the community in a sustainable way.”

An amazing day trip with lots to see and do.  Visit soon!!

Wilmington

Restaurant Review: Circa 1922 in Wilmington, NC

Clearly I visited this restaurant before North Carolina got shut down for the Corona Virus, so I’m going off memory.  Luckily for me it was one of the most memorable dining experiences I’ve had in a good long while.

The restaurant resides in downtown Wilmington, which is quaint and beautiful.  We loved the interior, and I got pictures of our cozy booth and the “vault” from where the building once was a bank.  The service we received was second to none, and the dishes came out perfectly timed.  These folks get it right.

The food is where this place owns me.  I was dining with 3 friends and we all shared each other’s food…everything we put in our mouth was just incredible.  Seriously not a bad dish in the whole lot.

The Charred Brussels Sprouts were smoky and tender with crispy edges.  The chili oil gave them a little bite while the lime crema cooled it down.  Very balanced dish with bright flavors.

The scallops were seared perfectly with a crispy exterior and tender insides.  Loved the pairing with pomegranate and cauliflower!  Perfect for sharing, too.

The Prosciutto-Wrapped Dates were oddly delicious.  The sweet date, paired with that salty prosciutto.  Just wow.  Stuffed with marcona almonds and Gorgonzola cheese made for a bite that hit every taste bud!

The Grilled Filet Mignon was like butter.  It was served with roasted winter vegetables, a potato puree and a mushroom sherry sauce.  It was pure decadence!  This was one of our favorite dishes of the night.

The other favorite was my pick: Black Truffle Pappardelle.  I’m nuts about mushrooms and these paired with truffles, handmade pasta and Parmesan cheese had all of us raving.  The pasta was perfection, as only homemade pasta can be. The sauce was drinkable.  I still think about that dish.

The Crispy-Skin Organic Salmon was different than any salmon I’ve had before.  It really did not taste strong or fishy at all.  Cooked perfect, it was tender and buttery.  It was perfect with a little bite from the horseradish.

The Pork & Shrimp Spring Rolls were also a favorite of the table.  Fried lightly and filled with tender pork and sweet shrimp complemented perfectly by the cool lime cilantro slaw.  It was served with a Thai peanut sauce for dipping.

The crab dip was the best I’ve ever had.  Chock full of sweet tender crab meat with artichokes and spinach.  The cheddar gave it a bite to cut through the richness of the cream cheese base.  Those crispy bread dippers were perfect in and of themselves.

When I return to Wilmington, this is the first place I’ll grab a reservation!

Maiden

Necessary Services in Maiden–What’s Open Now

Maiden NC appears to be open for business.  I drove through today to look at a new listing and saw people were out looking at the home!  That was just a few hours before we got word that we were all on House Arrest!

So now that we are, I thought I’d compile a list of what’s still open and how to access them.

RESTAURANTS

3 Hermanos:

Open for business and has a drive through for pickup.  Also, you can order by phone using Google! Phone: (828) 970-4080  Address:  11 N Carolina Ave  Maiden, NC 28650. Check out the delicious chimichanga we had:

Open Sunday – Tuesday 7am – 2pm
Open Wednesday – Saturday 6am – 8pm
They have a drive through window that makes pick up easy!

(828) 428-8944

202 Providence Mill Rd Maiden, NC 28650

Source: Bill W. on Yelp

Open 24 hours a day!  Call in and go inside to pick up for take out.  It is in a gas station, but don’t let that scare you off.  Supposedly they have some of the best burgers around!!

(828) 428-2790

5710 Startown Rd Maiden, NC 28650

Photo courtesy of Bill W. on Yelp

Don’s Grill

Open for business Monday – Friday until 7:30pm and on Saturday until 3pm.  Call in to place order and pick up at the outside window!
(828) 428-2476

308 Island Ford Rd Maiden, NC 28650

Photo Courtesy of Bill W. at Yelp

 

The Hub Restaurant

Open for take out Tuesday – Saturday 11 am to 6 pm.  Known for their gyros and hamburgers.

4821 Maiden Hwy Maiden, North Carolina

828-970-7311

Photo courtesy of Juan Blackwell on Facebook

 J & L Cafe

Open until 6pm Monday – Friday.  Hamburgers and sandwiches. Pick up at the door

(828) 428-9311

1180 Mays Chapel Church Rd  Maiden, NC 28658

photo courtesy of Bill W. at Yelp

Papa’s Pizza To Go

Open for take out and delivery!
(828) 428-0507

201-C Island Ford Rd Maiden, NC 28650

Source: Bill W. @ Yelp

Scottie’s is open for business!  I stopped by today and had a poor girl with ham. Check out the menu online and phone your order in at (828) 428-3636 and pick it up at their drive through window.  Just ring the bell!  Here’s my Ham Poor Girl:

Table4Two Cafe

Open sporadically.
(828) 428-9189

2896 E Maiden Rd Maiden, NC 28650

Photo courtesy of Bill W. @ Yelp

RETAIL

Food Lion: 

You can order your groceries online and they will deliver them to your car at the store.  Excellent service for these trying times.  Be aware you may have to wait a few days, and the fee is $1.99.  I’ll spend $2 to avoid exposure!  201 Island Ford Rd Maiden, NC 28650  828-428-9393

Shelby

Restaurant Review: Toscano’s Bistro

Happened to be in Shelby today at dinner time and called my order in based on pictures I’d seen online.  Because of the state mandated discontinuance of dine-in eating, they only had call in available, but when we are back to normal I can see myself making a special trip just to eat there!

As it is, they allow you to call in and they’ll deliver your order to you curbside.  You don’t even have to leave the car!  My order was super inexpensive too, especially considering the amount of food they give you!  I got the delicious pasta with a creamy sauce and tender chicken, studded with sun dried tomatoes.  Perfectly seasoned and so good!  This came with a garden salad and two pieces of garlic bread.

Honestly, I brought most home, and my son had the rest for his dinner, that’s how much food they gave us!  Great value and really amazing taste.  Can’t wait to go back to this great restaurant in charming downtown Shelby!

Charlotte

Restaurant Review: Bricktops in Charlotte, NC

Bricktops has been on my list to try for a while ever since my friend sang its praises.  We finally had an opportunity to visit before the country went on lockdown, and I have to say…for my final dining experience for a few months, I’m pretty happy with my choice.

The food!  Oh My!  Everything was so fresh and delicious!  We tried many different dishes and ended up bringing home quite a bit that was delicious the next day.

Service is amazing here.  Everyone is very professional and helpful.  Top notch!

For starters we tried the Spinach and Artichoke Dip and the Deviled Eggs & Millionaire’s Bacon.  The dip was splendid.  It was different that I imagined, more like a sauteed spinach in Parmesan cream sauce.  It was served with tortilla chips which were crispy and fresh.  I think some sort of bread might have been a yummy choice as a dipper.  The millionaire’s bacon was out of this world good.  Candied bacon with just a hint of spice.  The deviled eggs were a little on the sweet side for me, but beautifully presented and smooth in texture.

We both chose a lighter entree because we knew we wanted dessert!  We both selected the Palm Beach Salad which was presented so beautifully.  They stack the salad up in a cylinder and unmold the beautiful salad to reveal the colorful and delicious layers.  Everything was so fresh, but my favorite bite was the crab layer.  So delicate and sweet!

The dessert was worth the sacrifice of a salad!  We got two different desserts so we could try each other’s dish.  The two we chose were Bread Pudding and Key Lime Pie.  The Bread Pudding was the favorite.  It was served warm atop a puddle of creme anglaise. So decadent and incredible!  The Key Lime Pie was also good, very tart and the macadamia cookie crust was a nice touch too.

I can’t wait to return to try their other offers when things open back up!

Mooresville

Restaurant Review: Provecho Mexican Kitchen & Cantina in Mooresville

Popped in to Provecho tonight for a yummy Latin inspired meal after having this one on my list for a bit.  Out in the Langtree area of Mooresville, it feels like it is quite far out (for me) but it’s becoming quite the little restaurant scene out here.

We arrived at 8pm on a Friday night, easily found a parking space and walked into the half full restaurant to a sign that asked us to seat ourselves.  We chose a half booth half table that felt comfortable to us and had a seat.  I love that we got to choose where we wanted to be.

The waitress came over to greet us quickly and got our drink order.  I ordered a Strawberry Cream Margarita and it was Instagram worthy.  It was frothy and cold, and sweet too!  I don’t know where the “cream” came in, but it did have this beautiful black sea salt on the side that was just gorgeous!  I have to say I wouldn’t have minded some sugar instead of the salt.  Still, a delicious drink.

We decided to begin with Queso Fundido, which the server explained was not like cheese DIP but rather cheese melted in an iron skillet.  It was served with flour tortillas but she also brought us chips, too.  It comes with a small cup of salsa verde, but I ordered a cup of regular salsa since I prefer the tomato based salsa.  The salsa was very chipotle forward, but it was fine.  The fundido was amazing!  Melted cheese with browned bubbles all over…wow!  It was my favorite dish of the night.

I had two tacos, one beer battered fish and one braised beef.  They were both great.  The fish was crispy and topped with avocado, crema, Mexican slaw and cilantro.  It was a nice contrast with the warm fish, the fresh slaw and the cool crema.  The beef taco was more about the meat, and it was delicious as well.  Think a Latin flavored roast beef.

My son got Arroz con pollo, which was delicious and you could really taste the adobo, which is not my favorite flavor oddly enough.  Still the chicken was cooked well and it was a flavorful dish.

This is a great little restaurant which looks like a lot of local people come to just hang out, have a drink and a snack as well as diners having dinner.  Give it a try!

Asheville

Restaurant Review: Early Girl Eatery in Asheville, NC

We had the chance to finally try Early Girl eatery on our weekend trip to Asheville.  I’ve heard many good things about the restaurant and we all enjoyed it very much!

We arrived for lunch and were seated immediately.  The parking lot was full of early voters, so parking was a little tricky, but it worked out for us eventually.

The food was great!  Some at our table got breakfast that is served all day and I got lunch food.  My fried chicken featured 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and was served with green beans and fried squash and zucchini.  Everything was just delicious.  The green beans were fresh, crispy and salty good!  The chicken was amazing and what a generous portion!  The best thing I had was the zucchini and squash.  Just like mama made!

My daughter got the fried chicken sandwich with french fries. The sandwich was huge and the fries were amazing.


My breakfast loving son got the biscuit french toast which was another amazing dish.  Scattered with sweet apples and topped with a whipped cream, it was like a decadent dessert.

The interior of the restaurant is like a mid-century farmhouse.  I loved the vibe!  I can’t wait to visit again!

Marion

Restaurant Review: Nopale’s Mexican Grill in Marion, NC

While coming home from Asheville, we got hungry and decided to stop in Marion for dinner.  This place was the closest Mexican restaurant we found to the interstate so we decided to try it.  On a Saturday evening the line was out the door!  It moved fairly quickly, but there was a large party that was taking up most of the tables in the middle of the room so not sure this would happen on a normal weekend night.

The service was hit or miss.  Our waiter was kind and efficient, but we’d go for longish periods without seeing him.  Again, busy night so we understood.

The food is actually very good.  I had a chicken quesadilla with a side of Mexican rice and Charro beans.  The Charro beans were fantastic!  They were seasoned with little bits of bacon and plenty of spices.  I loved them!  The chicken quesadilla was also delicious, filled with chicken and cheese and then topped with cheese dip.  Cheesy but good!  The rice also was topped with cheese dip which totally made that dish!

You do have to go up to the front to pay your ticket, which for some reason I hate.  In this instance, the cashier (without a word to me) left to go sing happy birthday with a crew of people.  When he came back, there was no apology for just abruptly exiting or an explanation.

While we enjoyed it, I believe I’d try another restaurant the next time I’m in Marion.