Category: NC – Charlotte

Fiamma Restaurant (Dinner) – Charlotte, NC »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Italian
Ambiance: Cozy Traditional
Address: 2418 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28263
Neighborhood: DIlworth
Phone: 704.333.3062
Web Site: no website – Fiamma Restaurant on Yelp
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Salad: Blood Orange Salad – beautiful presentation and great flavors.
  • Pasta: Homemade ravioli – they change their flavors often, but the spinach is delish. The fresh-made pasta makes the ravioli extra tasty.
  • Dessert: Chocolate Tart – served hot – this is so yum. Great taste and lovely texture. Save room for dessert.

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Best For
: Romantic Date (call ahead to reserve the window-seat), Group Outing (with friends or co-workers)
What to Wear: casual-dressy (no tennis shoes) to dressy
Good to Know: Almost everything on the menu is made from scratch, which is apparent in their delicious dishes.
Fave Points: Nice selection and especially how they make almost everything from scratch, even the limoncello.
My Fave Dish: The homemade ravioli was my favorite. I absolutely love fresh pasta. The delicate pasta pockets with spinach and cheese tasted so great with the tomato sauce and cheese on top.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

I had a business meeting with my friend (and event co-organizer) about an event we had just executed, in preparation of next year’s event.

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Wanting to stay in the Dilworth area, we decided to meet up at Fiamma Restaurant.

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Fiamma may easily be written off by those who don’t know better because the restaurant is located in a strip mall (same one as Ru San’s) and therefore has a simple, easy-to-pass exterior.

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Inside, the ambiance was quite traditional with dark wood and white linens.

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We were promptly greeted and served a bread basket with an herb-olive oil for dipping.

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I started with a glass of the Vermentino, Sella & Mosca (Delicious apple and pear flavors with a fresh, crisp finish).

The restaurant had some delicious-sounding specials, but for eats, we went with the special 3-course meal I had read about from a note on the front door. The meal featured 3 courses with a couple options for each of the courses. My friend also got the 3-course meal and we ended up splitting a bit of each course to get a better taste of the restaurant’s dishes.

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For my first course, I ordered the Blood Orange Salad. I loved the presentation and the flavors of the orange, fennel, frisee lettuce, and dressing went quite well together. The large piece of shaved cheese on top really made the salad.

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My friend ordered the Vegetable Croquettes, which were served with a bit of salad and were also quite tasty.

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After our first course and just before our second, we were served a palate-cleansing sorbet. I thought the sorbet was a nice touch.

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For his main course, my friend got the veal with spinach and mashed potatoes.

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For my main course, I got the homemade spinach ravioli, which was served with a nice tomato sauce and topping of fresh grated cheese. It was so good, and the pasta just melted in your mouth. I’m such a huge fan of fresh pasta and this dish was simply delicious.

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For our last course, my friend got the chocolate tart.

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I ordered the tiramisu. They were both delicious, but I think I actually liked the chocolate tart better. The tart was just such a nice concoction with a great texture of chewy, crispy, and gooey all together with yummy chocolate – served hot. Yum.

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Coffee went perfectly with dessert.

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To end the meal, we were even served some complimentary samples of the restaurant’s homemade limoncello. It was so good I may just order some of it to go with my meal in lieu of wine.

Final Dish

Fiamma Restaurant is a hidden gem in the wonderful world of Charlotte eats. Hidden in a strip mall facade, this place offers up some pretty fantastic eats. But, don’t be fooled by the outside appearance. Would you rather a restaurant have a great outside appearance or great food? If you chose the latter, give Fiamma a try.

The waiters and the rest of the staff are quite knowledgeable in regards to the wine list and food, so feel free to ask them any questions about selections, etc. because you’ll get some good answers. They helped me make a nice wine selection on this particular dining adventure.

You’d have a hard time ordering the wrong thing here since the restaurant offers so many delicious dishes. The fact that they make almost everything from scratch is a big plus. Try the 3-course special menu (offered Monday-Wednesday) while it lasts to get a nice variety of Fiamma flavors, and be sure to save room for dessert.

1900 Mexican Grill & Tequila Bar (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Mexican
Ambiance: Comforting-Festive
Address: 5110-1E Park Road, Charlotte, NC 28209
Neighborhood: Southpark
Phone: 704.523.1554
Web Site: 1900 Mexican Grill on Yelp
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Drink: Dirty Margarita – similar to a standard margarita but much better – watch the rim, I think it has cayenne pepper on it!
  • Entree: Chicken Fajitas – great seasoning, plenty of chicken, onion, and green pepper. Hubby and I can easily make a meal of this with a side of queso.
  • Entree: Go for a combo and be sure to get the Chicken Chimichanga – nice crispy outside, hot gooey inside with pulled pieces of tender chicken and veggies. Yummy cheese sauce tops the dish perfectly

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Best For
: Casual Date, Group Outing (with friends or co-workers)
What to Wear: casual to dressy-casual
Fave Points: Consistently delicious food, quick service, great drink options (they recently redid their drink menu which has a tequila list that reads like a wine list along with many new mixed drink options). Besides being a great restaurant, I love how the owner is super nice and a wonderful supporter of the local community.
My Fave Dish: This is a toss-up between the fajitas and the chimichanga – it depends on my mood. I love the fajitas most days, but I usually go for the chimchanga when I want something more decadent and comfort-food-like.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

Hubby and I have frequented 1900 Mexican Grill for a few years now and it is one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in Charlotte. For me, 1900 offers a nice midpoint between the every day Mexican restaurant and the fancier places like Cantina 1511 .

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We really enjoy the casual, comfortable, and festive decor inside 1900 Mexican Grill.

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The carvings on the booths always make me smile.

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Chips are quickly delivered to the table…

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…along with 2 types of salsa – standard tomato-based salsa and a corn-based chunky-salsa.

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Hubby and I always get a side of queso, too – it’s too hard to resist that cozy, melty cheese. Every once in awhile, the cheese comes out a bit on the cool side, but our waiter/waitress is always happy to quickly heat it up for us.

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1900 Mexican Grill recently redid their drink menu. At first glance, I thought I was looking at a wine list, but I soon realized the extensive list was chock full of various tequilas…how cool? The other side offered an assortment of tequila-style cocktails (and some other non-tequila options). I asked the waiter which drink he thought was best and he recommended the Dirty Margarita“This one cleans up nice! 1800 Silver tequila, Cointreau, our margarita mix, and fresh tamarind nectar. Served on the rocks.”

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I was a little afraid of the Dirty Margarita because of the name, but it was fab…I think I have a new favorite kind of margarita!

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The taste wasn’t altogether vastly difference than a regular margarita (not like a strawberry margarita would be, at least), but the subtle differences in flavor were welcome. Just watch out for that rim – I think the bright orange is cayenne pepper! Oh, and the drink is more price-wise than a standard margarita, but I think it’s worth the extra cost for the quality of the drink.

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Hubby almost always gets Combo #2 – your choice of 2 items from about 6-ish standard options (like tacos, burritos, etc). Hubby usually gets a burrito and enchilada. The combos are served with re-fried beans and rice.

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As for me, it’s always a toss up between Chicken Fajitas (so sizzly-delicious) and a Combo #2 with a must-have Chicken Chimichanga. For this meal, I went with the latter option and was not disappointed with my chimichanga and enchilada – delicious!

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I love the way they do the Chicken Chimichangas here – nice, crispy-crunchy outside and tender chicken and veggies inside – all topped with a hot cheese sauce. The balance of textures and flavors is so good. Add a side of re-fried beans and side of rice..yum!

Final Dish

1900 Mexican Grill is one of our go-to restaurants when we want a laid back meal with simply delicious food. This neighborhood spot is popular with the locals probably for the same reason we love it so much – the consistently tasty food and that most-impressive tequila & cocktail list. We love how 1900 offers quality Mexican food with a reasonable price tag and comforting ambiance. Speedy service, waiters who recognize you, and a smiling owner nice touches, too.

Ru San’s Japanese Sushi + Cuisine (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Sushi + Japanese
Ambiance: Fun + A Bit Rowdy
Address: 2440 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28203
Neighborhood: Dilworth
Phone: 704.374.0008
Web Site: http://rusans.com/
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Sushi: Like shrimp tempura (or maybe just new to sushi, in general)? Try the Crunchy Mui Bueno. Like tuna? Try the Olympic Five Ring. There are many, many more great options…so hard to pick favorites.
  • Appetizer: Tiger Shrimp – so yummy, firm, and spicy and served over a chopped “salsa” – these are some of the best shrimp I think I’ve ever had.
  • Drink: Like sake? Try one of their flavored sakes (like Asian Pear) or go for a saketini like the Sake Pomegranate.
  • Dessert: Baked Mochi – If you either 1. like red bean-based desserts or 2. like experimenting with new flavors, then check out the Baked Mochi – chewy, fried dough with a sticky-sweet adzuki bean sauce.

Best For: Casual Date, Group Outing (with friends or co-workers)
What to Wear: casual to dressy (I see a wide range of attire here)
Fave Points: Ru San’s has that “Cheers” feeling for me, not to mention a great assortment of unique sushi combinations.
My Fave Dish: Crunchy Mui Bueno – ok, so many people won’t consider a sushi with shrimp tempura “real” sushi, but what can I say except that I simply love the combination of the crunchy shrimp tempura, crisp cucumber, and smooth avocado. Sometimes you just like what you like, no?

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

Hubby and I went out for a casual weeknight dinner to one of our fave Charlotte spots – Ru San’s, a regional chain restaurant that feels like a one-off.

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We have been going to Ru San’s for a few years now, and we always have a great time visiting this local sushi hot spot.

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I love the ambiance inside Ru San’s – the sushi chefs greet you with cheers/happy-yelling and smiles when you walk in the door.

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They’ve also somewhat recently grown their seating area and sushi bar area and added some chic new decor.

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Normally, when I go to Ru San’s, I get either a flavored sake or just water, but on this night, I decided to try a saketini.

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I got the sake pomegranate, which was really tasty. I didn’t see them make my drink, but it tasted like they used real pomegranate juice because it had that slight tartness to it.

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For starters, we got miso soup and a house salad with ginger dressing. I’m a big fan of miso soup and enjoy the one they serve…except I’ve always found the noodles in the bowl a bit strange. I usually just eat around those. The salad is much like the ones they serve at teppenyaki restaurants, which I love for that delish ginger dressing.

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Hubby wasn’t in the sushi-mood, so he got some of the tiger shrimp appetizer.

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The shrimp were nice and tender and had a really amazing spicy flavor to them that paired well with tangy, fresh-squeezed lime juice. The shrimp were served over a chopped “salsa” with tomatoes, onion, and avocado. I sometimes feel silly ordering non-sushi items at sushi restaurants, but these are just so good…I’ll definitely be getting these again.

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The sushi menu is quite large, but I have my favorites.

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For sushi, we got some pretty Americanized-items: Crunchy Mui Bueno (my fave – shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, crunchies) and tempura asparagus.

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The tempura asparagus roll is a great appetizer to get for groups – it’s simple and a steal at right around $2-3.

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The Crunchy Mui Bueno (a Ru San’s specialty roll) is one of my all-time favorites. I realize it’s cooked and not very authentic, but I love the texture of the crunchy tempura with the other ingredients and the overall flavor.

Final Dish

Ru San’s has consistently remained one of my favorite sushi spots in all of Charlotte. I’ve been told that there are restaurants that have fresher fish, but 1. I’m not sure if that’s true and 2. I don’t care. I’ve always found the food at Ru San’s to be quality, and I love going for the fun ambiance, smiling sushi chefs, and upbeat music. I also really enjoy trying their interesting sushi combinations. Though you can get the standards like Spicy Tuna or Ebi, Ru San’s also offers some really intriguing specialty rolls like the Olympic Five Ring or the Godzilla Roll.

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If you’re not sure what to order, check out the sushi rolls on display by the front door – they always put out 4 or 5 different plates so you can see what the sushi actually looks like – I love checking this area out when I’m looking to try a new roll. Those new to sushi will probably also appreciate the display.

If you go on a weekend night, expect to wait. Weekdays are usually pretty light on traffic, but this place is a popular spot with the locals, so they’re usually pretty busy, in general.

Next time you’re craving sushi, check out Ru San’s to see why the locals love it so much.

D’Vine Wine Cafe (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: American + Tapas
Ambiance: Intimate Chic
Address: 14815 John J. Delaney Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28277
Neighborhood: Ballantyne
Phone: 704.369.5050
Web Site: http://www.dvinewinecafe.com/
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Small Plate: Lobster, Crab, and Corn Fritters – $11 – Sort of like crab cakes with lobster, served with warm apple chutney – this is a great tapas-style plate for sharing.
  • Small Plate: Apple and Fig Toasted Bread + Melted Brie – $6 – This savory/sweet combo makes a great appetizer or tapas-style plate for a group. The flavor combination is simple but tasty and the melty brie is the best part.
  • Drink: Wine Flight – prices vary – When in Rome…if you’re in a restaurant that has “wine” in its name, you should probably go with the wine. If you like to sample, go for a wine flight. Otherwise, make a selection from their extensive wine list. Owner Terry Miller is a wine collector and medal winning wine maker, so he really knows how to pick the cream of the crop.
  • Dessert: Cheesecake – $6 – Three mini cheesecakes in Vanilla Bean, Black Berry, and Chocolate. I had a hard time picking a favorite flavor because they were all so good, but I had a good time trying.

Pricing Samples (Dinner):

  • Small Plates: $6 – $11
  • Main Course: $5-$19

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Best For: Romantic Date, Group Outing (with friends or co-workers)
What to Wear: nice casual (not tennis shoes) to dressy
Fave Points: Huge wine selection, delicious eats, cozy chairs in the lounge area
My Fave Dish: Those yummy cheesecakes – they were relatively light for cheesecakes, which is always impressive, but the flavor combos really got my attention.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

I met up with five of my girlfriends for a group outing to D’Vine Wine Cafe for a special birthday celebration over good eats and great wine.

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Inside D’Vine there was wine everywhere proudly on display…what a selection!?

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The tables were simply decorated and the ambiance was tastefully modern.

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We all ordered wine to start our meal, with most of us ordering flights to get a good feel for some new wines.

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I ordered the Interesting Whites Flight.

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The wine flight carriers were unlike any I’ve seen before – so neat.

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Though there were some interesting entrees on the menu, we decided to go for a tapas-style dinner by sharing a few different dishes. We started with the spinach salad. We got 2 orders and the restaurant kindly split the 2 orders among 5 bowls – 1 for each of us.

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They even put the dressing on the side. The salads were really good and I enjoyed the dressing.

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After the salad, we ordered a bunch of different plates.

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A cheese plate (you get your choice of 3 from a list of 6 options from around the world)

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Hummus – 3 flavors served with warm pita. I normally shy away from things I think I can make at home, but the flavors in the hummus were really intriguing – I’d definitely order this one again.

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We got extra bread.

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Apple and Fig – loved this savory/sweet combo with the melty brie cheese.

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Lobster, Crab, and Corn Fritters – served with warm apple chutney. I’m a big fan of crab cakes and these were sort of like crab cakes with a slightly different flavor but same great concept. Go for this if you like crab cakes and lobster.

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Seared Scallops – in a Thai coconut sauce. It’s hard to go wrong with scallops to begin with, but the sauce really made this dish extra yummy.

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The sliders (kobe beef, turkey, and tuna) served with your choice of bean salad or chips. Again, I’m loving the flavor options and ability to try different flavors in one dish – beef to turkey to tuna…nice. Go for the bean salad if you want something more unique – the chips are pretty tried and true.

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A birthday dinner wouldn’t be complete without dessert. We first ordered the Kilwin’s Chocolate Tasting, which contains an assortment of chocolates from the Ballantyne Village chocolatier, including fudge.

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My personal favorite was the cheesecake trio – 3 cheese cakes in chocolate, black berry, and vanilla. All these flavor are different and delicious at the same time. I loved the presentation of the cheesecake mini-towers with fresh berries and chocolate pieces. The cheesecakes were the perfect end to our meal.

Final Dish

D’Vine Wine Cafe is more than a wine bar, this place has an incredible selection of eats in addition to their amazing collection of wines. Whether you’re looking for some small plates to snack on over wine or a full-on dinner, D’Vine has you covered with some truly delicious options, from crab cakes to cheesecakes.

If you’re looking for some interesting and unique flavor combinations, give D’Vine a try and maybe go for the Wild Boar Tenderloin or the Chocolate Dessert Sushi – you’re not easily going to find that elsewhere in Charlotte.

If you’re looking for a quiet evening, hit up D’Vine earlier in the week around Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday through the weekend is usually chock full of exciting events – from wine tastings to live bands. For more action, visit the restaurant closer to the weekends and check out D’Vine’s event calendar to learn more about their special events like the American Cancer Society Benefit this Thursday, 6/11/09, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Join the Connoissuer Club to be kept in the loop of D’Vine’s latest happenings.

From entertainment, to great wines, to awesome eats, D’Vine Wine Cafe has a lot to offer.

Taste of Charlotte 2009 »

General Event

I caught the tail end of Taste of Charlotte 2009 today, 6/7/09, when hubby and I decided to venture out to the festival for lunch.

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We didn’t feel like paying for parking, so we just found some free street parking a few blocks away and walked down to the event.

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We arrived at the end of the festival at 6th St where there were plenty of samples being given out.

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We first picked up some tokens and a pamphlet containing a list of vendors and booths.

We also came prepared with a big bottle of water so we could use the tokens we spent last year on drinks on more food…or dessert…whichever we felt like eating.

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The day was beautiful – sunny with blue skies and white clouds.

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It was also super hot outside, though it did feel pretty pleasant in the shade.

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The first thing we had to eat was actually free – a Bagel-fuls sample in the plain flavor. The sample was way better than I thought I’d be and would certainly be easier to eat on the run than a regular bagel with cream cheese.

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Further up there were more samples to be had at The Other White Meat booth.

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They gave me a lovely pork sample that was actually quite tender and well-seasoned…I should have gotten the recipe they were offering.

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We walked around the event noting various dishes that sounded interesting.

As we walked around, I took note of the event. There were things for the kiddos, like this huge pair of slides.

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There was also a climbing wall. Not sure if this is kids-only, but I’ve only ever seen kids on it in the past couple years we’ve attended this event.

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There were events on the center stage – when we walked by there was a dance group performing.

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There were also some quirky gimmicks like this Land O Lakes creamer-box-backpack.

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This nice young man was giving out Honey Bunches of Oats samples out of his sample bicycle.

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There was also a living statue in the middle of Tryon. We didn’t stay long enough to see if they moved.

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There were some craft booths set-up in the middle of the event – you can always tell the crafty booths because they’re the ones that are in the center of the road with their tents backing each other.

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The balloon guys are always popular at these events.

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Oxygen was also recruiting for its new TV show – Dance Your Ass Off. No, I didn’t try out…I thought about it, though, because it looked like fun.

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We walked all the way down to the other end of the event before turning around to start picking out dishes to taste.

Main Eats

Village Tavern

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First up, we decided to try a local favorite of ours – Village Tavern.

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Normally, I like to try restaurants I’ve never been to before at events like these, but we didn’t see a whole lot that we were dying to try, and I always get steak at Village Tavern, so I was curious about their crab cakes.

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Hubby and I thought the crab cake was really good. I think I’m going to stick with the steak at Village Tavern, though, because it’s just that good! I was glad to have tried the crab cakes in case I ever feel like going red-meat free for dinner.

Outlaw BBQ Shack

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Next, we visited Outlaw BBQ Shack.

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Outlaw BBQ Shack was a XLI Super Bowl Vendor. Pretty cool, no? Hubby and I are always on the lookout for good BBQ – my personal fave BBQ joint is in Greenville, SC, and I haven’t found anything to top it yet.

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I have to say, this BBQ Pork Slider came close…it was darn tasty and the meat was nice and tender.

Caribbean Hut

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Next up, we visited the Caribbean Hut booth to check out the first tasting that caught my eye…

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Jerk Chicken with Peas Rice. The chicken was extremely tender and served on the bone. Between the chicken and the rice, the flavor was very good and a bit on the spicy side, which I liked. The rice took me back to our visit to the Bahamas last year with its similar flavors to the rice and peas we commonly found on the Island.

Flat Rock Grille

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For our last savory dish, we hit up the Flat Rock Grille booth.

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We decided the barbeque shrimp sounded really interesting and had to wait just a couple minutes while they finished cooking a fresh batch. I love getting food at its freshest, so I was happy to wait.

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When I read the name of the shrimp dish on the menu, I envisioned shrimp slathered in ooey-gooey, sticky-sweet barbeque sauce, and was happily surprised with the concoction they had prepared. We got 3 shrimp, a slice of lemon, a slice of tomato and a piece of green onion, doused in a semi-spicy sauce. I thought the shrimp were really flavorful and well-cooked.

Sweet Eats

Amelie’s French Bakery

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The first sweet we decided to try was a selection from the Amelie’s French Bakery booth.

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Since I studied French throughout school and did an exchange in high school to France, I have an affinity for French flavors, especially French desserts like those commonly found in the patisseries.

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I decided to get a macaroon and tried the Cinnamon Chocolate macaroon upon flavor-recommendation (they had 3!) from the guy in the booth. He was so right – this was amazing! Loved it! The flavor of the cinnamon was nice and light and I really liked the texture of the macaroon.

Black Finn

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The last tasting we tried was one that caught our eye early on in the Black Finn booth.

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The girls in the booth had been nice enough earlier to show us what this curious-sounding dessert dish looked like, and we decided to revisit the booth to get it.

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I present the cookie slider.

The cookie slider was deceptively simple but oh-so-good. The cookies were homemade and since they were stored in the freezer, they were slightly frozen along with the ice cream. This dessert was delicious and helped cool hubby and I down from all the walking around in the heat. It was really the perfect end to our afternoon of good eats. After cooling off with our cookie sliders, we headed home happy and full.

I’m already looking forward to Taste of Charlotte 2010!

The Flying Biscuit (Brunch) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: American
Ambiance: Casual Upbeat
Address: 7930 A Rea Rd (Stonecrest Shopping Center), Charlotte, NC 28277
Neighborhood: Ballantyne
Phone: 704.295.4440
Web Site: http://www.flyingbiscuit.com
Must Taste (Brunch):

  • Biscuits: Obviously! Whenever a food item is in the name of the restaurant, you know you have to try it. The Flying Biscuit doesn’t disappoint with their tall + fluffy biscuits topped with sugar sprinkles and served with apple butter. Though the biscuits are available in whole wheat, and I’m all for whole grains, I’d stick with the regular biscuit.
  • Eggs: Scrambles – The Flying Biscuit overs several lovely scramble choices. I’m hoping to eventually try one of each.
  • Sweet: Oatmeal Pancakes – I haven’t had the opportunity to try these yet but I can’t wait to – I hear they’re awesome.

Best For: Dinner with Friends/Family, Group Outing (with friends or co-workers)
What to Wear: casual
Fave Points: Healthy options like soysage instead of sausage, grass-fed beef, farm fresh eggs and other high quality ingredients
My Fave Dish: Southern Scramble – from the menu – “crisp turkey bacon, spicy collard greens, onions and cheddar cheese scrambled with three large farm fresh eggs.” I love this flavor concept in breakfast/brunch form – the turkey bacon helps give the dish a slightly healthier kick.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

My friend from San Francisco was visiting for the weekend, and I wanted to take her somewhere to get a knock-out brunch.

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Though there are tons of great brunch choices in Charlotte, I decided to take my friend to The Flying Biscuit, a regional chain restaurant, for it’s casual atmosphere, healthy options, and affordable prices.

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The weather outside was a perfect spring day – sunny and warm, but not too hot – so we decided to eat on the outdoor patio to get some fresh air. I started brunch with a nice, hot mug of coffee.

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There are tons of great options on the breakfast menu, but I decided to get a repeat of what I ordered the last time I was at The Flying Biscuit – the Southern Scramble.

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Southern Scramble – from the menu – “crisp turkey bacon, spicy collard greens, onions and cheddar cheese scrambled with three large farm fresh eggs.” I’m a big fan of breakfast out, but I’m used to seeing the usual suspects – traditional fried eggs, pancakes, and omelets. This dish offered a new combination of flavors in scramble form, which I absolutely loved. The salty turkey bacon (healthier than standard bacon) paired nicely with the onions and collard greens and cheese is a must for me and eggs. I also liked how you could get a full bite with each of the flavors representing, thanks to the ingredients being cut to size nicely.

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For my side option I selected fresh fruit. The fruit was ok – nothing special and I’ve had fresher, but the rest was so fab, I didn’t care.

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The biscuit was great, too, especially with that yummy apple butter they serve. I also really liked the sugar sprinkling on top of the biscuits and think it’s a nice touch.

Final Dish

The Flying Biscuit is a simple restaurant with simply great food. Though the wait line can sometimes be a bit of a hassle, I usually find it worth the wait. Perhaps one of my favorite features of this restaurant is their dedication to high-quality ingredients by using ingredients like farm-fresh eggs. Their healthier ingredient options like turkey bacon and soysage also catch my attention and are much appreciated. I’d have to say that The Flying Biscuit is one of my favorite brunch restaurants in all of Charlotte. There are other brunch spots I’d hit up if I were looking for something more ritzy or romantic, but for the days when you don’t want to dress up just to get some good food, The Flying Biscuit hits the spot and fits the bill with its reasonable prices.

Sole Spanish Grill (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Spanish + Tapas
Ambiance: Intimate
Address: 1608 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203
Neighborhood: Dilworth
Phone: 704.544.7918
Web Site: http://www.solespanishgrille.com/main.htm
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Tapas: Gambas Picantes – Shrimp in a spicy tomato broth. This is no longer on the tapas menu, but they can make it upon special request. I highly recommend it if you like shrimp dishes with a spicy twist. Use the leftover sauce as a dip for your bread.
  • Tapas: Patatas Bravas – $6 – from the menu: “fried potatoes with a mildly spicy alioli sauce.” The sauce was quite creamy (possibly mayonnaise-based) so it’s a little rich, but full of flavor. I love it.
  • Drink: Pitcher of Sangria – though the sangria is a bit on the expensive side when sold by the pitcher, the pitcher contains quite a bit of sangria and no ice or fruit. The fruit is served in a cup with ice which you can fill with the yummy sangria of the restaurant – the flavor is awesome. Should you choose the pitcher, be prepared to drink up! Perhaps I’m a lightweight, but my friend and I struggled just a bit to finish the pitcher between the 2 of us.
  • Dessert: Tres Leches – one of my fave Charlotte desserts. This dessert is deceptively simple in flavors with a milky, almost vanilla-like taste (vanilla as in simple…the cake doesn’t take much like vanilla to me). The first time I had this, I thought the first bites were pretty plain, but if you’re not careful, you’ll unwittingly fall in love with the dessert like I did. Luckily, the other restaurants (Miro, Zen Asian Fusion) under the same owners serve this dessert, too.

Pricing Samples (Dinner):

  • Tapas: $3 – $9
  • Dinner: $11-$22

Best For: Romantic Date, Group Outing (with friends or co-workers)
What to Wear: nice casual (not tennis shoes) to dressy
Fave Points: Cozy patio and the fact that I always have a hard time picking between tapas and full entrees when I go here – too many good options
My Fave Dish: This is a tough choice between the Gambas Picantes and the Tres Leches dessert, but I’m going to have to go Gambas Picantes because it’s the first thing I think of every time I go to Sole.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

My friend from San Francisco was visiting for the weekend and I wanted to take her somewhere “chill” with a real local feel for her first dinner with us.

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Hubby and I decided on Sole, one of our local faves, so we took our friend on over in search of Spanish tapas. We really wanted to sit out on the patio to take advantage of the warm April night, but there was a bit of a wait, so we headed over to the bar area for some sangria.

My friend and I split a pitcher of sangria while my husband started on some beer. We were a little surprised to find out that the pitcher was almost $30, but we did get a lot of sangria out of it. Seriously, the pitcher was all sangria, no ice or fruit taking up space – our fruit and ice were served in our glasses when the pitcher was delivered, so you get your bang for your buck if you’re ready to drink a fair amount. If you just want a little sangria, you may want to order by the glass.

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As someone who refuses to put their purse on the floor, I was very thankful for the hooks just under the bar where we could hang our purses while we waited for our patio table.

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Soon enough, our table was ready and we headed out to the patio area to enjoy dinner. I thought patio area was really cute – especially the lighting.

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We started dinner with some hot rolls and butter. I thought the (free) bread was nice because I’ve noticed a lot of places seem to want to charge you for bread these days.

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When it came to picking out tapas, I quickly scanned the menu for my personal favorite: the Gambas Picantes tapas. I was sad to see it wasn’t on the tapas menu any more, but more than happy when the owner told me they could still make it. Phew!

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We also got another of our faves: the Patatas Bravas, which have a slighty-spicy alioli sauce – a bit on the creamy side, but I really like it.

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We also went with an order of the ever classic Empanadas (from the menu: “Traditional Spanish turnovers with beef“), which were very good with that yummy, crunchy outside.

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And, to round things out, we also ordered the Croquetas de Pollo – from the menu: “Chicken croquettes.” The croquettes were pretty good, but I thought they were slightly on the bland side along with the accompanying sauce. This tapas was probably my least favorite of the group but probably because everything else was so amazing. Not to mention, it’s hard to compete when you have a tried and true go-to dish, like me and the Gambas Picantes. Regardless, I’d order these chicken croquettes again.

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Though we didn’t order that many tapas for 3 people, I was, personally, saving room for dessert. When we decided to go to Sole for dinner I had 2 things in mind: 1. that shrimp tapas and 2. the Tres Leches. The Tres Leches cake is one of my favorite desserts in all of Charlotte. I remember the first time I ordered it, I got it because the menu touted that the dessert had won a “Best of” award. I thought the first couple bites were rather simple and wondered what the big deal was. However, as I continued to work my way through the cake, I fell more and more in love with it with each bite. Nowadays, I have a hard time resisting this dessert whenever I see it on the menu at Sole and its sister restaurants – Miro, Zen Asian Fusion. I’ve even actually ordered this cake (and this cake alone) for take out a couple times.

Final Dish

I highly recommend Sole Spanish Grill for a near-future restaurant experience for you. I love the intimate, welcoming environment, their sangria, and their menu. I’ve dined at Sole several times before enjoying both the tapas and the entrees. I always have a hard time choosing between the 2…especially when I’m already trying to save room for dessert. To me, Sole is a great restaurant no matter your occasion – whether you’re on a romantic date or catching up with a friend. Relax into your conversation over a variety of Spanish flavors and check out the patio if the weather is nice.

Coco Osteria (Lunch) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Italian Cafe
Ambiance: Modern Simplicity
Address: 214 North Tryon Street Suite 3, Charlotte, NC 28202
Neighborhood: Uptown
Phone: 704.344.8878
Web Site: http://cocoosteria.com/
Must Taste (Lunch):

  • Secondi: Pollo Paillard – $11 – “Pan seared chicken breast, fresh spinach, apple wood bacon, tomatoes, tossed with balsamic vinaigrette” (the online menu says $10, but I’m pretty sure it was $11)
  • Dessert: Tiramisu

Pricing Samples (Lunch):

  • Antipasto e Insalata: $5 – 9
  • Paste: $12 – 14
  • Secondi: $11 – 14

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Best For
: Date, Business Lunch
What to Wear: nice casual (not tennis shoes) to dressy
Fave Points: Authenticity, simple menu with many delicious options
My Fave Dish: Tiramisu – I love tiramisu and I’ve tried many from different restaurants. This one was really good…I liked the little (I think they were) chocolate shavings on top and the creamy texture paired with those coffee-soaked lady fingers. The creamy layer was very thick, but good-thick.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

I took my foodie friend out for a chic lunch to celebrate her last week of work before she starts a new project. I let her choose the spot, and she picked Coco Osteria in uptown Charlotte, NC. I was really excited about the choice because I’ve been dying to try this spot out for awhile now.

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Like many restaurants uptown, Coco Osteria had a decidedly modern feel to it. I liked how the restaurant had lots of tall windows that let lots of natural light in and an open, airy ceiling area. It felt very fresh inside.

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As I mentioned above, the menu had lots of great options. I think I could have eaten anything on the menu and been happy. The pasta of the day had shrimp and crab, which I thought sounded like an interesting option. I kind of wanted to go for the Chicken Marsala, but since this was my friend’s day, I let her pick, and she chose a different chicken dish (one I was also eyeing).

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After ordering, we were quickly served some warm bread with a bean mixture.

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I love these types of bean-based-bread-toppings…they are a nice change of pace from the usual dips and butters. Don’t get me wrong, I love bread and butter, too, but I also like some variety.

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My friend and I each started with the soup of the day – Pasta e Fagioli, which we had topped with a friendly offer of fresh ground black pepper.

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Inside was a thick mixture of beans, veggies, pasta and some sort of meat (prosciutto maybe?). The soup was great with just a wee dash of salt. The soup was really filling, and I almost felt too full to eat the rest of the meal. The key word here is “almost.” I was, of course, very much looking forward to the entree.

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For our entree, we shared the Chicken Paillard (“Pan seared chicken breast, fresh spinach, apple wood bacon, tomatoes, tossed with balsamic vinaigrette”). If you’ve never had a “paillard” dish, it is a meat that is very flat – usually pounded to almost a 1/4 inch thickness, which kind of reminds me of a chicken cutlet.

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I served myself 1/2 of the entree. The chicken appeared to be very lightly breaded with some herbs and was quite tasty. The balsamic vinaigrette on the spinach and tomato pieces was nice and light, yet flavorful. I also enjoyed the little salty bites of bacon that made their way to my fork every once in awhile. This was a great lunch entree if you’re looking for something on the lighter side or one with a simple combination of flavors. I was certainly happy to not eat something so heavy I’d want to nap once I got back to the office.

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Although we were pretty full from the bread, soup, and entree, us foodies saved room for dessert. I knew I wasn’t leaving the place without it. We both decided to share the Tiramisu, which turned out to be an excellent choice. The creamy layers were nice and thick and the coffee-soaked ladyfingers helped balance out that richness. My fave part of the dessert was probably the chocolate shavings on top.

Final Dish

I really enjoyed my trip to Coco Osteria. I could see myself hitting this spot up every so often for those days when I have time to take a long lunch (1 – 1 1/2 hours). It took about 1 1/2 hours from the time I left the office to when I got back, though my friend and I weren’t exactly in a rush the day we went. I’m sure if you communicated to your waiter at the beginning of the meal that you’re in a rush, they could get you out sooner.

If the weather is nice, check out the patio, which features little cafe tables with blue umbrellas – kinda cute.

If you don’t want to worry about possibly waiting for a table, go early – the place gets pretty packed at lunch.

Hit up Coco Osteria if you’re looking for a quality meal with an upscale, Italian cafe feel and menu to match. Whether you’re looking for a classic favorite like lasagna or you’re in the mood to experiment with their special of the day, you’re sure to find something you like.

Restaurant Closing: ARPA Tapas »

Sadly, ARPA Tapas , which I recently featured here on Diana’s Dish is closing its doors this Saturday, according to Charlotte Business Journal. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to experience the restaurant’s wonderful tapas selection before it was too late. Head in in the next couple days if you’d like to experience the restaurant’s delicious sangria and/or tapas.

Should you show up after Saturday, you may be just in time to try Harper’s new restaurant concept they have in mind for that location – Harper’s Grill, which will feature American style foods.

Check out the Charlotte Business Journal article for additional details.

Farewell ARPA…thanks for the great food!

ARPA Tapas (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Spanish
Ambiance: Modern
Address: 129-100 West Trade, Charlotte, NC 28202
Neighborhood: Uptown
Phone: 704.372.7792
Web Site: http://www.harpersgroup.com/arpaTapas.html
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Tapas: Roasted Fingerling Potatoes – $4.50 – Great smoky flavor from the chorizo
  • Tapas: Gambas a Ajillo – $9/$16 – simple but delicious – try this if you like garlicky-shrimp
  • Drink: Pitcher of Sangria – delicious sangria – great if you like fruity drinks or wine with a sweet twist
  • Get it while you can: 6 + 6 = $12 – Arpa Doubles the Fun Each Month. Now you can join us for our popular 6+6 events every first Wednesday and third Wednesday of the month. Enjoy 6 amazing tapas paired with 6 wines for just $12. 5:30pm-8:30pm.

Pricing Samples (Dinner):

  • Tapas: $3.50 – $24
  • Flatbreads: $9-$12

Best For: Date, Small Groups (probably large, too, but I’d call to verify)
What to Wear: nice casual (not tennis shoes) to dressy
Fave Points: Huge selection of tapas with authentic Spanish flair. Where else can you order Boquerrones in the Queen City?
My Fave Dish: Roasted Fingerling Potatoes – one might think a potato too simple to pick as a fave, but the combination of gold and purple fingerling potatoes paired with the smoky chorizo flavor and tender texture of the potatoes themselves…heaven!

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

I met up with a friend (who was visiting all the way from NYC) and one of her good girlfriends for a girls’ night out. We hit up Press for a glass or two of wine and then went down the street to ARPA Tapas for some delish Spanish tapas.

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According to their web site, chef Tom Condron’s vision for ARPA is:

To truly dine in Spain is to share several small, intricate courses reflecting the rich diversity of classical and contemporary Spanish cuisine.

The bar should boast a wide variety of Spanish red, white and rosé wines, available by the glass, as well as a selection of Sherries and sangria.

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I ordered a pitcher for our table, which came out in a pretty blue pitcher. The sangria was super good and the pitcher was great for sharing.

We each picked 2 tapas to try and then shared a bit with each other. Here’s what we got:

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Rock Shrimp and Serrano Croquettes – $5.50 – with picked vegetables and saffron aioli. These were quite good but I couldn’t get over how much the saffron aioli sauce looked, to me, like mustard! I did like the flavor and texture of the croquettes, though.

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Crisp Goat Cheese – $7 – with honey drizzle, pepperanata and almond pesto. These came out nice and hot and gooey inside.

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Tortilla de Espanola con Espinaca – $5.50 – This fritatta had a nice soft texture inside and crispy texture on the outside. I wish there would have been more spinach, but it was still quite enjoyable.

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Gambas a Ajillo – $9/$16 – sizzling spicy garlic shrimp – this was one of my favorite tapas of the night. The flavors were so simple yet so tasty! Definitely try this one if you like shrimp and garlic.

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Crispy Skin Duck Breast – $12 – with sweet and sour onions and quince. The flavors of this dish are amazing, but be warned, if you like your steak well done, you should either avoid this entree or ask for it to be prepared to your liking. The center of the meat is quite rare. Another thing to note is that this picture was taken after approximately 2 slices of duck had been claimed. The portion is a little larger than portrayed.

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Roasted Fingerling Potatoes – $4.50 – with chorizo and shallots. How do you take potatoes from simple to divine? Like this. An interesting mixture of golden and purple fingerling potatoes were sliced thin and cooked with shallots and chorizo. I think the use of different potato colors paired with that yummy smoky taste really put this one over the top for me. I highly recommend that you try this if you go to ARPA!

Final Dish

I’d recommend ARPA for either a playful date (sharing food is always more fun, no?) or dinner with friends. Enjoy the patio area if the weather is nice…we did, and I really liked it out there. Don’t let the Spanish menu scare you off…just ask the waiter or waitress what the different dishes are if you are curious about something but don’t speak/read Spanish. If they’re still offering it, I’d try the $6 + $6 = 12 special mentioned above – I love a good tasting-menu-style meal!

Monticello Restaurant »

The Basics

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Cuisine: American with a Southern Flair
Ambiance: Elegant-Chic
Address: 235 N. Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28202
Phone: 704.342.1193
Web Site: http://www.dunhillhotel.com/monticello-restaurant/index.cfm
Must Taste (Lunch):

  • Entrees: Shrimp + Grits – $11 – a wonderful rendition for shrimp + grits; try this is you’re visiting the south

Pricing Samples (Lunch):

  • Soup: $6
  • Entrees: $9-$14

Best For: Romantic Date, Business Lunch
What to Wear: I’d err on the dressy side – probably not jeans
Fave Points: Nice and quiet, great quality of food, attentive service, excellent prices for such good food
My Fave Dish: Shrimp and Grits

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

A foodie-friend and I went to Monticello Restaurant last winter for a nice change-of-pace from the usual, busy, work-day lunch. Located to the Dunhill Hotel , this restaurant is in the heart of uptown.

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The inside of the restaurant was on the smaller side, but not cramped-small – it was cozy + intimate-small. The place had a steady stream of traffic, but it was also nice and quiet so my friend and I could carry on good conversation. There were a few business meetings taking place around us. This would be the perfect place to take a client (or even romantic date).

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I liked how they folded the napkins.

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The fresh flowers on the tables were a nice touch, too.

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Pre-entree, we were served some bread with a trio of delicious butters – regular, olive-butter, and (I believe) pumpkin-butter. They were all quite good – I’m a big fan of flavored butters.

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My co-worker got The Club sandwich ($9), which she had with french fries. I’m sure the sandwich was quite good, but I recommend trying one of their more interesting entrees, like these options that sound tasty: Strawberry Fields (“Fresh Greens, Driscol Strawberries, Aged Stilton, Grilled Chicken Strawberry Vinaigrette”) salad or Grilled Chicken Bruschetta (“Herb Marinated Chicken, Fresh Tomato Bruschetta, Garlic Mashed Potatoes“), unless you’re really craving a sandwich to eat.

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I went for the Shrimp and Grits ($11) – from the menu: “Harbor Banks Shrimp, Mushrooms, Peppers, Apple Wood Bacon, Cajun Cream Sauce.”

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I thoroughly enjoyed my Shrimp and Grits entree. I thought the bacon and green pepper were nice touches. The Cajun Cream Sauce had a great flavor, but the cream in the sauce made it a wee bit heavier than other shrimp and grits I’ve had. In my opinion, it’s worth the extra calories for the flavor.

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My friend and I also split the (I think it was – no dessert menu online so I can’t confirm) flourless chocolate cake. Thank goodness we split this dessert! We both thought it was delicious, but quite rich. Save room for this or plan to share. Great choice for chocolate lovers.

Final Dish

I’ve long walked by this restaurant and never thought to go in because it always looked so expensive. Though it may be more pricey for dinner (not sure, haven’t been yet), the lunch is quite reasonable. If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing, high-quality lunch for a great price, try Monticello Restaurant.

M5 »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Mediterranean
Ambiance: Simply Modern
Address: 4310 Sharon Road, Ste. W01, Charlotte, NC 28211
Phone: 704.909.5500
Web Site: http://www.harpersrestaurants.com/m5.html
Must Taste:

  • Soup: Spring Onion – $6 – if you like French Onion soup
  • Dessert: Bread Pudding – if you like cozy desserts
  • “Feed Me Chef” – $55 – 5-course tasting menu served right in the kitchen – how cool – this would make for an extremely unique date

Pricing Samples:

  • Appetizers: $5-$15
  • Entrees: $14-$26

Fave Points: some organic ingredients, nice variety
My Fave Dish: Spring Onion Soup

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

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A peek of the kitchen.

My Dish

I went with a group of friends to M5 on a recent Saturday night. We met up around 7PM and had reservations for our party of 7. The restaurant was pretty busy but didn’t seem to have a huge line (you’ll probably want to have reservations or at least call ahead to check the wait). While we waited for our friends to all gather, we enjoyed cocktails on M5’s beautiful patio. I waited till we sat at our table before ordering anything.

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Sangria was the perfect way to start the evening.

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Our group ordered a couple entrees to share.

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Hubby and I ordered the spanakopita, which was delicious, but probably not the best app to order when sharing with a group – it’s on the smaller side. The spanakopita would make a better choice for yourself or to share on a date. The flavors were great.

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The calamari was a much better group-appetizer, which we enjoyed with an order of the mozzarella + tomatoes (with yummy BV) and some hummus (also good for sharing).

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I was in the mood to sample the menu, so I ordered a pre-entree soup – the Spring Onion soup. The Spring Onion soup was like a French Onion soup, topped with (I believe) French bread and Gruyere cheese. The soup was absolutely delicious! I enjoyed every bite.

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For my entree, I was torn between the Salmon and the Chicken Tagine. I went with the latter.

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The Chicken Tagine was comprised on soft couscous and tender chicken pieces throughout, along with dried fruit. I didn’t notice a lot of vegetables, but there were a ton of the dried fruit pieces – I think I saw raisins and apricots. The dish was quite sweet, which made me wonder if the fruit had been cooked with the couscous. The waiter told me the Chicken Tagine would be sweet but it was sweeter than I expected, which was fine – an interesting play on the savory/sweet. I could also taste the flavor of cinnamon, which made for an interesting flavor combination.

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Everyone was pretty full from dinner, but we saved room for dessert.

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I ordered the Lavender Creme Caramel, which just like the waiter described, tasted like flan. I love unique dessert flavor combinations and really enjoyed this.

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I also snapped a picture of our friend’s Baklava. They got this delivered on a tiered basket containing 2 other desserts! I was so jealous I didn’t see that on the menu, because I totally would have ordered it, too.

Final Dish

M5 would be a great choice for a chic date night, group event, or girls’ night out. Definitely try out one of the appetizers and if you can save room for dessert. If you’re looking for something a little more special, try out the “Feed Me Chef” ($55) – a 5-course tasting menu served right in the kitchen.