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Nov 13, 2007 06:29 AM

Charlotte restaurant scene - new and pending

Zada Jane's ( restaurant has opened on Central at Thomas Street. I believe folks from Thomas Street Tavern are involved. The place is for breakfast and lunch only. They were hoping to feature as many local ingredients as possible, but have had to refocus due to supply issues. I tried to go on Saturday morning, and the wait was 15 people deep, so I will have to go another day.

We have two great sounding burger joints coming soon: Big Daddy's Burger Bar on East Blvd. in the old Jaimama location, and The Counter Burger ( in the new center next to Crate and Barrel. The former is a Frank Scibelli of Mama Ricotta's and Cantina 1511. The latter is a chain out of California, and per their website, was featured in GQ as "One of the 20 hamburgers to eat before you die."

Both restaurants feature a vast selection of burger options (beef, turkey, salmon, chicken) and toppings. Counter Burger also will have fried dill pickles (look out Penguin!) The plus side of Big Daddy's will be its beer selection; purportedly 50 beers, with 20-30 on tap.

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  1. I'm excited about both of them. They're just what Charlotte needs (after the raft of high end chains that have opened in Charlotte of late) and they will hopefully both do very well. Frank's restaurants reflect his charming personality and dedication to serving good food. The Chicken Caesar at Mama Ricotta's is one of my favorites. It's truly outstanding. My only concern is that location. I used to live a few blocks away and it seems like there have been at least 5 different restaurant businesses in that location in the 15 years I lived there. I wish him well!

    5 Replies
    1. re: southernitalian

      I too am looking forward to Big Daddy's as I live near by. I however hope the food is much better than what they serve at Mama Ricotta. This place is one step above Olive Garden and more than anything a sign of how little folks in Charlotte know about Italian food. If you would like some great Italian food try Fiamma - it is Excellent!.
      With so many real Mexican restaurants here in Charlotte why go to Cantina for Mexican light? As to Frank's restaurants reflecting his charming personality- OK if you say so. The places look nice the folks seem nice, if only the food was better. That is job one at a restaurant quality food - Right? tell G-father yes!

      1. re: GodfatherofLunch

        I think going to Cantina versus a more authentic Mexican place is because it's a cool place to hang out, have a drink, have some pretty good food in a neat part of town. I agree Mama Ricoota is hardly authentic, but it's MUCH better to OG, and that Ceasar salad is TO DIE for.

        1. re: southernitalian

          I hear you loud and clear. If wanted to hang out and have a drink at a cool bar Cantina would be a good place to go. For real Mexican food try
          Taqueria Mexicano on South Blvd. Food is fresh, authentic, tasty and cheap.
          No bar here but try the Mexican CoCa Cola with real sugar nit corn syrup. It tastes so much better.

            1. re: jlwnc

              Taqueria Mexico
              7001 South Blvd Ste D
              Charlotte, NC 28209-2369
              Phone: (704) 552-2461

    2. Has anyone been to Zada Jane's yet? What's the wait like for Sunday brunch? Any must haves?

      14 Replies
      1. re: pinogirl14

        Zada Jane's is a great spot but does get very crowded if you don't arrive early. It is worth waiting,the breakfast is super,the coffee first rate and Roger a very cool guy. If you can't handle the wait ease on down the road a bit to Lu Lu one of Charlotte's very best restaurants. The brunch is awesome, fine food in a cafe/bistro atmosphere

        1. re: GodfatherofLunch

          I am a HUGE fan of Lulu. In fact, I would say it's my favorite restaurant in Charlotte. It's not pretentious or uptight. But the food is first rate. Foie gras, pate, thai mussels that were so good I almost cried w/ joy. I've never been for brunch but I will definitely have to check that out soon!

          1. re: GodfatherofLunch

            You know, I guess I should try Lulu's brunch again, but the one time I went it was nasty! The kitchen made a mistake and put sugar in the grits GAK! The first dinner we had there was great, the second was not as great.

            My hubby and I struck out on Zada Jane's three times before we finally realized to get there before they open. We were there 15 minutes early and there were already 10 people in line! It's a fun, very local (i.e. Plaza-Midwood folks) place with great grits and biscuits. I steered clear of the gravy though b/c I wasn't sure I wanted a gravy with herbs - just salt and pepper please!

            And Godfather - Taqueria Mexico is great - the best huevos rancheros in town!

            1. re: hazardnc

              I still can't say enough for Allende on South Tryon in Steele Creek. It's nothing to look at, but I find most of the really good Mexican places in Charlotte are like that. Kind of weird little hard to find spots with unbelievable food, warm service and really cheap prices. Last time I went I had the fajitas Texanos and it was enough for two meals. It was really good, fresh, honest Mexican, delivered to our table with chips and warm salsa and queso. The place is usually a mix of Latinos and can't-believe-I-was-lucky-enough-to-find-this-place Gringos. Please try it!

              1. re: hazardnc

                Ethnic food – Not a big secret just looks for places that serve mostly that group.
                For example Taqueria Mexico - Most customers are Mexicans
                Pho Hoa - Most customers are from Viet Nam
                For Dim Sum on the weekends try
                Dragon Court or Dim Sum restaurants.
                Most diners are Chinese. See it’s easy!

          2. re: pinogirl14

            Had lunch today at ZJ's. My hair stylist said that he had been several times and he felt like they were slipping in quality lately. But he suggested I try it anyway.

            I wasn't impressed. Arrived shortly before 1pm and it wasn't crowded at all. Our server, Kate, was great tho. Very attentive. We chatted briefly and she offered that the kitchen was still working out some kinks... that they had been open about 3 months now. I ordrered the Booker T east sider - sweet potato hash browns tossed w/ pork sausage & topped w/ two happy eggs (normally scrambled but I asked for over easy runny eggs) and finished w/ melted cheddar cheese. Oh and a biscuit. Our meals came out and my eggs were rock hard. She saw me cut into them and immediately apologized and scooped up my plate and returned to the kitchen. She came back a moment later w/ a fresh biscuit and said it would just be a couple minutes. I think she saw that I had taken an insulin shot so she was sure to get me that biscuit which I appreciated immensely and earned her extra points! My meal came out and the eggs were cooked perfectly. But, I gotta say, it was all just ordinary. Something sounded so good about sweet potato hashbrowns but they were bland. There was barely any sausage in the mix and it was just little chards or bits of it mixed in the hashbrowns... not what I was expecting. There was way too much cheese on my eggs and I had to scrape off half of it.

            All in all, the service was the best part. I won't be back anytime soon. Too many other options. It's too bad cuz it's a great location, nice atmosphere and interesting people. The food is just ordinary.

            1. re: lynnlato

              Lynnlato, what are the other options? I go to Eddie's in Cotswold on occassion - their eggs are pretty good, ditto hash browns and cheese grits. I have been afraid to try the Coffee Cup since they moved (not a very loyal customer - my bad), but IMO they had the best biscuits and grits in town. I personally do not care for the Landmark. Granted, it has a huge menu, but it's just a greasy spoon with mediocre food and bad coffee. At least they banned smoking! I gave up on the Original House of Pancakes years ago because every visit I experienced terrible service (lost tickets, slow kitchen, cold food).
              I want a place like the Loveless Motel in Nashville with great biscuits, country ham, eggs done right and real grits, or the Silver Skillet in Atlanta with wonderful biscuits and gravy, or the heat-attack-on-a-plate dish from the defunct bbq joint on Wendover (Roger's?, Ralphs?) that combined hashbrowns with onions, bell peppers, sausage, cheese, scrambled eggs all topped off with country gravy!!!!!! Eat that and you were good for days!

              1. re: hazardnc

                The Loveless was just featured in a blog post by Neal Pollack on epicurious. It's hilarious:


                If you like it, read his other blog entries, they all make me chuckle.

                1. re: concordcourtney

                  That's was a great post - thanks for the heads up. The Loveless has the best biscuits and REAL red-eye gravy. Hmmmmmmm. By blood goes up just thinking about that salty fatty goodness!

                2. re: hazardnc

                  As far as breakfast is concerned... I agree that the pickin's are slim. As for lunch in that area, there's The Penguin, Dish, Lulu (my fave) or even The Commonwealth Market. Not to mention the many ethnic options available down Central.

                  But yeah, it would be nice if there were more breakfast places in CLT. They just opened Delancy St. Deli down in my neck of the woods (Ballantyne/S.Clt) which serves brkfst. Cardillo's Kitchen, Eddie's in Ballantyne, The Flying Biscuit, Good Ole Days and Le Peep. It seems, tho, the only eggs in town worth getting out of one's PJs for are served on Sundays for brunch.

                  1. re: lynnlato

                    Cardillo's serves a breakfast sandwich called The Jersey - Its an egg and Taylor Ham (pork roll) its a Jersey thing on a Kaiser roll. It Rocks.
                    On weekends Lulu has a great brunch.
                    Near the new Home Depot and Target on Kings Drive the new location of the Original Pancake House is now opened.
                    Try the Challah French toast w/warm syrup at Katz NY - Oh Yeah Baby!!

                    1. re: lynnlato

                      Everyone's going to jump on me but my family has been going to and enjoying Good Old Days at the Arboretum for years! They make great omellettes and have great coffee.

                  2. re: lynnlato

                    Ate at Zada Jane's tonight. i am struggling because I REALLY want to like it... but it was .. OK. I got chicken nachos, for $10. Somewhat small serving, just.. average overall. i really want to like the place. My companion's shrimp and grits were ok, but again, for $18... and everything was lukewarm when it got to us on the patio. Any other experiences here?

                    1. re: Chocolate Toe

                      Maybe I'm just a lucky guy but I always get a great meal at Zada Janes. I have had lamb loin as a dinner special and have had the roast chicken several times and it is alway fantastic. The veggies served as sides are very fresh and never overcooked. I dig the atmosphere and the coffee they serve is better than most other places. As for me I enjoy this place very much and look forward to returning. I have a hard time getting fired up over chicken nachos and $18 for shrimp and grits sounds like a fair price to me - shrimp is not cheap, they probably used Anson Mills grits, which is a high quality, organic product. At what price would they have tasted better?

                3. I just have to report that I returned to Zada Janes for breakfast yesterday, and I have to say it was honestly the worst breakfast I have ever had in a restaurant. I don't know what was going on in the kitchen, as my first visit was much better. I ordered the "Zada Janer" which is your basic 2 eggs any style, a meat, a carb and choice of biscuit. When debating how I wanted my eggs cooked, the waitress said I could even order poached. Now, few places will cook poached eggs b/c they take too much effort,so I pounced on that. For the meat, I ordered the turkey sausage, for the carb I ordered their grits (the highlight on my last visit) and a biscuit. The meal took a long time to come out, and when it did, my plate was swimming in the poaching water (which was a touch vinegary), the grits were cold and had an odd taste that I thought was like cinnamon, but I husband said was like chlorine, the turkey sausage was not there - in it's place was limp bacon. I told the waitress I had ordered sausage, and when she brought it to the table, it was obvious it had been microwaved - and not just to reheat it I might add. It had the texture of soy-sausage and was gray in color. The only thing I could eat was the biscuit. I should have sent the whole damned plate back.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: hazardnc

                    I hate to hear that! I haven't even been yet. You really should have sent it all back. A restaurant as new as that getting the glowing reviews it's getting is in danger of resting on its laurels and not staying focused.

                    1. re: hazardnc

                      That stinks! Hopefully it's just a matter of not working out the kinks yet?? Wishful thinking.

                      FYI, as an insider, most restaurants poach their eggs in advance and reheat. They typically add vinegar to the water b/c it keeps the egg whites from separating in the water.

                      1. What I really think is that there was someone else in the kitchen who couldn't handle the load. My husband tried the breakfast salad, which was a take on the frisee salad with lardons. It was field greens with sausage and a poached egg with a tomato vinaigrette. A risky choice. His only complaint was the egg was poached hard, but he loved the tomato vinaigrette.

                        I want this place to succeed - our first visit was very different. I will try it again, but may concentrate on a weekend. Since we visited on a Monday, I really suspect it was a back up chef that contributed to the problem.

                      2. My family & I tried them at lunch today. We were impressed. Very funky/cool interior. Very busy place. We were on a 15 min wait fopr a table. Not really bad. My kids tried the Amaretto french toast & the pancakes, My wife had a cup of the veggie soup, and a chicken salad wrap. I had the chicken sandwich on rosemary foccocia, w/a side of the roasted potatoes. All very good. The chicken sandwhich was so good that I almost lost half to the family passing it around the table taking bites. We all loved that one. Great pototoes- ahd great flavor and crunch to them. My wife's soup was excellent. I would agree that they may have a problem in the kitchen. Our server was really nice and attentive, but it took a good while for the food to come out after we ordered.
                        I thought that the 2 ladies next to us had finished their meal & were just chatting over coffee, since they sat so long w/o food, but when their omelets finally did come out, I heard one saying how really great it tasted. We'll defiinitly come back. But I hope the kitchen speeds up.