Hickory · Restaurants

Youssef 242 in Hickory

Hickory has blessed few real “fancy” restaurants (when compared to Charlotte) so I was so excited to finally try Youssef 242 last night.  I’ve had it on my list forever, and somehow never got to it.  I made reservations in the middle of the night (thanks Open Table!) and like that we were in.

We arrived on a back street near Hickory High School, and I was truly amazed at the cool little spot, tucked away from prying eyes on Hwy. 127.  This was gonna be good, I could feel it.  As we approached the entrance, we saw the outdoor seating area with the fireplace.  So welcoming!  Unfortunately, too hot for this gal, so inside we went.

We were greeted promptly and kindly, and given our choice of a table or a booth.  I appreciated the choice, one of our diners is a tall man, so sometimes a booth isn’t a great option.  We were seated and approached by the server quickly.


We ordered appetizers and those were brought quickly.  Some were better than others.  I got the escargot.  They were served in small puff pastry cups and pan sautéed with garlic and parsley.  The flavor was fine, but the temperature was too cool.  My other criticism is that the shells tasted of the freezer.  Next time I’d get another dish.


My husband got the Fried Blue Oyster Mushrooms.  They were amazing!  The batter was light and crispy, perfectly fried and not at all greasy.  They sat atop a Dijon mustard sauce which was a perfect pairing.  Very tangy!  It balanced the sweet and rich bite of mushroom.

Our friend got the crab cake, which was served atop a fried green tomato with vegetable slaw and a sriracha sauce.  He said it was in need of salt and a little bland, but cooked perfectly.  He wasn’t wild about the fried green tomato with it.

filet with cheddar mashed potatoes youseff

Two of us got the filet mignon.  It was atop cheddar mashed potatoes and finished with a demi glace.  My filet was cooked perfectly, but it lacked seasoning and had an overly smoked flavor that I did not like.  The potatoes were creamy, but I didn’t see or detect any cheddar in them.  There was even some discussion at the table that they might be fake potatoes?  I don’t believe that to be true, but we were underwhelmed for the prices Youseff charges.


My husband got the NY Strip.  It was slightly better, but the real show stopper for me was the fried onion strips on top.  They were fried delicately and perfectly.  These folks really seem to know how to fry.  Nothing was soggy, everything crispy and perfectly seasoned.

Garden salad with chicken youseff

My other friend got the Mixed Green salad with Chicken.  She loved it, but said that the chicken was dry.  The salad had garbanzo beans, quinoa, carrots, pickled onions, cucumbers and tomatoes with a vinaigrette dressing.  It was dressed well.


We chose 2 desserts for the table.  Robert and Jeri got the Vanilla Brulee, which was reported to be fine, but nothing special.  It did come with a quarter of a cookie which was a nice decoration, but really just a tease.

Pineapple Upsidedown cake youseff

The other dessert was a Pineapple Upside Down cake.  This was the star of the show.  It was topped with a delicious vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce.  Out of this world fresh and good.  It was served warm, too.

Did we like this place?  Sure, it was ok.  But, for the price, there are so many better choices out there, even better choices in Hickory.  The meals were hit or miss, and for half the price, I’d recommend it.  Alas, I cannot.



Youssef 242 on Urbanspoon


The Back Porch in Destin, FL


The Back Porch has been become somewhat of an icon for most people visiting the beach.  Each night throngs of people stroll up from the beach to get a picture in the oversized beach chair and let their children play on the sand while they wait for a table.  And it won’t take long, not really.  It just seems long because you are hot.  And sandy.

Forget your troubles.  If you are a tourist, there’s no getting around it.  You have to go to the Back Porch.  The restaurant itself is basically outdoor seating inside.  All of the windows open up to allow the beach air to flow through.  Hope to sit by a window with a cross breeze.  On my last 2 visits, I have not and have nearly died from heat exhaustion.  A bit of an exaggeration, but my teenage son really did get sick to his stomach because he was so hot in an interior room.

We started our dinner with an order of raw oysters and an order of fried calamari.  The Oysters were fresh and plump and absolutely perfect.  My only complaint is that I wish they were served on a bed of ice, because they’d begun to warm up before we finished them.  The calamari was crispy and tender, served with a tart marinara sauce.  My kids loved them.


The crab stuffed shrimp (pictured above, blurry) were really delicious.  Stuffed with crabmeat and topped with a lemony butter sauce, then broiled to a crispy perfection.  The stuffed potato was creamy and cheesy and needed just a touch of salt.   The Southern corn medley is studded with peppers and beans and was a flavorful accompaniment to the seafood.


My husband ordered the blackened ahi, rare.  He reported that though the seasoning was delicious, his tuna was overcooked.

It’s never perfect, but it’s always good.  My favorite times at the Back Porch are coming in from the beach in the afternoon for a late lunch in flip flops and a cover up.  Smoked tuna dip never tasted so good.

Back Porch Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Hickory · Hickory · Restaurants

Tony’s Pizza in Hickory, NC

Tony's Pizza on Urbanspoon

You want to know where the best pizza is in Hickory? It’s at Tony’s, in a little strip mall near Target. It stays wrapped up, so you know it is good. We like New York style pizza, thin and bendy. This pizza is perfect for that, with a crispy crust perfect for crunching.

Another awesome fact about Tony’s is that they sell pizza by the slice, just like in NYC! I always go with the fam, so we just get a whole pie, but you know, the option’s there. I can’t really speak on any of the other items on the menu, because I never stray from the pizza. Never.

Don’t miss this restaurant.


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.

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.