Sometimes what makes a meal is what comes before the entrée. These six appetizers hit the spot long before the main dish arrives
Scallops at Las Ramblas
When Executive Chef Blake Hartwick wants to send out a special dish to a VIP, this is what he chooses. Two perfectly grilled diver scallops (the grilling makes the difference) with a dash of sea salt over a light artichoke-potato purée provide a knockout flavor combination. And the secret ingredient that puts this over the top? A drizzle of vanilla liqueur. Paired with an Eric Solomon Selections light red, we could eat this all night long. $14.
2400 Park Rd., 704-335-8444
Classic with a twist
Buffalo Sliders at Solace
Some foods work even better in miniature. Solace proves that the hamburger is one of them. Sliders here are delicate yet satisfying, bursting with the flavor of a full-size burger. Try the Solace original or the mellow and smoky Buffalo sliders with wild mushrooms and Gouda cheese. If that’s not enough,
Tuesday is Slider Night—choose from ten varieties. $9.
20930 Torrence Chapel Rd., Cornelius 704-895-5115
Pimentos Rellenos at Tria Terra
Sometimes the best tapa is a simple one. Tapas rule at Tria Terra, but we especially love this ripe roasted whole red pepper stuffed with goat cheese. The sweetness of the pepper coalesces beautifully with the pungent chèvre. $6.50.
7707 Pineville Matthews Rd.
Gnocchi at M5
More than once, we’ve hungrily wolfed this down at the bar—then considered ordering another. In every greedy forkful, you’ll get just-right gnocchi, savory mushrooms, charred peppers, sweet corn kernels, sharp parmigiano reggiano, and a dash of truffle. It’s rich, heady, and outstanding. $9.
4300 Sharon Rd., 704-909-5500
Sarma at Intermezzo
In this classic Serbian dish, simmered cabbage envelopes flavorful ground meat (your choice of beef, lamb, or pork) and onions simmered in a tomato broth. Served with house-baked chewy flatbread—
perfect for soaking up the rich gravy. $10.95.
1427 E. Tenth St., 704-347-2626
Sweet Potato Ravioli at 300 East
Somehow, this 300 East classic manages to be hearty in the winter and refreshing in the summer. Al dente ravioli stuffed with fluffy sweet potatoes is a perfect match for the smooth Gorgonzola cream sauce. Toasted walnuts provide the finishing touch. $11.
300 East Blvd., 704-332-6507