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.

Mooresville

Restaurant Review: Cantina 1511 in Mooresville NC

I’ve eaten at the Charlotte Cantina 1511 restaurants in the past, so knew what to expect, but was still pleasantly surprised by this location.  It is in a convenient shopping center, and parking can get a little dicey at peak times, but is usually find-able.

They have an outdoor seating area for warm weather, and plenty of seating inside.  It is a rather sizable space.  The staff is warm and friendly.

They offer complimentary chips and salsa when you dine in, and the chips are fresh and warm and perfectly salted.  The salsa is cool and spicy, very delicious.  I love their Queso Dip too!

For lunch I had the 2 Chicken Tacos, which is one of the choices on the lunch menu special features for Tuesday.  The tacos were topped with lettuce, pico de gallo, a slice of avocado and Mexican crema.  They were so darn good!  The chicken was shredded and spiced and they lime wedge that they serve with it helped cut through the creamy crema and avocado.  So good.  It was served with black beans and Mexican rice.  Also cooked well.

My friend had the Chicken Tostado Salad off of the same menu.  Beautiful strips of chicken, spiced perfectly atop a mound of lettuce and tomatoes and topped with a scoop of guacamole and cotijo cheese.

We also couldn’t resist ordering a side of Street Corn.  My dining companion told me that this was the closest she’d had to the real deal in Mexico, so I had to try.  True to her word, the corn was plump and juicy and the crema and cotija cheese provided a wonderful creaminess which was balanced by the Tajin seasoning that was so sharp it made me pucker!  Definitely try this!

This is a great addition to the restaurants here in Mooresville, even though it is a small chain.  The service is top notch and the food is delicious and thoughtfully prepared.  I can’t wait to go back!

Troutman

Restaurant Review: Pelligrino’s in Troutman, NC

I visited Pelligrino’s last night with a friend and was pleasantly surprised that such a yummy place existed in the small and charming town of Troutman!  I’ve had it on my list to try for a while now, and finally got my chance.  So glad we did!  It sits in a small strip mall, but is surprisingly deep with plenty of seating!  And even on a wet Tuesday evening they were doing a brisk business.

We were seated without waiting at a table of our choice.  There was a tiny delay in our server coming over, but he did check in with us, so it was not a problem.  The server helped guide us on our entrees and gave us honest feedback on dishes.  I appreciated that!

My friend ordered Capellini Puttanesca which had tomatoes, olives, anchovies, garlic and olive oil.  It was really delicious, very tangy and so filling.  She had to take half home so we could save room for birthday cake!

I had the Pollo di Massimo which was a chicken breast pounded thin and lightly fried, topped with fresh tomatoes, prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella and their fresh tomato sauce.  It was served with a side of penne pasta in the same tomato sauce.  The chicken was well cooked and flavorful.  I loved the cheesy topping, and the flavor of the prosciutto together with the sauce.  The sauce,  however, did lack flavor on its own on the pasta.  The pasta could have stood some salt in the water it was cooked in, too.

The surprise delight of the night was the triple chocolate cake!  It is made for them by Queen City Bakery and it was so darn good!  It was very moist and pretty to look at!  Be warned, though..it is also quite rich!  We could have used some whip cream or ice cream to cut the sweetness.

We had a great night, way too much food with kind servers.  I will be back!

Uncategorized · Wilmington

Restaurant Review: Bridge Tender in Wilmington, NC

While in Wilmington last week, we asked the locals in our class where to eat.  Many of them said Bridge Tender…but they were cagey about the food, instead remarking on the beautiful view.  So, we canceled our reservations at a seafood place I’d made earlier in the week and headed over to Bridge Tender.

Here’s the deal…we get there at 7pm and it is raining and pitch black.  So, no view for us.  So, I can’t factor that into this review, which only leaves food and service.  Service was great.  Our server was very attentive and kind, guiding us on our selections, never letting us get thirsty and getting us whatever was needed.

Our food was just ok we agreed. Maybe it was in comparison to the wonderful meals we’d had earlier in the week, but this restaurant was our least favorite of the four we tried.

When we entered the building, we were hit with this smell that is very unpleasant.  Almost like septic issue.  Very unappetizing.  Perhaps it is because the building is old, or the proximity to the water?  Whatever it is, Febreeze that mug.

Now, the tables and ambiance were both very nice.  We were seated by a wide window, so on a better night we might have enjoyed a starlit view.

We girls usually order and share each other’s food so we all get to taste everything.  Aren’t those the best friends?  Food friends?

We got two appetizers: The Seafood Sampler and CRAB DIP.  The seafood sampler had oysters Rockefeller, a crab cake, spring rolls and coconut shrimp. The sauces tasted like they came out of a jar. The Oysters Rockefeller was served in a dish, not on the shells, so I was questioning if they were even fresh shucked oysters.  Not pleasant.  The crab cake was not great, very heavy on filling and lighter on crab. The spring rolls were inedible, with the noodles inside providing a weird texture.  The coconut shrimp were the best things, and they were really not that great either.  I was thoroughly disappointed in that dish and would never get that again.

The crab dip we all agreed was were it’s at.  That was truly delicious and creamy and the toast points they served it with were so good, light and made the perfect bite.  Highly recommend that!  It was the best thing we had all night.

For the salad course we chose the Lumina Greens, which has dried cranberries, roasted almonds, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, pecorino cheese and dressed with a white balsamic vinaigrette.  It was fresh and pleasant, but light on the toppings.  I just got big mouthfuls of lettuce each time. It was fine.

We had two entrees: Grilled Salmon and Tenderloin Medallions.  Both were great, but the tenderloin was a tad overcooked.  It was served with fried potatoes and asparagus.  All very good.  Nothing incredible.

Let me tell you what was incredible: Dessert. The Fudge Brownie Napoleon was just out of this world good.  The brownie was warm and gooey, the ice cream was cold and melty, it was just a perfect dish.  Sweet warm caramel in between two brownies and sprinkled with walnuts.  Worth every calorie.  Three of us shared and we still couldn’t finish the darn thing.  GET THIS!

This restaurant’s main draw is the view.  Know this going in and order smart, realizing that not everything on the menu is worth the price tag.  If you can manage your expectations, you can enjoy yourself here.

Huntersville

Restaurant Review: Verde Mexican and Nuevo Latin Fusion

Need a vacation but are stuck here in Lake Norman? You need to check out Verde in Huntersville.  This great restaurant will transport you to Cuba, Argentina, Mexico…without leaving this beautiful area.

The front is deceptively small, once you get inside the restaurant goes back pretty far and seats plenty.  They have a great little bar area with high top tables, and booths and tables in the restaurant area.  There is room enough for a large party of about 10.  Service is great, our waitress was so kind and attentive.

We started with cocktails and drinks.  I had the peach margarita which was on special.  It was sweet yet strong!  Very good!


Next we ordered the guacamole which comes with chips and salsa.  They also refilled our chips when we ran out for no charge 🙂  The guacamole was very fresh, chock full of tomatoes, jalapenos and cilantro.  The salsa had a slight hint of chipotle to it, which isn’t my favorite flavor, but it wasn’t overpowering.  I liked it!

For my entree, I chose the paella with seafood.  It was as flavorful as everyone before has stated, but maybe a little heavy on the peas!  I could taste the smoky paprika, and most of the seafood was very fresh, but I did have one calamari ring that was a bit fishy, so I took the rest off.  The shrimp were delicious.

Ty had the Tacos Verde which were small but tasty.  He ordered a side of rice to accompany.  The tacos had tasty marinated steak and were topped with chipotle rouille, avocado salsa, Monterrey jack and cotija cheeses.  Yum!

We enjoyed our time there and will likely be back!

Mooresville

Restaurant Review: El Veracruz in Mooresville, NC

Photo Credit: Stephanie S on Yelp

The last time I visited this location was when it was the Prickly Pear years ago.  We loved it then, although the stairs can present a challenge to some.  There is handicapped parking in the back and a ramp for those needing access.  This building was once a church and is kind of off the beaten path right past downtown Mooresville, but that just adds to its charm.

The service was great on our visit, our food was brought very quickly and our waitress was very attentive and kind.  The chips were fresh and warm and the salsa was very flavorful and just spicy enough.  Also very fresh.  We ordered a cheese dip as an appetizer and it was thick and creamy, very good!

Our dinners were also delicious.  I got a platter with a taco, chile poblano and a tostada.  All was delicious, but the taco was my favorite.  The meat was spiced well and it surprisingly held together while I was eating it.

My kids got the Pollo con Crema and that was super good.  The meat was seared just perfectly to give you the crispy brown bits but the chicken itself was very tender.  The rice was also flavorful and fluffy.

We truly enjoyed our experience and can’t wait to return.

Columbia SC

Restaurant Review: Big Bulls Bang’n BBQ &Southern Comfort Food in Columbia, SC

While on the way to a girls weekend in Savannah, we stopped in Columbia SC for lunch and gas.  We pulled up yelp and using the tool to tell us what was nearby, we chose this place for lunch.  Now, without this app on my phone I would have never known about this out of the way spot and probably prejudged it because of its humble appearance.  That would have been a huge mistake.  This, folks, is the real deal.  And I’ve been telling everyone I know.

I got the vibe from the owners that they knew their food was good and they weren’t putting up with any crap.  Order, sit down and be patient.  Our food came out in record time, but there are signs alluding to the fact that this food is home cooked and that takes time.  It is worth it, no matter how long it takes them.  This is some of the best home cooking I’ve ever had in a restaurant.  And if anyone knows restaurants…

There were so many delicious choices on the menu I just couldn’t pick.  I took a cue from food celebs and asked one of the diners. And it was the best choice, even though it was WAY too much food.

I got the pork chop plate, which came with TWO pork chops, two sides and bread.  They said I could have one of each style of pork chop, so I chose one smothered in gravy over rice and one fried.  I love gravy and rice, and that pork chop that was simmered in it was fall apart tender and was so delicious with the fluffy white rice. The gravy had whole slices of green pepper and onions, adding another layer of flavor.  The fried pork chop was simpler, but I think it was my favorite.  So often when people fry things, they forget to season when it comes out of the fryer so the food is bland.  You will NOT experience this here.  Their food is a flavor bomb.  For my sides I chose macaroni and cheese and lima beans.  The macaroni and cheese reminded me of my great grandmother’s, and I almost teared up.  My childhood came flooding back over me with just one taste!  The lima beans were seasoned with smoked ham chunks and seriously could have made me full with just a bowl of these and this amazing cornbread they serve.  It was so dense and sweet, almost like cake.


Jennifer chose the beef brisket and it was another amazing choice.  The beef was smoked perfectly and so tender, you could cut it with a plastic fork. The sides that she chose were collard greens and cornbread stuffing.  The collards were some of the best I’ve ever had, again seasoned perfectly and cooked well.  The cornbread stuffing was different than I’d had before, a little sweeter and a smoky flair, but delicious nonetheless.

This place is a real diamond in the rough and deserves a ton of foot traffic.  It is off the beaten path, and there is some construction on that road (at the time of our visit) but persevere!  You may just have one of the best home cooked meals of your life!

Find them online here:

 

 

 

 

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!