Terrace Café catches on in Ballantyne

by Charles Jenkin

Terrace Café is tucked away here in its new Ballantyne location. The restaurant also has a spot in SouthPark. (Courtesy of Terrace Café)

Success begets success. Execute enough aspects of your culinary business very well, and very consistently, and you will succeed.

There is no such thing as perfection when it comes to running a restaurant; you can get pretty close. There are several south Charlotte establishments that have been very successful for five to 10 years or more. I predict you can add two more with the same name to that list, in time.

The first Terrace Café opened in SouthPark back in 2009. I remember the buzz about a great new breakfast and lunch spot, located in the Piedmont Town Center; a spot where I didn’t even know there was a vacancy for an eatery. Tucked across the street from Del Frisco’s, this almost hidden restaurant with a very comfortable atmosphere quickly gained popularity. Terrace offered unique breakfast items and delicious lunch specials, making them an immediate hit.

When you’re a popular eatery from the get-go with a thriving breakfast and lunch business, you know what the guests are asking: “Why aren’t you open for dinner?” If you owned the place, what would you do? Of course they opened for dinner, again with a nice selection of dishes to choose from. Again, Terrace found success in the evenings.

What’s next?  When you own a dining establishment and believe you have an opportunity to replicate the dining experience, not too far from the first location, you are drawn to do it. Especially in a prime location.

Terrace Café opened its second location in August in Ballantyne Village at the former home of the Village Bistro. The look and feel is again warm and welcoming. This spot came with plenty of patio seating for the warmer weather and room for outdoor entertainment. In the cooler months, live music plays inside on certain evenings.

Lots of people enjoy going out for breakfast, and Terrace is a great addition to the morning culinary landscape in Ballantyne. A perfect example of a signature item is the Red Velvet Waffle; if you like red velvet cake, and who doesn’t, you will really appreciate this. Topped with a cream cheese drizzle, it arrives with your choice of hash browns, grits or fruit.

The soups and soup combos at lunchtime are a big hit, and for good reason. The soups are very fresh-from-scratch tasting each time my guests and I have enjoyed them. You can do a tasting with the Soup Trio: a smaller portion of two of the day’s soups and a half a sandwich. If you have a soup preference, go with the ½ Sandwich & Soup. Personally, I am very fond of the Chicken Salad Croissant for the sandwich. It’s Hawaiian chicken salad on a fresh buttery croissant with lettuce and tomato.  I also have enjoyed the Quiche of the Day on a couple of occasions; each time it was delicious, served with baby greens tossed in light vinaigrette and a side of fruit.

The evening dining choices combine some of the favorite lunch items with a satisfying variety of entrée’s. Signature items set an establishment apart, and Terrace Café obviously knows that fact. Take, for example, the Painted Hills Steak and Eggs – butternut squash risotto, a seared filet, poached egg, with Texas toast crostini, micro greens, Peppadew jam and sage oil. Peppadew peppers are sweet piquant peppers grown in South Africa and available in some grocery stores; they are fantastic in recipes. Even the selections without the Terrace’s tree logo sound very appetizing, as in the Fennel Pollen Dusted Grouper with lump crabmeat, wild leek and corn risotto, steamed asparagus and a saffron broth. See what I mean?

I’ll share one particular dining experience, as it was highlighted by excellent service. My guest and I had the pleasure of being catered to one evening by Kevin. Yes, catered to; don’t you want to feel like you were catered to on each dining experience? It doesn’t necessarily take any extraordinary effort. It does take being very conscious and personable, and enjoying what you’re doing at that moment. It always feels great to me when I am seated and shortly thereafter someone approaches the table and introduces themselves. In this case, it was “Good evening and welcome to Terrace Café Ballantyne, I’m Kevin and I will be taking care of you.”

Kevin wanted to be sure and highlight the menu; specifically the Fresh Butternut Squash Ravioli. He described the dish, saying it was both excellent and seasonal, and would soon disappear from the menu. That was enough for me; I had to have it. We started this visit with the Blue Crab Bisque made with lump crab meat and sherry. It was scrumptious with a velvety smooth texture and tender morsels of crab. I highly recommend it. My guest found the Veal Dijon to be delightful and I concurred. It had jumbo lump crab with Dijon mustard, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach.  Oh, and the ravioli – spectacular – the pillows of pasta stuffed with squash were executed ideally. The sage cream sauce had a deeply delicious flavor profile. The toasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil were the perfect topping. I am so glad Kevin strongly recommended the dish. Even the mini biscuits with the jalapeno jam and honey butter were yummy.

I can only find slight opportunity for improvement when it comes to Terrace’s food, with one particular breakfast. I had the Full Breakfast combo with two eggs, choice of bacon or sausage, hash browns, grits or fruit, and two buttermilk pancakes. The pancakes were perfect, though I had to wait for the syrup. The eggs were barely warm, even though they were perfectly prepared, and the hash browns were just a bit undercooked. My guest had the Breakfast Casserole which tasted great; it has sausage, egg, onion and cheese with a tasty pastry crust. Unfortunately it was not warm all the way to the center. One other thing – the plates that I had, though unique and beautiful, were not level. My main dish plate as well as the one with the pancakes would not sit flat on the table; a minor annoyance.

Even though the one breakfast just missed the mark, I would not hesitate to go back, even for breakfast, and I’ll tell you why. The restaurant is well managed. You will find a manager checking tables and asking guests how everything is on a regular basis. I observed this on each visit to both locations. So you might ask me “Why didn’t I say something to the server or the manager that stopped by to check on my breakfast?” Personally, I probably would have spoken up as a regular guest, and I have every expectation that everything would have been handled properly. However, many guests will not say anything unless something is really wrong, or really bad. I dine out and review for those guests, who may actually be described as the silent majority, culinarily speaking.

Given all of the dining experiences I have enjoyed at the Terrace Café in SouthPark and now in Ballantyne, I suggest you put them on your short list for any meal, if you have yet to check them out. There are still several items I want to have just for myself, like the Malted Belgian Waffle, the Fried Chicken, or the Fish and Chips available on the lunch menu (would love to see it on the dinner menu).  If you’re dining between meals or late night, Terrace serves a Bar Bites menu 2:30 to 5 p.m. and 9 to 11 p.m. (except Sundays). On Sunday evenings, enjoy half priced bottles of wine.

Terrace Cafe

4 of  four  stars

14815 Ballantyne Village Way

Phone: 704-369-5190

Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to midnight

Price Range: $5 to $26

Details: Outdoor dining, private room for 12

Visit: www.terracecafecharlotte.com

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