2013 BOB Awards: Dining
Not Just Coffee
224 E. Seventh St., inside Seventh Street Public Market, 704-817-3868
If you’re looking for an average cup o’ joe, this is not the place for you. But if you’re seeking a delicious cup of pour-over coffee or an espresso drink—made by hipsters sporting skinny ties and beards completely unironically—Not Just Coffee is your spot. Order yours “for here,” and your barista will customize it for you with latte art that’s almost too pretty to drink. Almost.
Papi Queso’s Truffle Kettle Chips
Papi Queso shook up the local food-truck scene with its focus on grilled cheese sandwiches featuring fancy add-ons such as braised leeks, green apples, and barbecue. As with most food trucks, the menu constantly changes, but one always-on-offer standout is the truck’s truffle kettle chips. Made fresh with rosemary, shaved Parmesan, lemon, and white truffle oil, the crunchy, decadent chips are reason enough to track down this restaurant on wheels.
Bar in a Grocery Store
Queen’s Corner Bar at Whole Foods Market
6610 Fairview Rd., 980-213-2400
Whether you settle in on a bar stool for wine, cheese, and charcuterie, or grab a pint of a North Carolina beer to carry around the store with you, the Queen’s Corner Bar at the Whole Foods Market in SouthPark makes grocery shopping less of a chore and more of a happy escape.
Romantic Al Fresco Dining
500 S. Tryon St., 704-910-0865
With the restaurant’s quirky cocktail list, creative dishes, and intimate feel, Halcyon is a solid candidate for a romantic evening. Add in great views of Tryon Street and The Green beyond, and it’s officially the city’s best destination for an outdoor meal with your sweetheart.
Local Food Artisan
Bill Averbach, Pickleville
2104 South Blvd. (inside Atherton Market), 704-966-6873
A musician by trade—he plays the trumpet, a little accordion (no polkas), and sings—Bill Averbach had no intention of earning the nickname “pickle man.” Although he spent 20 years working as a chef and cook in eateries ranging from greasy spoons to upscale Italian restaurants, he fell back into the culinary field after his garden produced an overabundance of cucumbers—and a friend suggested he sell the probiotic, fermented pickles (made without vinegar) he’d made with his family’s traditional recipes. “All of my relatives make great pickles,” Averbach says.
Now, in addition to playing regular gigs with his bands (bam-jazz.com), Averbach spends his days selling his original kosher pickles, to which he’s added a collection of Southern-style pickles, seasonal pickled vegetables, salsas, and kimchi. He estimates that he goes through about 100 pounds of cucumbers a week. And, Averbach says, his two professions have more in common than you might think. “When I’m selling pickles here, I’m performing,” he says.
“I love telling jokes.” —A.A.
Restaurant With Staying Power
1535 Elizabeth Ave., 704-377-7976
Few restaurants could survive two moves. Only Carpe Diem could get better each time. The original uptown location was forced out during the early 2000s condo craze. Version 2.0 was razed to make way for Time Warner Cable Arena. The latest and greatest claims the city’s most beautiful restaurant interior—it’s a loving homage to an art nouveau Parisian metro stop—and a consistently excellent menu. Carpe Diem doesn’t chase trends; it’s timeless all on its own.
New Restaurant for the Veggie Lover
Bean Vegan Cuisine
3001 E. Independence Blvd., 980-939-1234
It can be a little tricky to get to, but if you’re looking for a solid lineup of vegan dishes, Bean is the best new option. From the restaurant’s take on fried pickles (served with vegan ranch dressing) and veggie burgers (don’t miss the jalapeño cheddar burger, topped with vegan cheddar and fried jalapeño chips), to home cooking standards like “meatloaf” and mashed potatoes, there’s plenty to like here—and you can order full sizes of the house-made vegan desserts.
Use of Sweet Tea
Sweet Tea Brined Wings at Peculiar Rabbit
1212 Pecan Ave., 704-333-9197
Sweet tea has a firm place in Southern culture, but an order of the Peculiar Rabbit’s sweet-tea-brined chicken wings might just give you a good reason to think a little … differently about the classic Southern beverage. The glazed Ashley Farms wings are sweet and savory, with a subtle heat (order yours “kicked up” if you like your wings spicy), and served alongside malted vinegar slaw and a spicy mustard dipping sauce. Pro tip: ask for extra napkins.
Date Night Restaurant
7822 Fairview Rd., 704-364-5755
Thirteen years after it opened, this elegantly cozy bistro is justifiably considered a Charlotte institution—and it isn’t pretentious. With its beautifully presented, seasonal menu and fewer than 50 seats, there’s no bad table (or order), and servers are extremely knowledgeable. You’ll feel like you’re the only ones in the room on a date-night dinner here.
4310 Sharon Rd., 704-365-1922
The Cowfish’s “burgushi” concept took Charlotte by storm when it opened in 2011. But with its extensive menu, trendy feel, and quirky extras like a rentable party bus, the restaurant only gained in popularity in 2012, garnering shout-outs in a handful of national magazines. And The Cowfish has managed to leverage that success with the announcement that a second location in Raleigh will open this year.
View of the Action
e2 Emeril’s Eatery
135 Levine Avenue of the Arts, Ste. 100, 704-414-4787
If you enjoy watching a professional kitchen at work, you’ll find some of the best views in the city at the chef’s food bar at e2 uptown. The lengthy bar wraps around the restaurant’s open display kitchen, where you can watch as the chefs prep everything from wood-oven-roasted oysters to fried chicken.
Recent Restaurant Makeover
601 S. Kings Dr., 704-343-0148
It’s not like this mainstay needed freshening up. But sometimes, owner Frank Scibelli gets restless. Lucky us. Designed by Carrie Frye, the new look—all warm wood, authentic Scibelli family photos, and tables and chairs you’ll wish were in your own dining room—has given Mama’s new life. Bonus: the menu has also been updated.
150 N. College St., 704-370-7667
The second Rooster’s location in uptown includes many of the things that made the first location in SouthPark an instant classic: an open display kitchen, a cozy, dark interior, and an à la carte, family-style menu. But it’s also a great restaurant on its own merit. Executive Chef Joe Kindred’s daily specials menu is worth a trek uptown, as is the cozy, downstairs bar with its own chalkboard menu.
Surprisingly Kid-Friendly Dining
2501 Central Ave., 704-332-1004
You might not expect a former Pizza Hut turned hipster joint that specializes in fish tacos and roti to be kid friendly, but K.C. Terry’s Krazy Fish is just that. The servers are great with the little ones, and the tykes will have a blast checking out the crazy fish art (get it?) on the walls and tables. All fish tacos are half price every weeknight from 4 to 6 p.m., and even the pickiest of eaters will find something to like among the 16 choices.
Place to Get a Beer Flight
Duckworth’s Grill and Taphouse
4435 Park Rd., 704-527-5783; 14015 Conlan Cir., 704-752-7284
The beauty of trying craft beer is that there are so many options. So sometimes the best way to go is by ordering a flight, which is four 4.5-ounce glasses served on a wooden paddle. Duckworth’s steady rotation of selections will wet any craft lover’s whistle. Not sure where to start? Trust your server.
115 E. Carson St., 980-207-3641
Midnight Diner is exactly the kind of greasy spoon you crave at the end of a local craft beer-soaked night out; it has an enormous menu of classic diner food, it’s easy to get to, and it’s open 24 hours a day. Amelie’s might be the place to see and be seen at 3 a.m., but this is the place to load up on straightforward comfort food in the wee hours.
Place to Train for Competitive Eating
210 E. Trade St., Ste. A-208, 704-749-1097
When EpiCentre’s Whisky River added a full menu last fall, it officially became one of the least-healthful places to eat in the city. Looking for large portions? You can’t go wrong here. Almost everything is served up big, and even the baked potato (a 1-pounder) can be loaded down with pulled pork or chicken, beef brisket, or fried turkey. And if you’re looking for an amateur competition, order the 6 Wide Challenge—a six-patty burger served with a pound of fries. Finishing it gets you a free meal and your name added to the Wall of Fame.
127 N. Tryon St., 704-919-1322
The already notorious restaurant from MAP Management turns one year old this month. It may be famous as much for its impressive ceiling art (the entire text of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War) as it is for drawing local and visiting celebs, but its innovative, well-executed new American menu from Executive Chef Jamie Lynch is what keeps people coming back. If you go: dress smart and arrive hungry—the snacks and small plates are just as tantalizing as the mains.
Use of Jalapeño
Jalapeño Hamachi Roll at Sushi Guru
6601 Morrison Blvd., 704-362-3021
Latin cuisine may have been the first to exploit the humble jalapeño, but the flavorful chile also proves an excellent match for sushi. In Charlotte, there’s no better example than Sushi Guru’s jalapeño hamachi roll. Stuffed with crab and avocado and topped with yellowtail (hamachi) and paper-thin slices of jalapeño, the specialty roll is a mixture of flavors and textures—with a hint of heat—that just works.
Regular Foodie Event
South End’s Food Truck Friday
(Corner of Camden Road and East Park Avenue)
A smattering of the city’s food trucks gathers every Friday on a South End street corner in a pop-up carnival of street food that’s never the same two weeks in a row. It’s not unusual for the trucks to sell out of the most popular items quickly, so get there on the early side for the most variety.
Use of the “Put an Egg on It” Trend
Potato & Egg Pizza at Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar
6706-C Philips Place Ct., 704-295-0101
Chefs across Charlotte have started to slap fried eggs on top of salads, burgers, pastas, and other dishes, but it’s the potato and egg pizza at Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar that truly stands out. The restaurant’s house-made dough is topped with sliced rosemary potatoes, salty pancetta, sweet peppers, and oven-roasted eggs—perfect for crust dunking. It’s the ultimate breakfast-for-dinner (or lunch) dish.
Best Non-Meat Burger
Veggie Burger at The Liberty
812 South Blvd., 704-332-8830
Forget the dehydrated, tasteless patty in the freezer aisle—this is a moist, decadent concoction of black beans, quinoa, chickpeas, mushrooms, and lentils, spiked with a dash of exotic-sweet spice. Topped with tomato jam, goat cheese, and arugula, it tumbles out of a warm brioche bun and sends you chasing stray bites on the plate. Accompanied by hand-cut fries, this burger will make you wonder what took you so long to branch out beyond beef and turkey.
New Local Brewery
Triple C Brewery
2900 Griffith St., 704-372-3212
The buzz around Triple C has been growing steadily. Head brewer Scott Kimball’s Smoked Amber gets most of the fanfare, but hopheads swear by the Baby Maker Double IPA.
Olde Mecklenburg Copper
215 Southside Dr., 704-525-5644
The Mecktoberfest may have taken the silver medal at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, but it’s the Copper that gets the prize here. This altbier is what put Olde Meck on the map and is available across the city, much to the delight of local craft aficionados. This smooth, refreshing beer can be enjoyed anytime.
Dish Made with Local Beer
Oven Roasted Beer Cheese at Heist Brewery
2909 N. Davidson St., Ste. 200, 704-375-8260
Beer and the by-products of the brewing process are incorporated into several items on the menu at Heist, but the best example is the brewpub’s beer cheese. The cheese is made with Heist’s own beer and served alongside pretzels made with leftover mash. This is bar food to the extreme. And it’s delicious.
Unexpected Local Beer Selection
Queen City Q
225 E. Sixth St., 704-334-8437
This is one of the few places in the city where it might be tougher to get a beer brewed outside North Carolina than an in-state selection. Start the weekend here on Fridays with the local special—all North Carolina beers are just $3. The barbecue isn’t bad, either.
Chad Henderson, NoDa Brewing Company
2229 N. Davidson St., 704-451-1394
Supposedly Henderson does take a day off every now and then, though you wouldn’t know it. Whether it’s brewing new recipes (and participating in zany YouTube videos) for the weekly releases or representing the brewery at events, this home brewer turned pro is seemingly everywhere. Brewing is more than a job for Henderson; it’s a passion—which shows in NoDa’s beers.