Wednesday, May 27, 2009

News and Notes

Nickel and Dine

  • Skyland Family Restaurant (4544 South Blvd.) is offering breakfast specials 6 to 11 a.m. daily (such as two eggs with bacon or sausage, hash browns or grits and toast or biscuit for $2.99) and a lunch or dinner special that includes meat, two vegetables and a cup of soup for $5.95. 704-522-6522.
  • And on the opposite end: Palm (Phillips Place) has a four-pound lobster special for two (with two salads and a side dish to share) for $89.95. 704-552-7256.
  • Chick-fil-A now does a $2.49 milkshake that's 14 ounces, in addition to the 20-ounce one for $2.89. It's also added a new flavor -- peach, in honor of its Georgia roots -- that will be available through Aug. 22.

Toward King's Kitchen

Attend dinner and a silent auction at Noble's (6801 Morrison Blvd.) on June 4 and you can help with the nonprofit The King's Kitchen. That's chef Jim Noble's name for the restaurant he is creating uptown to employ and minister to troubled and unemployed people in Charlotte, with profits going to aid the poor. Cost: $250;

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

News and notes

  • Firenze (6414 Rea Road) hosts a wine dinner June 2 matching indigenous varietals to chef Gabriele Grigolon's fare. On the menu: tuna carpaccio with Villa Sparina Cortese Brut; slow-roasted veal porchetta with 2007 Velenosi, Lacrima di Morro; and more. $39; 704-544-4949.
  • Longitude 81 (971 Gold Hill Road, Fort Mill) plans a Lowcountry picnic June 6; the restaurant plans these for the first Saturday of each month in the summer. The all-you-can-eat menu includes boiled shrimp, snow crab legs, smoked babyback ribs, cornmeal-crusted baby catfish, fried chicken, peach crisp and more. Live music and drink specials will also be on hand. 803-802-9981.
  • Coming up at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge (10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway), with all reservations at 704-248-4100: A Rutherford County farm dinner with Childress Vineyards on June 18 for $75; Father's Day brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. June 21, a buffet with seafood displays, omelet station, carving stations and more; $48.95 ($25.95 for 7-12, $7.95 for 3-6, free for younger than 3); and a special four-course Father's Day dinner with choices including Vidalia onion soup; Lowcountry shrimp; peppercorn strip steak, softshell crab and more for $49.

First Bite: Big View Diner

The food: Think diner, then amend your thinking. The last diner I was at that had real roasted turkey on its hot turkey sandwich? Wait: There wasn't one. Housemade crisp chips with blue cheese dressing; wings roasted, then grilled and sauced with sweet mustard barbecue sauce; meatloaf with veal jus; mashed sweet potatoes; grilled chicken sandwich on focaccia: all classics tweaked upward and all pretty good. The question is, on this long, long, long menu, will there be a few things so stunning you'll come back on a regular basis? I'll let you know after I've worked my way through a few dozen. Desserts range from handsome cookies of many kinds to mile-high cream pies on extraordinarily flaky crusts, and cheesecakes, and ice creams are made in house.
The look: Think diner, then think retro and expensively-done fun. Circular string cages around the lights (like when kids put starched string around balloons and let it dry, then pop them); brightly colored collage-y artwork; graduated wood panels with vivid red accents; curvy and straight padded booths; and a big dining area, plenty of counter spots and a somewhat-separated sports lounge with big TV screens.
The servers: Ours was a career server type (read: older than 22) who knew the menu well and sold it with aplomb. Others checked on us routinely and energetically and something like three different people boxed up the leftovers (and you are very likely to have leftovers). Well-coordinated.
The details: Breakfast about $2.25-$13; sandwiches $5-$10; lunch entrees $7-$14; dinner entrees $9-$21. 16637 Lancaster Highway near the intersection of Johnston Road and Ardrey Kell; 704-544-0313;

Thursday, May 21, 2009

France vs. USA, plus auction prices? Quelle surprise!

Aquavina (435 S. Tryon St.; 704-377-9911) pairs five courses with nine wines in a "French vs. American" wine dinner May 28 on the patio. Among the courses are a deconstruction of Oysters Rockefeller (with anise panna cotta and parmesan air!); beef three ways (cheek ravioli, roasted tenderloin, broiled marinated flank); and creme brulee with mango paper; $75.
Also: The restaurant will hold a silent auction on existing wine inventory to make some room for new stuff, and the auction will start at wholesale prices for Chateau Petrus, Opus One and more.

So what IS "modern Vietnamese cuisine"?

Having heard that diners enter Indochine Grill at the EpiCentre uptown (210 E. Trade St.; 704-688-0078) expecting Chinese-American food -- or Indian food, or (in the case of a few who see the Vietnamese in its subtitle) a pho-soup-only place -- I suspect a mini-primer on Vietnamese food may help stem confusion.

First, a little geography and history: Vietnam is in Southeast Asia, on the eastern side of what's called the Indochinese Peninsula, south of China (and east of India). A long, thin country, it also borders Laos and Cambodia. China, through a thousand years of colonization, and France, in a century or so of occupation, strongly influenced the nation's cooking. Stir-fries and noodles, sausages, baguettes, rich soups and more continue to show this heritage.

Vietnamese native Duc Tran, who owns Indochine Grill, has two Atlanta restaurants. Here, he emphasizes the influences of Japan (sashimi, for example) and the United States (the use of gas-grilled items) as well as France and China in his menu.

So, traditional cha gio (fried egg rolls) are joined in the starter list by sashimi rolls and "Japanese short rib" (marinated and grilled), and a signature salad that mixes greens with green mango, green papaya, Fuji apple, fish vinaigrette and grilled meat or shrimp. There's a tuna ceviche and a tuna tartare next to the traditional noodle soup called pho and the rice vermicelli with meats called bun. And specialty dishes include riffs on the traditional Vietnamese dish called "shaking beef" using lamb and ahi tuna. (The meat doesn't shake; the dish -- thit bo luc lac -- is named for the cook's need to shake the pan as the meat sears.)

French La Lot is what Tran calls the grape leaves rolled around grilled beef or duck and garnished with roasted peanuts; traditionally, this is made in Vietnam with wild betel leaves. And Japanese-Seared Tilapia is the name for a sushi-grade tilapia fillet pan-seared in herbed oil.

Tran is careful to credit the influences on Indochine's take on Vietnamese cooking, which makes the place both interesting and educational.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Toasting wine and beer

Wine and beer dinners coming up:

  • Maddi's Southern Bistro at Birkdale Village hosts a three-course farm-to-table dinner May 27 for $35. The menu: pork loin stuffed with andouille sausage and roasted poblano peppers, paired with with Red Brick Peachtree Pale Ale; braised pork belly with apple glaze and The Duck Rabbit Milk Stout; and smoked pork jowl and apple dessert muffins, with Woodchuck Granny Smith draft cider. The pork's from Denver's Grateful Growers farm. 704-987-7762.
  • Belgian beer dinner at the Pizza Peel (4422 Colwick Road) May 28: Four Belgian beers, four Belgian-inspired courses from chef Tim Schafer, including Flemish-style roasted pork loin with Le Chouffe, and Belgian dark chocolate torte with Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence. $50; 704-714-8808.
  • Savannah Red (at the uptown Marriott at 100 W. Trade St.): hosts a J. Lohr wine dinner May 30, with courses including grilled lobster with saffron butter and 2006 October Nights Chardonnay and barbecue lamb loin with 2006 Syrah. $55; 704-358-6524.
  • Zink (201 N. Tryon St.) hosts a five-course Brooklyn Brewery dinner June 10. Among the offerings: peekytoe crab salad with Brooklyn Pennant Ale; Copper River salmon with Grafton Farms cheddar and sweet corn puree, with Brooklyner Schneider Hopfen Weisse; and herb-crusted Niman Ranch beef coulotte steak with Brooklyn Brown Ale. $48; 704-444-9001.
  • Morton's uptown (227 W. Trade St.) hosts a Malbec tasting from 6-7:30 p.m. June 12 with hors d'oeuvres such as cheeses, broiled sea scallops, sliced tenderloin on crostini with chimichurri sauce and more. $45; 704-333-2602.

New hours, and/or menus

  • Gashouse Grill (3078 East Franklin Blvd., Gastonia) is open, a casual American place reimagined from a former Fuel Pizza by the same owners. Burgers, pizzas, wings and ribs top the menu items. About $5.50-$13; 704-865-6889.
  • Summer hours (starting May 25) for Firenze (6414 Rea Road): Dinner 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, to 11 Friday-Saturday, to 9 Sunday, and Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. 704-544-4949.
  • Cosmos Café at 8420 Rea Road now serves buffet-style Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for $17.95. Carving stations, breakfast dishes, pastries and more are available. 704-817-3010.
  • The Wine Shop at Foxcroft (7824 Fairview Road) now opens for lunch on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and stays open through dinner. The regular menu is offered, plus seasonal specials from the farmer's market. 704-365-6550.
  • Common Market in South End (1515 S. Tryon St.) is now open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily, and offers a "Nite Eats" menu that includes fruit and cheese platter, Mediterranean bites and Grateful Grower's bratwursts. Also up at that location: Kids can get an item from the kids' menu for free Saturday and Sunday with an adult who orders from the regular menu. 704-332-7782.
  • New on the summer menu at Village Bistro at Ballantyne Village: bone-in pork chop stuffed with prosciutto, mozzarella and spinach; seafood skewers with citrus dressing; tequila shrimp pasta; and mahi mahi with pineapple relish, plus an expanded appetizer menu. 704-369-5190.

Taste ... Soon!

Taste of Charlotte uptown turns 11 with the 2009 version, featuring more than 100 menu items on Tryon Street June 5-7. Some 100,000 folks turned out last year for the event, which includes kids' activities and an open-air market with arts and crafts and jewelry.

Also coming up this year: Tavern at the Taste from Blue Moon Brewing Company, which will offer wines, microbrews and specialty beers, live music and a dining area. Regional and local bands perform through on Center Stage through the weekend.

About 30 restaurants are on board to serve such things as French macaroons (Amelie's), barbecue chicken pizza (Brixx), Chilean sea bass cake (Caffe Siena), Texas hash (Jolina), pulled pork sandwich (Mert's), Guinness barbecue wings (RiRa) and masala dosa (Woodlands).

Admission: Free. You buy food and beverages with festival coins, sold online now at or at the festival (with cash only). Fifteen coins cost $20. Restaurant samples cost 1 to 3 coins, beverages 2 to 6.

Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. June 5 and 6; to 6 p.m. June 7, rain or shine, on Tryon between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 6th Street.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Got a road food suggestion?

As folks head out of town and back in this summer, let's compile a few good places to stop. Do you have a recommendation? We'll be talking about such places -- along with what's new, what's good, what's cheap and who's where these days -- on WFAE's "Charlotte Talks" with Mike Collins at 9 a.m. this Friday (May 22).

One in each direction, to get the ball rolling:

near Statesville. Dipping fried chicken in barbecue sauce may sound like gilding the lily, but believe me: It's worth it.


McLeod's Farmer's Market near McBee, for produce you can munch right there.


The Sundae Shop in Midland for milkshakes and Carolina-style burgers.

Bridges Barbecue
in Shelby. Located on N.C. 74, this is a longtime stalwart sometimes referred to as Red's. If you have time to drive in a ways (just a mile or two), you can also check out Alston Bridges Barbecue, at 620 E. Grover St. in Shelby.

Share your suggestions, and listen Friday for more ideas. I'll post more, as well.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nickel and Dine

  • Brixx (multiple locations) has extended its late-night Wednesday special to every night: That's two-for-one appetizers and pizzas any night after 10 p.m. See menus etc at
  • The Oceanaire (4620 Piedmont Row Drive) is offering, starting May 18, one red wine and one white each week for $20.10, and chef Cory York will concoct a three-course menu from 5-7 p.m. Sunday-Thursday for $20.10 as well. The promotion's dubbed "Here's to 2010!" 704-554-8811.
  • May 19, Foskoskies (2121-A Shamrock Drive) does its next International Night, this one focusing on Portugal: Choices include salt cod with grated potatoes and black olives; pork with clams Alentijo-style; and seafood rice; plus flan and Portuguese-style baked apple. Four courses, $20; 704-535-2220.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

$1 sandwiches?

A sandwich for a buck? Yep: The Jimmy John's location in Matthews (2233 Matthews Township Parkway; 704-847-4007) does Customer Appreciation Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday. One to a customer, naturally. A 19-year-old (Jimmy John Liautaud) started the chain in 1983 in a converted garage in Illinois; it now has more than 860 locations in 37 states;

What else is out there for a buck? Sarah Hepola took a look for and the results are ... well, just look here.

Live! On WFAE!

Plan to tune in to "Charlotte Talks" at 9 a.m. next Friday (May 22) for the next installment of restaurant talk. Host Mike Collins and Johnson & Wales chef-on-assignment Peter Reinhart get together Charlotte restaurant critics and discuss dining news. This show's additional focus: Road food. It's 90.7 on your FM dial; you can also livestream it from here
or download afterward.

Shout's Culinary Experience shelved for '09

The Culinary Arts Experience, part of the monthlong Charlotte Shout event, is on the shelf for 2009, say festival organizers. "This would have been our eighth year," said Robert Krumbine, executive producer of the event. "(But) we believe it will be extremely difficult to raise the amount of money we need." That's about half a million dollars, according to Moira Quinn of Charlotte Center City Partners. Blues, Brews and BBQ -- also tied to the Shout timeline -- is on, moving slightly south on Tryon Street from the 2008 locale.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What if it exploded when you ate it?

Innovative chef par excellence Grant Achatz of Chicago's Alinea theorizes for The Atlantic about a new way of eating here: What if the diner began eating a dish that changed, in the middle of its consumption, into some other sort of dish? The chef's musings are fun, but be sure to read the comments, which are even better. (And his name? Say ack-ets.)

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila...

...Floor. That's the old joke, but fans of the drink (responsible ones, I mean) will be thrilled at the notion of chef Gene Briggs teeing up six, each paired with a different course, May 20 at Blue (Hearst Plaza uptown). Among the offerings: escabeche of shrimp and scallops with Centenario Blanco; a trio of Spanish sausages with Cazadores Reposado; and grilled strip steak with Cabo Wabo Anejo. $59; 704-927-2583.

Copper coming...

Copper River (Alaska)'s salmon fishing season will open for the first time this season Thursday, for a 12-hour window, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has announced. So expect to start seeing the prized fish -- both sockeye and king -- on menus in the next bit of time. Known for a nutty and buttery flavor, these wild salmon have a high oil content. The ADF&G predicts an increased catch from 2008's. Salmon lovers also eagerly await the Yukon River salmon season, which comes a little later.

Artistry of many kinds

Soul hits Plaza-Midwood

Put the kitchen, the DJ and the diners all in one space and you have a gastrolounge. Make the food small plates from tapas to mezes, and the music house-and-more, and you've got Soul, recently opened at 1500 Central Ave. (at the corner of Pecan).

Andy Kastanas and James Fedele co-own; Johnson & Wales-trained Patty Greene is chef, focusing on local and organic foodstuffs and whipping up fare such as sesame-scallion tuna sashimi with siracha mayo, served with a shot of sake; roasted bone marrow with parsley salad; anchovy fries; a full sushi menu and more, with prices from $3-$12. DJs from Kastanas and Fedele to That Guy Smitty and Jah-Sun Rising will spin, and the interior features art by local favorite Duy Huynh, a peacock (really), world influences from Turkish fabrics to Asian wallpaper and custom mirrors. Dinner nightly; brunch weekdays begins May 16. 704.348.1848.

Artists' dinner

Mimosa Grill (327 S. Tryon St.) continues its Artist Series of dinners with a May 30 four-course meal and the work of New Orleans-based David Halliday, who does still-life paintings and photography. Pieces will be available at special prices for diners. On the menu: hot smoked Alaskan King salmon with Yukon Gold blini; foie-gras-stuffed hush puppies; pan-roasted ribeye and more. $45; 704-343-0700.

A creative winner

Rhea Vogelhut won the pizza topping competition at Pie Town (710 W. Trade St.) with a Flat Iron Steak and Yukon Gold Potato Pizza. A new menu, on which this pizza debuts, kicks in Friday.

New in charge

Since chef Blake Hartwick moved to Andrew Blair's, sibling Dilworth restaurants Bonterra and Las Ramblas have new folks at the helm. In charge at Bonterra is Cory Sharpe, who had been sous chef since 2002, while Marcelino Sanchez has taken over at Las Ramblas; he's been with the restaurant since it opened.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nickel and Dine

Among the week's best deals:

  • Fiamma (2418 Park Road) today began offering a weekday Italian lunch buffet for $7.99 that contributes 10 percent of the food bill to the YWCA Central Carolinas. “Many of the people who eat at Fiamma are concerned about issues relating to women, families and children,” said owner Fernando Campoverde. “If they will come and enjoy Fiamma’s authentic Italian lunch buffet, they can feel good about helping those causes.” Money raised by Fiamma for the YWCA will go to three programs: Women in Transition, Families Together and Youth Learning Centers. Also available at Fiamma: A special $25 menu each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.
  • Monday through Thursday this week, Zebra (4521 Sharon Road) is offering a half-price deal on its entire, 900-bottle wine list. (Yes, you can combine this with the three-courses-for-$44 meal.) Examples include a 2006 Ben Glaetzer Amon Ra Shiraz for $76; a 2006 Cakebread Chardonnay for $48 and the owner's "make me an offer" for a '94 Screaming Eagle.
  • Hotel Charlotte (705 S. Sharon Amity Road) offers weeknight specials that include slow-roasted prime rib each Monday for $1 per ounce, with a 6-ounce minimum. (Also offered, with prices that vary: ribs on Tuesdays, pasta on Wednesdays and meatloaf on Thursdays.) 704-364-8755.

Pig, wine and Moose

Pig coming up

Harper's Restaurants bought an organic, free-range Berkshire pig and an Old Spot pig from Rock House Farm near Morganton; look for dishes such as slow-cooked pork shoulder with sofrito and local wild asparagus, and crispy lobster with slow-cooked maple-soy-glazed pork belly at Mimosa Grill, M5 and Upstream over the next few weeks. For more on the farm, go here.

Wine/beer dinners

  • Harper's at Carolina Place hosts a Sam Adams dinner May 22 for $30. Five courses include creamy broccoli cheese beer soup paired with Honey Porter, and roasted pork tenderloin with smokehouse bacon cream and Irish Red. 704-541-5255.
  • Sonoma (100 N. Tryon St.) hosts a dinner featuring aged Bordeauxs from the Wine Vault on May 28. Among the offerings: grilled pork tenderloin with pappardelle, English peas and roated tomato pancetta jus with 1982 Calon Segur, and oven-baked shiitake-crusted cod with 1986 Cos D'Estournel. $100; 704-548-9463.
  • Bonterra (1829 Cleveland Ave.) puts together a dinner with Robert Keenan wines May 28, including pistachio-crusted salmon with 2004 Napa Merlot; and lamb agnolotti with 2005 Spring Mountain Mernet and 2005 Spring Mountain Mailbox Vineyard Merlot. $65; 704-333-9463.

Muhammad at fundraiser

Muhsin Muhammad's M2 Foundation -- which aims to give "academic, physical, and spiritual development to underserved young men in the 10th - 12th grades" -- held a fundraiser at the new Big View Diner near Ballantyne last week.

Pictured (left to right): Frank and Angelo Kaltsounis of the restaurant, Muhammad, foundation director Nicole Holtz, chef Anthony Soriano, Bernie Hogan and Stratos Lambos of the restaurant.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Yes, amazingly, MORE for moms

And if you need a little inspiration, check out this... first.

  • Harper's Grill uptown (129 W. Trade St.) has brunch from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. with a build-your-own-omelet station; carving station with prime rib, salmon and pork loin; pastas, shrimp and grits; dessert bar; and more. $18.95 ($12.95 for 12 and younger); 704-372-7792. A few of the new place's highlights include fried green tomatoes sandwiched between pimento cheese, feta and spinach flatbread, and daily specials such as N.C. flounder with corn salad.
  • Villa Antonio at 4707 South Blvd. hosts brunch from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. for $25 ($12 for 11 and younger). 704-523-1594.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chef Hartwick's new gig

Chef Blake Hartwick has left Bonterra in Dilworth after a decade-long run (as well as siblings Las Ramblas and the new Lodge at Colony Place) and is now at the helm at Andrew Blair's (1600 Montford Drive), where he has completely overhauled the menu.

"It's more of a Southern (list) with my twist on it, using seasonal stuff. I'm still big into the apps thing -- not tapas by any means, but the price points are low, so you can order two or three." He's making all desserts in-house now, including ice creams, and is excited about the area. "Bruce (Moffett, with Good Food) is down here now … Montford is making a resurgence. There's Brazwell's gastro pub (which replaced the former Press Box)…"

In addition, Hartwick has worked with a renovation of Andrew Blair's sibling Eat Here Now in Ayrsley (2016 Ayrsley Town Blvd.), which now has stainless steel and tile and all new furniture, and a menu that's "basically like a diner, with a good Southern comfort food take to it" and only one item over $9.

Monday, May 4, 2009

About to open: Big View

Big View Diner -- which owners Stratos Lambos and Angelo Kaltsounis describe as a big-city Greek-owned diner with a big menu and full breakfast for less than $5 (and served all day) -- is slated to open Wednesday at the corner of Ardrey Kell and Johnston Road in south Charlotte. A retro décor offers lots of seating options, and the lineup includes: housemade chips and corned beef on rye, spaghettini with fresh basil, beer-battered flounder, open-faced turkey sandwiches with cornbread sausage stuffing, hanger steaks and more. Pastry chef Frank Kaltsounis serves up a variety of desserts, including classic loukomades (warm honey fritters), and milkshakes are made with housemade ice creams.

Four large-screen TVs line the place's sports lounge, and “we expect families, sports teams, community and church groups to be a big part of our clientele,” Lambos says. “You can come casually dressed, relax, and fill up on some great food, or just stop by for a drink and watch a game." Big View joins siblings ilios noche and Nolen Kitchen. The new place will open early for breakfast beginning May 25. 704-544-0313. You can download menus and get a look at the place here.

Even more dining deals for moms

Her day is May 10 -- this Sunday.

  • Maddi's Southern Bistro at Birkdale Village offers a special brunch menu 11 a.m.-4 p.m., then dinner from 4-9 with features in addition to the regular menu. And you can take 20% off your purchase at the next-door gallery that day, too. Reservations suggested: 704-987-7762.
  • Firenze (6414 Rea Road) hosts an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet for $20 ($10 for children 8-12 and free for 7 and younger), with an a la carte menu also available. 704-544-4949.
  • Del Frisco's (4725 Piedmont Row) has a three-course brunch for $29.95 and a children's menu for $9.95, plus live jazz. Dinner will be a three-courser for $35.95, with choices including beef tournedos, grilled pork chop and salmon. 704-552-5502.
  • Dilworth Neighborhood Grille (911 E. Morehead St.) has an all-you-can-eat brunch for $12.95 (kids younger than 10 $5.95) with live jazz from noon to 3. 704-377-3808.
  • Carpe Diem (1535 Elizabeth Ave.) will open from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. for brunch, with two courses for $25 ($12.50 for kids younger than 12). Among the choices: eggs Benedict with Virginia ham, ricotta pancake with fresh berry sauce, buttermilk fried chicken and crab cakes. 704-377-7976.
  • Gado Gado (157 N. Trade St., Matthews) will be open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. with a limited dinner menu and patio seating available. 704-844-8686.
  • Max’s Ally (355 John Galt Way in Afton Village, Concord) offers brunch from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for $23.95 ($7.95 for kids 4-12, $16.95 for seniors). Among the choices are shrimp and grits, eggs Benedict and a carving station. 704-721-6297.
  • Lava Bistro (8708 J.W. Clay Blvd.) will be open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. with its full lunch and inner menus, and there'll be live entertainment on the lakeside patio from noon-3 and 5-8 p.m. Its three-courses-for-$30 offer is good through June 1, and applicable on Mother's Day, too. 704-549-0050.
  • Zink American Kitchen (201 N. Tryon St.) hosts brunch from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. for $22.95 ($9.95 for 3-12) and offers a limited menu after 5 p.m. 704-444-9001. Sibling Mimosa Grill (327 S. Tryon St.) will also have brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m. ($21.95; $10.95) and also open for dinner at 5 p.m.; 704-343-0700.
  • Pewter Rose (1820 South Blvd.) will be open Mother's Day evening as well as for brunch, with its regular menu and a few surprise specials. 704-332-8149.
  • Passion8 (3415 Highway 51 N, Fort Mill) offers four courses for $45 with seatings at noon, 3 and 6 p.m. 803-802-7455.
  • Mez (EpiCentre uptown) hosts brunch 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. for $21.95, with prime rib carving station, crepe station (sweet and savory), chilled seafood, eggs Benedict and more. 704-971-2400.

Floating martinis and more

Zebra (4521 Sharon Road) offers a three-course menu for $34 today through Friday (May 8), and if you go tonight-Wednesday, you can also have 20 percent off any one bottle of wine. Among the menu choices: lobster bisque, truffled mushroom foie gras soup, torchon of foie gras with Italian black truffles, salmon, N.C. rainbow trout, lamb tenderloin, warm chocolate cake with caramel ice cream, lemon curd tart with fresh berries, and more. 704-442-9525.

(The drink at right, by the way, is Zebra's "Rasmopolitan": raspberry vodka with cranberry and lime, with a sheet of ice supporting a sorbet garnish.)

Also new: Through May 28, you can get a weekday breakfast free if you buy something of equal or greater cost.

Wine dinners
  • Ratcliffe on the Green (435 S. Tryon St.) plans a four-course French wine country dinner May 11. Mussels, N.C. mountain trout, Poulet Rouge coq au vin and French farina cake are the dishes. $60 or two for $110; 704-358-9898.
  • Passion8 (3415 Highway 51 N, Fort Mill) hosts "Small Bites and Wine Flight Night" 7-10 p.m. May 14, with multiple mini courses, all paired with wine features, for $40. 803-802-7455.
  • The Wine Shop at Foxcroft (7824 Fairview Road) hosts a Spanish tapas wine dinner May 13 with Andre Tamers of De Maison Selections speaking. The menu includes pan-seared scallop wrapped in Serrano ham with arugula, almonds and oranges, with 2006 Do Ferreiro Albarino; and marinated, grilled quail with 2006 Joan D'Anguera Finca L'Argata. $50; 704-365-6550.
And of course, more for Mom
  • TOMI (7741 Colony Road) will be open 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. with a special menu for $10 per entrée. 704-759-1288.

  • Something different for Mom: Go to to register to win tickets to "Phantom of the Opera" at the Performing Arts Center plus a $100 gift card to Sonoma (100 N. Tryon St.). Sonoma is also running a three-courses-for-$30 deal for the run of that show, which is June 10-July 5; the special runs all evening, not just pre-theater.

First Bite: Crepe Cellar

The food: Crepes, yes, but also fat mussels and whole roasted chickens and steaks and frites (thin, lovely fries and a thick, smallish steak). Crepe fillings include spinach and wild mushroom with goat cheese and caramelized shallots (well done), four cheeses and Grateful Growers sausage with peppers, and the crepes themselves are nicely executed. The mussels, with butter and white wine, were a generous portion and great-flavored, but disappointingly cold. Don't miss Nutella and banana crepes for dessert.

The look: Smooth and easy, with a few roomy booths, a handsome mottled floor and windows that open (literally) onto North Davidson Street in NoDa. Brick surrounds the handsome wood bar back and the place feels appropriately lived in. It can be noisy, with all those hard surfaces, so be forewarned.

The servers: Amiable, if a bit slow, ours knew their stuff. Management was very solicitous on our visit, touring the dining room; I've heard of hour-plus waits other nights and expect it to take awhile to gel.

The details: 3116 N. Davidson St.; 704-910-6543; Lunch and dinner ($7-$16) Tuesday-Saturday.