Thursday, December 30, 2010

Newly updated: New Year's Eve plans

Fran's Filling Station will be open for New Year's Eve, serving a menu of favorites along with "some things more reminiscent of Metropolitan Cafe," says Fran Scibelli, referring to her former more-upscale spot in south Charlotte. New Year's Day brings her first annual "Lucky Food" buffet, with the traditional Southern dishes of braised pork, collards, black-eyed peas, plus other fare, served all day -- like an open house. 2410 Park Road; 704-372-2009.

Sante hosts a five-course meal for $59.95, with choices that range from roasted lamb rack to filet mignon to lobster. Seatings are 5-9:30 p.m. and you get a $10 discount if you reserve or arrive by 5:30. The place will also be open 5-9 New Year's Day. 165 N. Trade St., Matthews; 704-845-1899.

Sibling restaurants Press will offer half-off bottles of wine for the Eve; Aria will have its regular dinner menu and offer a complimentary Prosecco toast for each diner; and Frankies 710 Trattoria will offer three courses for $30, including a half-carafe of house wine per couple.

Another group of siblings: Toscana will have its regular menu plus some specials; Luce offers three courses for $34.95 with choices that include short ribs, shellfish and linguine and osso buco; Coco Osteria will do three courses for $25.95, with choices ranging from lobster ravioli to lasagne to stuffed pork chop; and MezzaNotte will have its regular dinner menu and plans to host families, especially ones with "lots of kids."

The Liberty offers a $40 three-course menu (with beer pairings for $15 more), with choices that include roasted chestnut soup, crispy smoked Sonoma quail salad, Maine lobster and shell bean succotash, local wild striped bass, hanger steak, maple-cured Black Berkshire pork loin chop and more. 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

Soul Gastrolounge opens for dinner at 5 (the usual time), with music kicking in at 10 p.m. Dec. 31. Dinner features include new potato and lobster chowder with caviar garnish and surf and turf, and music from the MedlinKidz. 1500 Central Ave., 704-348-1848.

Lava Bistro and Bar will have three courses and a glass of Champagne for $39.99, with seatings between 5 and 8:30 p.m. 8708 J.W. Clay Blvd.; 704-549-0050.

Global plans two seatings: 6 and 8:30 p.m., each with five courses and a glass of Champagne for $65 ($95 with wine pairings). 3520 Toringdon Way; 704-248-0866.

Nolen Kitchen offers a special meal for $35, a Champagne toast at midnight, and is taking reservations from 5-10:30 p.m., with the party going at the bar until 2 a.m. 2839 Selwyn Ave.; 704-372-1424.

The McNinch House offers two New Year's Eve packages: "grand" (seven courses with wine pairings) and "premier" (five). Live music from jazz guitarist John Sharp will be on hand, as well as Champagne and favors. 511 N. Church St.; 704-332-6159.

At Foskoskies, Blue Tulip will play jazz and count down the New Year. The restaurant is taking reservations for seatings on the hour and half hour throughout the night and will offer regular dinner entrees and salads a la carte, and a three-course fixed-price menu ($41-$47) as well. 2121 Shamrock Drive; 704-535-2220.

"New Year’s Eve at The Urban Garden" will put guests in the glass-roofed Urban Garden joined to the uptown Ritz-Carlton by an enclosed walkway, with live music, an open cash bar, complimentary parking and party favors. Admission is $50; $75 for VIP seating on the terrace/overlook level, which will include a reserved table, Champagne toast and dessert and coffee bar. Hours are 10 p.m.-2 a.m. If you dine at the hotel's BLT Steak that night, you'll get complimentary admission. Tickets (nonrefundable) are available at 704-972-4401, or from the reception desk of The Ritz-Carlton (110 N. College St.) on Dec. 31, based upon availability.

Village Bistro will do a four-course meal for $39.95, seatings are 4-8 p.m. or 8-11 p.m. 14815 Ballantyne Village Way; 704-369-5190.

Kalu does an eight-course dim sum prix-fixe menu for New Year's, with seatings in the downstairs lounge at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Cost is $150 per couple, plus tax and tip, and includes a bottle of sparkling sake. During the dinner each couple will receive a red envelope of "luck," an Asian New Year’s tradition; one will hold a $75 Kalu gift certificate. Reservations are required: 505 E. Sixth St.; 704-910-4877.

Blue hosts a party with a 5-6 p.m. seating and three-course meal for $29.95. Corner of 5th and College streets; 704-927-2583.

Georges Brasserie offers its regular menu plus a three-course chef's tasting menu (with blue-cheese-crusted filet mignon and lobster tail, among other items) for $75, wine pairings an additional $25. Veuve Cliquot will be discounted all evening, and there'll be dancing with live music from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. 4620 Piedmont Row Drive; 980-219-7409.

The Wine Shop at Rivergate will have a four-course menu with Champagne toast for $45, with entree choices including osso buco and veal Marsala. (It's also offering New Year's Day brunch from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. with live music.) 14142 Rivergate Parkway; 704-831-9000.

The Wine Shop at Foxcroft, meanwhile, has two seatings (6 and 8:30 p.m.) for a $49, three-course meal that includes one bottle of red or white wine from a selected list, plus a complimentary Champagne toast. 7824 Fairview Road; 704-365-6550.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Next Restaurant Week approaches

The $30 dinner deal that comes twice a year is on the way: "Queen's Feast" runs Jan. 21-30, with 83 restaurants participating. The website,, goes live Dec. 31. Diners get three courses (occasionally more), and locations include uptown Charlotte, Matthews, Lake Norman, Concord, Belmont and Fort Mill. Among the first-timers are Bistro La Bon in Plaza Midwood, Vida and Halcyon uptown and Flatiron Kitchen + Tap Room in Davidson.

A geographic breakdown, as the site will have it:

Dilworth: 131 Main, 300 East, Bonterra, Cantina 1511, Copper, Dolce and Fiamma.

Eastover: Deejai Thai, Primo Tuscan Grille and Providence Cafe.

Elizabeth: Cajun Queen, Carpe Diem and Customshop.

Lake Norman / North Mecklenburg / Iredell County: 131 Main, Alton's, Choplin's, Dressler's, Flatiron, Kabuto, Mickey & Mooch, North Harbor Club, The Prickly Pear and Red Rocks Cafe.

Matthews: Sante.

Midtown: Dressler's, Mama Ricotta's, Melting Pot and Vivace.

Plaza Midwood: Bistro La Bon and Lulu.

South Charlotte (Ballantyne / Arboretum / Pineville / Fort Mill, S.C.): 131 Main, Cantina 1511, Gallery, Global, Maestro's Bar & Bistro, Mickey & Mooch, Passion8 Bistro, Rudy's Italian Restaurant, Tria Terra and Trio.

South End: The Liberty Gastropub, Pewter Rose and Sullivan's Steakhouse.

SouthPark / Park Road / Foxcroft: Andrew Blair's, BrickTop's, Cafe Monte, Del Frisco's, Georges Brasserie, McCormick & Schmick's, Paco's Tacos & Tequila, The Palm, Red Rocks Cafe, Ruth's Chris, Terrace Cafe, Toscana, Upstream and Village Tavern.

Southwest Charlotte / Yorkmount: Omaha Steakhouse.

University / Concord: Melting Pot, Rocky River Grille & Lounge and The Speedway Club.

Uptown: Aquavina, Aria, BlackFinn, BLT Steak, Blue, Caffe Siena, The Capital Grille, Chima, Enso, Fleming's, Frankie's 710 Trattoria, Halcyon, LaVecchia's, Luce, McCormick & Schmick's, Mez, Morton's, Press, Ruth's Chris, Sonoma and Vida.

West Mecklenburg / Gaston County: Old Stone Steakhouse.

Monday, December 20, 2010


... is slated to appear at the Big View Diner from 5-7:30 p.m. Dec. 22 and 23, I'm told... 16637 Lancaster Highway; 704-544-0313.

In other holiday related news:
New South Kitchen will do Christmas Eve buffet 4-8 p.m. with traditional Southern holiday favorites for $30 (kids $15), and offer brunch ($15; $7.50) on New Year's Day from 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Dinner will be 3-10. 8140 Providence Road; 704-541-9990.

Lulu will be open 11 a.m.-2 p.m. for lunch and 5-10 for dinner Christmas Eve, then again on Dec. 26 for brunch and dinner. For New Year's Eve, lunch will be 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and dinner 5-11, with brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and dinner 5-11 p.m. New Year's Day. 1911 Central Ave.; 704-376-2242.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dine out, do good

Mac’s Speed Shop will now bottle and distribute The Coleman Foundation's Coleman’s Home BBQ Sauce, with all profits donated to help prevent homelessness. A product launch party beginning at 5 p.m. Dec. 19 at the 2511 South Blvd. location of Mac's will benefit the Urban Ministry Center and guests will get samples of pork topped with the sauce, named (as the press release puts it) "in honor of one man's personal story of survival on the streets." 704-522-6227.

Cyros Sushi rolls out new sakes and an assortment of sushi Dec. 20, along with a silent auction and new signature artwork, with 15 percent of the evening's proceeds going to support Charlotte's Muscular Dystrophy Association's community efforts. If you purchase art, you'll be able to count 15 percent as a charitable donation as well. $65 for food, drink and MDA donation; 6601 Morrison Blvd.; 704-919-1881.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas takeout

Mimosa Grill offers a prepared Christmas dinner for pickup 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Christmas Eve for $24.95 per person. Entrees include prime rib and glazed ham. 327 S. Tryon St.; 704-343-0700.

New at Blue

Blue hosts a Champagne dinner Dec. 17, with five stations of cuisine and Champagne pairings for $34.95. Hearst Tower, corner of College and 5th streets; 704-927-2583.

Also, Blue will offer a three-course Christmas Eve dinner for $34.95

And, among new dishes on its regular menu: pan-seared Hudson Valley foie gras over ginger-spiced bread pudding; chicken kofta kabobs; roasted mushroom flatbread; Niman Ranch pork osso buco; stuffed trout wrapped with Bayonne ham; and oven-roasted venison tenderloin.

New: Opus One by the glass?

Slated to open Dec. 29 is Urban Sip, a "fine beverage experience" on the 15th floor of the Ritz-Carlton uptown. It will offer 90 wines and 35 single malt Scotches by the glass, including ones not usually offered by the glass, such as Far Niente Chardonnay, Opus One, Dom Perignon Champagne, Macallan 25 Year scotch, Hennessey Paradis cognac and Blanton's Single Barrel whiskey. Wines by the glass will run $9-$39. Also on the menu: 21 cheeses, including several from North Carolina. It's slated to be open 5-11 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays. 110 N. College St.

New at the renovated Renaissance Charlotte SouthPark Hotel is Flagstones Restaurant, serving "Southern Bistro" cuisine from executive chef Scott Spaulding. Among the dishes: cedar plank grilled Carolina trout, Southern style fried chicken with cornbread waffles, and goat cheese custard with raspberry and honey. 704-501-2510.

Deals, deals

Kalu offers a $15 three-dish "omakase" deal 5-7 p.m. and 1o p.m.-closing in the lounge, a combination usually costing $30. Dishes will vary each night but will usually include dim sum, sushi and a grilled item. 704-910-4877.

Bring in five pounds of food to the Pizza Peel to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank in December and you'll get 10 percent off your check. The restaurant's goal is to raise 1,000 pounds. 4422 Colwick Road; 704-714-8808.

At sibling restaurants Nolen Kitchen (2839 Selwyn Ave.) and ilios noche (11508 Providence Road), one kid 12 and younger can eat free (from the kids' menu, including ice cream) every Monday, when with an adult who spends at least $10 on food.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wendy's new fries: Thumbs ...

... up, basically.

Weeks after these new french fries debuted nationally (because Wendy's has a "no waste" policy, a publicity person told me, meaning restaurants had to run out of the old fries before selling the new ones), they're knocking around Charlotte. And they're tasty. Thinner, crisper and a good deal saltier than the old version, these employ russet potatoes, with some skin left on, and sea salt, and are the first major tinkering with fries that Wendy's has done in its 40+ years.

A staggering change? Nope.

Chief marketing officer Ken Caldwell has said the company wanted "every ingredient to be a simple ingredient" and that skin-on reminds people that fries come from potatoes. (!) Both the old and new come to stores frozen. The new ones are fried in a different blend of vegetable oils. But nutrionally, the new fries jump significantly in sodium -- 500 milligrams in a medium order, compared to 350 for the old. (And sea salt is generally thought no healthier for you than regular rock salt.) Calories are a push: The new add 10 cals for a total of 420.

Tried them?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday shenanigans

Red Rocks Cafe at Strawberry Hill serves breakfast with Santa not once but twice Dec. 18; seatings are at 8:30 and 10:15 and the menu ranges from eggs and bacon to peppermint pancakes. Cookies, too, of course. Reservation required; $15 for sdults, $8 for kids; 4223-8 Providence Road; 704-364-0402.

Through Dec. 26, participating Krispy Kremes are serving up the Snowman, the Wreath, the chocolate-iced-glazed-with-holiday-sprinkles and the new Chocolate Peppermint Bark doughnuts.

Zebra's taking reservations for both the Eves -- Christmas Eve and New Year's Eves -- and reservations are required. The first offers the regular menu, the second a four-courser for $74. 4521 Sharon Road; 704-442-9525.

Passion8 will also be open Christmas Eve (then closed through Jan. 4): four courses, $48.

Now through Dec. 24, anyone who buys $25 or more in gift cards at Chipotle can bring in the receipt on the next visit (before Dec. 31) for a free burrito, bowl, salad or order of tacos.

Chef's table at Mez, new menu

Mez executive chef Anoosh Shariat now offers a chef's table, with a view of all kitchen action and seating for 14. Five tapas-style courses are served, with prices starting at $50 per person; the menu is tailored individually, but among possibilities are crabcakes with caper beurre blanc; seared ahi tuna with ginger lemongrass French toast; shrimp scampi with grilled tomato and lemon garlic butter. 210 E. Trade St.; 704-971-2401 or e-mail

On the new winter dinner menu at Terrace Café (with most entrees less than $20): open-faced turkey and gravy sandwich, butternut squash ravioli, chicken pot pie and more. 4625 Piedmont Row Drive; 704-554-6177.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Coming up: Prohibition, fundraising fun, more wine

Whiskey Warehouse hosts a Prohibition Party Dec. 4 with $3.50 pints, $6 Woodford old-fashioneds and $9 absinthes, among other specials. Food specials will include spiral-cut honey glazed ham; classic shrimp cocktail; pot roast; chicken Stroganoff and more. 1221 The Plaza; 704-334-7005.

Dec. 7 at Mez is the Community Culinary School of Charlotte's annual fundraiser, with the International Food Service Executives Association: $25 gets you in for food, beer, wine and entertainment, plus a silent auction "and loud raffle." Proceeds go to CCSC, a private not-for-profit group that provides food-service training and job search help to adults who have had barriers to employment. You can get tickets through CCSC chef Ron Ahlert at 704-375-4500 or IFSEA's Agnew Hopkins at 980-598-1526. Mez is at 210 E. Trade St. at the EpiCentre.

Bistro La Bon hosts a seven-course Catena Family Wines dinner Dec. 8. Among the courses: butter-poached halibut with Chardonnay; duck breast with Malbec and lamb Wellington with Alma Negra Red Blend. $65; 1322 Central Ave.; 704-333-4646.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sir Ed's returns

Sir Edmond Halley's reopened tonight for dinner, serving until 10 p.m., with the bar open until 2 a.m. Look for the kitchen to stay open that late, and for lunch, after Thanksgiving. 4151 Park Road; 704-525-2555.

New, updated Thanksgiving (and pre-)

Harvest Moon Grille will offer a family-style local Thanksgiving Day meal featuring local heritage turkey and pork, chestnut-sausage stuffing, collard green salad, roasted root vegetables and more. Seatings are at 1 and 3 p.m., with private dining offered for parties of 10 or more.
$39.99 per person plus tax and tip; $12.99 for those younger than 9.
At the Dunhill, 237 N. Tryon St.; 704-332-4141.

Soul Gastrolounge offers "Get-Ready-for-Thanksgiving" specials Nov. 24 (that's Wednesday), including creamed Brussels sprouts and mushrooms with crispy fried onion rings; new potato croquettes with giblet gravy filling; pan-fried sage sausage stuffing cubes; turkey noodle kugel and more for $5 to $8.
Soul will also be open 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Thanksgiving Day for a "Vicious Thanksgiving" -- sushi only, plus house music by DJ Johnny Vicious. 1500 Central Ave.; 704-348-1848.

All drafts go for $3 Thanksgiving Eve at The Pizza Peel. 4422 Colwick Road; 704-714-8808.

Nov. 22 is the last day you can order a pick-up Thanksgiving spread from Stratos Restaurant Group (Nolen Kitchen, ilios noche, Big View Diner): $195 buys you a meal for 8-10, and you can also get desserts a la carte. Pick-up is Nov. 24 before 4 p.m. 704-544-0313.

The Mac's Speed Shop location on South Boulevard hosts its first annual Thanksgiving Eve party Nov. 24; patrons can pick up their smoked turkeys, hams and sides from 2-6 p.m., and from 6:30 p.m. on, there'll be live rock 'n' roll and half-price pints. 2511 South Blvd.; 704-522-6227.

Lulu will be open Thanksgiving 11 a.m.-6 p.m., with specials and the regular dinner menu. 1911 Central Ave.; reservations: 704-376-2242.

Upstream , at Phillips Place in SouthPark, will be open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. for a traditional dinner. $34.95, $14.95 for those 12 and younger. Reservations required; 704-556-7730.

Passion8 Bistro offers three courses for $48 (kids 6 and younger are free and 7-12 half price) from 4-8:30 p.m. Or you can get Thanksgiving platters to go: main dishes, hors d'oeuvres, sides, etc. 3415 Highway 51 North in Fort Mill; 803-802-7455.

New South Kitchen will be open, as well as offering complete take-home dinners. Dinner will be served noon-5 p.m., with traditional Southern dishes on the menu, for $30 per person. For takeout, including turkey, sausage cornbread stuffing, collards, sweet potato casserole, bourbon-soaked bread pudding and more: 704-541-9990. 8140 Providence Road;

GadoGado will serve a traditional dinner (all-natural turkey and honey-glazed ham, sides, dessert) noon-6 p.m. for $27. 157 N. Trade St., Matthews; 704-844-8686.

Harper's at SouthPark offers complete to-go dinners with choice of traditional Southern roasted or oven ready turkeys, plus trimmings. 704-366-6612.

Villa Antonio at 4707 South Blvd. offers a meal for 6-8 people for $135; 704-523-1594.

More takeout options: The VanLandingham Estate (2010 The Plaza) and The Morehead Inn (1122 E. Morehead St.) offer pickup and a wide menu. Go the their websites: and And Mimosa Grill, at which you can pick up a turkey and sides the day before or day of Thanksgiving, for $24.95 per person. (Yes, they'll also be serving dine-in here; see below.) Details: 704-343-0700.

Both Red Rocks Cafes will do buffets 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. $23.95 for adults, $10.95 for 12 and younger; reservations are required; or via phone (Birkdale Village in Huntersville: 704-892-9999; Strawberry Hill, 4223 Providence Road; 704-364-0402).

Mimosa Grill hosts a family-style dinner 11 a.m.-4 p.m. for $24.95. 327 S. Tryon St.; 704-343-0700.

Mez will host Thanksgiving brunch 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m., with salad and carving stations, breakfast dishes and traditional sides such as sweet potato casserole and cornbread stuffing, plus a dessert display including pumpkin, apple and chocolate chip pecan pie. $18.95; 210 E. Trade St. at the EpiCentre; 704-971-2400.

The Liberty offers a three-course dinner 11 a.m.-4 p.m. for $19.95 ($5.95 for those 7 and younger) and includes an all-you-can-eat dessert bar. 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge offers brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., with seasonal salads, displays, carving stations with regional sides, and desserts. $55 ($28 for children ages 5-12, free for those 4 and younger); 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; reservations required at 704-248-4100 or

BLT Steak wins the prize with earliest announcement of Thanksgiving Day plans. The place, at the Ritz-Carlton in uptown (110 N. College St.), will do a three-course prix fixe turkey dinner by chef de cuisine Ben Miles, offered for $68 from noon-8 p.m. Among the entree options: organic turkey with chestnut stuffing; prime rib with caramelized onion and bacon popovers; seared Scottish salmon with braised fennel. Reservations: 704-972-4380.

Panera en route to Uptown

Panera Bread is slated to open at 201 S. College St. (that's the Charlotte Plaza building) Dec. 13. The chain offers fresh baked breads, an emphasis on organic and natural ingredients and a bakery/cafe menu. Hours will be 6 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. 704-972-9822.

Coming up, and spotted around

Gospel brunch at an unlikely venue 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 27: Bruce Julian Clothier, at 8128 Providence Road. Look for shrimp and grits, ham biscuits, chicken and waffles, Bloody Marys, Mimosas and sales through the store for this "first annual" event. 704-364-8686.

Georges Brasserie hosts a Chimay chef’s tasting dinner Nov. 30. On the menu: sweet potato beignets with savory caramelized onion and pecan butter, with Chimay Red; crispy pork belly with Chimay Triple; and braised short rib with sautéed exotic mushrooms, shoestring boniato and Chimay Blue. $45; 4620 Piedmont Row Drive; 980-219-7409.

Sighted Saturday: The guy above right, holding a sign for Kickstand (the new burger place next to Loco Lime at 1101 Central Ave. In case you can't read it, the top says "PENGUINS WELCOME! AT Kickstand".

Red Mango is slated to open a store in Huntersville Dec. 4, serving self-serve frozen yogurt and smoothies. On opening day, customers get free yogurt 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 9918 Knockando Lane in the NorthCross Shopping Center.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bits and crumbs

Steven Roth, a Johnson & Wales grad who served an apprenticeship with at star chef Thomas Keller's French Laundry and was formerly with Villa Antonio in Charlotte, is the new executive chef at Andrew Blair's. 1600 Montford Drive; 704-525-8282.

New at Fran's Filling Station: Four additional taps for draft beer (going from two to six total), with more on the way, and a plan for rotating the selection -- current offerings include Two Hearted Ale, Duck Rabbit Milk Stout and Highland Gaelic. Also offered now: call-ahead seating, "Thanksgiving on a plate" (house-roasted turkey with gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potato and vegetable) nightly, and reservations for holiday catering, both in the restaurant (for example, reserving it between lunch and dinner for a group) and in-home. 2410 Park Road; 704-372-2009.

Nolen Kitchen does an all-day-Monday happy hour menu that offers all the following for $3 each: zucchini chips with lemon-infused yogurt, smoked salmon and caper dip with pita, half-orders of Buffalo wings with housemade sauce, grilled cheese with bacon, Kobe beef sliders, chile-rubbed babyback ribs and more. 2839 Selwyn Ave.; 704-372-1424.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New spots all over

Newk’s Express Café is slated to open its second Charlotte location Nov. 21, at 101 N. Tryon St. It's a fast-casual concept created by the founders of McAlister's, and offers made-to-order salads (that's "Newk's Favorite" above), oven-baked sandwiches, California-style pizzas, soups, cakes and more. A third is planned for summer 2011, in Huntersville or SouthPark, and the company press says it'll open two locations a year in the Charlotte area for the next five years.
The new site will host a Newk's-Komen "Survivor of the Month" dinner for the Charlotte affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure on its opening evening; that's an event for which women are nominated and one is chosen to have a celebratory dinner, usually with 50 guests. (Want to nominate? E-mail to

The Charlotte Convention Center now has Delish food court, a space comprised of Buon Cibo (selling brick-oven pizzas, panini and salads), Einstein Bros. Bagels, and Bojangles'. It's open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays, and is on the ballroom and meeting room level of the center, 501 S. College St.

Kennedy's Premium Bar & Grill is open at 7th and North Caswell streets in Elizabeth, with Irish whiskey, Guinness, burgers and wings, Celtic Caesar wraps and fish and chips, and shepherd's pies. 704-375-0218.

Thanksgiving help

The King’s Kitchen and Rooster's, both of Jim Noble Restaurants, will be involved with serving the hungry this year at Thanksgiving, with food prep done at Rooster's and serving on Nov. 25 done at The King's Kitchen, a not-for-profit restaurant whose proceeds go to hunger relief. Food will also be delivered to several local ministries. Bojangles has donated turkeys for the event, says Jim Noble, who adds that diners also can purchase cards that benefit The King's Kitchen efforts. They then receive a greeting card to give, or they can ask that the Kitchen mail the card directly to the recipient. Details: and

Special dinners

Both locations of Cosmos Cafe offer a $20 menu through November, with a $20 wine list as well. On the food lineup: choices of marinated pork loin, catfish meuniere, pesto grilled chicken over angel hair and more. 300 N. College St.; 704-372-3553; 8420 Rea Road; 704-544-5268.

Tria Terra offers live music and a three-course dinner for $32 Nov. 20, including choice of salad, tapas or antipasto; black lobster ravioli, short ribs in Barolo sauce or grilled salmon with portobellos; and cheesecake or tiramisu. 7707 Pineville-Matthews Road; reservations: 704-541-2924 or

The Wine Shop at Foxcroft hosts a Nuevo Latino South American wine dinner with Alfredo Bartholomaus on Dec. 7 for $65. Bartholomaus has been called one of the 20 most influential people in wine by Robert Parker's "Wine Advocate" for introducing the wines of Chile and Argentina to America. Here, he'll be with guest chefs Graham Giacobbe and Zack Gadberry and a menu that includes Argentinean stew with chorizo and boar, served inside a roasted squash, with 2007 Cousiño-Macul Finis Terrae; flatiron steak with 2006 Catena Alta Malbec; and more. 7824 Fairview Road; reservations: 704-365-6550.

McNinch House is getting dressed for the holidays, with owner Ellen Davis decorating the 120-year-old Queen Anne Victorian in uptown's Fourth Ward, and chef Chris Coleman creating a menu for the season, including hanger steak, N.C. black grouper and a Burgundy- and spice-marinated venison tenderloin. Diners choose among three fixed-price multi-course menus, including a midweek four-courser for $59. 511 N. Church St.; 704-332-6159.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Links of the week

Here is one reason eGullet can be worth checking: An entire thread devoted to "obsessive coffee fetishes," beginning with (and it is JUST the beginning) how the the lid should go on takeout coffee: with the opening exactly opposite the cup's seam. (Because the seam leaks, and this way you can sip without looking.)

From Salon comes the intriguing sentence: "I decided to tackle the project of painting all the presidents with ham."

Sign of the apocalypse: Rolling Stone Restaurant & Lounge opens Nov. 21 in Los Angeles. “(This) captures the essence of the magazine and is the ideal extension of our brand," said Jann Wenner, founder and publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine. Says the press release: "The 10,500-sq. ft. space is distinguished by a 'vintage chic' design, a facile interplay between 19th-century European bohemia and modern American bravura." The menu includes small plates, snacks such as soft pretzel knots with beer cheese fondue; "mini sandos" (sandwiches?); entrees such as pan-roasted wild striped bass and organic herbed chicken; and an emphasis on "American preparations, and flavors infused from Asia and Europe."
I give it six months.

New menus

Paco's Tacos has added chimichangas at both lunch and dinner, along with smaller portions of dishes such as fajitas and shrimp entrees. Also new: sandwiches at lunch time, including a brisket sandwich and one with chicken, jalapeno-pepper-bacon and avocado on Texas toast. 6401 Morrison Blvd.; 704-716-8226.

Growlers Pourhouse has added panini sandwiches and pimento cheese to its menu, along with a new Reuben. 3110 N. Davidson St.; 704-910-6566.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What'll be on new Sir Edmond Halley menu?

Svend Deal confirms Sir Edmond Halley's will reopen, on the back side of Park Road Shopping Center, later this month if all goes according to plan. Deal, an original partner in the British-accented restaurant and freehouse (think pub), had left the business in 2002, he says, and has now put together a new ownership group. (That includes Lane Jefferies, a college friend of Deal's who used to work at McZ's and East Blvd. Bar and Grill "back in the day," as well as former -- and original -- Sir Ed's head bartender Jeff Roberts.)

The well-loved place closed in July after about 15 years in business; original chef-partner Tobin McAfee is not part of the new business.

Expect a menu that gets back to basics, says Deal -- among dishes the regulars have pleaded for, and will get, are Hong Kong eggrolls, ostrich meatloaf, Guinness stew, bangers and mash, and Irish potato cakes. There'll be fewer specials and the standard menu will now include a steak, a fish dish and a vegetarian entree. Kitchen staffing is not finalized. Former employee Helen Marie White will be general manager.

Other notes: The Stammtisch will be there; the new owners bought this "regulars' table" at auction and returned it to its original spot, complete with sign and bell to ring when someone wants to buy a round for the table. A new tap system is installed, adding four new taps for a total of 12, and Deal says they'll have most of the draft beers the place carried before.

Deal notes the powerful role social media has played in this story, saying he gets Facebook posts and e-mail every day about the place (the latest was a heartfelt plea for the Jamaican jerk chicken nachos...).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Uptown gets (more) new

Saying, "We want to be that friendly neighborhood place people visit daily," Pierre Bader announced he's turning Pie Town into FRANKIES 710; the trattoria will open Nov. 12 for dinner in its new incarnation.
Look for new colors, table settings and a generally more casual feel -- "It was a little bit too stiff for a pizza joint," says Bader -- along with a menu that now focuses on scaloppine dishes such as chicken Marsala and piccata and veal parmigiana, saltimbocca and pizzaiola, along with other casual Italian fare: pizzas, pastas and salads. Peter Reinhart is no longer a partner in the venture.
Lunch ($7-$14) weekdays; dinner (about $9-$18) Monday-Saturday; 710 W. Trade St.; 704-379-7555.

Drink out, do good

Getting clean water to the more than 1 billion people without it is the goal of Wine to Water (take a look here or here). If you want to see the presentation he gave at TEDxCharlotte, start here).

To that end, Soul Gastrolounge and TEDxCharlotte sponsor a Wine to Water Social at Soul Nov. 11 from 5-8 p.m. Wine to Water founder and president (and N.C. native) Doc Hendley will be there. Donate $20 and you'll get wine and "nibbles," and all proceeds go to Wine to Water. A compelling fact or two: More children die from water-related illnesses than from AIDS, malaria and measles combined, says Hendley, and $30 can get a filter in Haiti that gives a family clean water for up to five years. (So throw in that extra ten-spot at the door, if you've got it!)

Beer, Beaujolais, Bourbon (not together)

Whiskey Warehouse hosts an Olde Mecklenburg beer dinner Nov. 17, with Allison Stoltz from the brewery on hand. The menu includes hand-pulled barbecue chicken over cheesy grit cake with Copper Altbier; pot roast with Bauern Bock Doppelbock Lager; and more. $25; 1221 The Plaza; 704-334-7005.

The Palm offers a Woodford Reserve bourbon dinner Nov. 17. Among the courses: choice of veal osso buco braised in Woodford bourbon, on saffron risotto, or pan-seared Atlantic salmon with bourbon reduction over Yukon Gold whipped potatoes (each with Woodford Reserve neat), and warm buttermilk donuts with bourbon praline glaze. $90 ($75 for 837 club members); Phillips Place; 704-552-7450.

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé! Well, it will have arrived Nov. 18 at Blue , which hosts a wine and food pairing to celebrate the midnight release of the 2010 Beaujolais Nouveau. Five dishes will be offered, including pan-seared scallop with roasted beet and beurre rouge; and Moroccan spiced breast of squab over almond basmati rice. $34.95; Hearst Tower at College and 5th streets; reservations required; 704-927-2583.

BLT Steak at the Ritz-Carlton uptown will also celebrate that release, with a special three-course menu and Cru Beaujolais pairings for $50 Nov. 18-23. The menu includes thyme-basted venison loin, chevre custard and more, and a special charcuterie place paired with Cru Beaujolais varietals will be offered at the bar for $10 each day. 704-972-4380.

Harper's at Carolina Place hosts an Olde Mecklenburg dinner Nov. 19 for $30. 11059 Carolina Place Parkway, Pineville; 704-541-5255.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dine/drink out, do good

Paco's Tacos & Tequila hosts a four-course Milagro tequila dinner Nov. 17, benefitting Pat's Place Child Advocacy Center. Milagro expert Lauren Nguyen will be on hand to discuss cocktails and a flight with diners. $40; 6401 Morrison Blvd.; reservations required: 704-716-8226.

Johnny’s Red Bowl plans a Water (for Troops) Into Wine event Nov. 5-12: Bring a case of water (24 bottles minimum, in 12-ounce plastic bottles) to the restaurant and you'll be able to buy bottles of wine at the "WIW" price, posted on the wine list. Examples: G. D. Cru du Beaujolas Moulin-A-Vent $5, Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay $13; 2009 Cartlidge & Browne Chardonnay $6. 10822 Providence Road; 704-814-7777.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Links of the week

In preparation for Thanksgiving, check out the "winning technique" on turkey-cooking here. (PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT suggesting this. I am AMUSED by this.)

Here's a serious moment: How to keep kids healthy.

And fun again: An amazing glimpse: I've watched it eleventy-thousand times today.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Uptown gets another new one!

Halcyon: Flavors from the Earth is the name of the newest spot coming to uptown, from the folks at Something Classic.

It’ll be in the new Mint Museum (the balcony to the left if you’re looking at the front of the museum), and will open for lunch Thanksgiving weekend, then for dinner the following Tuesday, Nov. 30. Jill Marcus of Something Classic says chef will be Marc Jacksina, formerly of Lulu and Andrew Blair’s, and that the menu will be “farm to fork, seasonal and local … peasant … but very signature him.” Details to come ...

Expect dinner entrees in the $17-$23 range, lunch in the $8-$13 slot. You’ll be able to pull up to a 16-seat chef’s tasting table (of curly maple) for special menus or get a burger of house-ground meat, grab-and-go with a Something Classic sandwich at lunch if you’re pressed for time, dine out on a 35-seat patio (with the best view in all of Charlotte, says Marcus) and get drinks from a full bar.

Halcyon will be open beyond museum hours (daily for lunch; dinner Tuesday-Saturday) and is a collaboration – Marcus says she’s worked on the idea with the museum for about four years – but a stand-alone restaurant. Museum members will get a 10 percent discount at all meals. Parking is available off First Street in the Duke Energy deck.

For those of you keeping score at home, Halcyon joins Vapiano going into South Tryon Square, Harvest Moon Grille going into the Dunhill (formerly Monticello), the Midnight Diner arriving on Tryon, Vida opening at the EpiCentre, and several more spots on tap or in development.

Bits and crumbs

The third annual Taste of the Panthers will be Nov. 15, a spinoff of the Taste of the NFL, which raises money for and awareness about community hunger. This event, in the Bank of America stadium, will benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. Cost: $150 regular admission, $250 VIP (you get in an hour early, too). Participating restaurants include Aria, Bonterra, Chima, Encore, Enso, Kalu, McNinch House, Mimosa Grille, Paco's Tacos, Rooster's, Ruth's Chris, Sunset Grille and Zebra. Tickets:

Lava Bistro & Bar will begin Nov. 12 offering a kids' feature: all children up to 8 years old eat free, all day, every day, with the purchase of one adult entree. Also beginning Nov. 12: half-price select bottles of wine each Friday and Saturday night. 8708 J.W. Clay Blvd.; 704-549-0050.

Among the dishes on the fall/winter menu at ilios noche: a ground-in-house lamb burger with Greek seasonings, feta, caramelized onion and tzatziki sauce; pappardelle wtih wild mushrooms and chicken; burrata Caprese (fresh cream-filled mozzarella with tomato and basil; and seasonal fish. 11508 Providence Road; 704-814-9882.

Coming up: wine, coffee, wine, opera

Del Frisco's hosts a Palm Bay International wine dinner Nov. 4, with master sommelier Laura DePasquale presenting each wine. Among the pairings: house-cured salmon with caviar over English cucumber with Gossett "Grand Rose" Brut; and filet mignon with sauce Diane, seasonal roasted vegetables and 2004 and 2007 Jean-Luc Colombo "Terres Brulees." $125; 4725 Piedmont Row Drive; reservations (required): 704-552-5502.

This year, bagel chain Bruegger’s is adding a perk to its Bottomless Mug Club. That's the plan in which the owner gets free, limitless refills of coffee, tea or soft drinks through the following year. This year, a portion of proceeds from each mug sale goes to Children's Miracle Network. Kickoff for the sale is Nov. 10, when everyone can get a free cup of coffee at all Bruegger's (the hope is that you'll donate what you would have paid to CMN). Cost of the Bottomless Mug is $139 in Charlotte.

Aria and Sonoma uptown will offer a three-courses-for-$30 dinner Nov. 16 in conjunction with a Pinot Noir tasting (ostensibly to help you pick a wine for Thanksgiving) at Founders Hall arranged by the Wine Vault. The tasting will offer more than 20 Pinot Noirs, including small producers from California, Oregon, New Zealand and France, and will cost $25 (waived if you buy a case). The restaurants will offer three-for-$30 from their regular menu choices to tasting attendees, and will not charge them corkage fees. Reservations for the tasting: 704-548-9463.

Rudy’s hosts an opera night Nov. 16, with two sopranos, two tenors and a pianist, along with a $40 dinner menu that includes lobster bisque, risotto with shiitakes, filet mignon or sea bass and dessert. 6414 Rea Road; 704-544-4949.

Friday, October 29, 2010

New, big "fresh casual" headed to Uptown

Vapiano, an international restaurant chain with just nine sites currently in the United States but more than 30 in other countries and many in the works, is slated to open uptown in 2011, according to Adam Williams of Legacy Real Estate Advisors. It's going into South Tryon Square, at 201 S. Tryon St., taking more than 10,000 square feet.

The Vapiano menu emphasizes "fresh casual" and the decor includes live olive trees and pots of herbs, as well as a view of its pasta being made and a distinctly European feel in seating; you can get a look at the idea here.

Begun in 2002 in Hamburg, Vapiano offers a spinoff of northern Italian cuisine, with made-to-order thin-crust pizza, pastas and salads, and customers order their meals using “chip card” technology, says the company.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Celebrate mom, do good

A farm-to-fork five-course dinner Oct. 30 at Honey Mountain Farm in Mount Ulla (about 40 miles north-northeast of Charlotte) benefits Friendship Trays in Charlotte and honors "Food, Friendship and the Magic of Matriarchal Love." Chefs from 300 East, Rooster's and Blue are doing fare that uses almost exclusively local foodstuffs, including grilled ostrich, sherry-braised beef shank, burnt-honey creme with persimmon sponge, and more. A silent auction, poetry (write your own about the wisdom or inspiration of your mom, or someone maternal) and music are planned, too.

335 McNeely Road in Mount Ulla; $65; reservations: 704-650-3606 or 704-239-5255. More info on Friendship Trays is at

First bite: Harvest Moon Grille (non-truck version)

First Bite is a look at a restaurant that’s opened recently, based on one visit – not a full-fledged review.

The food: Grateful Growers, an area farm known for its pork products, has run a traveling lunch truck for some time, playing off the talents of co-owner/chef Cassie Parsons and other staff. Now the venture veers into The Dunhill Hotel uptown, offering meals predicated on local goods and opening so softly the restaurant name still wasn't on the menu or receipts for our visit last week. (Parsons tells me the logo is just about ready now.) But we had some marvelous food. The simple: a beautiful plate of housemade cheeses, with finely diced fresh beets and thinly sliced pear and apple; a dazzlingly crisp house salad with bright vinaigrette; perfect, light, hot rolls. The complex: a tremendous bone-in pork chop brined in mocha stout and served with quinoa pilaf; and pappardelle (ribbon pasta) with shiitake mushroom confit and Hercules peas (a heritage seed: think field pea rather than green). The odd: a weird version of beef Bourguignon in which the beef is rolled around pickled vegetables.

The look: Extremely simply furnished, with artwork of vivid produce and livestock (though I'm not sure how I feel about looking at the handsome pig), this dining room remains an uptown treasure -- all pale gold walls and dark wood and windows facing an attractive view of Tryon.

The service: Our server was enthusiastic and well-trained, explaining the local concept immediately, and giving sound advice. Sharing the vision with diners will be critical; that's off to a promising start.

Quirks of note: Local-grown Avett Brothers were prominent in the soundtrack. Wouldn't a restaurant that played all local music be cool?

Details: 237 N. Tryon St.; 704-342-1193. Hours: weekdays, breakfast 6:30-10:30 a.m., lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday brunch 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Dinner (entrees $13-$23) nightly 5-10.

Poulet Soiree

New Town Farms in the Waxhaw area hosts a multi-course meal beginning at 3 p.m. Nov. 6, with chef Joseph Bonaparte putting to use pasture-raised French heritage breed chicken and organic vegetables from the farm's fall garden. Also on hand: sustainably produced wines. $65; reservations:

Northside loses a restaurant

After three years at Huntersville's Birkdale Village, Positano will close after Oct. 30. Owner Augusto Conte says he is "looking to other Charlotte locations for our next venture." He cites an "unsuccessful lease negotiation attempt" for the decision on Positano, and notes that uptown's Luce and Coco Osteria remain open. (Toscana and MezzaNotte are open, too.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dine out, do good

Want to support the Community Culinary School of Charlotte, which helps people with employment barriers get career training? "BISTRO! Buddies" is its newest program. "BISTRO!" is an event held every other Thursday when class is in session, at which students prepare food for diners to show what they're learning. It's free, but donations are welcome. A Buddy agrees to match the donations from one of those events, up to $250. Buddies can be one person, or a corporation. If you or your company becomes a Buddy, you can invite friends and/or associates to come to a BISTRO! event, and you'll get special recognition, reserved seating, recognition on the website and on the website of sister agency Friendship Trays, too. Info: Chef Ron Ahlert at CCSC at 704-375-4500, or e-mail

Blue hosts a wine and cheese tasting, plus a silent auction, Nov. 3 to benefit Presbyterian Cancer Rehabilitation & Wellness, which offers programs for cancer survivors, including yoga, massage, exercise and nutrition services. Admission: $25 donation. Hearst Tower, at the corner of 5th and College streets; 704-927-2583.

Monday, October 25, 2010

For veterans, a deal

McCormick & Schmick’s honors U.S. veterans for the 12th straight year with an appreciation event: This year's is Nov. 7, when they'll get a complimentary entree from a Veteran's Day menu. Details and reservations: The event is for veterans who have served in the active military, naval, or air service and who were honorably discharged or released. All must show proper identification.

Bits and crumbs

The Ballantyne location of Eddie's Place closed Oct. 25, but the Cotswold location (617 S. Sharon Amity Road) is still open, and will honor gift certificates.

Chipotle and famous chef/TV personality Jamie Oliver have a deal for you that will help Oliver's "Food Revolution," aimed at teaching folks to cook and eat fresh foods: Dress up as "a horrific processed food item" (see suggestions at right) and go to a Chipotle between 6 p.m. and closing time Oct. 31, and you get a burrito for $2. All proceeds up to $1 million go to Oliver's Food Revolution group.

Cantina 1511 at 1511 East Blvd. is back open after a tree crushed air-conditioning units.

The King's Kitchen has a new website: The restaurant, at 129 W. Trade St. in uptown Charlotte, works to help relieve hunger in the community, and a press release says it recently donated $4,000 to the Harvest Center in Charlotte for food coolers.

Chef Brett McKee of 15 North Roadside Kitchen in Charlotte, and the original in this series, 17 North Roadside Kitchen in Charleston, will cook at the James Beard House in New York for the eighth straight year; go here for details.

Special dinners: Dark, beer

Passion8 Bistro hosts a dine-in-the-dark evening Oct. 27. If you've not heard of this, the theory is that if your visual sense is deprived, your others are sharpened, including, of course, taste. Four courses, $65; 3415 Highway 51 North in Fort Mill; 803-802-7455.

Andrew Blair's hosts a five-course wine dinner Oct. 27 to benefit the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research as part of a broader campaign that has been named Corks Against Cancer. $60; 1600 Montford Drive; 704-525-8282.

Brixx uptown hosts a Heavy Seas beer dinner Oct. 28, the first of several upcoming cask beer events. Among the offerings: chipotle queso, sweet corn bisque and crab cakes and jambalaya, with Heavy Seas Marzen, Small Craft Warning Uber Pils, Loose Cannon American Hop3 and more. 225 E. 6th St.; $25; 704-347-2749.

The Liberty hosts its second Beer vs Wine Dinner Nov. 6. Chef Tom Condron creates a menu, and two experts, one in beer and the other wine, come in to pair the menu with their beverages of choice. Diners keep score and a winner is declared; last time, wine won by two votes. $40; 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

Mimosa Grill offers a Childress Winery 60/60 Dinner Nov. 6 for $60; reservations ("very limited"): 704-343-0700. The 60/60 denotes that nearly all the food and wine will be from within 60 miles of Charlotte (or caught off the N.C. coast) and the cost; there'll also be six courses, and it starts at 6 p.m.

Gallery offers at Beaujolais Nouveau party Nov. 18 as its inaugural Wine Society gathering, celebrating the release of the year's Beaujolais Nouveau (historically barred from sale until the third Thursday in November). French music and hors d'oeuvres; $25; 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100. A special menu for $30 and appetizers will be offered Nov. 18-24, as well.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

BBQ comes to Plaza-Midwood

Frank Scibelli and his team plan a barbecue restaurant in what was The Central restaurant and bar (and before that Cafe Central) at 1401 Central Ave. in Plaza-Midwood. He's talked with a number of folks about the 'cue itself, including Bridges Barbecue (Red's, on 74 at Shelby, not Alston's, which is in Shelby), Chip Stamey (who was a fraternity brother of Scibelli's) and Robb Walsh from Texas, with whom Scibelli has worked on his new Tex-Mex place, Paco's Tacos & Tequila. He says he's shooting to open in the first quarter of 2011.

And speaking of Scibelli restaurants, he says that Cantina 1511 in Dilworth, onto which a massive tree fell, may be back open as soon as this weekend. The tree, luckily, hurt no one and "squished a couple of air conditioning units like a Coke can" but didn't hurt the roof. He figures the repair work will be done by the weekend, but they'll have to wait for inspectors to OK it before reopening.

Sole closes; Zen picks up dishes

Sole Spanish Grille will close after Oct. 30 after an unsuccessful lease extension attempt, ending a nine-year run in Dilworth, says partner Phong Luong. In a statement, the owners recall their neighborhood history, with the defunct Tio Montero (now Brixx) and Ole Ole (now a Dunkin' Donuts), and note that they'll be moving several of Sole's most popular dishes to their Zen fusion restaurant (now even more fusion) two blocks away. Paella, berejena rellena (that stuffed eggplant) and the tres leches cake will all appear at Zen, at 1716 Kenilworth Ave.; 704-358-9688. Miro at StoneCrest is still open, and it and Zen will honor any Sole gift certificates.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dine out, do good

Morton's The Steakhouse uptown partners with five Charlotte charities this week for Philanthropy Week. For $75, you get a three-course meal, with $25 of the dinner cost and 10 percent of all bottled wine sales going to the charity of the evening. Morton's is at 227 W. Trade St.; 704-333-2602.
Oct. 18: Girl Talk Foundation (, leadership development for girls 11-16.
Oct. 19: Belva Wallace Greenage Cancer Foundation (
Oct. 20: International House (, promoting international understanding.
Oct. 21: Humane Society of Charlotte (
Oct. 22: Latin American Chamber of Commerce Foundation, in memory of Elisa Rodriguez (

Thanksgiving plans begin

BLT Steak wins the prize with earliest announcement of Thanksgiving Day plans. The place, at the Ritz-Carlton in uptown (110 N. College St.), will do a three-course prix fixe turkey dinner by chef de cuisine Ben Miles, offered for $68 from noon-8 p.m. Among the entree options: organic turkey with chestnut stuffing; prime rib with caramelized onion and bacon popovers; seared Scottish salmon with braised fennel. Reservations: 704-972-4380.

Restaurateurs: Apply

The National Restaurant Association seeks restaurants to apply for its 2011 Restaurant Neighbor Award. The group recognizes community service by four restaurants across the country, donating $5,000 to the charitable project of each winner. Interested, restaurateurs? Apply online at before Jan. 11, 2011. NRA president Dawn Sweeney says restaurants nationwide contribute nearly $3 billion annually to charitable causes.

Restaurants may apply on their own behalf, and employees, patrons and other community members may work with a restaurant to apply. The four national winners will be presented the awards March in Washington. Both national and state winners will be recognized on the National Restaurant Association website.

The Restaurant Neighbor Award honors charitable contributions in four categories: small business, mid-size business, large business/national chain, and Cornerstone Humanitarian. Each participating state restaurant association will select winners in their respective states that will be in the running for the national award.

Phat Burrito to franchise

Phat Burrito will franchise, says Patty Dowdy on behalf of National Restaurant Properties. Founder Stephen Justice opened the California-style burrito place a dozen years ago in South End (before it was South End!). National Restaurant Properties will be the sole franchise broker and efforts will "begin regionally and eventually take over the world," says the press release -- which hastens to add that the South End store will remain the only location within 100 miles of Charlotte.

None are in the works yet, says Dowdy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bits and crumbs

ilios noche is now open Sundays, from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. 11508 Providence Road; 704-814-9882.

Chipotle plans to roll out its new kid’s menu in Charlotte starting Nov. 15 and to highlight it, will kids a free kid’s meal every Sunday from Nov. 21 through Dec. 12 when parents purchase a burrito, salad, burrito bowl (a burrito without the tortilla) or order of tacos. Among the kids' items: small cheese quesadilla for $2.95 with side of rice, choice of beans, small bag of chips and milk, apple juice or soda; or single taco with three items from the line (one meat or guacamole and two others such as salsa), with chips and choice of drink.

Beer and wine dinners

Micky's Bistro hosts a "Best of the West" wine dinner Oct. 24 for $50 per person, $90 per couple. Among the offerings: pan-seared crab cake with 2007 Robert Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay; Norwegian salmon poached in citrus-infused olive oil, with 2008 Rex Hill Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley; and filet mignon with 2006 Terra Valentine Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain. 15906 Old Statesville Road, Huntersville; 704-992-1781.

Blue hosts a beer and food tasting Oct. 27, with five dishes inspired by and paired with N.C. regional brews. Among the offerings: crisp fried oyster po' boy with Sisters of the Moon IPA; duck confit over pumpkin risotto with Highland Gaelic; and braised veal breast stuffed with prosciutto and raisins with a flight of three: Highland Clawhammer, Duck Rabbit Marzen and OMB "Mecktoberfest" Marzen. $34.95; Hearst Plaza at the corner of College and 5th streets; reservations: 704-927-2583.

D'Vine Wine Cafe in Ballanyne Village hosts a six-course Domaine Serene wine dinner Oct. 28. Among those featured: 2008 Coeur Blanc White Pinot Noir paired with grilled scallop sashimi, and 2007 Jerusalem Hill Pinot Noir paired with pumpkin and mushroom rabbit saddle. $79.99; reservations: 704-369-5050.

The Wine Vault and Upstream host a Tensley wine dinner Oct. 28 for $69. Among the courses are Carolina peach and vine-ripe tomato salad with Camp 4 Vineyard Grenache Blanc/Roussanne Blend; a taste of the Coulson Canyon Syrah; and smoked Berkshire pork tenderloin with Tensley/Montvac Detente Syrah. 6902 Phillips Place Court; reservations: 704-548-9463.

Foskoskies hosts an Australian dinner Nov. 1 featuring Penfolds Winery. On the menu: scallops rumaki with 2008 Thomas Hyland "Adelaide" Riesling; herb-roasted lamb chops with grain mustard spaetzle and 2006 "Bin 2" Shiraz-Mourvedre; and more. $40; 2121 Shamrock Drive; 704-535-2220;

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wine dinners, new menu, new hours

Aria and the Wine Vault host a five-course, seven-wine Pio Cesare wine dinner Oct. 11, with Cesare Benvenuto of the winery. Among the courses: pan-seared scampi with 2007 Pio Cesare L'Altro Chardonnay; and braised short rib with 1993 Il Bricco Barbaresco. $75; reservations: The Wine Vault, 704-548-9463; dinner at Aria, in Founders Hall uptown.

Foskoskies hosts an Australian dinner Nov. 1 featuring Penfolds Winery. On the menu: scallops rumaki with 2008 Thomas Hyland "Adelaide" Riesling; herb-roasted lamb chops with grain mustard spaetzle and 2006 "Bin 2" Shiraz-Mourvedre; and more. $40; 2121 Shamrock Drive; 704-535-2220;

On the new fall menus at Gallery Restaurant: at lunch, fried green tomato grilled cheese sandwich and buckwheat noodle and charred vegetable stir-fry; at dinner, roasted local squash soup and braised rabbit cannelloni, and entrees such as horseradish-crusted cod, Block Island swordfish, smoked duck breast and seared veal tenderloin. 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100.

Artisan, the teaching restaurant of the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Charlotte, will open for dinners only during the fall quarter. Hours will be 6-8 p.m. Monday-Wednesday from Oct. 11-Dec. 8, except for Thanksgiving week, during which it will be open only Monday. Three-course dinners will cost $15.95 plus tax and tip; tips go into a scholarship fund for culinary students. Reservations: 704-357-5900.

Bagel, pancake possibilities

Bruegger's is holding a sweepstakes to win a "bottomless coffee mug" on Facebook until Oct. 12. Go to its Facebook page and click on Sweepstakes and you may be one of 10 winners: Mugs are worth an estimated $139 because they entitle the winner to free refills of coffee, tea or soft drinks.

IHOP (multiple locations) will offer special pancake deals through October, and will serve one "Scary Face Pancake" -- that's an oversized buttermilk pancake with whipped topping mouth, strawberry nose and mini Oreos and candy corn to make-your-own face -- free to kids 12 and younger Oct. 29.

Dine out, do good

Dilworth Coffee locations will give away lattes in all their shops through Oct. 8 to anyone who donates $5 to help fund local mammograms. The cost of a large flavored latte is about $4 and though Starbucks has announced plans to increase some of its prices, a Dilworth Coffee spokesperson says the company has no plans to do so.

Jason's Deli locations in (Pineville, Woodlawn, University area, and Birkdale will donate 10 percent of all proceeds (including those from pickup and delivery) from 4-10 p.m. Oct. 21 (that's a Thursday) to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Green pizza

Wolfman Pizza now uses the eco-friendly GreenBox™, which is so cool that no less an authority than Fox News has dubbed it the pizza box of the 21st century (Ashton Kutcher said it was cool on Twitter, too, if you're more about him than Fox). Made from 100 percent recycled material, its top breaks into four plates, so you don't need paper plates (or to use the energy and resources to clean regular plates), and the bottom converts into a storage container for leftovers, so you don't need foil or plastic bags.

District manager Bailey Dunmire of Wolfman (multiple locations) said in an e-mail release: “A lot of green products are eco-friendly, and that’s great, but they also cost five to ten times more... (This is) right in line with other pizza box costs." Inventor Ecovention's William Walsh said Wolfman is the first restaurant in the Carolinas to use the box.

Tipping should die

Yeah, I said it. What say you?

This column, from the new Gourmet Live (which is actually an iPad application, but you can get certain parts on just your regular old whatever-you're-reading-this-on), hits points I've agreed with for years, though I think he leans a little hard to the customer side. Favorite point: It's not actually any harder -- given proper training and situations -- to serve a $4 hot dog than a $59 steak, so why does one server make 15 times as much? But author Foster Kamer adds a point I had not considered: "Tipping, which has been proven to be discriminatory, could be downright unconstitutional." Whoa. (Note: There's a bit of strong language here, but thankfully he doesn't go into that whole Mr. Pink tirade against tipping.)

NOTE: Several commenters are making it clear they didn't read the story that this post is about. This isn't a referendum on tipping in general; this author makes several points specifically and does NOT advocate (as I do not) simply eliminating tipping as a practice without other forms of compensation. He also references European service; please read before commenting, and please be polite. I will delete rude posts -- not afraid of an argument, but insist on a respectful, thoughtful environment.

Dine out, do good

Upstream hosts its second annual Oyster Bash Oct. 9 at Phillips Place, with a portion of proceeds going to Urban Ministry Center. Ten kinds of cold-water oysters, 10 paired wines (some sparkling), two hours to enjoy them, in both the private dining room and the covered patio; $95. Among the oysters slated to be on hand: Rappahannock, Old Salt, York River, and the better known Blue Point and Malpeque. Three wine experts will also be on hand, and will announced their choice of best pairing for the night. Reservations required; 704-556-7730.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

And now for something (completely) different

"Table Manners" is a group exhibition running Oct. 1-Nov. 27 at Lark & Key Gallery in South End, with pottery for the table (as in, you can use it), aimed at bringing "awareness to the handmade in conjunction to the homemade," says the press for the event. "The combination of homemade and handmade allows us to focus on the moment -- the aromas, tastes and textures of the food along with the visual and tactile experience of the vessels in which it is being served." Ceramic artists Julie Wiggins and Amy Sanders are curating. and the show will include work by several potters, including Elizabeth Robinson (below). Backdrops include work by Duy Huynh of the gallery ("Slow Food For Thought," at right).

On Nov. 5, ARTfeast will happen 6-9 p.m., bringing fare from local, sustainable food producers into the gallery for sale, including Grateful Growers and The Secret Chocolatier. Also on hand: a pottery demo by Wiggins, a trunk show of jewelry, and live music from Justin Faircloth. 128 E. Park Ave.; 704-334-4616;

Monday, September 27, 2010

Deals and chances

Bojangles' has introduced a new smoked sausage biscuit today: 99 cents, for a limited time, says the company.

Create a burger on Facebook for Topz Healthier Burger Grill and win two tickets to "9 to 5: The Musical" at Blumenthal on opening night (Oct. 5). Here's how: Go to the Facebook page here (you must "like" to post). Post a description of your burger creation. "Cleverness and creativity of both recipe and description are the key criteria," according to Topz, whose staff will pick the winner Oct. 3. The winner gets a free version of their creation, and multiple entries are encouraged.

Chipotle plans to roll out its new kid’s menu in Charlotte Nov. 15 and to highlight it, will give kids a free kid’s meal every Sunday from Nov. 21 through Dec. 12 when parents purchase a burrito, salad, burrito bowl (a burrito without the tortilla) or order of tacos. Among the kids' items: small cheese quesadilla for $2.95 with side of rice, choice of beans, small bag of chips and milk, apple juice or soda; single taco with three items from the line (one meat or guacamole and two others such as salsa), with chips and choice of drink, for $3.50 and more.

2nd daily Penguin update: Sprock confirms that chef Auten is out

Greg Auten says he's out of the Penguin deal and is focusing on opening his Pinky's Westside Grill in about three weeks. "We are 100 percent Pinky's, nothing to do with the place over there... It happened last-minute last week; some legalities are preventing me from participating."

The grill, at Freedom Drive and Morehead Street, will be fast-casual, he says, with fish tacos, falafel ("I took some lessons with a guy from Israel, so they'll be authentic"), burgers, sandwiches and some "healthier items," such as salads. But will there be pickles? "That's still up in the air," he says.

(The recap: Last week, Penguin current operators Jimmy King and Brian Rowe announced they'd be ceasing to operate the Plaza-Midwood restaurant. Lisa Ballentine, daughter of Penguin originator (in the mid-50s) Jim Ballentine, whose family retained ownership of the building and name when King, Rowe and Auten began running it about 10 years ago, said franchisor Martin Sprock and Auten would be taking over in late October. Later in the week, King and Rowe said in a press release they would not be "bullied" and that they were "not used to having lawyers," but did not elaborate. Auten had left several months ago to start Pinky's.)

UPDATE: Sprock confirmed Monday that Auten is out, but that other people will be coming to the deal ("Charlotteans who have been involved in the restaurant business for a long time"). He said the menu will be "90 percent the same," with some healthy-food additions, such as a salad. Other plans: a patio and new air conditioning. The only change that might "freak people out": ice cream or frozen custard. "I'm not saying I'm going to do it," but he's considering it; the Penguin was once an ice cream shop. He plans to emphasize family-friendliness, also. Asked if such an approach will preserve enough of the current diverse crowd to stay viable, he said: "It needs to be cool and hip, mixing the musicians with the investment bankers... (But) we've heard families say there's too rough a crowd at times."

Taste the World Oct. 7

Looking for a bit of international flavor and intrigue? East Charlotte offers the newest version of its "Taste of the World" tour Oct. 7, with 21 restaurants on its list of participants.

Here's how it works: You attend an opening reception at the VanLandingham Estate. Then you're ferried by bus to three of the 21 (to date) possibilities, to enjoy a sampling of cuisine. You don't get to pick which you attend, but you're guaranteed to get three different cuisines; possibilities range from Vietnamese to Brazilian, Middle Eastern to Indian. You end up at a closing reception back at the VanLandingham. The evening goes from about 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., with the final reception beginning at 9. Tickets are $30 and you can get them here.

Participating restaurants so far: Ben Thanh (Vietnamese), Brazas (Brazilian), Dim Sum (Chinese), Fu Lin (Asian/Indian fare), Jerusalem (Middle Eastern), Carolina Kebap (Turkish/Mediterranean), Namaste (Indian), Pollos Mario (Colombian), Portofino (Italian), Woodlands (Indian), Saigon Bistro (Vietnamese), Jamile's (Somalian and more), Mama's (Caribbean), El Pulgarcito (Salvadorean), The Motherland (West African), Sadie's (Southern!), The Landmark (classic diner), Lang Van (Vietnamese), Carnitas Guanajuato (Mexican), Cocina Latina (Mexican), Linares (Mexican), Mily and Lalo (Peruvian) and Three Amigos (Mexican).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Know of more discount dining?

If you know of more discounted dining, share with us here. (If you missed the story, go to

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Penguin: It ain't over

Current operators of The Penguin Brian Rowe and Jimmy King issued a press release Thursday evening suggesting the recent drama over the location and business aren't quite over: "We would like to be accommodating but we won't be bullied or treated in bad faith. At this point, we will do whatever is necessary to deal with this situation and be treated fairly and in accordance with the law... (W)e are not used to having lawyers and dealing with these sorts of disputes."

Asked for more detail, King declined.

To recap: Rowe and King, with chef Greg Auten, took over operation of the Plaza-Midwood landmark restaurant about 10 years ago from the originator, the late Jim Ballentine. The Ballentine family kept ownership of the building and the restaurant name and logo. About five months ago, Auten left the business to open a new restaurant. This week, it was announced that Rowe and King's lease would not be renewed, and that the Ballentine family, with Auten returning and the addition of experienced franchisor Martin Sprock, would begin operating the restaurant, that it would retain the Penguin name, and eventually be franchised.

Rowe and King, who became partners in the nearby Diamond restaurant renovation some months ago, have said they would cease operating the Penguin Oct. 24. The Diamond is slated to open around the end of October. The news has continued to create a stir, especially in social media, where several Facebook pages address the developments, and the Twitter hashtag #penguingate continues to be active.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New chef; wine dinners

  • Carpe Diem, which has a new chef and sous chef, offers a Bennett Lane wine dinner Sept. 30. First the chef news: Paul Ketterhagen, formerly sous chef and on staff at the restaurant for four years, has now taken over. He attended Johnson & Wales in Charleston and cooked with Maverick Southern Kitchens, FIG and 39 rue de Jean there, before coming to Charlotte. New as sous (and catering chef) is Buzz Frazier, who's cooked at Nolen Kitchen and ilios noche among other Charlotte spots. Now the dinner: It's $80 for four courses, which include goat cheese panna cotta with sliced proscuitto, walnut pepper brittle and a salad of arugula, figs, apples, and a red wine reduction, with 2006 Red Maximus; and slow-roasted pork shoulder with salsa verde and 2006 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. 1535 Elizabeth Ave.; 704-377-7976.
  • Kalu Asian Kitchen hosts a seven-course, six-wine dinner Sept. 29 with French wines from Grapevine Distributors. Among the seven: artisanal black edamame; Japanese-style chicken wings and foie-gras-stuffed Kobe meatballs with Delas Croze-Hermitage, Rhone; sushi of tuna with seven-spiced honey and Wasabi Three Ways Roll, with Joseph Drouhin Moulin-a-Vent, Beaujolais; and more. $69; 505 E. 6th St.; 704-910-4877.
  • The Wine Shop at Foxcroft does a Kermit Lynch wine dinner Oct. 11 with guest chef Graham Giacobbe (of Clean Catch fish market and formerly with Customshop) and a Lynch representative on hand. Included in the courses: she crab soup with 2008 Château d'Epiré Savennières; cornmeal-dusted triggerfish with Lowcountry hash and '09 Joncier Lirac Rose; braised beef cheeks with '09 Maxime-François Laurent "Il Fait Soif" Rouge; and more. $65; 7824 Fairview Road; 704-365-6550.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Everybody's cool": Penguin update

Jimmy King and Brian Rowe, current operators of The Penguin in Plaza-Midwood, and Lisa Ballentine of the Ballentine family, who owns the building and Penguin name, confirmed Tuesday that King and Rowe will move on after Oct. 24. The Ballentines declined to renew King and Rowe's lease.

"Everybody's cool, everybody's friends," said King, who with Rowe and chef Greg Auten took over running the place about 10 years ago. "We love the Ballentines and I think they love us. That's all I've got to say." Said Rowe: "We've known the family 10 years."

Ballentine had earlier likened the situation to a romantic breakup: "There's strong language ... but at the end of the day, you still love each other." In a nod to the tumult, she did add, "Yeah, the lease was coming to an end, but you were going out with another girl anyway (the Diamond; see below)... We're all doing what's best for the Penguin."

The three met late into the night Monday, says Ballentine, not about an "eleventh-hour deal," but "honestly (because) all of us freaked out over the Internet and television" tempest that began Monday morning. Facebook and Twitter were bombarded with postings (including the hashtag #penguingate on Twitter, and tweets that included links to Venn diagrams), and television cameras appeared on site.

And angst still exists in the community, despite the apparent smoothing over among the principals. A Penguin fan page on Facebook, which hadn't had a new posting since January 2009, now has as its status "Come experience The Penguin Drive-In without it's soul" (yes, spelled that way), while a Facebook event titled "Boycott the Penguin as of Oct. 24th" had more than 2,000 people planning to "attend" (or, rather, not attend, since it's a boycott) by about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

"We have nothing to do with that," said King.

UPDATE: Event creator Mark Cline lives in China Grove and says he created the boycott event "as a little sign of support" and sent it to "a few friends." "I have to say, this is completely blown out of proportion ... half the people boycotting are the same hipsters that put the Bird where it is today, going out of business ... I'm sure I'll have to pull the plug on this soon."

Those concerned about the change at the Penguin fall broadly into two categories:

  • People who dislike the new plan for the Penguin, which includes franchising by experienced Charlotte franchisor Martin Sprock, and the return of Auten (who left about five months ago to open a new place) as part of the operation prepping for franchising, and,
  • People who feel an allegiance to King and Rowe, and have expressed their intent to "move along" with them as they prepare to reopen The Diamond. That restaurant business, also an icon among Charlotte businesses, was purchased by the pair, along with Andy Kastanas of Soul Gastrolounge, this year. Extensive renovations have been done and it is slated to reopen as an "updated" diner by the end of October or beginning of November. (Plans call for it to be open 24 hours a day eventually.) "We remain firmly committed to this neighborhood," King said in a press release.
The Penguin, known for its burgers and fried pickles as well as its diverse clientele, has appeared on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," and has been a neighborhood gathering spot since Ballentine's father, Jim, opened it in the mid 50s as an ice cream shop.

Ballentine combats accusations of "forcing out" King and Rowe by saying she plans to do another project with them, though she won't say more than that it won't be a restaurant and it will be in Plaza-Midwood. King and Rowe declined to comment, beyond saying "we've talked about some ideas. It's too early to say anything."

Monday, September 20, 2010

More on Penguin: Greg Auten returns

Pieces of this news continue to emerge, notably that chef Greg Auten, part of the partnership that took over from originator Jim Ballentine, says he is returning to Plaza-Midwood's Penguin, and that the current plan is for a partnership that will do much renovation and refining, then franchise it, while the original stays the property of the Ballentine family. (Ballentine opened the iconic place in the mid 1950s, and his family has owned it, and the Penguin name and logo, continuously since then.)
The story so far: Facebook posts and Twitter tweets, confirmed with a manager at the restaurant, announced the Penguin would no longer be operated as it's been, as of Oct. 24.
A lengthy conversation with Auten and Martin Sprock, formerly of Raving Brands, brought this:
Ballentine's family, which owns the building, approached Sprock about two months ago, says Sprock. He had talked to them a few years ago, asking if they'd be interested in allowing him to franchise the operation. As founder of Raving Brands, a holding company which has Flying Biscuit and Monkey Joe's, among other concepts, he was interested in the Penguin. At the time, the Ballentines refused, he says.
Auten, who has cooking experience at Providence Cafe and Alexander Michael's, says he left the Penguin about five months ago, because he wanted "to have more of my own thing." He pursued opening Pinky's, at the corner of Freedom Drive and Morehead Street.
Pinky's will now become the second Penguin, according to plans, say both Auten and Sprock, shooting to open in mid October.
Current Penguin operators Brian Rowe and Jimmy King announced in April that they had become partners in the sale of the Diamond nearby, which closed for extensive renovations.
Discussions seem to be continuing -- Sprock said he had a meeting this morning with the Ballentines, and I've been told other meetings are going on. Stay tuned!

Maddi's Southern Bistro closing

Maddi's Southern Bistro will serve its last dinner Saturday -- the accompanying gallery at Birkdale will be moving its stock back to the original Dilworth location after a 40 percent off sale all week. All week, the bistro will offer half-price bottles of wine and $2.50 beers, along with gallery fixtures, restaurant equipment and furniture for sale. Birkdale Village, Huntersville, 704-987-7777.

Dine out, do good

If you support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, stop in to Andrew Blair's this week. The restaurant will donate 10 percent of food and beverage sales to JDRF supporters Sept. 22-26 to the Charlotte chapter. AB's opens at 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and serves Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 1600 Montford Drive; 704-525-8282.

Penguin to be gone?

A manager at The Penguin confirms the last date of operations as we know them will be Oct. 24. Details on the way...

Monday, September 13, 2010

New openings

LaVecchia’s fourth restaurant concept has opened: Jax Backstreet Tavern is at 55 Glenway St. in Belmont, serving pizzas, salads, mini-hot-dog sliders, wings, sandwiches and more, with 24 beers on draft and plans already for a second location, in uptown Charlotte, slated for the fall. You can get a look at the menu, and more details, at; 704-825-1776.

The SBB Smokehouse is now open at 10099 Weddington Road in Concord; 704-979-2569. It is related to the Myrtle Beach operation of the same name, but is “more a biker-themed restaurant” than that, says general manager Brandon Salter. This has real motorcycles inside, 13 TVs and a menu ranging from fried and smoked wings and chicken fingers to house-smoked brisket, pork, chicken and housemade sausage, ribs and more.

Beard at Blue

Reminder: The James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour dinner at Blue is Sept. 22, with host chef Gene Briggs working with Charlotte’s Bruce Moffett and Geoffrey Blount, along with “Top Chefs” Kevin Gillespie and Eli Kirshstein. Tickets are $150 each, and part of the proceeds go to the Beard Foundation, whose mission is to “celebrate, nurture, and preserve America’s diverse culinary heritage and future.”

Among the courses: crispy oysters with pork belly and 2009 Fiano, Fontanavecchia (Campania, Italy); Hudson Valley foie gras with corn sorbet and ’08 Chateau St. Michelle Eroica Ice Wine; wild striped bass with ’07 Rodney Strong Reserve Chardonnay; pork shoulder with cornbread puree with ’06 Yalumba BushVine Grenache; and warm pecan shortcake with ’06 Chateau St. Michelle Late Harvest White Riesling. 704-927-2583; 206 N. College St.

Sip/stroll, dad/daughter

Uptown's EpiCentre plans its first "Sip & Stroll," a wine, arts and music festival, Sept. 17-18. On hand: wines from more than 20 wineries, art and demos by artists, live music, food from EpiCentre restaurants, kids' crafts and more. Tickets are $20 for Friday or Saturday, $30 for both days, and offered online here and at EpiCentre venues.

Passion8 Bistro hosts "Daddy Daughter Dinner Date" Sept. 29 with soprano Jenny Chen from Opera Carolina singing fairy tales and professional portraits offered for purchase at the dinner. $125 per dad and daughter; 3415 Highway 51 North in Fort Mill; 803-802-7455.

Free Outback? And Hardee's turns 50

Through the end of September, Outback Steakhouse customers will get the chance to win “free Outback for a Year”: Diners get a scratch-off card on each visit, and 1,600 winning tickets are available. The prize comes in the form of a booklet of vouchers, two redeemable for free steak each month (vouchers exclude alcohol, tax and tip; approximate value is $600).

Among Hardee's plans over September, to celebrate its 50th:
A $50,000 giveaway on its Facebook page.
$50 gift cards given away via its Twitter feed.
50 cent sausage biscuits Sept. 30.
The chance to share your stories, photos and videos through its social media outlets, including the above, Flickr and YouTube.
More is here.

Nude sushi models Uptown

Enso at the EpiCentre celebrates its one-year anniversary Sept. 16 with "traditional Asian entertainment, including sushi demonstrations and nude sushi models." What that means is exactly what you think -- if what you're thinking is women on whom sushi is artfully arranged and displayed (meaning they're stationary), for diners to appreciate.

Also on tap, says special events coordinator Jennifer Lloyd: hardcore "freestyle runners," dressed in ninja black, "jumping around everywhere, anywhere there's room, inside and out" from 8:30-10; sushi artists (Enso's top three) performing sushi demos, including some knife-show stuff; and a come-one-come-all sumo wrestling event. Sort of -- contestants don enormously padded bodysuits and helmets and get in the ring, mostly for comedic value, notes Lloyd. Expect the event's components (including an early-evening appearance by radio's Ace & TJ) to go into the wee hours.

210 E. Trade St.; 704-716-3676;

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beer, wine dinners

The Liberty hosts a Stone Brewing dinner Sept. 15, with three rare specialty beers on tap, plus two of its year-round features, plus chef Tom Condron's pairings. $55; 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

The Pizza Peel hosts an Abita beer dinner Sept. 18, with "panini pizza" and jambalaya on the menu. Details are at its new website:; $35; 4422 Colwick Road; 704-714-8808.

Aria hosts a wine and pasta dinner – four courses (including potato gnocchi with butternut squash and short rib ravioli) and four Summerland Winery offerings – for $45 Sept. 21. 100 N. Tryon St.; 704-376-8880.

Lava Bistro offers a Shelton Vineyards dinner Sept. 23, with courses including smoked N.C. trout with ’08 Chardonnay and braised pork shoulder with ’07 Malbec. $39; 8708 J.W. Clay Blvd.; 704-549-0050

Del Frisco’s plans a Venge Vineyards dinner Sept. 24. Five courses, including smoked lamb porterhouse with 2007 Muhlner Steps Vineyard Syrah “Clone 877,” and a Delmonico steak with both 2008 Silencieux Cabernet Sauvignon and ’06 Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. $95; 4725 Piedmont Row Drive South; 704-5502.

MORE bacon-wrapped tots...and beer

New items at Fran’s Filling Station: jalapeno-bacon-wrapped tater tots with a Tabasco honey glaze (available in a duo with the original bacon-wrapped tots or on their own); sweet corn nuggets with goat cheese ranch; lamb ragu over rigatoni with ricotta and goat cheese; chicken Milanese topped with a seasonal salad; and a daily fish. Also on tap: nightly specials such as “Something Spicy” on Mondays (such as Malaysian chicken curry or shrimp with ancho chiles) to “Red & White Checked Tablecloth Italian Night” on Saturdays (steak Marsala or chicken cacciatore). Lunch changes are coming, too, with tots and fried pickles joining that lineup, more combos being added and more plate lunches and international sandwiches. 2410 Park Road; 704-372-2009.

Rock Bottom Brewery starts offering Oktoberfest Lager with a seasonal menu (plus prizes and giveaways) Sept. 14 and the lineup will stick around until Oct. 24. Among the new: Oktoberfest Combo (grilled bratwurst, knackwurst and Hungarian sausages, housemade pretzel sticks and seasoned fries, with beer mustards), steak tacos (top sirloin marinated in Oktoberfest), smoked pork loin, German Kobe burger and more. 401 N. Tryon St.; 704-334-2739.

Special dinners on tap

Gallery hosts a farm-to-fork dinner Sept. 16, with proceeds benefiting Slow Food Charlotte. Among the fare: confit of Baucom’s pasture-raised chicken, with grilled figs and Four Friends Brewery Queen City Red; and Baucom’s grass-fed smoked beef brisket with Four Friends Extinction Ale. $75; 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100.

Foskoskies hosts an Argentine wine dinner Sept. 20, featuring the wines of Ricardo Santos and sons, of Tercos Winery. Five courses with six wines (including salt cod with “dueling Malbecs” and braised beef short ribs with ’08 Tercos Sangiovese) for $40; 2121 Shamrock Drive; 704-535-2220.