Fujimi Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar: Japanese, Chinese, and Thai food
Located in the Matthews Festival Shopping Center, this spot serves up a fusion of Japanese, Chinese, and Thai dishes. Start your meal with an appetizer like yakitori or gyoza, and then dig into entrées, such as tangy-sweet pineapple chicken, peanut-strewn pad Thai, or the entertaining hibachi selection of your choice. Alternatively, indulge in a well-crafted sushi roll -- the Angry Dragon (shrimp tempura and avocado, topped with spicy king crab and orange edamame sauce). Leave the culinary performance arts to the true chefs, and save your own blade for display purposes only.
Favorite Dish: The gyoza may have been the best that I have had in the US, and the yakitori was not bad at all, but you can never go wrong with a good pad Thai..
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PJ's Place: Breakfast and lunch standby
Does it mean that the town you live in is too small, if you can keep up with, even predict, which restaurants and other places of business are going to undergo drastic changes because you know what families are dealing with domestic crises? When I first moved to Matthews, a little over nine years ago, there were three, some would say four, reliable "old standby" places to eat breakfast or lunch where you could count on good food and plenty of it. All were family operated and three have changed ownership, with two even changing their names. As a result, the most reliable places to get a good breakfast in Matthews today is to select your favorite among several fast food establishments on Independence Blvd.
PJ's has not changed hands and may be the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Matthews. It is possible to get an excellent quick breakfast or lunch there but you cannot count on consistency.
Favorite Dish: I think that the best item on their menu is the BLT sandwich because they do consistently get their toast and bacon to just the right degree of crispness. I generally prefer Club sandwiches to BLTs but they often serve lukewarm turkey on their Club. Cold is good and hot would be okay but please do one or the other.
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Jonathan's of Matthews: Ol' Stompin' Grounds under new ownership
In April of 2007, this restaurant (formerly the Tryon House) closed down for three weeks and reopened as Jonathan's. I was pleased with my first meal there (Salmon fettucine Alfredo) but it did not take them long to overcome their good first impressions. The restaurant has new ownership, carpet, and furnishings but the food very quickly became boring, uninspired, almost plastic. For two or three years, I averaged eating there at least once per week but I rarely eat there any more.
The food, service, and attitude of the new owners are not nearly as welcoming as they were under the previous regime.
Favorite Dish: Salmon fettucine Alfredo, although the Italian bread and the Alfredo sauce could have used a little less butter.
Fontanella: The Battle of the Italian Restaurants
There are two Italian restaurants in the Matthews Festival Shopping Center and one is almost literally right behind the other. The first you will see from Independence Boulevard is Carabba's with the better one, Fontanella, about 50 yards behind it. Carabba's is a chain and most Americans are probably familiar with it. It is good but I definitely prefer Fontanella, because it is usually less frenzied, the food is as good (perhaps even better), and the staff are much more cordial. Carabba's strikes me as what I call a "production" restaurant whereas Fontanella seems more like home, where you can relax and enjoy your meal without feeling that you are making others wait, although on the weekend you may in fact be making others wait. I like to go during the week.
Favorite Dish: I do not really have a favorite at Fontanella yet. I have had the privilege of eating there as part of a large group two or three times and we were served "family-style" which allowed us to share several different dishes. Few people make lasagna better than my sister-in-law but Fontanella does an excellent job. Their salads are also excellent and their dressings taste as if they were just made.
China Express II: Chinese Fast Food, Free Delivery
A hole in the wall, fast food Chinese restaurant which offers free delivery for orders of $10 or more.
Favorite Dish: I do not really have a favorite here. They have 26 lunch and 26 dinner specials, 13 chef's specials, and 110 other items on their menu. The food is not going to make Southern Living magazine but it is good, served hot, and is better than most of the fast food Chinese restaurants which I have tried.
The last time that I was there, I had Kung Po (Yes, "Po.") chicken. It was excellent except for the fact that the peanuts seemed to have been added almost as an afterthought after everything else was cooked. These little idiosyncrasies may be typical but if you are sitting watching a movie or a ball game and want something other than pizza with minimum effort, this might be the way to go.
Chia Best Chinese Restaurant: "Authentic Chinese Cuisine"
A relatively typical Chinese "Dine in or take out" Chinese restaurant. Counter, drink dispenser, six or eight tables, linoleum floors, and a family-owned atmosphere. The food is ample and good but not spectacular. Excuse me if this is stereotyping, but Oriental-Americans are often among the most cordial people you would want to meet.
"Authentic Chinese Cuisine" is the tagline on Chia Best's menu.
Favorite Dish: I only ate there once. I had Sa Cha Chicken which, as I said above, was good but not great. It was annotated as "Hot & Spicy" on the menu but was not particularly hot nor spicy. It is also a bit more expensive than similar Chinese take-outs. In the Charlotte area, I cannot remember paying more than $10 for one before but this was the most inexpensive meal on the menu (All chicken meals were $8.25.) and my total meal was $10.55. For that price, there was no choice between fried and steamed rice and no egg roll.
Thai Taste: Great location, Good food
Matthews has a new town hall which is the centerpiece of what could really become a shopping/entertainment/dining destination. Matthews Station Street leads from Trade Street to this new building and is lined on both sides by (new) early 20th Century looking two-story buildings. The street is less than 1/2 mile long and some of the spots are still trying to find their role in this little festival. For about 18 months now, the last place on the left before the street opens up to a small but nevertheless lovely greenway is Thai Taste. It is not the best Thai food in the Charlotte area but it is good and if you are in the Matthews area and in a mood for Thai food, you will not go wrong eating here.
Favorite Dish: For years, I wondered how Thai people survived on a diet of nothing but fried rice. I have certainly learned that their cuisine is much more widely varied than that but I do love to go to Thai Taste on a mild spring or fall evening, sit outside, and enjoy conversation, people watching, and a delicious plate of their fried rice.
I have marked the $10 box on the price per person category below but if you really go for the broader Thai cuisine, you can very easily move into that next category ($11-20).
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Kristopher's Sports Bar: Kristopher's Sports Bar
This place is a family owned institution in Matthews. It's always pretty crowded and is definitely the best place in town to watch a ballgame.
Favorite Dish: Buffalo-style Chicken Wings.
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