Correspondence and food news you can use

New ‘Que – I had the opportunity to speak with the brand new owners of the renewed, and dramatically improved, Elwood’s Barbecue & Burger Bar; as well as taste the ‘que. Jeremy Johnson and brother-in-law Dan Anderson recently purchased the establishment on Johnston Road in Ballantyne.  They have taken a good concept of BBQ, burgers and beer, and have increased the quality and creativity of the product and service.  A brighter interior with more flat screens goes with the new menu that just debuted a couple of weeks ago. Dan was a long-time manager at a very successful eatery Uptown, and he’ll be running the day-to-day operations.  They hired chef Mike Theimer. You need to know that they are starting with high-quality ingredients and smoking the meats daily. The wings are wonderful, with that delectable smokiness infused. The pulled pork is tender, flavorful and moist. If you like brisket, you have to check out the burnt ends – the most tender, juicy deeply smoky flavorful pieces of heaven for the palate when it comes to brisket. Also, I recommend the burgers. They take Angus beef and grind it daily. This daily thing seems to be a trend. All the sides are made from scratch, including the onion rings. They even make the barbecue sauces in house. You’ll find local craft beers on draft at the bar. For sit down, take home or catering, you need to give them a try. Learn more at www.elwoodsbbq.com.

Elwood’s has the atmosphere, and the new effort, to win over customers.

Elwood’s has the atmosphere, and the new effort, to win over customers.

Brunch Azian style – It very rare that I go out for brunch. So when my wife suggested we do just that, to change things up, I said I wanted something different. Having enjoyed AZN Azian Cuizine for dinner, I recalled they were just beginning to offer brunch. I can make great eggs and waffles and pancakes anytime (thanks to my many years in restaurant kitchens). The brunch at AZN is definitely deliciously different. The extensive buffet-style brunch includes multiple stations featuring noodle dishes, salads, sushi, hot entrees, fresh fruits, sweets and more, as well as a dim sum cart. Yes, they have breakfast items, like the yummy marinated Asian-style bacon. The sushi, as before, was very tasty, and a great find was the beef tender in black pepper sauce. For dessert, try the scrumptious mini crème brulee. Again, excellent service and delicious dishes. Take someone special for their birthday; they offer a bottomless Mimosa. Only on Sundays, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; $22.95 per person. The brunch menu and more can be found at www.aznrestaurant.com/charlotte.

Get cookin’ – Know someone who needs a new and different cookbook this holiday season. Consider this one by Rick Browne. New restaurants are a dime a dozen, but sprinkled throughout the United States are remarkable restaurants filled with rich American history and delicious dishes that have kept people coming back for decades. Rick shares this amazing history and some of the country’s most coveted recipes in his new cookbook, “A Century of Restaurants: Stories and Recipes from 100 of America’s Most Historic and Successful Restaurants” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, October 2013, $40). From the oldest restaurant in the U.S. (White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, which began serving hungry folks “Stewed Pompion” and “Roast Beef-Stake” in 1673) to the youngest centenarian (the Pleasant Point Inn, a famed resort in Lovell, Maine, which began its long run in 1911), each restaurant played a major part in shaping U.S. culinary culture. They represent the best of family traditions, have provided jobs for millions of people, entertained and fed millions more, and in many ways define what we call American hospitality. Throughout his 46,066-mile journey into America’s oldest restaurants, Browne talked to the owners, the chefs and cooks, the waiters and busboys, the old customers who return year after year, and the folks who have just walked in the door for the first time, all the while looking for the secrets to their longevity, the magic that has kept people coming into their dining rooms for 10 decades or more. I only wish I could have accompanied Rick on his amazing gastronomical journey. You’ll get a big thank you and hopefully a dinner invite. The book is available whereever books are sold.

Feedback – I always appreciate the emails I receive after the latest restaurant review – in this case, Another Broken Egg Café. I’m sure that for each reader who agrees with the review, there are just as many who disagree. So far,

I haven’t received a ‘disagrees’ for this one.

Here are three recent emails:

“Wow… you really nailed it with your review of Another Broken Egg Café. My wife (78) and I (84) entered the café at 9:15 a.m. It was our first visit since, sadly, seeing Skillet’s leave. We had to peek in the window to make sure it was open. We entered to a handful of customers and were seated. After perusing the menu, my wife ordered a single egg and toast.  It was NOT on the menu and had to request it. ‘Sorry… they could not do that’ was the reply.

‘What?!  You must be kidding’ I commented. Glanced at my wife and suggested we leave.  The server, Lila M, somewhat embarrassed, looked over at a supervisor sitting at the counter.  Supervisor, somewhat slow, said they could do it and checked an electronic device to see the cost. I ordered the waffle with bacon combo and scrambled eggs. We had to request water. The coffee was poured and the meal came.  The waffle came with a small cuplet of whipped butter. Not near enough, so had to request more.  (Skillets had plenty of real butter on the table). Unlike you, my two scrambled eggs looked almost like three.  The food was delicious – BUT –  $5.38 for two cups of coffee?? (included refill) The hassle of getting one egg? Two coffee = $5.38, one waffle = $7.99, two pieces of bacon and two eggs = $3.19, one egg = $1.29, 1 English muffin (no toast) = $1.69.  Total with tax = $21.15. Although our server was very pleasant, the dining experience and prices were not.  WE WILL NOT RETURN. We look forward to your reviews each week and appreciate the service you perform.  Please keep it up! David.”

What can I say David; thanks very much, and I hope Broken Egg takes your email to heart and works on mending their shortcomings, including pricing.

This one from Irv: “I often read your reviews and find you to be spot on with this one, as well.  I often take my clients out for breakfast and I wanted to try this new business.  The same things happened to me and I even took the time to reach out to their corporate site that asked for feedback and comments.  I stressed the lack of service, having to send food back twice because they could toast the toast.  The server didn’t see the need to apologize.  I never question the price when the quality is there, never.  But being charged almost $3 for a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea is outrageous.  My feedback was met with no response.  I would suggest that they listen to their patrons, offer feedback or realize that their tenure will be short.  There are so many places to have breakfast.  I see no reason to return.”

Thanks very much, Irv. I am very disappointed that corporate didn’t reply. That’s not the way to gain a following.

One more: “I greatly appreciated the attention to detail in the current issue. Could you kindly provide top breakfast spots based on your reviews in Ballantyne? Keep up the great work and thanks! Steve.”

I’m so glad you asked, Steve. Personally, I am very fond of Toast Café in Ballantyne and Dilworth: great selection, smiling faces, a good value. Note to Another Broken Egg management: with all due respect, go there for breakfast. I also like Brigs in the Torrington Market. Terrace Café does a good breakfast, though I think they have slightly higher prices. And if I’m wanting upscale, Gallery Restaurant in the Ballantyne Hotel is superb for any meal, including breakfast (check out their Thanksgiving menu). These are the one’s that come to mind, though I’m sure there are several more great places throughout south Charlotte to start the day. Feel free to email me and let me know.

Questions, comments, south Charlotte restaurant openings, closings and food news, please email culinary@thecharlotteweekly.com.

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