Carpe Diem

Even if the food were mediocre, Carpe Diem might make this list on the basis of its gorgeous design and outstanding service. But Chef Jon Blumreich's food is decidedly not mediocre. Working with owners Trish Maddrey and Bonnie Warford, Blumreich's menu is sort of classic contemporary American. This is the kind of place where fried chicken and gravy over spinach and mashed potatoes reside comfortably next to seared tamarind and lemon glazed duck breast with Singapore noodles and stir fry.

Carpe Diem on the Cheap
There's only one entrée on the menu that costs more than $25 (the beef tenderloin, natch). But true value seekers settle in at the bar before 6:30 p.m., when all appetizers are half price. Angel hair pasta tossed with sautéed calamari (almost big enough for a meal)? $5.50. Grateful Growers braised pork over sweet corn-cheddar pudding? $5.25. Up the budget ante on Monday nights, when bottles of wine, save the limited reserve, are one-third off.

1535 Elizabeth Ave., 704-377-7976,

Categories: Feature, Food + Drink, Restaurants & Food