Tastes & Sips
FEATURED: The Blackbird Restaurant
Located on Biltmore Avenue just off of Pack Square, the Blackbird bills its menu as refined southern. I call it basic food, well prepared in simple, but elegant surroundings. I rarely order chicken in an upscale restaurant, but I did and it was delightful. The roasted bird was moist, tasty and the root vegetables were a fine accompaniment.
Bistro at Biltmore Estate
I have eaten here at least a couple dozen times and I have never had a bad experience. The most seemingly simple item is elevated with fine local produce and attention to detail. The turkey sandwich is an example of this. Their onion soup is a standout as well. If you’re lucky enough to go during the tomato harvest, you can enjoy the annual special menu items.
The Corner Kitchen
The Corner Kitchen is a well established restaurant with a good reputation. My first visit was during the year of Covid so I'd like to visit again. I had the old fashion cocktail and their Pepper grilled Brasstown Ribeye. I was very pleased with my steak and my service. Good food good service without pretension. Located in Biltmore Village, it is a good option if you don't want to go downtown.
FEATURED: Gollotts Restaurant
Gollotts is a restaurant on the back bay and is owned by a family fishing empire. It's the first restaurant we visited on our initial trip to the area that had a bit of polish in terms of the decor. It was still done in woods but it was more finished in appearance. It's a bustling crowded restaurant with a wait for dinner by 8pm on a Saturday night. The service was superb and the menu had a bit more variety than other seafood restaurants we’d visited.
Mikey's on the Bayou
Mikey’s on the Bayou in Ocean Springs is just east of Biloxi. It’s a casual restaurant right on the water and you get the impression they bring the boat in and the shellfish is unloaded and prepared right outside. I don’t know that to be true, but that is the vibe it gives. They feature raw oysters, but I went for the shrimp, which was so wonderfully lightly battered that you could savor the shrimp, and not breading.
Palace Casino Buffet
The Palace is a smoke-free casino, which is a plus as far as I am concerned. This buffet was first-rate with a wide variety of food and drink: comfort foods, regional and international foods, grilled foods, and seafood including oysters on the half shell, as well as pastas, etc. Great variety, well prepared.
The Reef at Biloxi Beach
The Reef was recommended by several people we asked. It is a typical beach-row restaurant with a good view of the ocean, and of course, a seafood menu. My shrimp salad was fresh and well presented, and my friend’s shrimp platter lived up to our history of having great fried shrimp meals.
FEATURED: Bar Marcel
This place was a find. I had an invitation for dinner to belatedly celebrate my birthday. It was early in the post Covid-19 reopening process so we carefully researched options and settled on Bar Marcel. It is located in the South Park area of town in a center off Sharon Road and Colony.
It was a Saturday so we ate early, thinking the restaurant would be less crowded and cleaner earlier rather than later. The restaurant interior has an industrial modern which I think bodes well for the pandemic era in that it evokes a feeling of spartan cleanliness. As we stepped inside the giant bottle of hand sanitizer was front and center and the tables were blocked off to create proper distancing. The staff was masked and our flatware and napkins were wrapped in plastic. At the end of our meal, the payment was made without staff touching the credit card.
I had the crispy brussel sprouts as my appetizer because I can always use more green vegetables. My entree was the crab cavatelli and man it was great. I really like crabmeat. and this was a seemingly simple dish well done. The crab was in an alfredo sauce that was not too heavy and with bacon, breadcrumbs and chive. The flavors were complimentary of the crabmeat itself. My friend was equally pleased with the Zucchini Vermicelli.
I definitely will return to Bar Marcel. The combination of great food, pleasant service and attention to Covid-19 protocol makes this a repeat option.
Eddie V's Prime Seafood
I had one of my best meals ever here. Eddie V’s is located in the heart of uptown Charlotte and everything I put in my mouth made me say “Oh, this is great." Even the champagne vinegar provided for my oysters was noteworthy. The lobster taco is another appetizer choice. We split a lobster pot with the stuffed shrimp add-on and have to go back and explore more menu items because this place was superb. The Margarita was the best I’ve had in a very long time. It was properly prepared with fresh ingredients. The service is what you would expect at this price point. If you include a cocktail, appetizer, entree, you will spend close to $100. Worth it.
Dressler's - Metro or Birkdale
Dressler's offers an upscale menu with a variety of options like crab cake, steaks, tuna, etc. Polished service goes with the tasty menu and this makes Dressler’s a good choice if you have a variety of palates in your party. The mid-town location is in the Metropolitan and they have another location in Birkdale Village in Huntersville.
Nellie's Southern Kitchen - Belmont
Nellie’s is currently widely known as the restaurant owned by the Jonas family of the Jonas Brothers fame. Nellie was the grandmother of the patriarch who lived her life in Belmont. Sitting on a prominent corner in Belmont, the restaurant is a tribute to her textile roots.
The fixture at the bar is a giant cotton twig. The interior is a lot of raw wood and dark metals.
Our visit was during a Saturday lunch period. The place was busy and vibrant. The food and there service were well done. The staff was friendly and efficient and our food was tasty. I had a burger and my friend a salad. Neither of these are frilly items but they were done well with fresh items and good flavors.
There was a bandstand and a well stocked bar so an evening visit seems called for. Or at least this could be a stop if you’re doing a Belmont bar crawl.
Red Rocks Cafe
Red Rocks Cafe is another restaurant with a varied menu that would appeal to a cross section of people in a party. An upscale, but relaxed restaurant, it has been in Charlotte at least 20 years and serves quality food with reliable service. The original location is at Fairview and Providence Rd, however, I visit the one at Birkdale Village as well since it is closer to home.
The Lobster Bar
The Lobster Bar Sea Grille is a fine dining restaurant in downtown Fort Lauderdale. I had the first hot buttered lobster roll I’d had outside of New England and it was delicious. The service during our lunch was marvelous. Lunch proved to be great time to explore this place with a lower priced menu. The interior could be described as"swank" with subway tiled walls and fabulous lighting and the bar invites you to sit for a classic cocktail. The Lobster Bar is owned by the Buckhead Group of Atlanta.
FEATURED: Yellow Deli
The Yellow Deli is run by a faith-based fellowship of people who seem to live simply. There are several Yellow Delis in the western hemisphere. The restaurant was full and I got the feeling the people of Hiddenite were glad for its presence. In addition to my turkey sandwich, I had the most interestingly plated and delicious fruit salad with bananas and blueberries. The restaurant itself is worth exploring to see the displays and artifacts incorporated into the building. The Yellow Deli is open from noon Sunday to 3 pm Friday, so do not plan to go on a Friday evening or Saturday.
Our dinner restaurant was Wentzel’s, at its original location. Wentzel's is famous for roasted oysters. I elected a half dozen raw oysters and the fried green tomatoes. The tomatoes were well dressed and served with a crawfish sauce. Wentzel's is a lively, friendly place with a lot of sayings and quotes written on the walls. Reading these will keep you busy while waiting. It is a local chain. The food , atmosphere and service means I would recommend this location of Wentzel's.
Located downtown near the Carolina Coliseum, the restaurant has the advantage of its own parking lot. The first thing I noticed on the menu was the appetizer: grit fries with honey. Now I am a fan of grits and have made fried grits at homewith my leftovers but never dreamed of pairing grits with honey. These were perfectly sized rectangles the size of a home fry and they paired well with the honey. While eating sugared grits for breakfast is a sacrilege I enjoyed this appetizer.
The smoked chicken was recommended but I chose the fried green tomato BLT. It was served on ciabatta bun with melted pimento cheese and I chose the crispy brussell sprouts as my side. It was delicious and quite filling. The menu also offers pizza, comfort foods, burgers and a variety of deserts.
Pawley's Island, SC
FEATURED: Pawley's Raw Bar
Pawleys Raw Bar is a regular stop for me. It has a bar and high tops as well as large family style tables. They offer a variety of seafood including raw oysters, low country boils and crab legs. Standouts are the bang bang shrimp, fish tacos and basic shrimp poor boys. The drinks are reasonably priced and the atmosphere is casual. Live music can be heard during the season.
Hog Heaven is your typical South Carolina BBQ buffet. In South Carolina, a BBQ restaurant normally is a buffet restaurant stocked with a variety of vegetables. The food here is good. When I yearn for vegetables, this is the place. I particularly like the limas, sweet potatoes, and stewed tomatoes. The barbecue, which is the main draw, is good barbecue.
Lee's Inlet Kitchen
In Murrells Inlet, there is Lee’s Inlet Kitchen where there is always a line for dinner during the tourist season. The fried seafood options are well prepared. The breading is light and allows you to taste the seafood. The service also stands out. I don’t know how they train the young people who work here, but they are so engaged, prompt and polite.
Quigley's Pint and Plate
Quigley's Pint and Plate is a pub-style restaurant, but my experience is sitting on their deck for an appetizer or light lunch. I recommend the Fried Green Tomatoes appetizer. It's topped with goat cheese, blackened shrimp with a chili glaze and is enough for lunch. The sunny deck is a very pleasant environment during spring and fall as it overlooks the pond.
Nance's Creekfront Seafood
Nances Creekfront Seafood takes advantage of their location by offering large windows for the views. The seafood is good traditional calabash style, and the service is as well. The view is the real draw with the soothing blues and greens of the water and marsh grass.
Rustic Table specializes in upscale southern cuisine made from scratch. I recommend the Flounder with red rice. The red rice was well seasoned and delicious. There was just enough red pepper to add zip but not too much heat The flounder was fried perfectly, done, but not dry. The screened in porch is a good spot on a pretty day. The interior looked a little dark. At night, its probably atmospheric, but on a bright sunny day I like the outdoor option.
FEATURED: Soho South
Soho South on Liberty is an old favorite. It was originally a gas station before the originator transformed it. I stumbled on this place a few years ago during my rambling and it’s been a reliable go-to. They feature light fare that's well prepared. The restaurant has since been sold to a local restaurant group, so the ambiance has changed a bit, but I would still recommend this based on the crowd I saw and the menu my last visit. The building has been remodeled so that it looks like a building in Manhattan’s Soho.
Circa 1875 is a small French restaurant on Whitaker between Congress and Broughton. They have a full dinner menu but we sat at the bar and ordered cocktails, the charcuterie and the French onion soup. Everything was pleasing including the staff, the music and the food. If the rest of the menu is as well served as the soup and appetizer, dinner will be superb. We thought the music we heard was live which is what drew us in but it turns out they have a fabulous audio system which adds to the ambiance. I definitely recommend Circa 1875.
Kayak Kafe on Broughton is a good lunch option. The Greek salad with chicken and the Gorgonzola flatbread were two great dishes. I recommend for lighter fare, when you don’t need ambience. Seating is not plentiful, but takeout is an option.
Shrimp Factory on River Street is a reliable stop. They seem to do best with traditional calabash and southern fried fare. Aside from the fried dishes, I suggest the shrimp and crab au gratin . They also have a separate bar area for those who want just a drink.
Farm to Car
How many times have you caught yourself saying while on a road trip? ... "We should stop at that roadside produce stand or farmer's market next time we visit."
I like buying in seasonal produce from farm stands and farmers markets. I don’t believe I should have to by vegetables shipped in to a grocery store from California if I don’t have to. Well, these are worth the stop the first time and should be a part of your road trip experience every time because they are worth perusing.
FEATURED: Western North Carolina Regional Farmer's Market - Asheville, NC
This market is huge. Just when you think you’ve seen it all you should drive around to the back of the main building. You’ll find even more. This is one of the places I can always find my favorite apples (Arkansas Black) and apple cider. Like many farmers markets you can find baked and canned goods here too.
The Apple Mill - Saluda, NC
The Apple Mill in Saluda, NC is just off of I-26 at exit 59. The Apple Mill sells apples and apple products like apple butter, cider and jelly. I was able to get two boxes of a particular apple I wanted shipped in time for pies.
King's Drive Farmer's Market - Charlotte
Kings Drive Farmers Market in Charlotte has a good variety of fruits and vegetables, well displayed and by pleasant people. Its open from April through October on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. They also feature pumpkins and gourds in season and convert to a Christmas Tree lot.
Virginia Carolina Enterprises - Cana, Va
Located on US Highway 52 northwest of Mt. Airy, this market has a wide variety of produce, dried beans and plants. There things I'd never heard of such as yellow eyed peas and purple bell pepper. There were at least 8 different varieties of watermelon and produce. In the fall, they also feature a wide selection of apples