Monthly Archives: February 2019

Food Adventure : Charlotte NC

A recent comment I posted on a Facebook post, somehow led to a weekend trip to Charlotte, NC to visit a friend who lives there and another who was traveling there for a business trip.  With all the negative things we hear about social media, I have to say it has led to many a personal connection for me with people I rarely see in the most unexpected places.

The weekend begins….

I had been to Charlotte a few times in the past, but always for business and only for one or two days during the week.  So, I was not only excited to see my friends after many months, but also to have an actual weekend in this city that I had heard so many great things about.

As with any other vacation, my focus begins with finding great places to eat and new foods to try at my destination.  Lately, I’m also on the hunt for great cocktail bars.  The experience is even better when you’re with friends who are equally obsessed with food. Our list was long and our time short, but we had a wonderful time exploring the various neighborhoods of Charlotte including South End, NoDa, Uptown, Matthews, and more.  The amount of ground three determined women can cover in two days is astounding.  I even managed to meet a former co-worker/friend for dinner one night.

Living so close to New York City, one tends to dismiss the culinary scene in smaller cities in the U.S.  Having traveled a fair amount, I know better and have learned that great chefs are everywhere and sometimes the smaller cities can surprise me when I discover a place that is on par with or better than any New York City restaurant.  Charlotte, NC is most certainly one of these cities.  Would I move here? Likely not. Would I come back for the restaurants? Absolutely!!

From my brief experience, I learned that while Charlotte is growing like crazy, there really isn’t much to do in Charlotte, but restaurants are aplenty in every neighborhood.  So, we spent most of our time eating and drinking our way through the city for two and a half days.

Here’s where we ate and drank………..

Friday night

Blackfinn AmeripubBallantyne Village – A great neighborhood feel restaurant near our hotel with an energetic vibe. The food and service were very good. We loved the Cauli-tots and Ying Yang Shrimp which we shared as appetizers. I had the Chicken & Biscuits (it’s required when you’re in the South) for my entree and it was delicious. Not bad for a pub style restaurant with multiple locations in NC, VA and IL.

ZinicolaBallantyne Village – We went here for cocktails in the late evening and did not eat any food. Bar staff was very friendly and we enjoyed discovering a Bourbon made in California called The Burning Chair. It was different than Kentucky bourbons; a bit sweeter and mellower that felt like, well, California.

Saturday

Trade & Lore – NoDa stands for North Davidson and is an up and coming district in Charlotte that is reminiscent of SoHo in New York City the way it used to be many years ago before the designer shops and galleries moved in. It has an artistic, eclectic feel along with some wonderful cafes and eateries. With many of the brunch restaurants not yet open, we decided to spend some time in this cafe which is an interesting concept – they rent space for part of the day in an establishment that turns into a bar after 5pm. My friends ordered cappuccinos and I ordered a turmeric & ginger tea. Both were made with such precision and care that it was evident in the taste. My friends declared it the best cappuccino they’ve had and I’m now on the hunt for this tea. The barista also offered us a taste of their cold tea and coffee that they serve from beer taps and are an option in the evenings when the bar is open. Both are non-alcoholic, have a bit of fizz and tasted delicious.

Crepe Cellar – After our Coffee & Tea, we moved on to our brunch destination which specializes in what else but crepes, but more specifically we were looking for buckwheat crepes. We were not disappointed. This was a delicious meal which we started with some local blue cheese served with spiced walnuts and a plate of fresh burrata cheese served with caramelized Meyer lemon. Both were simple perfection and we asked for more bread to sop up every last bit. Then we moved on to our buckwheat crepes, mine filled with spinach and wild mushrooms, topped with a fried egg and accompanied by a red cabbage slaw. Despite eating far too much cheese and bread, I finished my plate and especially enjoyed the red cabbage slaw which had a hint of horseradish. We walked off our meal in the neighborhood and enjoyed the beautiful sunny day before moving on to explore more of the city.

Bardo – This newer restaurant in Mint Hill was our favorite of the weekend. Everything from start to finish was a wonderful experience – friendly staff, inventive cocktails, interesting & delicious food and a lively ambiance. We sat at the bar since we had no reservations and the restaurant was packed. I prefer to sit at a bar any way because it allows me to mingle with the bar staff and others. I ordered a spicy gin based cocktail which was delicious and we decided to share a hand full of dishes so as to try as many as possible. This included Oysters, Steak Tartare, Spanish Octopus, Hamachi Crudo, Lamb Neck, and Tempura Maitake. We loved the oysters so much that we ordered another plate. Every dish was perfectly executed and had a wonderful balance of flavors. The open kitchen allowed me to see chef/co-owner, Michael Noll & his staff in action and speak to him for a few minutes. The Managing Partner, Jayson Whiteside, stopped by to talk with us and insisted we try the Kabocha squash dessert which of course we did. As he had claimed, it was different and excellent and I was happy we veered from our usual no dessert rule. The talented mixologist, Amanda Britton, gave us samplings of various liqueurs and concoctions. What a fun evening and an experience I will not soon forget and makes me want to go back as I write.

Buona Vita – After walking around for a bit in downtown Charlotte (which they call Uptown), we made our way back to the hotel but realized that we were hungry again. With very few options at that hour, we stopped at this restaurant that primarily serves pizza. You will likely never find me seeking out pizza in Charlotte and this was nothing to rave about but the place had an old time diner feel to it, was very clean and the pizza was better than your average pizza chain. More importantly, it satisfied our hungry stomachs.

Sunday

La Belle Helene – Our final food destination before heading to the airport for our flights home was brunch at La Belle Helene. This French restaurant serves a very classic French brunch with pastries, eggs, croque monsieur/madame, etc. I had a croque madame which was very good, but my favorite thing here was the Golden Mary which was a twist on the traditional Bloody Mary made with a fresh pressed yellow tomato juice, and a touch of honey. It was a fun surprise and the right cocktail to end our fun, food filled weekend!!

Next time you find yourself in Charlotte, check out some of these restaurants and enjoy their Southern hospitality!!!

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