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.