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Aug 19, 2013 06:16 AM

Charlotte Chowhounds

Hi all:

Just wondering how many Charlotte hounds are out there? We don't seem to have much participation on Chowhound for a pretty big city. I realize we're not a tourist destination like Asheville or Charleston but I'd like to think we have enough good food to get some active discussions going.

Being pretty new to the area, I'd love some good recommendations on where to eat. I know Bistro La Bon is tops on my list after the recent posts. Anything else I need to try?


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  1. You're right QCM. When I first joined CH in 2007 (ish), there were a lot of Charlotte posters. Not sure where they've all gone. If I'm looking for opinions on a restaurant, I'll occasionally resort to Yelp, but I generally find the reviews there not to be as high quality as some of the Charlotte folks on CH used to provide.

    We do get an occasional posting from Kathleen Purvis who writes for the Observer, but not often.

    I was one of the Charlotte hounds who visited BLB last week and I'm still thinking about the food. Can't wait to go back.

    Central Avenue has a lot of gems on it, as does Montford Drive.

    There are still some good threads that should give you a good introduction to the Queen City. Search for "lynn-lato";s posts. She knows her stuff. Until recently, there was a poster named Godfather of Lunch. He had some good posts as well.

    4 Replies
    1. re: southernitalian

      just got bored with the whole thing. Everyone has there own taste. Charlotte is a strange place and many would not know fine food if it smacked them in the head. A large group judges the food quality by the price tag. If its expensive its good, if its crazy expensive it must be great food. I once had dinner at a place called Terra. Pretty pricey. After the meal the owners or manager< not sure what her role was asked how was everything? Since she asked I told her that I was very underwhelmed by the whole meal. The food was boring and flavorless. She replied that yes, some people just don't get it.
      The dinning room was packed with Myers Parkers having a blast eating and drinking. This crowd would not notice if they were served Olive Garden meals. The rush for them was being seen and getting a whopper check. Don't get me wrong I am happy to pay top dollar for a quality meal, but please don't piss on my head and tell me its raining.

      1. re: GodfatherofLunch

        Surely there are some restaurants here you like??? Postuing in a restaurant with subpar food is everywhere -- think The Ivy in LA or (now-closed) Elaine's in NYC. Those aren't the types who tend to post on Chowhound though. Your Terra experience is exactly what we need more of here. It would be nice to read more about Charlotte restaurants, good or bad.

          1. re: GodfatherofLunch

            Sorry about your Terra experience, GFL. I have been there several times over the years, and have had some excellent meals there, as well as excellent service. I still dream about the duo of lamb I had their several years ago. And the sweetbreads and foie gras I've had there keep me craving for more. I also enjoy then ambiance there. I feel very much like I'm dining in a quaint restaurant in France when I eat there.

        1. I'm in the Queen City. I try to participate in Charlotte threads but there just doesn't seem to be as many of us around, as SouthernItalian mentioned. Not sure what happened.

          1. what's to say about Charlotte restaurants? i have no doubt there are some good ethnic eateries out there, and there are some restaurants that are pleasant enough experiences. i like Lulu and Lang Van, and i had a good meal @ Good Food on Montford. but apart from Lang Van (and i have no way of knowing how the food rates, on an absolute rating of American Vietnamese restaurants), where i am treated like royalty, there isn't a Charlotte restaurant i'd send an out-of-towner to and say, "this is special." no Charlotte restaurant made the Southern Living list of Top 100 restaurants. that's the whitebread list; Charlotte doesn't even exist on the hipster list. 5 Church to me is everything i don't like about Charlotte restaurants. it's corporate, w\out soul. i would never go back there, even though the food was decent. Poole's Diner, Curate, The Admiral, Vin Rouge --- these are restaurants i want to go back to.

            Charlotte restaurants, not so much. i think most chefs in
            Charlotte are looking over their shoulders to see if they can get the Bank of America seal of approval.

            5 Replies
            1. re: mrwaterslide

              Interesting observation. I haven't tried 5 Church but I see it's on carolinadog's list below and you say the food is decent so I'll give it a try.

              With Johnson & Wales in town, I'd think there would be a lot of good local chefs.

              1. re: QCmama

                One of my favorites, probably in my top 3, is Customshop. The chef has a large garden and what he brings to the restaurant from his garden dictates what's on the menu that day. He is a fresh and local kind of guy and is creative and restrained. Great service too.

                I would also second many of the ones carolinadawg listed and, in addition to Customshop, would add Good Food on Montford, Ilios Noche, Lupitas Carniceria & Tortilleria (takeout only), Passion8 Bistro and Kabob House or Grill. I would also add Bistro La Bon (as noted by southernitalian) and I'd even add 131 Main, which is a local chain with reliably good steakhouse style fare but with many fresh and healthy choices.

                1. re: lynnlato

                  I can't believe I have been to Customshop. I've always heard it's great but haven't made it there.

                  131 Main is a reliable standby -- reasonable and a good menu.

                  La Unica: Fantastic salsas and the best Sopa de Pollo around at the Huntersville location. I think the Central location is closed and I was disappointed in the South Blvd. La Unica. As far as I know, they were owned by different family members so while similar, there were some major differences.

                  1. re: HungryDonkey

                    You've got to get to Customshop! Hell, if you buy me dinner, I'll go with you. ;)

                    Yea, 131 Main's baked cedar plank salmon made me like salmon. I wasn't a fan, so much, before I had theirs. The curried rice pilaf w/ currants that they serve it with is good too. I also love some of their simple side dishes like their kale salad, quinoa salad, green beans w/ a mustardy vinaigrette... ooh, and in the cooler months they have braised red cabbage with goat cheese.

              2. re: mrwaterslide

                The problem IMO isn't with the chefs, its with the owners (or investors in a lot of cases). Real estate is very overpriced in Charlotte, so you don't get as many chef-owner restaurants. The owners tend to be people who made money in other areas but decide to open a restaurant - hence all of the money spent on decor and PR, they want to have a certain image. That ties the hands of the head chefs, and why it seems a lot of lauded chefs leave their jobs. Too many cooks in the kitchen, pun intended.

                This is just my observation as a Charlotte native who's seen a lot of things come and go.

              3. Lots of great places to eat in CLT...

                Lang Van
                Greens Lunch
                Brooks Sandwich Shop
                Greek Isles
                Little Village Grill
                Dandelion Market
                Prices Chicken
                Le's (for Bahn Mi)
                Dim Sum
                La Unica
                Krazy Fish
                All American Pub
                The Kings Kitchen
                Crepe Cellar
                Simmons Fourth Ward
                Old Hickory House
                Midwood Smokehouse
                Cabo Fish Taco
                Growlers Pourhouse
                La Shish Kabob

                To name a few...

                9 Replies
                1. re: carolinadawg

                  Have you been to Halcyon since Jacksina left? I know one person does not a restaurant make but he was a big part of that concept. I'm curious if they will change directions slightly or stay the course of fresh, local and meat-centric.

                  Maybe Kathleen Purvis will see this thread and jump in and give the OP some good advice and help us state the case that there is good food to be found in and around Charlotte. You just have to seek it out as it is surrounded by a sea of subpar chain restaurants.

                  1. re: lynnlato

                    I've seen the thread, but wasn't sure I should share what I would have to reply.

                    I stopped posting for two reasons: 1, because I have a job sharing food information, and that job deserves and gets the lion's share of my time; and 2, because Chowhound's posting rules have been too restrictive.

                    Frankly, it bothered me that I shared Chowhound as a source for Observer readers, but if I tried to answer a question by posting a link to Observer stories, the CH editors took it down. That seemed unfair. Sharing information should go both ways.

                    Also, Observer writers were not allowed to defend themselves when they were attacked by Chow commenters. After a couple of run-ins with Chowhound policies, I decided to focus my time elsewhere.

                    I do drop in occasionally and try to offer information when it's something I can provide quickly. I'm happy to help anyone who would like to reach me, and I make myself easy to find.

                    1. re: kathleen purvis

                      Funny, you are responsible for turning me on to CH several years ago. I was planning a trip to NYC and I emailed you and you were kind enough to share some recs with me. You also suggested that I join CH and visit the Manhattan board. You gave great advice about how I should maneuver CH. You suggested that I search the board first, for whatever info I was seeking and then post an informed & specific post that has a creative title so that it got attention - the more creative the better. Still good advice today. ;)

                      1. re: lynnlato

                        So Kathleen is responsible for unleashing you on to us?

                        All kidding aside, I've probably been to 10 restaurants in Charlotte that I never would have considered were it not for CH. Were they all detour worthy? Nope. But I thoroughly enjoyed most of them.

                        1. re: southernitalian

                          Hahaha - yep, you have KP to thank... or curse as the case may be, my friend. ;)

                          Good point... soooo, has anyone been to Block & Grinder? Thoughts? What about Heist Brewery? The Peculiar Rabbit? Oggi? What else is relatively new and noteworthy?

                          1. re: lynnlato

                            Today's Observer has a big article about the Harvest Moon Grille chef leaving. I wonder what that will mean for that restaurant? Has anyone been there lately? I don't hear much about it on here or in traditional media.

                            On another note, the article mentions a new place that just opened in Cornelius called Fork. A farm to fork joint with Tim Groody at the helm. I'll try it soon since that's my neck o' the woods.

                            1. re: HungryDonkey

                              I haven't been to HMG in a while, but always enjoyed it when i went, which seems to put me in the minority on here. Cassie parsons is involved in a new place in Lincolnton, Farmer* Baker*Sausage Maker, which sounds pretty good:


                            2. re: lynnlato

                              I have tried several of those restaurants. I have been to Block & Grinder three times. I really like the atmosphere inside. It's different than other Charlotte restaurants. You walk in, and to the left is a butcher counter. To the right is the bar. All the way back is where they keep their wine. If you want wine with dinner, you can go back and peruse their wine shelves and pick out a wine. (If you don't want to get up, they'll help you pick one out.).

                              The cocktails are very good-- some of the better cocktails in town. I believe the menu changes frequently. They tout their steaks, but I have not tried one yet. The first time I went I ordered the rabbit, which was very good. My wife had the shiitake burger, which was one of the better burgers in town. (One of my co-workers declared itmohe best burger in town.) The second time I went, I got the duck, which came with parsnip bread. It was excellent. We also split a bunch of appetizers. Their appetizers may be the best part. I've tried the sweetbreads, pork belly, ribs w/ Cheerwine BBQ sauce, and bone marrow. The third time I went, I ordered the wild boar special. It was not nearly as good as the meals I got the first two times I went. Maybe the fact that it was a Monday night had something to do with the dip in quality.

                              All in all, I really enjoy the Block & Grinder, and as long as the meal I got during my last visit was an anomoly, it will remain in my rotation. It's a casual place that serves some high quality food. It has an Asheville feel to it, which I really like.

                              I've been to Heist many times and have tried about everything on the menu. The beers are mediocre to good. The cocktails are very good. The food is mostly quite good. It's mainly small plates with some burgers and sandwiches and flatbread pizzas. The flatbread pizzas are pretty good, and the burgers and sandwiches are quite good, albeit very messy. My favorite dish there is the pipe smoked salmon: smoked salmon served over potato purée topped with mushroom and snow pea cream and crispy shallots. I don't know if I would have thought to order it if the waiter did not recommend it to me, but now I get almost every time I go. This is the kind of place you go when you want something very casual and not very quiet (the place has a fun, sometimes boisterous, atmosphere).

                              I have eaten at Peculiar Rabbit once for lunch and once for dinner. I had dinner there just after it opened and can't remember it very well. I just remember thinking it had potential and noting that there were interesting things on the menu. Ditto for my lunch there. The rooftop deck is spectacular. One of the best views of the city. I've been there several times for drinks, and look forward to going back to see how the food has developed.

                              1. re: ickymettle

                                Hi Icky! I've been to B&G a few times and funny, the last time I went I was a little underwhelmed also. I don't even recall what it is I had. Ha! I've tried the wild boar and the rabbit. Loved the rabbit, loved the sweetbreads too. Great cocktails, as you pointed out. I heard through the grapevine that the original chef and bar manager are no longer with the restaurant. I wonder if that had anything to do with the quality of the food at your last visit. I hope not. It does have a nice atmosphere, although a little chilly with all the hard surfaces. The butcher counter seems a little out of place too and only holds a few items.

                                I want to get to Heist soon. My SO is a beer and smoked salmon lover so we need to try the dish you mentioned.

                  2. After about 23 years, I am back in Charlotte. I am no longer what you would call a regular Chowhound poster, however. (My active presence all over the internet is much lower than it used to be.) I don't even read too much any more.