Charlotte · Restaurants

Sullivan’s Steakhouse

Sullivan's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Another Charlotte Restaurant Week comes to a close and we celebrated by going to Sullivan’s Steakhouse.  We brought our friends Jeri and Robert Walton to dine with us, and we all ended up getting nearly the same thing.  But, you know, it’s Restaurant Week and you only get a certain amount of choices, so duplications are an inevitability.  We left our home early, anticipating trouble from yesterday’s ice storm, and arrived at our destination without incident, happily, and 30 minutes early.  As we sat down to wait, we were seated within 5 minutes!  Score!

Our server was prompt and thorough.  We never wanted for anything.  For our first course my husband and I had the Caesar Salad.  It was really large for a simple side dish, and the dressing was creamy and delicious.  Nothing fancy, but decent.  Our friends tried the Lobster and Shrimp Bisque and the Wedge Salad, which came with blue cheese crumbles, fresh diced tomatoes and blue cheese dressing.

For our second course, we all chose the filet mignon with grilled jumbo shrimp.  It was served atop a pile of horseradish mashed potatoes and alongside a tumble of grilled vegetables.  The filet was fine, though 2 of our steaks were switched.  We didn’t discover until we dug in, then there was the awkward figuring out who had who’s steak and switching among ourselves.  The shrimp were delicious, cleaned well (huge plus) but everything was heavily spiced with pepper.  There was nothing wrong with my filet, but I’ve had the same flavor at home on our grill.  So, yes, nothing special.  I loved the creamy horseradish potatoes most, but they can keep those under-grilled and under-seasoned veggies that were limply sitting on the side of our steak.

Our last course, dessert, was for me the best course.  We had the Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with vanilla ice cream.  It was so yummy!  Sweet and creamy and not too banana-y.  It was amazing.  Our friend had the chocolate mousse, bless his heart.

In the end, I have to give Sullivan’s a thumbs down, only because nothing I had was over the top delicious.  You can get a better steak at many other Charlotte restaurants: Beef and Bottle, Firebirds or Morton’s.

Bread
Bread
Martini
Martini
Wedge Salad
Wedge Salad
Caesar Salad
Caesar Salad
Filet and Shrimp
Filet and Shrimp
Bananas Foster Bread Pudding
Bananas Foster Bread Pudding
Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate Mousse
Charlotte · Restaurants

P.F. Chang’s

I’ve been hearing about P.F. Chang’s for quite a while.Usually I turn my nose up at chain restaurants. I have been proven wrong. We visited for the first time today after living here over a decade. What was I thinking? All of this time I’ve missed!

The interior is richly appointed with dark woods and a couple of statues of Chinese warriors. The setting is elegant, though when we visited at 3pm, we and most everyone else were dressed casually. I’d dress a little more “nicely” for dinner.

The service here, from management to wait staff was exceptional. Everyone seemed to work together in perfect synchronicity to make the dining experience all it could be. Seriously the best I’ve been treated in a long time!
We were informed that they had a new menu, and they have this “Dinner for Two” deal on the back where you get 2 soups, 1 appetizer to share, 2 entrees and 2 mini desserts. All for $40. It was a deal! It also gave us an excellent sampling of all of the great dishes we’d heard so much about.

Hot and Sour Soup
Hot and Sour Soup

We selected the Hot and Sour Soup and the Egg Drop Soup. The Hot and Sour Soup was dark and flavorful and properly tangy. The Egg Drop soup was lighter, but had no less flavor. We both agreed it was the best of both soups we’d eaten.

Lettuce Wraps Unassembled
Lettuce Wraps Unassembled

 

Lettuce Wraps Assembled
Lettuce Wraps Assembled

For our shared appetizer we chose the lettuce wraps. Don’t miss this! Small dices of water chestnuts, chicken, mushrooms, scallions and seasonings accompany leaves of iceberg lettuce, which you assemble like a taco. Fresh, light, crisp and wonderful!

Kung Pao Scallops
Kung Pao Scallops

We had Kung Pao Scallops and Mongolian Beef for our entrees, and of course shared. The scallops were my favorite. They were fried, but not over cooked, and then tossed in a hot and sweet sauce with peanuts and chili peppers. It was fabulous. The Mongolian beef was so tender, you cut larger pieces easily with a fork. It was garnished with scallion tops and both were served with steamed white rice.

I wish I could comment on dessert, but they were out of mini desserts, so our server gave us the option to have our soups deducted from the over all price to compensate for it. We were so stuffed, we readily agreed.
I ate there 12 hours ago and I’m ready to go back 🙂

New York City · Restaurants

Baked by Melissa in NYC

So I mentioned yesterday that the hubs went to NYC and brought us back 2 boxes of cupcakes.  This be the second box.  And the best box. Sorry, Magnolia Bakery.

Here’s the difference, the cupcakes Baked by Melissa are tiny little morsels, about the circumference of a quarter. But they pack a ton of flavor into that bite.  The box we got was a nice mixture of differing flavors, and each of us had our favorites.

The flavors we were brought were (left to right, top to bottom):

Cookies and Cream & Mint Chocolate Chip

Cookie Dough & Cinnamon

S’mores & Chocolate Chip Pancake

I cannot believe he didn’t bring us 5 boxes.  They were so amazing, so moist and such flavor packed in those tiny bites.  I might fly up to New York myself to get them soon.

Charlotte · Restaurants

Bad Daddy’s Burgers

What: Bad Daddy’s Burgers

Who Said So: Charlotte Magazine’s Best of the Best 2011 for Best Burger and Voter’s choice for best Milkshake  and Charlotte Magazine’s Summer Fun for Chocolate Shake


Bad Daddy's Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Are you looking for the *best* hamburgers in Charlotte?  Look no further than Bad Daddy’s.  It used to be called Big Daddy’s Burgers, but for some legal reason they had to change it.  Whatever.  The delicious food is still the same.

Bad Daddy’s has 2 locations.  The one I visited was in Dillworth and is a hopping place.  And parking sucks.  But you have to go.  The only time I’ve ever been dissatisfied with my food was when we sat outside in November (covered area with big heaters) and my food got cold before we could eat it.  Next time in winter we will be patient and wait for an indoor table.

This is my standard order.  I never deviate from it, I feel you shouldn’t mess with perfection.  It is a build your own burger, well-done (but you can get them cooked any way you like!) with cheddar cheese, lettuce, pickle, crispy onions, mayo, ketchup and mustard. 

I opt for the tater tots as my side and they come with this amazing Bad Daddy’s dipping sauce that tastes like a smoky/spicy BBQ sauce mixed with mayo. My husband brilliantly asks for them to be fried extra crispy (I know what you’re thinking, but look, this isn’t health food anyway.).  I did not do that this trip, but they were plenty crispy for me.  Who needs mushy tater tots?  Napoleon Dynamite? 

I’m setting you up for my next admission by this picture and showing you how Bad Daddy’s “well-done” looks.  My husband decries my choice saying that my burger is dry, but it just isn’t so.  Plus, I have a terror of e-coli.  Now, the real reason I show you this is to prove I cut my burger in half and ate only half because I ordered THIS MILKSHAKE for dessert:

When it arrived, I was reminded of the scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta was complaining about the $5 milkshakes.  Which this was.  And worth it!  Thick and creamy, and you can even get adult versions with some liquor if you desire!  Our waitress was kind enough to separate ours into 3 small cups for sharing.

We love this restaurant.  It is a cheaper choice in Charlotte, but don’t expect it to be 5 Guys cheap.  But do expect it to be delicious. 

Charlotte

Bonterra Dining and Wine Room in Charlotte

Bonterra on Urbanspoon

photo credit: City Data

Bonterra first came onto my radar when  Groupon offered a deal for $50 worth of food for $25.  I looked at the website and was less than impressed.  It wasn’t bad, just…amateurish.  Plus, once I arrived, I found the menu they have posted online was actually much more abbreviated than what they actually offer.  In fact, if not for that Groupon, I don’t know that I’d have even given Bonterra a chance.  And what a mistake that would have been.

Let me apologize immediately for the quality of the photos.  I brought my decent little digital camera, but decided against the flash in this fancy little place.  What looked good on my display translated to dark blurry images once downloaded.  How disappointing!

I’m sorry the photos don’t show it, but the food was amazing.  Simply delicious.  The service was just as good, possibly.  Our waiter was not as knowledgeable as he could have been, but he made up for it in kindness and attentiveness.  In fact, I asked a few questions (in preparation for writing this blog post) and he had to run off and go ask the chef (presumably) about every one of them.

To start off we enjoyed the Chef’s Choice of Charcuterie and Fromage (meat and cheese) with these yummy little accompaniments : honeyed pecans, thinly sliced pears, baby vegetables and one grainy mustard and one smooth mustard.   It also came with house made crackers and bread.  It was amazing.

Like idiots, we both ordered seafood for our entrees.  We just couldn’t help it.  In fact, we both wanted the scallops, but there was NO WAY I was going to get the same exact entree, so I quickly swapped my choice to the Grouper.  And I am so glad I did.  It was so juicy and tender.  It was so full of flavor and cooked perfectly.  It sat on a bed of kale and bulghar, which I never knew I loved.  Huh.

My hubs got the seared scallops.  Lord have mercy, they were good, but not quite as good as mine.  The scallops were properly seared and you’ll notice the same sauce (not honey mustard) is under both seafood dishes.  The only difference is that this dish had a parsley spaetzle.  Those were doughy and not that great to me, but my hubs liked them, so there ya go.

Yep, even after all of that food, we had to get dessert.  Once again, I was foiled when my hubs chose the creme brulee’, but I kindly deferred to my second choice, which was simply heavenly.  The creme brulee’ though….yummmm.  Just like that other thing men love so dearly, creme brulee’ is good, even when it’s bad.  Creamy custard topped by scorched sugar.  What’s not to like?  It was perfect.

So, I got the chocolate hot lava cake.  I wanted a souffle but didn’t want to wait, so lava cake it was.  Again, always good.  This one was yummy and melty in the middle, like you’d expect.  Notice the sauces swirled alongside: creme anglaise, raspberry coulis and some chocolate shmear.  The real star accompaniment was the pistachio ice cream.  Fresh and tons of flavor…not like the nuclear green ice cream Breyers puts out.

So, the food was brilliant.  The most awesome thing was that this restaurant is in an old church and is absolutely stunning inside.  And it was packed.  You don’t hear a lot about Bonterra when combing the “Best Of” lists, but if you don’t go, you are sincerely missing out.

 

Highlands · Restaurants

Review: Wolfgang’s in Highlands, NC

RECOMMENDED BY: SOUTHERN LIVING MAGAZINE

WOLFGANG’S RESTAURANT AND WINE BISTRO

It’s been a long time, what with the accident and other life events, since Dustin and I have been out to a nice restaurant, let alone a whole weekend getaway!  Yet, that’s exactly what we did this past weekend.

We took a trip to Highlands, NC which is so beautiful!  We had a few culinary clunkers along the way, but the ONE restaurant that made all of these misses worthwhile was Wolfgang’s in Highlands.  I should also disclaim all of the photos that follow because my husband would not allow me to take pictures of our food because he was embarrassed.  What a sissy.

Wolfgang’s Restaurant

Wolfgang’s is an unassuming place in downtown Highlands, located right across from the Old Edwards Inn.  I was nervous about the dress code because I had on a dress with my boot and my high top tennis shoe.  Now, the boot is self-explanatory (oh, she got hurt) but the high top tennis shoe just makes me look like an idiot.  At times like this I wish it were appropriate to wear a sign on my back that states boldly “I WAS HIT BY A DRUNK DRIVER WHO BROKE BOTH ANKLES/FEET/LEGS.”  I digress.

We must have looked fine, because several people on their way out thanked us for a lovely meal.  Hey, I’m okay with being mistaken for a server/hostess over people staring at me because I’m dressed like a yahoo.  When the maitre d’ came back to escort us to our table, we were seated at an intimate table by the bar.  The table and chairs were lovely, and had a tree limb motif.  I was charmed.

Yeah, yeah, it looked great…you want to hear about the food.  Our server brought us a basket of warm homemade bread with soft butter pats.  After our drinks were delivered, the server brought us an amuse bouche from the chef.  Tonight it was a cherry pepper stuffed with creamy goat cheese and topped with a chiffonade of basil.  All of this served in a nice, tidy white spoon.  It was a delicious beginning to an even better meal.

For starters I had Escargots Au Gratin.  These snails were tenderly baked in garlic butter sauce and then topped with a light Chardonnay sauce.  Dustin had the Shrimp and Lobster Bisque, which was listed as a specialty of Chef Wolfgang.  The soup was velvety smooth and full of flavor.  It was better than any I’d had in Charleston, SC, the former champion of bisque.

Our entrees were absolutely spectacular.  Both were served with a small salad of mixed greens, lightly dressed with a vinaigrette, roasted potatoes rubbed with sea salt and grilled asparagus, served al dente and perfect.  I ordered the fresh fish of the night, which was a rockfish served “Oscar” style.  My broiled fish was perfectly cooked and topped with a perfectly lemony beurre blanc sauce and lump crabmeat.  Dustin ordered one of Chef Wolfgang’s Signature Specialties: Veal Medallions “Wolfgang”.  These tender discs of veal were sliced thin and cooked to perfect tenderness.  They were settled on a beautiful Cabernet sauce in addition to a béarnaise sauce that topped it with crawfish tails.  I think the decadence got to Dustin’s head as he declared it the best thing he’d EVER eaten and you all know he eats my food nightly so that can’t be true.

We were bursting, but there was no way I was leaving there without tasting the strudal of a German chef.  Dustin and I shared an apple strudal a’ la mode.  Now, Dustin hates nuts. He inhaled this tender pastry, filled with chunks of apples, raisins and walnuts, swimming in our melting ice cream.  While we were enjoying dessert, Chef Wolfgang came out to make sure all of his diners were enjoying his creations.  A perfect end to a perfect evening.

Among Chef’s Wolfgang’s many accolades are his stint cooking for Commander’s Palace in New Orleans,  write-ups in Southern Living, a ten-year run as excellence awarded by Wine Spectator, and a top choice at OpenTable.com.

Now, if you are a wine drinker, you should know that Wolfgang’s won some pretty fancy awards, and their wine list is extensive, and servers most knowledgeable.  Dustin had a Cabarnet that night that was wonderful, while I had to forego the alcohol because of my pesky pain meds.

Also, I don’t know if you use OpenTable to make your reservations, but it is awesome and painless!  Yes, you’ll have to register, but it’s minimal.  On Wolfgang’s site there is a quick link that allows you to make your reservations quickly!

I made these reservations about a week before traveling, and I am now amazed at how many people know and love this restaurant.  If you are in Highlands, NC or anywhere close, don’t miss it.

Wolfgang's Restaurant & Wine Bistro on Urbanspoon

Lincolnton · Restaurants

Court Street Grille in Lincolnton

Court Street Grill in Lincolnton
Court Street Grill in Lincolnton

113 Court Sq, Lincolnton, NC

Tel: (704) 732-3242

Court Street is one of our favorite restaurants in Lincolnton.  Located on the court square, it is a popular destination for the white collar lunch crowd.  But, don’t let that dissuade you, this place is popular with everyone!

The offerings include sandwiches, Italian standards, pizza, salads and wraps.  Everything is very fresh and homemade.  The owner’s mom makes a homemade cake(s) daily, and when it is gone, it’s gone.  So, get there at lunch and get a piece!

Italian Sandwich Platter
Italian Sandwich Platter
Cross-section of Italian Sandwich

On this visit I had the Italian Sandwich platter.  They wrap all of their sandwiches in foil and serve them warm.  As you can see by the cross section I’ve provided, the Italian sandwich is filled with ham, mortadella (bologna?), cheese, lettuce, tomato and dressing.  As you can see, I opted for no tomatoes.  The platters themselves come with french fries and a small side salad.  The french fries are crisp and covered with seasoned salt.  For the salad, you have your choice of mesculan mix, iceberg lettuce or a mix.  I find the mix to be the best choice.  Their dressings are homemade (at least the house Italian and the Ranch) and the salads come with tomatoes and a large helping of cheese, which for me turned out to be too much for the amount of lettuce.  I’m probably in the minority there.

The variety of sandwiches there is pretty flavorful.  Some of my favorites include the buffalo chicken wrap, and the chicken sandwich with Osama’s (that’s the owner) specially seasoned chicken.  All are served dressed the same way mine is.  I’ve also asked them to make my daughter a “pizza sub” with pepperoni, cheese and sauce (not on the menu) and they happily obliged.

Chicken Fingers
Chicken Fingers

Now, if you have picky children who wouldn’t dream of eating a sandwhich with all of that “stuff” on it, try the chicken fingers off of the appetizer menu.  Yep, they are pretty basic, but you can see the pepper flakes in the breading, so that counts for something.  My son was thrilled with them.

The pizza is offered on the kid’s menu, and on the adult menu as well.  It was cheesy and delicious while it was hot, but after it became lukewarm it was not

Pizza
Pizza

as appetizing.  They also have lasagna, spaghetti, manicotti and the like.  It is good and served with a salad and grilled garlic bread.

The service is normally quick and the owner is friendly.  The atmosphere is probably the best in Lincolnton with the buffed hardwood floors, the exposed air ductwork, large picture windows, plants and location to the court house.  My only gripe is the parking.  It is always, no matter what time I arrive, crazy packed and you feel you’ve won the lottery if you find a space up front.

Even if you have to walk a piece, it’s worth it.