Charlotte · Cornelius · Denver · Destin · Hickory · Huntersville · Mooresville

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

Queso Fundido from Provecho Mexican Kitchen & Cantina in Mooresville

Arancini from Barrel and Fork in Cornelius

Quesadilla Mexicana at La Unica in Huntersville

Three Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Sumo Shack in Mooresville

Queso Frito from Miami Fusion in Denver, NC

Bread Bites with warm Pimiento Cheese from Pop’s Old Company Store And Tavern in Catawba

Isle of Mozzarella from Olde Hickory Station in Hickory, NC

Charlotte · Cornelius · Denver · Mooresville

Best of Restaurants: Bird

It’s my favorite protein with feet.

Fried Chicken Wings with Winston Salem Sauce at Mert’s Heart and Soul in Charlotte

Pollo Florentine from Caruso’s in Mooresville, NC

Bruschetta Chicken Crepe at The Crispy Crepe in Charlotte

Poussin with sweet pea and summer squash risotto from The Foundry in Denver, NC

Airline Chicken at Bistro La Bon in Charlotte, NC

Thai Sweet and Sour Chicken from Thai House in Cornelius, NC

Chicken Marsala at Chillfire Grill in Denver

Turkey and Dressing at Stacy’s in Denver, NC

Chicken Caprese from Jeffrey’s in Mooresville

Duck and Dumplings at Dogwood: A Southern Table in Charlotte

Hot Wings at Duckworth’s Grill in Mooresville, NC

Charlotte · Cornelius · Hickory · Mooresville · Morganton · Statesville

Best of Restaurants: Italian

Is there anything more comforting that good Italian food?  So many offerings, but so few get it right.  These do.

Pollo Rosa Maria at Carrabba’s in Hickory (I know it’s a chain, but it is awesome!)

Veal Ossubuco from Fiamma’s in Charlotte

Parmesan Chicken from Alton’s Kitchen & Cocktails in Cornelius, NC

Pollo Florentine at Caruso’s in Mooresville

Gnocchi from Root and Vine in Morganton

Arancini from Novanta 90 Pizzeria Napoletana in Mooresville

Chicken Parmesan at Fin & Fino in Charlotte

Joyce Farms 24-month aged country ham gnocchi with collards, peanuts, and pear vinegar from The Noble Grille in Winston-Salem.

Carmela with Spaghetti at Sorrento in Statesville, NC

Charlotte · Cornelius · Denver · Hickory · Lincolnton · Micanopy FL · Mooresville · Morganton · Myrtle Beach · Shelby · Winston-Salem

Best of Restaurants: Sandwiches

Not your girlfriend’s sandwich.

Chicken Salad Croissant from Croissant’s Bakery in Myrtle Beach

Chicken Salad Croissant, Broccoli Cheddar Soup & Ambrosia Salad

Club Sandwich and Pulled Pork Ban Mi from Hatch in Hickory

Club Sandwich at Village Tavern in Winston Salem

Smoked Turkey Club Sandwich at Crepe Cellar

The Cuban at Sports Page in Denver, NC

Chicken Salad Sandwich from Harvest Moon Grille in Lincolnton, NC

Basil Grilled Chicken Sandwich at The Crispy Crepe in Charlotte

Hot Fried Chicken at Root & Vine in Morganton, NC

Cuban Sandwich at Root and Vine in Morganton, NC

The Cuban at Old Florida Cafe in Micanopy, FL

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich from Moyers Lakeside Eatery in Mooresville, NC

Wagyu Meatloaf Sandwich from Barrel and Fork in Cornelius

Turkey and Ham Sub from Heavenly Hoagie in Mooresville, NC

Philly Cheesesteak from JackBeagles in Mount Holly

Chicken Katsu Banh Mi from CO in Charlotte

Cuban Sandwich from J Bird’s Deli in Shelby, NC

Chicken Salad Club Sandwich from Common Market in Charlotte

Alabama · Black Mountain · Charlotte · Cornelius · Denver · Gastonia · Huntersville · Mooresville · Panama City Beach FL · Raleigh

Best of Restaurants: Asian

Mary Ashley makes sure I get plenty of opportunities to eat Asian food.  She wears me out on it.  Upside is that I know where all of the good spots are ūüôā

Pink Volcano Roll at Joe’s Asian Grill in Mooresville, NC

Crunchy Roll from Jia Asian Fusion in Gastonia, NC

The “Prime Time” Filet and Lobster Roll at The Cowfish in Charlotte, NC

Dumplings & Tom Yum Noodle Bowl at Kung Foo Noodle in Huntersville, NC


Spicy Crab Roll from Sake Sushi

Pad Krapraw & Chu Chee at Thai House in Cornelius


Ginger and Garlic Miso Ramen at Ramen Soul in Mooresville, NC

Chicken Hibachi at Hasaki Grill in Charlotte, NC

Crab Rangoon Roll at Monsoon in Mooresville

Thai Tea at the Thai House in Cornelius, NC

Hot & Sour Soup at Kung Foo Noodle in Huntersville, NC

Sushi Salad at Japan in Denver

Lil Bastard Roll from Pisces Sushi Bar and Lounge-Lake Norman in Mooresville

Bang Bang Shrimp Roll at Sushi O in Raleigh

Veggie Spring Rolls at Barrel and Fork in Cornelius

Kei Krob at Phoenix Thai in Mooresville

Crab Fried Rice from The Goodyear House in Charlotte

Basil Chicken from Rai Lay Thai in Charlotte

Crunchy California Poke Bowl at Be Em Asian in Charlotte

Taro Bubble Tea from Pho NC in Cornelius

Soy-Glazed Spare Ribs from Seoul Food Meat Company in Charlotte

Pork Belly Bun at CO in Charlotte

Chicken with lemongrass (Com Ga Nuong Xa), Com Bo Nuong Xa (Beef Skewers) & Spring Rolls at Lang Van in Charlotte

Orange Chicken from The Cheesecake Factory in Charlotte, NC

Dim Sum from Surin West in Birmingham, Alabama

Crispy Fish from Oishi in Panama City Beach, FL

Asheville · Boone · Charleston SC · Charlotte · Cornelius · Davidson · Denver · Destin · Isle of Palms · Lincolnton · Mooresville · Morganton · Mount Pleasant · Rock Hill SC · Savannah · Wilmington

Best of Restaurants: Appetizers

Appetizers are my very favorite part of the meal.  Not a big commitment, you can be adventurous and not break the bank.  Here is a list of my favorites:

Spinach and Artichoke Crostini from Crafted Southern Speakeasy in Lincolnton, NC

Caramelized Gnocchi from Aria Tuscan Grill

Fried Green Tomatoes at Huey’s Southern Eats in Isle of Palms

Mert’s Soul Rolls at Mert’s Heart and Soul in Charlotte

Homemade Lime Tortilla Chips served with Pineapple Mango Salsa from Caterer extraordinaire Food Junkie

Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Food Junkie

Filipino-style Pork Eggrolls with Spicy Apricot Dipping Sauce from Food Junkie

Funghi Repieni at Caruso’s in Mooresville

Pierogies from Twisted Oak Bar and Grill in Statesville, NC


Manchego Skillet at Tybee Island Social Club in Tybee Island, GA

Warm Pimento Cheese & Jumbo Lump Crab Cake  from Tupelo Honey in Charlotte, NC


Oysters Rockefeller at the Oak Steakhouse in Charleston, SC

Shrimp Flatbread from 5 Church in Charlotte, NC

Stuffed Portabello Mushroom at Chillfire Grill in Denver, NC

Beggar’s Purse with Cream Cheese and Salmon, Rock Shrimp & Fried Calamari with Vegetables from Wasabi in Asheville

Smoked Tuna Dip from Louisiana Lagniappe

Prime Rib Stuffed Mushrooms from Alton’s Kitchen and Cocktails in Cornelius, NC

Escargot with Lemon and Sweet Pea Risotto from Flatiron Kitchen and Taphouse in Davidson

Crispy Pork Rinds with Pimiento Cheese and Valentina Hot Sauce from Root +Vine in Morganton

Shrimp Cocktail at the Pump House in Rock Hill, SC

Escargot at Gamekeeper in Boone, NC

Deviled Eggs and Millionaire’s Bacon from Bricktop’s in Charlotte

Crab Dip from Circa 1922 in Wilmington, NC

Butter Bean Spread, Devilish Toast and Marinated Shrimp from Goodyear House in Charlotte


egg salad


Compressed Spiced Melon with Bluebird Farms Cured meats and shaved cheese from 158 on Main in Mooresville

Baked Brie Bites and Sausage Gravy Croquettes from Supperland in Charlotte

Deviled Eggs with Pickles, Aleppo, herb bacon salad from Stoke in Charlotte

SESAME-CHILI CAULIFLOWER FLORETS from Copper Modern Indian Cuisine in Charlotte

Chicken Empanadas from Havana 33 in Mooresville, NC

Fried Deviled Eggs from Zhay’s in Lincolnton

Mariposa Mezze Board from Mariposa in Charlotte

Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Mi Amiche in Mooresville

Firecracker Shrimp and Sriracha Fries from 73 & Main in Mt. Pleasant

Yuca Frita from Miami Fusion in Denver, NC

Charcuterie from Dot Dot Dot in Charlotte

Cornelius · Restaurants

Tenders in Cornelius


Tenders is a popular fast-ish food joint in Cornelius, NC.  It is a on the corner of the beaten path, but you still have to know what you are looking for.  Hint: Follow the crowds, because this place is always jacked.

The food here is very fresh, and all of the ingredients are homemade. ¬†Hand-breaded chicken tenders, not frozen and fried. ¬†The fries are hand-cut and fried, not frozen. ¬†In fact, they have NO freezers at all on premises. ¬†The sauces are not processed bottled sauces, they whip them all up on site. ¬†It’s a huge change from chains and you can taste the difference.

Another thing I love about this restaurant is that it is dine in, carry out or drive up. ¬†Sometimes you just don’t want to get out of your car, you know?

OK, so by the name of the restaurant, you know you are getting some chicken fingers. ¬†And you won’t be unhappy. ¬†That’s what they do, and they do it well. ¬†The chicken fingers are nuclear hot when they are delivered to you, and you get to choose your own sauce from about 8 homemade varieties. ¬†You know I chose Ranch. ¬†Delish!

Pics for your drooling pleasure…

Tenders Buffalo Chix Sammie Tenders Chicken Tender Basket


Cornelius · Restaurants

Restaurant Review: 131 Main in Cornelius, NC

We have been hearing forever that 131 Main was the place to go, and sure enough when we finally rolled up not long ago there were tons of people waiting to eat.¬† I was excited, something this busy couldn’t be bad, right?¬† Eh.¬† I was quite let down.

Once we were finally seated, it was so dark inside we could hardly read the menu.  This always vaguely annoys me.  We decided on our menu orders and placed them with our frazzled waitress.

We sampled the Deviled eggs for an appetizer.  I found them to be a touch too vinegary for my liking.  They were pretty to look at, however.


For my entrée I had the Cajun Penne Pasta.  It came with shrimp, tomatoes, scallions and sour cream and in a spicy cream sauce.  It was pretty tasteless on the night we went.  The shrimp were nicely cooked, but the whole dish was very bland.  I was quite disappointed.


My friend had the Slow Roasted Chicken with Smashed Reds.¬† I didn’t get a bite, but she did seem happy and I thought the potatoes were creamy and rich.




My date got the meatloaf with mashed potatoes and vegetables.  The gravy was a creamy, mushroom gravy that was delicious, and he enjoyed the meatloaf, but it tasted as if it had been grilled to me.  For his vegetable he chose a cucumber salad.  Yuck.

Dessert was a Brownie Sundae thing.¬† Chocolate is great, but this brownie was a bit dry.¬† We were just not impressed.¬† At all.¬† I may go back at lunch to see if my experience is any better, but I’ll not brave the throngs again at dinner to eat here.





Alton’s in Cornelius, NC

Well, we capped off another Restaurant Week in style. ¬†We visited Alton’s Kitchen and Cocktails in Cornelius at the recommendation of one of our clients and we were not disappointed. ¬†Alton’s is located in what was once Charleston Chops, and the building is updated, but still richly appointed. ¬†It has, most notably two flowing staircases at either end of the restaurant, which while beautiful, did become tiresome watching harried servers race up and down all night. ¬†Maybe a dumbwaiter and a server or two just stationed upstairs?

Restaurant week is a lot like Valentine’s Day. ¬†Super busy, with a prix fixe menu for the masses. ¬†It isn’t really fair to judge a restaurant by normal standards during these times, but if that is when you visit, well…you gotta report. ¬†Alton’s did pretty well. ¬†We had some issues with timing and a hide-and-seek server who let our drinks get low, but other staff made up for these few snafus. ¬†When we needed a fork, another server was glad to retrieve it. ¬†Same with the drinks. ¬†BUT, I despise having to flag down a server to get what is obvious to the eye if you’d simply walk by a time or two. ¬†Another irritant was that our dessert was brought out perhaps 15 minutes later than our dining companions, despite my having ordered my bread pudding with my meal (the prix fixe menu). ¬†Just as we were getting restless, the chef came to the table to explain that they had run out of bread puddings, and had to bake more fresh. ¬†She offered to bring us something while we waited and to just pack our bread pudding up for us to take home. ¬†We opted for the ice cream sandwich, which was delicious. ¬†I appreciated the chef meeting the problem head-on and offering us a workable solution so our companions didn’t have to sit there and wait longer than necessary.

I digress. ¬†When we were seated, a waiter immediately greeted us and brought us a carafe of water and took our drink orders. ¬†They actually had “sweet tea” which I commend them for because many nicer restaurants only offer unsweetened tea. ¬†The only comment I can make that may leave room for improvement is that the water could use some ice.

Our appetizers were delicious.  We ordered Lobster bisque, tuna poke and shrimp cocktail.  I had the shrimp cocktail, and it was truly one of the better ones.  They used Jumbo Shrimp, and they were perfectly poached, not too chewy.  They served it with two sauces, a typical cocktail sauce and a tartar sauce.  They were both tart and tangy, but I preferred the typical cocktail sauce.  Both my diners proclaimed their appetizers to be delicious.

Tuna Poke
Tuna Poke

Shrimp Cocktail
Shrimp Cocktail

Lobster Bisque
Lobster Bisque

Update March 2016: I visited with my Girls Nosh group and we had a much better experience.  Everything was delicious!  The Prime Rib Stuffed Mushrooms were my favorites, I think.  They were really huge and juicy!  The stuffing had a hint of horseradish and cheese making it very creamy and rich.  Divine!

altonsstuffedmsuhrooms (2)

This is not an appetizers, per se, but my friend and I wanted to share it for our appetizer, so the restaurant kindly split it onto two plates for us.  This is the Crab and Shrimp Louie.  Tender seafood atop mesclun adorned with sliced avocado, tomatoes and topped with a homemade creamy and tangy 1000 Island dressing.  It was delicate, but very satisfying.  And very fresh.



For our entrees we all got something a little different. ¬†Robert got the Slow-cooked Baby Back Ribs served with chili lime grilled corn and creamy cole slaw. ¬†The spicy and smoky sauce on the tender ribs had a wonderful kick. ¬†The corn was also wonderful, with a tang from the lime and a deep savoriness from the grilling. ¬†Harry ordered a Crispy Chicken Salad. ¬†It was loaded with fresh avocado, rich eggs, bacon and draped with a creamy thick homemade Ranch dressing. ¬†Dustin got the seared ahi tuna. ¬†It was seared lightly and crusted with sesame seeds. ¬† ¬†I got the grilled swordfish on cheese grits with lobster gravy. ¬†Honestly, the fish was really firm and not my favorite texture, but that wasn’t the chef’s fault. ¬†That is just the nature of the swordfish. ¬†It had a nice chargrilled flavor. ¬†What I LOVED was the cheesy, creamy grits that this fish rested on. ¬†I’m not sure I’ve ever had better grits, even in Charleston. ¬†The lobster gravy was lighter than you’d think, but still creamy and flavorful. ¬†No chunks of lobster, though, which did disappoint me somewhat. ¬†Laid across the top as a garnish were grilled asparagus spears, and they were wonderful, just cooked enough. ¬†I made a meal off of the grits and asparagus.

Crispy Chicken Salad
Crispy Chicken Salad

Seared Tuna
Seared Tuna

Baby Back Ribs
Baby Back Ribs

Grilled Swordfish with Creamy Cheese Grits and Lobster Gravy
Grilled Swordfish with Creamy Cheese Grits and Lobster Gravy

Update: On our recent visit, we sampled the filet mignon served with a twice baked potato.  The filet was tender and flavorful and the twice baked potato was cheesy and rich.  Perfect!


On another trip during Restaurant week they featured Lobster Tail and Filet Kabob.  Heaven.

Jumbo Shrimp Pasta was another favorite.  Big pink shrimp drenched in lemon butter and tossed with baby spinach, pine nuts and sauteed mushrooms made for a beautiful and scrumptious dish.


Megan had the special of the night: Grilled Bone-in Pork Chop.  The pork chop was flavorful, but Megan said it was a little undercooked at the bone.  The mashed potatoes were creamy and perfect and the grilled asparagus still had a nice snap to it.


Erika ordered the Pittsburgh Salad for her meal. ¬†This salad is a bowl of mixed greens topped with char-grilled filet mignon, bacon, tomatoes, blue cheese and….french fries! ¬†Erika said it was the best salad she’s ever eaten!


I don’t know what got into me on this night, because I normally default to seafood or beef, but on this night I got Parmesan Crusted Chicken and I’m so glad I did. ¬†I mean, when something is fried with cheese, you just can’t go wrong. ¬†This was no exception. ¬†The chicken was crispy and seasoned well and the lemony sauce atop it was perfect with¬†the salty capers and the sweet tomatoes. ¬†The creamy spinach served on the side was smooth and a perfect compliment for the crispy chicken.


Dessert, as I mentioned, was a bit of a fiasco. ¬†We enjoyed homemade Oreo ice cream sandwiches and bread pudding. ¬†The cookie sandwiches were delicious, topped with chocolate sauce and best eaten with a spoon instead of picking it up with your fingers. ¬†My bread pudding was merely ok. ¬†Nothing special, I’d opt for something different next time.

Bread Pudding
Bread Pudding

Oreo Cookie Sandwich
Oreo Cookie Sandwich

Updated to add that the Pecan Pie a la mode is the bomb.


And these little gem’s were Restaurant Week offerings.¬† Delish!

Alton’s, we all agreed, was a success. ¬†It isn’t among the best places I’ve eaten in the area, but it was good enough to visit again.
Alton's Kitchen & Cocktails on Urbanspoon