It?s hard not to feel nostalgic at Jake?s Good Eats. For starters, the cozy eatery is housed in a converted 1930s gas station, and?with vintage Coca-Cola and motor-oil signs scattered across its whitewashed walls?it's decorated to match. But the nostalgia doesn?t hit full force until the first bite of Jake and Gordon Stegall's homestyle Southern food. Bone-in, maple-glazed pork chops dotted with candied apples, free-range barbecue chicken, and blackened grouper smothered in the house's original crawfish sauce are just a few menu highlights that have made Jake's worthy of a feature on the Food Network?s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and a place on Guy Fieri's speed dial. And that?s just the Stegall brothers? take on what they call ?more refined country cooking.? They also assemble oyster po? boys, pit-smoked barbecue sandwiches, and even hot dogs?in homage to their days as car-show vendors?topped with chili and slaw.
Best of all, from the brown sugar to the blackening rubs, the brothers make practically everything from scratch. And what they can't handle, their Mama Jean can; according to Creative Loafing Charlotte, she bakes all the biscuits and desserts, including banana pudding and chocolate-peanut-butter pies that ?are everything to make your mouth happy.?
The textile warehouse had seen many uses since it was built in 1925, but it had been empty when Susie Peck and her friends moved in. They saw its hardwood floors, exposed brick, and massive timber ceiling beams as warm and rustic—the ideal setting for the new Pewter Rose Bistro. Named for a small, pewter tin the original Pewter Rose Bistro owner purchased on her worldly travels, the now collectively owned restaurant posits a distinctively American take on casual European fare, which the agile hands of head chef Cory Zupon bring to fruition at every service.
The kitchen blends southern-style comfort fare with Mediterranean dishes and other ethnic cuisines, with many dishes assembled from local produce and fresh seafood into risottos and finely cooked filets. Dishes pair with more than 170 wines, each handpicked to join the eatery's focused collection, which features California and European varietals. At weekend brunch, more than 25 à la carte offerings rise from foundations of egg, toast, and produce, which also evoke the eatery's signature creative touches. On some evenings, aromatic tendrils rise from tables to mingle with strains of live music from the laid-back Pewter Lounge bar area, where guests relax on padded couches or chairs to listen to acoustic strains and jazz on Wednesday and Thursday.
A single word glows neon outside of Mert?s Heart and Soul: eat. The suggestion is hardly necessary. James Bazzelle and his wife Renee opened Mert's more than a decade ago, and in the years since, they've solidified their reputation as the neighborhood's spot for Southern, Low Country, and Gullah-inspired cuisine.
Fried chicken, collard greens, and shrimp and grits all make appearances in the restaurant's warm dining room, where old photos hang on caramel-colored walls. James, Renee, and their team also cook up brunch on the weekends?but the undisputed star of Mert's is the cornbread. Served hot, the bread's cake-like texture has earned it countless fans, television appearances, and potentially, its own late-night talk show.
The magic behind this bread?and the rest of the menu?comes from James' and Renee's willingness to experiment with classic recipes. Their cornbread turns extra fluffy because they add mayonnaise, for example, and their signature salmon cakes get their zest from homemade remoulade sauce.
Housed inside a mansion, Cajun Queen smacks of New Orleans, its home-like confines decked out in bayou-themed decor. Vibrant purple paint, Mardi Gras–masks affixed to the walls, and live jazz music compete for attention against a colorful wall mural depicting three gators on a picnic.
The kitchen staff foregoes gator, however, and instead cooks up gulf creatures such as shrimp, crawfish, oysters, and scallops, each served in various New Orleans–fashions: splayed over rice in an étouffée, sautéed creole-style with tomatoes and onions, or blown straight out of a clarinet. Encrusted with a mélange of spices, farm-raised catfish and new york strip steaks sizzle on the grill until blackened, and then join a mound of garlic mashed potatoes on the eatery’s wooden dining tables set up on either inside or on the spacious back patio. Come the weekend, Sunday brunch pairs eggs benedict and andouille sausage with Kahlua-laced coffee.
A science lab calls to mind test tubes, bubbling flasks of chemicals, maniacally laughing men in white coats—but rarely ice cream. But that's exactly where Curt Jones, chairman and founder of Dippin' Dots, came upon the inspiration for the tiny flash-frozen beads of ice cream. A microbiologist, Jones spearheaded the flash-freezing process of cryogenic encapsulation, a method capable of trapping flavor and freshness.
Beginning as a retail shop in Lexington, Kentucky, the ice cream quickly began to quell the tantrums of Fortune 500 CEOs all over the country. Having won numerous awards since he created a new way to enjoy an old treat, Jones stays true to Dippin' Dots’ roots, making the ice cream at the company headquarters in Paducah, Kentucky. New additions to the Dippin' Dots family include Dots ‘n Cream, a treat similar to traditional ice cream.
Rodolfo and Luisa Amadio are no strangers to the Charlotte restaurant scene. Following the success of Luisa?s Brick Oven Pizzeria and Dolce Ristorante Italiano, the pair decided to bring their passion for italian cuisine to Rudy's Italian Restaurant & Bar. Inside, honey-hued walls bask in the sunlight streaming through enormous picture windows. A tall semicircle platform is the dining room's centerpiece, displaying Rudy's inventory of more than 40 wine bottles, 35 of which are available by the glass. Chefs craft Italian starters for diners to pair with favorite varietals, creating hearty pasta dishes as well as seafood and veal in cognac and madeira-wine sauces. While chipping away at scoops of house-made gelato, diners can ask servers about reserving space on the outdoor patio for private parties or reserving space in the walk-in refrigerator for games of freeze tag.