Monday, November 30, 2009

Dine (or drink) out, do good

  • Mez hosts a fundraiser Dec. 7 for the Community Culinary School of Charlotte, with food, beer, wine, entertainment, a "silent auction and loud raffle" -- all for $25. The school is a nonprofit that provides training and job search help in the food service industry for adults; more at You can get tickets from CCSC chef Ron Ahlert by calling 704-375-4500, through the International Food Service Executives Association by calling Agnew Hopkins at 980-598-1526, or at the door.
  • The Liberty and the Olde Mecklenburg Brewing company have a deal: For every pint of OMB sold, they will donate $1 to the Dilworth Soup Kitchen. 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

New chefs

  • Chef Thomas Kerns, formerly chef de cuisine at Harper's, now runs the kitchen at Terrace Café near SouthPark. With experience as sous chef at Upstream and Charlotte Country Club, among other places, he says his passion is "Southern classics with a twist" and that his menu includes "a lot of items that SouthPark diners haven't seen before." Among Terrace offerings: s'mores French toast; filet medallion eggs Benedict; tofu lettuce wraps, Highland Gaelic fish and chips, and more. 4625 Piedmont Row Drive; 704-554-6177.
  • Andrew King, owner of High Cotton Catering, is now also executive chef at Hotel Charlotte. He has preserved old standards such as shrimp Creole, she crab soup, po' boys and bananas Foster, and added such dishes as fried green tomatoes topped with housemade pimento cheese; sweet potato ravioli in blue cheese sauce; housemade chicken salad wrap; honey-glazed salmon; and more, plus chicken and dumplings with collards and mac and cheese as a daily special on Tuesdays. Other daily specials will shift, says King, as he tries new items (example: collard green egg rolls with orange-lime dipping sauce) to gauge reaction. 705 S. Sharon Amity Road; 704-364-8755.

Friday, November 20, 2009

More for vegans

  • Amelie's has on regular rotation several vegan soups: carrot ginger wild rice, spicy tahini chickpea and spicy Thai sweet potato. Also, if you give them 48 hours notice, you can get many of the place's other soups made for vegans, including farmhouse butternut squash and tomato fennel. 2424 N. Davidson St.; 704-376-1781.

  • Brixx offers a vegan cheese that can be subbed for regular cheese on any pizza for no additional cost. Also, it's caisen-free; not all soy-based cheeses are. (Casein, for the uneducated among us on this issue, is a phosphoprotein in cow milk and cheese -- so it's vegetarian but not vegan. It also has a similar molecular structure to gluten, so many people who have problems with gluten also have problems with casein.) Multiple locations.

Thanksgiving additions

Both Red Rocks locations will be open for Thanksgiving, offering a buffet (by reservation only) 11 a.m.- 7 p.m. for $22.95 for adults and $10.95 for those younger than 12. Among the offerings: herb roasted turkey, dry-rubbed sliced sirloin, lemon-cranberry-glazed Atlantic salmon, pineapple-glazed ham, fried chicken, a "dessert extravaganza" and more. Strawberry Hill: 704-364-0402; Birkdale Village: 704-892-9999.

BLT Steak offers a three-course menu noon-9 p.m. for $68 ($34 for younger than 12); choices include butternut squash soup; wild mushroom risotto; organic turkey with chestnut stuffing; prime rib; seared Scottish salmon; chocolate tart and more. 110 N. College St.; 704-972-4380.

Passion8 Bistro serves dinner 3-9 p.m. Among menu choices ($45 per person; free for 6 and younger): roasted butternut squash with honey-almond-mascarpone quenelle; organic turkey breast and roulade with stuffing, Grateful Growers bone-in pork chop, shrimp and pumpkin grits; family-style sides and ganache pumpkin bread pudding. 3415 Highway 51 N., Fort Mill; 803-802-7455.

Pewter Rose will serve day-after-Thanksgiving brunch (its usual brunch menu) 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Nov. 27. 1820 South Blvd., 704-332-8149.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New sweets and other news

  • The Crepe Cellar in NoDa begins this week opening on Sunday nights. Also new there: French onion soup topped with Gruyere, and "blasted Brussel sprouts": halved, fried (unbreaded) sprouts, tossed in an arugula sauce. 3116 N. Davidson St.; 704-910-6543.
  • On the new winter dessert menu at 300 East: white chocolate bread pudding with bittersweet chocolate sauce and pear preserves; pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust (also sold for holidays for $40 each); crostata of Nise’s Herb Farm apples and almond frangipane; butterscotch-chocolate creme brulee; Callebaut brownie; and housemade butter pecan ice cream sandwich with molasses cookies. 300 East Blvd.; 704-332-6507.
  • New exec chef at Mama Ricotta's is Tom Dyrness, who has worked as executive sous chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Restaurant in San Francisco and most recently at Mimosa Grill in uptown.

First Bite: The Liberty

First Bite is a look at a restaurant that's opened recently, based on one visit -- not a full-fledged review. (Want to get notes like this as soon as they're posted? Follow me on Twitter: @helenschwab.)

The food: Lush, wintry and rich -- from small plates like "pot of duck" (think pate) to pork belly sliders to beef short ribs served with Anson Mills farro (a grain cooked to risotto-like texture). Former Harper's group exec chef Tom Condron is roasting and braising and skillet-searing fare designed to go with beer (the place is, after all, subtitled "Gastropub"), but it's got the cold-weather comfort food thing going on, too. About 20 beers are available on tap (about $2.50-$6.50) and nearly 50 by the bottle ($2.50-$9), with new ones rotating in: Flying Dog, multiple Allagashes, Stone Ruination (yum) and more. The wine list is interesting, too, if not as extensive. Lucky Gastro-Pig is a winner of a dish, roasted Black Berkshire pork shoulder served with crepes (though four aren't quite enough), pineapple, jalapeno, lime, peanuts, slaw, lettuce and sauce, so you can roll your own little packages. Short rib is terrific and the burger's a big sloppy thing with herb aioli, bacon and Sweet Grass cheddar. And a great bun. Temps need attention, but it's on the right path.

The look: You won't recognize the space as McIntosh's, let's put it that way. Rough woods, kegs stacked as columns, backlit screens portraying foamy beer on walls and chandeliers, a rogue's gallery of family photos and classic beer ads in the bar: It's witty without going too far. (OK, the foamy beer may be going too far -- but the framed ads are nothing short of amazing. Plan to peruse.)

The service: Educated, conversant and willing to recommend both particular dishes and accompanying drinks, these folk, in jeans and T shirts, keep the vibe comfortable yet smart.

Note: The place will serve a Thanksgiving buffet 11 a.m.-5 p.m. for $18.95, with organic turkey, prime rib, carved ham, cedar plank salmon, salads, shellfish, sides, dessert bar and more.

Details: Lunch ($5-$12) and dinner ($10-$21) daily. 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830;

Dine out, do good

  • Upstream hosts its first annual oyster bash Nov. 20: 10 varieties of cold water oysters (plus a "mystery" 11th!) with 10 paired wines and champagnes for $75, with a portion of the proceeds going to Share Our Strength, a national organization working to end childhood hunger. On tap -- for us oyster freaks -- are Kumamotos, Rappahannocks, Old Salts, Stingrays, York Rivers, Blue Points, Malpeques, Maison Beausoleils, Moonstones and more. Reservations are required; 6902 Phillips Place, 704-556-7730.
  • Buy a glass of Veuve Clicquot and six oysters for $25 at The Palm, and a portion will be donated to Dress for Success. The program aims to provide disadvantaged women with professional attire and support to help them find and keep jobs. This offer runs through the end of the year. Charlotte's Palm is at 6705-B Phillips Place Court; 704-552-7256.

Even more for Thanksgiving

  • Buca di Beppo will be open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, serving its full Italian menu, plus traditional fare. 10915 Carolina Place Parkway; 704-542-5146.
  • The Palm hosts a three-course dinner for $45 ($22.50 for children), with choices that include lobster bisque; slow-roasted turkey with stuffing; sweet potatoes; creamed spinach; New York cheesecake and more. 6705-B Phillips Place Court; reservations at 704-552-7256.
  • Eat Here Now offers a package estimated to feed six for $49.99 plus tax: 2 pounds of sliced turkey, 2 pounds of dressing, 8 ounces turkey gravy, three quarts of six sides and rolls or cornbread. Orders must be in by 5 p.m. Nov. 25 and can be picked up 8 a.m.-noon on Thanksgiving Day; 2016 Ayrsley Town Blvd.; 704-499-9999.
  • Stratos Restaurant Group (Nolen Kitchen, ilios noche, Big View Diner) offers takeout dinner for 8-10 for $195: herb roasted Sanders Farm turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, etc., plus an add-on dessert package. Orders are due Nov. 23 and you can pick up before 4 p.m. Nov. 25; 704-544-0313.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Think you know how to eat at buffets?

Among our links of the week is this one, on taking full advantage of buffets (including the charming disclaimer that the entire thing "should not be adhered to by rational human beings").

Don't miss the same author's "Where Should I Eat: Fast Food Edition" flowchart here.

And if you feel as I do about Rachael Ray, you may enjoy this, while if you feel as I do about banh mi, the Vietnamese cuisine's answer to sub sandwiches, you will like this.

Hooters where?

Among significant U.S. exports to Africa, one can now add the Hooters restaurant chain and all it's famed for: The continent's first Hooters is slated to open Dec. 12 in the city of Durban in Umhlanga. It's the first of three planned South Africa locations and will have, according to Hooters' press release, "a delicious local menu as well as Hooters' famous chicken wings" plus about 30 plasma TVs. Incidentally, the 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament will be in South Africa -- and you can still get tickets! Go to

Turkey Day gets Soul and more

  • Soul will be open 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Thanksgiving, and among the quirky features will be hot sage sausage and brioche stuffing cubes, sour cream whipped potato croquettes with giblet gravy, turkey and provolone panini with cranberry aioli, fried mushrooms over creamy shaved Brussel sprout ragout, and tempura-fried green beans and onions with porcini cream. 1500 Central Ave.; 704-348-1848.
  • Villa Antonio at 4707 South Blvd. will be open 4-8:30 p.m. with its regular menu, plus a five-course Thanksgiving one for $28. Also offered: to-go dinners (noon to 8 p.m.) that feed six to eight for $135. 704-523-1594.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Operatic options

Opera Carolina serves up specials for National Opera Week (Nov. 13-22). On Nov. 19, The Palm offers Opera Ventura from 6-8 p.m., a lineup of hors d'oeuvres, wines and cheeses, plus a Wheel-of-Fortune-like game show called "Opera Wheel," in which guests spin for prizes and operatic singing. $20; 704-332-7177 ext. 210.

Blue wraps up the week with a champagne reception and five-course meal with live opera Nov. 22. mong the offerings: seared quail breast, with "Tonight" from "West Side Story"; Tega Hills mixed greens with "Rusalka's Song to the Moon" from "Rusalka" and "Impossible Dream" from "Man of La Mancha"; pan-seared grouper or slow-cooked beef short ribs with "You'll Never Walk Alone" from "Carousel" and "Les Poissons" from "The Little Mermaid"; and more. Reservations required. Hearst Tower uptown; $65; 704-927-2583.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dine out, do good

The Melting Pot runs its sixth annual "Thanks and Giving" campaign through Dec. 5 to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital: With every donation of $10 or more, guests receive a Fondue for the Kids Card that offers $20 off any purchase of $50 or more. All proceeds from the Fondue for the Kids Card will be donated to St. Jude. The Melting Pots of Charlotte also sell "Fondue a Cure for Childhood Cancer" signature chocolate fondue bars: $1 of each $5 you pay for the bar goes to the hospital. Info at or 800-478-5833.

Upstream at Phillips Place hosts a five-course J. Lohr wine dinner Nov. 13, with $2 from every bottle of 2005 "Carol's Vineyards" Cabernet Sauvignon going to the National Breast Cancer Foundation toward funding 500 mammograms. $65; reservations: 704-556-7730.

Special dinners

  • Single malt Scotch lovers get a dinner at Blue Nov. 13, with five dishes, cigars at the end and Hendrick Porsche providing a Porsche for a weekend getaway to one winner at evening's end. Among the pairings: warm brined Arctic char with Oban 14 Year Single West Highland Malt; roasted squab with Talisker 10 Year Single Isle of Skye Malt; and roasted venison loin with Lagavulin 16 Year Single Islay Malt. $75; Hearst Tower uptown (corner of College and 5th streets). Reservations required: 704-927-2583.
  • Fig Tree presents a five-course wild game menu with Spanish wines Nov. 11. Among the pairings: frog legs en croute with 2005 Jose Pariente Verdejo; and saddle of rabbit with 2006 Dominio de Tares Baltos Mencia. $70; 1601 E. 7th St.; 704-332.3322.
  • Revolution Pizza & Ale House hosts a Highland Brewery beer dinner Nov. 15 with owner Oscar Wong present. Beverages include St. Terese's Pale Ale, Oatmeal Porter, Mocha Stout and more. $35; 3228 N. Davidson St.; 704-333-4440.
  • Passion8 Bistro hosts a book launch dinner Nov. 18 -- one of several restaurants across the country doing dinners that night -- for "Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town," a book celebrating slow food in Italy. Author Douglas Gayeton will attend the dinner at Chez Panisse (whose legendary chef Alice Waters wrote the book's introduction), while the publisher will join the dinner in the East Hampton's Nick and Toni's. Zagat is supporting the venture, and the cost -- $180 per couple -- includes a copy of the book. 3415 Highway 51 N., Fort Mill; 803-802-7455.
  • Bonterra hosts a Gundlach Bundschu dinner and wine pairing Nov. 18, with Jeff Bundschu in attendance. Among the offerings: citrus-marinated scallops with 2007 Estate Vineyard Chardonnay and almond-crusted duck breast with 2005 Rhinefarm Vineyard Mountain Cuvee. $75 (or $140 per couple); 1829 Cleveland Ave.; 704-333-9463.
  • D'Vine Wine Cafe hosts an Elyse Vineyards (Napa) dinner Nov. 19, with a large-format bottle to be raffled off. On the menu: braised oxtail with 2006 C'est Si Bon; espresso-dusted barbecue wild boar spare ribs with 2006 Howell Mountain Zinfandel; and more. $74.99; 14815 John J. Delaney Drive; 704-369-5050.

Restaurant holiday plans

McNinch House morphs into a "Victorian holiday wonderland," as its press release puts it, for Christmas each year, and for the 2009 season, owner Ellen Davis will open on Sundays and Mondays in December. The restaurant is also adding two abbreviated fixed-price menus for the season, with a five-course version for $79 and four courses for $59. Among the dishes: Burgundy- and spice-marinated loin of venison, and Grateful Growers Tamworth pork osso buco. 511 N. Church St.; 704-332-6159.

The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge (10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway) does lots for the festive season. On the restaurant-related side, there's:
  • The "Biggest Little Office Holiday Party" 6:30-midnight Dec. 4, with three courses, dessert and coffee station, live music and two drinks per person for $64. Reservations: 704-248-4035.
  • Etiquette Tea with Mrs. Claus is billed as a "festive, fun way to learn table manner lessons" for kids, who'll get treats, crafts and story time 2-4 p.m. Dec. 6. $40 per child, $20 per adult (for groups of 6 or more, $35 per child, $15 per adult); reservations: 704-248-4055.
  • Christmas Day Brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., a buffet with omelet and carving stations for $48.95 ($25.95 for 7-12, $7.95 for 3-6, and free for younger). Reservations: 704-248-4100.
  • New Year's Eve Package, with four-course dinner, breakfast in bed, and late check-out of 4 p.m., starting at $294 for a single and $394 for double occupancy. Reservations: 888-627-8048.

Mert's Heart, Periodic (Dessert) Table & More

Check out Mert's Heart and Soul owner James Bazzelle in a Visa ad here.

In case you've wondered about the structure of shortbread or the weight of marshmallow, check out the clever Periodic Table of Dessert here. I get the Dr abbreviation for "little silver balls" -- their formal name is dragees -- but there's a lot that's over my head. Still fun to contemplate.

And the Daily Beast Web site put up a slide show lovingly entitled "Food That Can Kill You Instantly" here. Bon (visual) appetit!

Sliders! Pig! and other news

  • Zink American Kitchen now has a slider bar weekdays from 4 p.m. to closing: You mix and match -- among American Wagyu burger sliders, fried chicken sliders, pulled pork, and/or tacos of short rib, chicken, braised pork or fish -- and pay $2.50 for one, $6 for three, $10 for five. Add a beer for $2. 201 N. Tryon St.; 704-444-9001.
  •, on which you can order online German foods, ran a contest for German restaurants, promising to tally a popular vote, then conduct on-site visits to the top vote-getters. Charlotte's Waldhorn (12101 Lancaster Hwy., Pineville; 704-540-7047) made the list of top 20 vote-getters.
  • Cantina 1511's Stonecrest location roasts a pig every other Wednesday (next up: Nov. 18), then starts serving pork at 5 p.m. as a dinner entree or in $1.50 tacos. Also up there: all-you-can-eat game days for football season Sundays, with nachos, tacos, wings and quesadillas for $15, plus $1 domestic beers. 7708 Rea Road; 704-752-9797.
  • Also at StoneCrest: Firebirds has added new items at lunch and dinner, and updated its bar; look for a "waterfall" of backlit bottles and a new wine wall facing the dining room. Among new dishes: a burger topped with goat and pepperjack cheeses and roasted poblano chiles; a bleu cheese burger; grilled fish of the day; warm brownie with salted caramel sauce; apple cobbler and more. 7716 Read Road; 704-752-7979. (The new dishes are also offered at the Northlake Mall and Morrison Plaza locations of Firebirds.)

Chef Convo

Karime Lopez is serving as consulting chef at Cantina 1511 in Charlotte. We asked her a few questions:

Tell us a little about your background: the foods you grew up with, how you got into cooking, your experience and training.

I grew up in a family that loves good food. I have been taught by my family that I should invest in a good lunch and good dinner because it is culture and sharing. My grandmothers and my mother are my favorite chefs. I became interested in cooking while living in Paris. The smell of bread, pain au chocolat, and good cheese inspired me. Everywhere I traveled in Paris, I experienced great food. After Paris, I decided to move to Spain, where I studied at Seville University. After college, I went to work for Chef Santi Santamaria for two years in a three-star Michelin restaurant. Chef Santi showed me the importance of high-quality fresh food. I then went to work for Chef Andoni at Mugaritz Restaurant, a two-star Michelin restaurant. Chef Andoni broadened my knowledge of plants, herbs, flowers, and about the simplicity of food. I went back to Mexico to be in charge of creativity and projects for Chef Enrique Olvera, in Pujol Restaurant, a four-diamond restaurant. After Pujol, I did a stage at Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen, a two-star Michelin restaurant. Lastly, I returned back to Mexico to work as executive chef for Danzantes Restaurants. I am passionate about teaching; it is one of my favorite things about being a chef.

What do you love most to cook?

I have many favorite dishes to cook. Two in particular are Pescado Veracruz and Huevos Campesinos, both of which are being added to Cantina 1511's menu.

What do you bring to Cantina 1511 that is most valuable for the restaurant?

I bring real Mexican food, real flavors, good products and excellent quality. I love and am proud of my food and my culture.

What do you think is the main difference between Charlotte diners and those you've cooked for elsewhere?

The Charlotte community seems to be very inquisitive and open to trying my authentic creations.

Is there one dish you hope Charlotte diners will fall in love with?

Tamales, moles and fresh salsas.

What's the best meal you've ever had, as a diner?

My mother's food is the best in the world.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Should DINERS Never Do?

The obvious needed accompaniment to the New York Times' story on "100 Things Servers Should Never Do" (second 50 should be out soon; the first 50 are here) is a parallel list for the customers. A few have had a stab at it -- I'm a fan of Waiter Rant's here (be aware it's predictably off-color in spots) -- but I think we can do better.

I'll start:

1. Never complain about anything more subtle than a wrong order unless and until you have waited on tables for a minimum 30 days yourself. (I'm not kidding: My plan for America includes mandatory 1-month stints waiting tables, selling retail and bus-driving before the age of 25. Schwab in 2016.)

2. Don't call your server by any dimunitive -- not dear, honey, sweetie, son: Nothing.

3. Never say you're allergic to anything if you're not. Raising the specter of anaphylactic shock and its accompanying degree of care is not something you do if you just don't like peanuts.

4. Beckon a server with a nod of the head, a raise of the eyebrow, an "excuse me?" Yells, whistles, claps and especially finger snaps are not acceptable.

5. If you intend to give a server the change, make a point of saying, "Keep the change" when you hand them the money. That saves them a trip back to the table; if it's busy, every trip matters.

Now you take a turn. I'll add more...

News, notes

  • Pewter Rose has new winter menus for lunch, brunch and dinner, emphasizing local foodstuffs and N.C. coastal catches, with nothing over $13 on the lunch lineup and an under-$10 bar menu. Among the new: Grateful Growers cider-braised pork shank and grilled tofu steak for dinner; two-bean chili for lunch; smoked salmon hash, Italian omelet and Oscar Benedict (crabcakes) for brunch, and lamb lollipops on the bar menu. 1820 South Blvd.; 704-332-8149.
  • Longitude 81 offers oysters roasted or on the half shell for a quarter apiece through November; chef Gregory Sheppard says he's getting in some beautiful Apalachicolas, along with fresh stone crab claws. 971 Gold Hill Road in Fort Mill, S.C.; 803-802-9981.
  • Del Frisco's has a new menu. Among the debuts: sliced sesame tuna; Prime beef carpaccio with Creole mustard; blue cheese wedge salad; 12-ounce cuts of Prime ribeye and strip steaks (smaller options than the usual); veal porterhouse; halibut with white bean ragout; crab cakes with jicama slaw and more. 4725 Piedmont Row near SouthPark; 704-552-5502.
  • The second Charlotte-area Zoes Kitchen (yes, like that, with no apostrophe) is open in Midtown's Metropolitan complex, featuring its menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes. (The first is at Blakeney.) The expansion is one of about 200 planned in the Southeast for the currently-30-store chain out of Birmingham. 1055 Metropolitan Ave.; 704-347-5858; you can get an idea of the menu here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Free food, discounted food...

  • Come to Sunday brunch between 10:30 a.m. and noon at Harper's at Carolina Place mall and you get one complimentary brunch item per table when you buy another (with a minimum of two guests per table). 11059 Carolina Place Parkway; 704-541-5255.
  • Village Bistro now has weekday lunch specials for $6.99, including a soft drink. Sandwiches, half-sandwiches plus soup, quesadillas and pasta are among the choices. 14815 John J. Delaney Drive; 704- 369-5190.
  • Now through Dec. 23, T.G.I. Friday's has eight half-price appetizers in the bar after 4 p.m. at nearly 600 participating restaurants, from chicken strips to loaded potato skins to Buffalo wings.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Free food, discounted food and more

  • All Applebee's (and there are about 2,000 of them) plan to honor U.S. veterans and active-duty military with a free meal Nov. 11: Just bring proof of current or former U.S. military service and you'll get a free entrée from a special menu, and it's offered from lunchtime through dinner (but dine-in only). See for details.
  • Uno Chicago Grill offers a free entrée or individual pizza with the purchase of another to all members of the military that day. Arrive in uniform, or bring a photo of yourself in uniform or a military or veteran's ID. Charlotte's Uno is at 401 S. Tryon St.; 704-373-0085.
  • Sole celebrates its seventh birthday with $7 dinner entrees before 7 p.m. Sunday-Thursday throughout November. 1608 East Blvd.; 704-343-9890.
  • Cosmos Café also is celebrating -- it's been uptown for 12 years now, and is offering a three-course $12 menu and $12 bottles of wine Nov. 9-14 at both its uptown site (300 N. College St.) and Ballantyne one (8420 Rea Road). Among the dishes are sea scallops with red pepper sauce; chicken paillard with garlic mashed potatoes; grilled marinated flank steak and more.
  • Mert's Heart and Soul now offers a birthday club program, with a free entrée of salmon cakes or barbecue to members on their birthdays. To join, go here. 214 N. College St.

More for Thanksgiving

Mimosa Grill hosts a buffet from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. for $24.95 ($12.95 for 10 and younger). Hot carving station, sides, dessert lineup: Take a look here. 327 S. Tryon St.; 704-343-0700.

Longitude 81 plans a Lowcountry Barbecue Dinner for Turkey Day, from noon to 6 p.m., all-you-can-eat for $21.95 per person ($12.95 for kids). Among the dishes: sweet potato bisque, oyster stew, barbecued turkey with giblet gravy and spiced honey-glazed ham, sides served family style and choice of bourbon pecan cobbler or pumpkin Frangelico mousse pie. (And yes, the place has TVs for football). 971 Gold Hill Road in Fort Mill, S.C.; 803-802-9981.

The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge does brunch from 11 a.m.–3 p.m., with carving stations, decorative displays and more. $48.95 ($25.95 for children 7-12, $7.95 for 3-6, free for those younger than 3); reservations required; 704-248-4100 or

Renaissance SouthPark (5501 Carnegie Blvd., 704-501-2510) and Charlotte Marriott (2200 Rexford Road, 704-364-8220) will offer plated dinners from noon to 6 p.m. for $29 ($14 for 6-12, children's menu offered to 5 and younger), with entree choices including smoked paprika roast turkey with giblet pecan gravy, seared striped bass and filet mignon.

Gado Gado will offer a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner from 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. for $25 ($12 for younger than 12). 157 N. Trade St., Matthews; 704-844-8686;

All 47 locations of Fatz Cafe will be open on Thanksgiving Day, serving turkey meals for $10.99 as well as offering takeout versions of the traditional dishes. For locations, go to

Villa Antonio at 4707 South Blvd. has a Thanksgiving to-go package ($135 feeds 6-8 people and you can pick it up hot on Thanksgiving Day) and will also be open for dinner that day from 4-8:30 p.m. 704-523-1594.

Zink American Kitchen hosts a buffet from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. for $21.95 ($10.95 kids 3-10 and free for younger). 201 N. Tryon St.; 704-444-9001.

What should servers NEVER do?

The New York Times ran a story recently on 50 things a server should never do, with 50 more to come this week. They're mostly logical and appropriate, though there are several I could go either way on. See what you think here. And don't miss the comments -- more than 1,000 of them -- since they are the most entertaining part. Personal fave: "Bruce (the author), you seem like the kind of diner whose food would get spit in." Most surprising: "Profanity in a nice restaurant is almost a guaranteed extra 5% (tip) from me."