Love and Basketball

Before I get to my sixth annual holiday wish list, a word about this issue. It contains stories about two topics close to my heart: restaurants and Davidson basketball.

Twelve years ago, one of my first assignments for this magazine was to put together the restaurant listings. I was pretty young at the time; fine dining was not a world with which I was well acquainted. So I sent out a survey, consulted with a few longtimers, took an itinerant chef to lunch (who offered mainly one-word assessments: "Sucks!" Or, "OK"). We came up with a list of fifty places, which we duly titled Fifty Restaurants. The plan was to keep the list exclusive: if we added a restaurant, we had to remove a different one.

I've been covering the restaurant scene ever since—writing up notable new places, interviewing chefs, and editing the listings, which now numbers more than a hundred. I've become somewhat well acquainted with fine dining—though for my money it's hard to beat a good cheeseburger. And I think this has been the most interesting year for the Charlotte restaurant scene in memory.

Big fancy chains continue to proliferate here, but local restaurants fared pretty well, too. Operators like Chris and Brandy Warren, of Sugar Magnolia, and Thierry Garconnet, of Terra, have found their own small niches. In our "research" (i.e lots of eating) for this issue's list of best new restaurants (page 84), Jon Luther and I were pleasantly surprised to find so many local places turning out such high-quality food and service.

Time for another flashback: a few years before I started putting together that original restaurant guide, I was in the stands at the Asheville Civic Center for the Southern Conference championship game between Davidson and Chattanooga. The winner would go to the NCAA Tournament. After years of mediocrity, Davidson had a good team, and, as a senior at the school, I had enjoyed every minute of it.

But the team lost a heartbreaker that night. Three of us had carpooled to the game, and from the time the final buzzer sounded, none of us spoke for more than an hour and a half, until we were almost back to Davidson.

So when Michael Kruse e-mailed me to suggest a story on the resurgence of Davidson basketball, it didn't take me long to give him the green light. The result starts on page 104 , and it's an excellent read.

OK, now for the wish list:

For the new city council (election day falls the day after our deadline), less partisanship and more getting things done.
For the new school board, a better sense of priorities. Hint: It's not about you.
For schools super Peter Gorman, patience in dealing with the school board as they work on their priorities.
For Center City Partners' Michael Smith, the finishing touches on the remarkable deal to bring a minor-league baseball stadium to uptown. But please don't further carve up the much-needed urban park.
For the district attorney's office, all the help they need.
For the police department, the same.
For Coach Bob McKillop and the Davidson Wildcats men's basketball team, an NCAA tournament victory—or three.
For the Charlotte Bobcats, continued hustle and teamwork. And a little luck and good health. The victories will take care of themselves. And then the fans will show up.
For Jake Delhomme, a full recovery. I have a feeling that Steve Smith will be wishing for the same thing.
For the South Corridor light rail line, a smooth opening and full cars.
For all the restaurants that deserve it (and you know who they are), packed dining rooms, even on Tuesdays.
For Charlotte's many performing arts groups, excellent shows and audiences to match. —Richard Thurmond

Coming next month: Rating the Private Schools • Where to Get Stuff Fixed • A New Source of Water

Categories: Editor’s Note, Opinion, The Buzz