If you are talking restaurants, 2019 has been a busy year for Charlotte. Almost every day in November a new dining establishment opened its doors to welcome guests. That’s lots for any food writer to digest. But we’ve got time. My policy has always been to give a place some time before I share all they bring to the table. So we’ll start slow and eventually make it through all the places worthy of your time and dining out dollars.
Today I’ve got several suggestions of local restaurants to meet friends and family to raise a glass (or coffee mug) and share some holiday cheer.
I’m sharing the same list of local restaurants to sip and snack, mingle and jingle, on today’s broadcast of Charlotte Today. The show airs on WCNC-TV. My December Restaurant Round-Up will go live just after 11:30. Tune in or live stream.
If you miss it, you know I’ll have it here by the weekend. posted in a follow up with more pics and notes on what to order where.
Here is a taste…. Let’s start with a great little spot on Main Street in Gastonia, NC.
Barrister’s at the Esquire Hotel
Some may consider Barrister’s a bit of a hidden gem as far as local restaurants go, but not for long.
Nestled in a charming new boutique hotel called the Esquire, Barrister’s is located in what was once the building lobby. Lots of local on the menu here. The menu changes almost monthly. As of this week, the new winter menu debuts and Barrister’s starts serving breakfast, lunch and dinner . Chef Ryan Allen is at the helm on the savory side of the kitchen with Chef Hannah Woociker sweetening things up with desserts, breads and pastries.
The historic structure is an old bank then turned law office. The vibe is from the art deco roots of the building. Barrister’s is the first of four restaurant concepts planned for the building. The three other restaurants at the hotel are all to come – opening later in 2020. Stay tuned for a downstairs speakeasy, a rooftop bar with small plates and an outdoor patio with fire roasted offerings all cooked outside.. Hotel rooms open this month.
The Hobbyist in Villa Heights
Just the place to go for coffee, tea, beer and wine and lots of local snacks. This cute little coffee shop during the day, offers frequent wine tastings in the evenings.
Look for lots of cool beers ( literally and figuratively) – many of them local and a lot of good wine, including an impressive selection of sake.
Music on Weekends, no kitchen here yet, but they have pastries and snacks all made from local producers including the pastry chefs at Bonjour Ya’ll in Davidson – just scroll down for more info. In 2020, we may see more on the food side of things here, so look for lots of good things to come, stay tuned.
Cicchetti in Uptown Charlotte
An Venetian style wine bar and wine shop with small plates that are to die for. Located at the street level of Founders Hall right next to Aria Italian. Owned by Pierre Bader of Aria fame (and many other Charlotte restaurants from times gone by.) Brianna Cohen is the GM and in house wine guru.
The menu at Cicchetti offers small plates to enjoy on your own or to share with friends. Wines by the bottle are all retail priced, so very reasonable and these people know their wine.
Don’t miss offering include the “tins and chips” all kinds of canned fish with made in house potato chips – its all the rage in Europe and Cicchetti does it exceptionally well.
Heartier fare on the Cicchetti menu includes these melt-in-your-mouth lamb chops, whole fish, sausages and more. Dishes are perfect for sharing. It would be hard to find something you didn’t love – we loved it all!
Bonjour Ya’ll Bakery In Davidson, NC
This tiny little space in the Deal Building on Main street in downtown Davidson. Inside you’ll find big bunch of fresh baked love!! The talent in the kitchen is working partner Justin Burke-Samson, former pastry chef at Kindred. The 700-square-foot space offers the comfort of a French bakery and coffee shop comfort along with a bit of Southern nostalgic.
Pastries to die for include the cinnamon and sugar coated Cruffin ( photo above) and the apple-y Bostock ( photo below).
Here benne butter brioche, apricot, frangipane, Granny Smith, toasted almonds come together for a bite of something that will sooth your soul. Like the very best French toast you have ever had, and then some. Pro-tip: Warm them up once you get them home – oh my!
A trio of Restaurants at Optimist Hall
Optimist Hall a food hall, retail and creative office space located at 1115 N. Brevard Street is home to lots of walk-up-and-order spots including three of my favorites – Bao and Bun, The Dumpling Lady and Papi Queso grilled cheese.
Bao and Broth
Just as the name suggestions the offering here are simply, ramen noodles in broth and soups along with a selection of steamed buns.
With vegan, vegetarian and meat-centric offerings, Chef Larry Schreiber and his team have something for everyone.
Ramen noodles aside, I must say the Matzo Ball Soup offered this season as an occasional special is over the top. Just take a look at a recent post on my Instagram feed and you’ll see what I mean. And, if you have a thirst for more, don’t miss the Lychee Tea!
The Dumpling Lady
Famous from the Charlotte-based food truck of the same name, the Dumpling Lady is right at home in this brick and mortar location.
Steamed Dumplings are to die for as are the noodle bowls. If you need a quick appetizer for guests this holiday season, Buy the dumpling frozen and cook them at home to wow all of your guests.
When the hot soup light is on – know that that means The Dumpling Lady’s infamous soup dumplings are available. You can, of course, get an order of three small soup dumplings, as always.
But better still, do as I did and order the “Queen” soup dumpling. Steamed in a “pot pie” pan, it comes with a straw for sipping!
When it comes to grilled cheese, there just is no other place in town that does it as well as the team at Papi Queso. They still have a food truck, but now you can come and sit up at the bar and enjoy your grilled cheese on site.
I loved this special, they will hopefully repeat soon. Called the “Proper Toastie” its a trio of farmstead English cheeses and a made-in-house onion jam served with a side of Lusty Monk Mustard. Yes!
Leave it to Papi Queso to put Mac and cheese between two slices of bread. I like to add in the option of roasted tomato, but that’s just me.