Here’s the Beef
I can see it now. In response to the ever-increasing glut of fancy, high-end steakhouses, some New York restaurant impresario spends a couple million bucks to create a throwback beef joint, all low lighting and booths and scratchy background music.
Hipsters flock to it; it spawns imitators in cities across the country.
Meanwhile, regulars at George Fine’s Beef ’n’ Bottle in Charlotte keep right on ordering ribeyes, New York strips, and oysters Rockefeller, blissfully unaware of how cool they have become.
As the steakhouse craze continues to sweep Charlotte, we decided to check out one of the originals. Beef ’n’ Bottle has been open since 1978, and little has changed since.
When we step inside, I’m glad we had reserved a booth, which are lined along the long and narrow main dining room. The few tables are crowded in the middle, and eating at one would’ve felt like eating onstage. The booths, on the other hand, are high backed and private.
[rsg2_singledisplay:826}Servers wear tuxedos, and the hostess a cocktail dress. But that doesn’t mean this is a fancy place. Early in the evening, the room is filled with couples and small groups in casual attire. As the night grows longer and darker, the place takes on more of an old-fashioned supper-club air. Low ceilings, cheap wood paneling, and framed black-and-white prints of celebs from decades ago complete the atmosphere.
This truly is an old-style steakhouse. Many of the appetizers are of the seafood variety, including the house specialty oysters Rockefeller, which we do not try. The French onion soup, however, is excellent—hearty and with a thick layer of Gruyère cheese floating on top.
The wine list is short but there’s something to be said for that. It contains a few American stalwarts—we go with a Kendall Jackson reserve—plus a surprising selection of French wines, including a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Steaks come with choice of potato and salads (remember when steakhouses weren’t à la carte?). “Salad,” in this case, is a tray of fresh ingredients that you toss yourself. The bleu cheese dressing is rich and chunky. All dressings are made in-house.
Our steaks are not lacking in flavor. They’re cooked in butter, although not too much, and well seasoned, and they come with an onion ring on top. The filet mignon ($22.95) is perfectly cooked—one of the best we’ve had in town. The ribeye ($24.95) is nice and fatty and also cooked to exactly the temperature I order. These aren’t as thick or as premium as a Morton’s or Ruth’s Chris steak, but there is plenty of meat for us, and the price is right.
Beef ’n’ Bottle is the kind of place that’s easy for a critic to like. Solid food, good service, but, mainly, it’s an authentic, local place, with little pretense. That said, it’s not for everyone. The wine list is relatively short, the steaks are not prime, and the main dining room is smoking, although only one person smoked the night we were there. (I would avoid the nonsmoking section, which has a cement floor and plastic chairs.) It’s in a low-slung building right on South Boulevard, hardly Charlotte’s restaurant row. Still, eating at George Fine’s place feels like an experience, and isn’t that what dining out is all about?
Beef ’n’ Bottle, 4538 South Blvd. (704-523-9977) $$$, D, FSB, R. Closed Sun.