Some culinary thoughts, some culinary emails

Ready, set, dine! Here’s your opportunity to enjoy the best value in dining while supporting your local restaurant. The semi-annual Queen’s Feast: Charlotte Restaurant Week returns for its summer 2013 outing Friday, July 19, and runs through July 28, a Sunday. The week will feature 109 upscale restaurants in the metro Charlotte area offering three courses or more at dinner for just $30 per person (just add tax and tip). Many of the restaurants are right here in south Charlotte, including Mezzanotte, in Cotswold; 131 Main, Blackthorne Restaurant & Bar, City Tavern, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, Global, Maestro’s Bar & Bistro, Mickey & Mooch, New South Kitchen & Bar, Nick’s Steak and Taphouse, Passion8 Bistro, Terrace Care, Trattoria Antica, Trio and Waldhorn Restaurant, in the Ballantyne and south Mecklenburg area; and AZN Azian Cuizine, Arooji’s Italian Ristorante, BrickTop’s, Brio Tuscan Grille, Café Monte, City Tavern, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, Georges Brasserie, McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks, Paco’s Tacos & Tequila, The Palm, Red Rocks Café, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Sushi Furu, Terrace Café, Toscana Ristorante Italiano, Upstream, Villa Antonio and Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar, in SouthPark.

Now’s the time to go out for a nice seafood dinner if you’ve been waiting, according to our culinary expert. The Palm has a special going on for Nova Scotia lobster.

Now’s the time to go out for a nice seafood dinner if you’ve been waiting, according to our culinary expert. The Palm has a special going on for Nova Scotia lobster.

The one thing I’m sure of is that they will sell out. So make reservations as soon as possible. Visit www.Charlot to peruse participating restaurants’ prix fixe menus and reservation information.

Draw me some butter – After 87 years of serving up Nova Scotia’s largest lobsters, The Palm has become a go-to destination for diners, like me, in search of a succulent and delicious lobster meal.  In 2012, the Palm sold 104,291 whole lobsters across their 28 locations. The Classic Summer Lobster for Two event is back! The celebration will spotlight lobster all summer long. For those dining as a duo, you get a 4-pound jumbo Nova Scotia lobster served traditionally with melted butter and lemon along with two starters and two sides. This offer is just $79.95 and available now through Aug. 31. More information is available at

Culinary Correspondence

Here are a few of the many emails I received recently. “Hi, my name is Todd Gallinek; I am one of the owners of True Crafted Pizza at Stonecrest. I wanted to thank you for taking the time to review our restaurant. I really appreciated all of the feedback and I did want you to know that you were spot-on with the grilled pizza and your comments. We have been tweaking the procedures on the grilled pizzas and agree we can have a superb grilled product to match the oven-baked pies we currently offer. Would love you to come back and try a grilled pizza next time you are in the area as we are working daily on improving our execution of the grilled menu items. Thanks again and hope to see you soon. Regards, Todd.”

I thank Todd for his email and his sincerity. That’s the attitude of a successful owner. I will be back to True Crafted Pizza very soon.

Here’s a readers response to the True review – “To comment on the above establishment I would first agree with you that the grilled pizza was flat-tasting with the sauce being too sweet. In regard to the gelato, my wife and I found limited flavors as well as being overpriced compared to Yofflers on Ballantyne Commons Parkway and tastes much better. Adding my two cents, Gene.”
Thanks, Gene. I will definitely get over to Café Yofflers.

Larry wrote the following email – “I read your piece on BT’s from a couple of weeks ago and concur.  But my low rating from a visit about three months ago stems from other issues.  I ordered a burger with onions and jalapeños and here’s what I got.  A burger with two very small pieces of onion and two and a half pieces of sliced jalapeño peppers… seriously.  It’s as though they were rationing the extras. That’s the best effort they could make I guess.  And at the time, they were somewhat new and trying to build the business.  Any smart businessperson would know that early on, one should seek to dazzle, not disappoint.  It’s about building repeat business. If you get them in the door once, keep them coming back.  But shortchanging customers on burger toppings won’t do it, especially when other competitors do it much better.  You can go to Fuddruckers and heap as many onions and jalapeños on your burger as you want with no limits.  Five Guys, Bad Daddy’s, etc., they do things much better. Heck, I’d much rather go to McDonalds or Wendy’s for a burger than BT’s (in fact, though not too good for you and I’ve only had one, the Wendy’s Baconator is 10-fold better than the burger I had at BT’s). In my view, BT’s won’t make it… certainly not with filthy utensils, plates, etc., and not by rationing the extras.  Also, who wants the hassle of getting up and asking someone behind the counter for a refill? That’s old school.  Chick-fil-A gets away with it because they get customer service and do a far better job serving their customers than any fast food chain, period. BT’s does not.

They are poorly managed, indeed, and it will be their undoing.”

Larry, I appreciate your sentiments and I hope the owner does, as well.

Here’s another on BT’s – “I did not see the original review of BT’s but I read your follow-up this morning. You hit the nail on the head that the owner has a management problem he needs to get a handle on. We have been there quite a few times because we really like the food and we live very close. This means giving up the level of service we experience at similar restaurants. Showmars, Five Guys, heck even Chic-fil-A, do a much better job with polite service and attentiveness. More than once we have seen customers walk away because only one register is open and the line is out the door, while managers and employees seem oblivious. I ordered a carry-out burger and fries once by phone. I was told 10 minutes, arrived in that time and then waited at least 15 more. Finally a bagged order was put by the register, two wait staff and two (I assume) managers were nearby but no one moved toward it.

Just as I got up to ask one of the staff held it up and asked who it was for. The nearby manager shrugged and said, “I have no idea,” clearly not caring. I was the only person waiting and I was seated right by the register yet no one thought to inquire. She went back to chatting with a coworker.  I went up and asked for it and sure enough it was mine. No apology for the wait. And when I got home, it was burned. Despite the refills being inaccessible to customers you have to walk up and ask (Showmars, Smashburger and even Chic-fil-A walk around offering refills). They just don’t ‘get it’ here and that is a management problem. I hope they figure it out; we would hate to lose another restaurant at that location. Sarah.”

All I can say, Sarah, is that every restaurant has a culture; you can feel it. It starts at the top with the owner or general manager and the staff reflect it onto the guests. I hope you are right and they “get it” before it’s too late.

And this one other from a loyal reader – “Had to write and tell you about Bahn Thai in the same place with Sticky Fingers, Pike Nursery and Hickory Tavern. It is next door to Cru. It was amazing! My husband kept saying for us to go but I was hesitant since they are a month or so old. So many years in the restaurant biz I know better. However, I was incredibly impressed and surprised. … Bee, the manager, waited on us and was great. Incredibly knowledgeable, a wonderful hostess, and the food, oh the food, I would have licked my plate if I could have. We ordered two of the salads and the shrimp summer rolls. The seafood and the one with the beef. … Also, ask for the spice tray. The sauces are amazing!! The jalapeño sauce was so incredible we bought some to take home. … I hope this was not a fluke and the quality and service remains strong. There are so many restaurants that I will never go back to because they just don’t get how to be a restaurant and what it takes to keep people coming back. Which makes no sense since the guest is what keeps them alive. Went to True Crated Pizza a few weeks back. The way you pay and receive your drinks makes no sense to me. Seems like a funky way to do it. Having to take your lids off at the table for a refill is annoying since you’re sitting there eating food that is mostly hand held. The service was good, the food was good, and I understand they are new and trying to find their rhythm. I feel they could go either way, majorly up or majorly down. Hope it is up!!! Had to pick my jaw up off the ground after your review about BT’s Burger Joint. Yeah, complacency will drive you right out of biz along with nasty place settings! Thanks for all of your reviews! I always open up to your section first! Cheers! Jennifer”

I must say, Jennifer, you are much too kind!

Questions, comments, south Charlotte restaurant openings, closings and food news, email culinary@thecharlot

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