Zebra Restaurant: One of my Top Five
My first visit to the Zebra Restaurant was one of the half-dozen or so greatest dining experiences since returning to the Charlotte area. The service was amazing (and if you have read any of my other tips, you will know that I am not prone to hyperbole). The staff was attentive and everything came and went at near the perfect time, yet I never felt crowded nor rushed. They were both efficient and knowledgeable but never officious as some of their nearby neighbors often tend to be. The ambience is also ideal, although it can get a bit crowded on weekends.
In their advertising, they bill themselves as "Charlotte's destination for world-class dining" and that is not far off.
Favorite Dish: A Taste of South Africa, AKA ostrich au poivre and grilled boerewors (grilled South African farmer sausage) with nutmeg scented spaghetti squash, red yam flan, and roasted zucchini. It is also quite remarkable that I like this so much since I generally do not like any squash other than breaded and deep fried zucchini but it was great and it prepared me for some of the experiences which I had in South Africa last summer (their winter). The meal finished with a pistachio chevre grape which was small but sensational.Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Food and Dining
Little Rock Deli: Little Rock Deli
This place does not really fit the title "Deli" nor will it draw you inside by its exterior appearance, but I am very sorry that it is way on the other side of Charlotte from me. The building may have once been a gasoline station but it is now a seemingly out-of-place family owned and operated country sandwich shop. A very cordial lady and her husband (the cook) operate the place and, since school was out, their two children were doing homework at a corner table when the son was not telling his mother about the neat cars outside. The menu is not particularly imaginative but the food was very good and the service was superior and prompt. Located at an interchange of I-85 near the Charlotte airport, it is in a very convenient location for locals and travelers of all varieties.
Favorite Dish: Being a Grecophile, I tend to try the gyros when I find it and they do a good job with it here. The tzatziki sauce could use a bit more cucumber but was nevertheless very good.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Bao Ding: Best Chinese Restaurant in Charlotte
Across the street from South Park Mall, you would expect Bao ding to be very special and even more expensive but you would be only partially correct. It is more than special but surprisingly reasonably priced. The service is superb, the décor is luxuriously lovely with dark woods, dark, comfortable leathers, and carpets that make you want to kick off your shoes (but please don't, at least until you are comfortably seated at your table), and the food is remarkably and deliciously prepared, artistically presented, and "I'll need a to go box" abundant. Dinner pricing is definitely fair and lunches tend to be more than fair. For example: Just a few days ago a large flounder in a great pineapple sauce, with brown rice, and a ginger salad that were just terrific cost me just ubder seven dollars.
Favorite Dish: The first time I ever ate there, I was in a hurry so I tried the house fried rice and just fell in love with it. I have long been a fan of fried rice, feeling that if a restaurant cannot do a good job with fried rice, they do not deserve a second visit. As you can see, I have returned and ventured afield from the fried rice but their house fried rice is the best fried rice that I have had in the United States and is a worthy standby.Related to:
- Food and Dining
Zapatas Cantinas: Pretty good local Mexican Chain
As I understand the situation, this is a small local chain of Mexican restaurants. There are only three units but they are pretty convenient to most people in the Charlotte area. One is in the Ballantyne area, another is near Lake Norman, and the third is in the University City area. My favorite is the one in the University City area and I think that I prefer it because of its basement which can give you almost a rathskeller feel. A Mexican rathskeller? The decor approximates the southwest but having lived in Arizona and Texas for about 15 years, it seems a bit artificial for my taste. The food and service are generally good but they do not seem to ramp up their staff for peak hours. If you happen to be there at the height of the weekday lunch rush or on Friday or Saturday evenings, you should try not to be in a hurry. During slower times, they are very cordial and will even sit and talk with you on occasion.
So, why not savor a salt-rimmed margarita as you nibble house specialties like the Zapata's Trio with steak, chicken, and bacon-wrapped shrimp at one of these festive cantinas.
Favorite Dish: I have not had a bad meal at Zapatas but my favorite time to go is is for a late lunch when the crowd has thinned a bit and and you can still enjoy any of several combination meals for about $7. My personal favorite among those is the enchilada and tostada plate. The Zapata's Trio is nice but a bit out of my price range for a restaurant of this type.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Deejai Thai: One of our best Thai restaurants
This delightful family owned Thai restaurant has now been open for about 4.5 years (April, 2009) so I feel comfortable that the owners have proven themselves to Charlotte Thai food lovers. The food is delightful but the most special aspect of the operation is that the owners and staff are really a team which shows every sign of wanting to assure that all of their diners have most memorable experiences. My waitress, Julie H., although moderately busy on the occasion of my first visit, took the time to take the photos displayed within this tip and then e-mailed them to me twice when I mangled her first effort to manipulate them.
So, settle in amid the chic dining room -- complete with wooden dining tables and accents of red on napkins and black on chairbacks -- and prepare to indulge. Using recipes that have been passed down throughout several generations, this cozy little dining spot serves up classics like yellow curry shrimp, basil duck, sushi, salmon curry, edamame, and more.
Favorite Dish: Since I have only visited this establishment once, it is probably unfair to select a favorite menu item, but two of the photos should support the fact that their presentation is excellent and, for now at least, you will just have to accept my word that these two items were excellent. I will be going back and will try to keep this tip updated as DEEJAI Thai Restaurant grows upon the Charlotte culinary scene.
Brixx: Amazing Pizza & Pasta
Huntersville really spoils you with choice when it comes to good food. Having been to a couple of restaurants here it is safe to say Brixx is going to be a favorite going forward. The service is very courteous and nice and the food is amazing. My friend loved his Chicken Pasta and I loved my Pizza. The serving is generous and nothing feels too cheesy or unhealthy! :)
If you are headed there on a Saturday, opt for dinner. The nearby fountains have a live band and makes for a lovely way to spend the evening
Favorite Dish: Greek Pizza
Yesteryears Goodtime Pub: I can't see myself going back, and that is probabl
probably a good thing because they recently shut down.
Favorite Dish: I do not have one. I had barbecue, beans, and cole slaw which I figured had to be a pretty good bet for a red neck bar. I lost that bet. I went in there hungry and left hungry with a bad taste in my mouth and bad memories in my mind. The food was fairly uniform in temperature, neither hot nor cold. It is also not too far from my home, so I was hoping that it might be a place where I could hang out but it will not be.
Terrace Cafe of Ballantyne: Wonderful Breakfast Menu
We stopped here for breakfast on a Saturday morning. The food was great and so was the service and the inside was very upscale and modern. Coffee came in a BIG cup and they were ready with refills. Their breakfast menu is huge. I had the malted belgium waffle with fruit on the side; the other choices were hashbrowns or grits. My husband had the breakfast casserole with hashbrowns. Grandkids had the three animal pancakes from the kids' menu. The portions were very generous and it was cooked perfectly and was very tasty. They had some very different choices on the menu - Banana pecan French Toast and Red velvet Waffle served with a cream cheese drizzle.
It wasn't busy when we arrived but by the time we left the place was full. There is plenty of parking and other shops here. Would definitely recommend this place for families - I loved it!
Favorite Dish: I loved the breakfast casserole - it was a huge serving so we traded our meals. The flavors were blended lperfectly.Related to:
- Family Travel
The Kabob House: The Kabob House
Feels (and actually is) a little old but the food is pretty good, the staff are nice, and the belly dancing was also very interesting. I passed on the hooka, at $10 a pop, and will probably do so when I return.
Favorite Dish: They do have a regular menu but, if you are not alone, I would strongly suggest that you order the Mid-Eastern style family platters. They go for $15 a head and include a variety of delicious Mid-Eastern foods, such as salad, hummus, tahine, kabobs (Surprise!), dolmathes, baba ganoush, etc. This may very well be the best Mid-Eastern restaurant food in the Charlotte area.
Cantina 1511: Good food, spotty service
I have been to the Cantina 1511 on East Boulevard as well as the one in Stonecroft before and the food has always been good but never great and the service has usually been pretty good as well but after this last experience, I cannot imagine returning to a Cantina 1511 unless they are footing the bill, and I might not go even then. I have been in customer service since I was eight-years-old and was in the hospitality industry for over 20 years and cannot recall ever seeing service such as our group received this last time. When three of the eight in our group arrived the hostess could not even find a record of our reservation and shuffled us off to the bar never to be connected with our group nor with each other. Two of the three of us eventually went wandering through the dining areas and found the other members of our group. The ladies who had the Margarita Trios seemed to have a better time than the rest of us did, but....
After we were all but finished with our meals, the on-duty manager (ODM) learned of the incompetence and uncaring attitude of her hostesses and came to apologize profusely. She should have stopped there but when she offered free desserts, none of us declined so she brought samplers from her dessert menu for which she charged our organizer, and she took $2-3 off of each of our checks. When our leader pointed out that her bill was more than twice what it should have been, the ODM recollected all of our checks and corrected our leader's check and RECHARGED EVERYONE ELSE FOR THE DISCOUNTS WHICH SHE HAD JUST GIVEN US. As a manager in any customer service area, when you make an error you apologize and make it right. If you make it too right, you DO NOT further exacerbate your faux pas by smacking your victims again.
GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!!!
Favorite Dish: As stated above, the food is pretty good, but....
Savor: Savor their meat loaf
A local, independent company that prides its self on community outreach.
Their stated mission is to work with local farmers, growers, and other providers to source products with integrity, flavor, and soul. The result is food that is simple and straightforward. Using ingredients at their peak allows them to capture the essence of the season and bring it straight to your table.
They also strive to provide a comfortable atmosphere where their guests can relax and enjoy a heightened level of hospitality that makes for a truly memorable dining experience.
They come close to meeting these objectives but they do seem to have one aspect of their community outreach which will prevent them from moving higher on my list of faves. I was "hit on" by a man and when I rejected his advances, I was informed that I needed "to get with the program." Unfortunately for him, I prefer a more conventional program.
Favorite Dish: Through the years, I have eaten a great deal of meatloaf and theirs would probably rank among the top three or four. It was not at all bland, which is a plus in my book, yet not at all too spicy.
A Piece of Havana: Is A Piece of Havana as real as they claim?
Not really. A Piece of Havana Restaurant was created by a Cuban Family to celebrate their cultural heritage, and the family cooking traditions of their homeland. Juan Plasencia, one of the owners, has a love of cooking which he inherited from his mother. She is a graduate chef who was trained in Havana and his dream is to offer those excellent dishes to Charlotteans.
A Piece of Havana Restaurant's menu is filled with hearty dishes, appetizers that include Papa rellena (Stuffed Potato with ground beef), Empanadas, Tostones Rellenos de Camarones. There are amazing salads and sandwiches to choose from including the Authentic Cuban sandwich and a very special seafood salad. The main entrees include such as: Arroz con Pollo, Bistec de Palomilla, and the very popular Paella from Spain (seafood prepared in a saffron yellow seasoned rice cooked with beer), and ropa vieja (Shredded Beef) another traditional Cuban dish. All their main dishes are served with white rice, black beans, and sweet fried plantains or your choice to select two other side dishes from their menu.
Their bar has a great selection of wines, all different exotic drinks, American and imported beers as well as excellent Mojitos. (If you have no idea what a mojito is, you obviously do not watch the USA Network hit, "Burn Notice," but they are a very popular Cuban drink.) They also offer Cuban style sangrias by the glass or by the pitcher. If there is something you don’t see in the menu, I am told that you can ask the bartender and probably get it.
The interior design has a fresh touch and I understand that they are trying to recreate a feeling of being in Havana a hundred years ago. The owner's dream is that you will feel special in this warm, comfortable, and inviting restaurant. The dining room has beautiful chandeliers, which accent the antique sconces on the wall and there is all kinds of Cuban art everywhere as well as a unique Havana Mural that makes you think you are right there by the malecon (Havana Sea wall.) They have been trying to recreate every detail so that between the music and the ambiance and décor you will forget that you are in Charlotte and be transported to a beautiful island paradise which so many people from all over the world enjoyed a century ago. Close your eyes and you can almost see Ernest Hemingway walking up to your table, drink in hand and smiling from underneath his scraggly gray beard.
At A Piece of Havana their signature dishes, daily specials, and homemade desserts are made to order. The food is as good as the service and both are excellent. The main goal for A Piece of Havana seems to be that service is to be accompanied by the professionalism of the management and staff, which include the waiters, servers, bartenders, cooks, host/hostesses and administration, and I feel that most of us would agree that this is the backbone to being a successful restaurant. An extra touch that I particularly enjoyed, since I like wearing them every chance I get is that the staff are dressed in traditional “Guayaberas,” very elegant shirts worn for centuries in Cuba by all men during very special occasions.
Favorite Dish: I really enjoyed my experience at A Piece of Havana but they could improve on the food. My first entree was a flank steak, medium rare but it arrived well done and toooo tough. The most authentic dish which I have tried there are the empanadas which were beautifully done. The crusts were wonderfully flaky and the fillings were very flavorful but even with the empanadas there were no sauces for spicing them up or altering the tastes a bit more to your taste., because I was part of a very congenial group and the staff were very cordial and helpful. The kitchen staff could, unfortunately, be a bit more skilled.Related to:
- Family Travel
Global: Global is excellent, mais tres cher!
If the food is good, I will pay for it. A week or two ago, however, I made my first visit to the Global Restaurant and although the food was delicious and the staff very cordial and professional, I did feel that the miniscule portions did not deserve the prices which they demanded. A restaurant does not have to gorge me but, unless we are on a progressive dinner, I do not want to leave a restaurant wondering where I should go to finish my meal.
Favorite Dish: After only one visit, it is too early to tell.Related to:
- Food and Dining
Beef N Bottle: Beef N Bottle is a real throwback
With more than a handful of high-end steakhouses catering to the carnivores of the Queen City, choosing a place to eat can be a serious challenge. With its mid-20th Century décor, it's easy to let the lack of familiar flair fool you, but this joint is serving up some serious steaks, seafood, and more. Start things off with a customized salad featuring an array of crudité and homemade dressings (though there were only four available the last time I was there) before sinking your teeth into a choice cut rib eye or small filet. They do serve some of the best steaks in NC, according to Our State magazine.
A very interesting place. My two strongest evoked responses when dining here are that it is something out of a 1940s or '50s movie and that it was in the wrong location. It is a few blocks south of what is generally considered "Southend" but that area will probably expand with the opening of Charlotte's controversial lightrail system this fall. (Four years later growth has begun in that direction but there is still a ways to go.) The building reminds me of a drive-in diner which had rooms added on to it as business got better. The floors are uneven and there are at least four dining rooms. The service is decent but not really as crisp as it should be for a top rated restaurant. There were only four types of salad dressing available.
-- Jennifer Saylor of the AOL Cityguide for Charlotte described it as follows: "The drab exterior, the dark interior, the old-school high-backed booths, the ancient red gels and red light bulbs offering 1970s-style atmosphere in the dim dining room. Find here a fatty, hearty, satisfying splurge enjoyed by a small army of regulars (and at least once by actor Mel Gibson). Reservations are encouraged." They may be encouraged but I cannot see why. The last that I was there no more than five tables were ever in use while most of the rest did have "Reserved" signs on them. Another thing that I have in common with Mel Gibson is that I will probably only visit BnB once. Not because it is bad but because there are better experiences available for the same or less money.
This restaurant has a long and noteworthy history in Charlotte, including at least two moves further away from the center city, and it would seem from my reading of the articles on the walls and discussion with a co-owner that it may be at a low point in its history awaiting new lifeblood from the lightrail.
Favorite Dish: In the late 1990s, Gourmet magazine praised the Beef N Bottle for having some of the most tender steaks in the country and I would agree with that but when my Petite filet and Biloxi fried shrimp dinner was served, I received only my steak and garnish. It took about 10 minutes to receive the remainder of my meal. The steak was indeed the highlight of the meal.
Bill Spoon's Barbecue: Outstanding EASTERN NC BBQ at Bill Spoon's
As the battle for best Carolina barbecue rages on in the Queen City, one competitor consistently establishes itself as a prime contender for king of the 'cue. Discover the joys of eastern NC barbecue at Bill Spoon's Barbecue. Sit down at the famous yellow-checkered tablecloths at this friendly South Boulevard eatery for award-winning, hand-chopped, vinegar-based barbecue. Enjoy hot hushpuppies, homemade mustard-based coleslaw, banana pudding, and sweet tea for a meal no Southerner can resist. Taste the trophy-worthy eats for yourself with this delicious deal.
Favorite Dish: As I lean toward Western North Carolina and/or Texas barbecue, I must admit that Bill Spoon's is not my reflexive response when someone says that they want barbecue but if they add "Eastern" to that request, then I am heading for Bill Spoon's. The barbecue is excellent, it is just that I am too sweet to totally enjoy the vinegar-based barbecue. The mustard-based cole slaw and hushpuppies are unbeatable.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
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