Charlotte Update: Mimosa Grill, Providence Cafe, Blue, and Mert's Heart and Soul
I thought I would post a report of my recent trip, and I have a question for the hounds...
Keep in mind that I was not necessarily the one who chose the restaurants, and all of our dinners (save my last) were large groups (around 10) so YMMV...
We started out Sunday night with dinner at Mimosa Grill. I still like this place three years after I first ate there. Sunday night is a great night to go: the "Sunday Comfort" special is a bargain: Three courses for around 20 bucks. There is a choice of about five or six items per course. I had the shrimp bisque, which was flavorful and creamy, as a starter. Main was a grilled flank steak served on cheesy grits. Delicious. Desert was pecan pie. What's not to like? The fried green tomatoe appetizer was delicious as well (I tasted someone else's....)...and I still think that Mimosa makes one of the better shrimp and grits I've tasted (usually featured as an appetizer, but IMO a big enough serving for a main). My only regret was that the beet salad wasn't an appetizer choice on the Sunday Comfort special...it looked wonderful. Dinner for 10 with a round of drinks for about half the group, three bottles of an Australian Shiraz, and tax and tip was $830.
The next evening we decided to try something new and head to the Providence Cafe, off of Providence street in a new neighborhood to us. It had gotten nice reviews from someone on our company's staff. The dining room is beautiful, and service was great. Reviews were mixed on food: those that had the prime rib claimed it was among the best they had ever eaten. The chilean sea bass was also deemed excellent (It looked good, but its on that endangered species list, so I wouldn't order it). I had the shrimp and grits, which was tasty but not as good as the version at Mimosa Grill, IMO. OTOH, those that had the fish special (a wahoo, whatever that is...) were less than overwhelmed. Apparently that fish tends to be dry anyway, and the pieces were butterflied and way overcooked. Desert was a white chocolate creme brulee, and it was delicious. Prices ARE fairly reasonable: Dinner for the same 10 with the same amount of drinks and wine was around $600. (Keep in mind when looking at prices that just about everyone at these dinners had two or three courses, and there were often after-dinner drinks ordered as well....).
Our final group dinner was at Blue. Now, I like this restaurant everytime we eat there. The food is usually delicious, and the atmosphere very nice...and a group of 10 can eat in the main dining room and still talk to each other and not feel cramped. I do have a few semi-minor complaints: First, our waiter felt compelled to explain the entire menu in detail, but didn't really tell us anything new. We can read, ok?? Secondly, the wine list is extensive but very pricey. I was ordering the wine, and we were honoring someone special, but I felt guilty: if I ordered a wine good enough for the occasion I would exceed the expense account budget....and if I stayed within budget I would appear cheap. So I solved the dilemna by ordering a fairly obscure Oregonian wine (as our honoree is from that state) that was "only" $60 a bottle. Its sad when 60/bottle is on the mid to bottom end of the scale. Fortunately, it turned out to be a good choice...thanks to the sommelier who did help me pick that one (but tried to steer me to a more expensive Oregonian choice when I asked....). Food prices at Blue are slightly more than the Mimosa Grill, but with the more expensive wine and drinks, and with an increase to twelve people and a little more "celebration" feeling at the end of a successful meeting, our bill came to 1200 total. Oh, and the food: I had the lamb shank tangine, which was excellent as always. They have a number of mediterranean/North African choices, all of which are excellent. Blue really does emphasize fresh ingredients. BTW, the crab cakes are almost all pure crab. yum!
Finally, an end to these long ramblings: My last afternoon in Charlotte I found myself alone, as I had a late flight. I took a walk to work off some of the excesses of the night before, and ended up passing Mert's Heart and Soul. I remember a fellow hound recommending this place, so decided to buy some food to go I could take to the airport. Good choice: I got fried chicken because it transports well, and it was moist and delicious. Sides were red beans and rice and green beans, both excellent. I noted Mert's is open late on weekends; wish I'd known that when I arrived late Saturday pm and ate pretzels in my room in the Hilton Towers. Which leads to my question: Hounds, I travel to Charlotte on business several times a year, and the meeting schedule is such that I usually arrive around 9 or 10 pm on Saturday. Since Mert's is one of the few uptown places open late, how safe am I if I walk the three blocks down College from the Hilton (where we always stay) to the restaurant on a Saturday night??? Inquiring minds want to know.....
That area of Charlotte should be full of young people out and about for dinner and drinks at that time of night. I can't imagine there would be anything to fear.
I agree whole heartedly with your review...with the exception of Blue...bad experience. You should feel very safe in Charlotte. Good, clean city!!