On Val Panizzut's first visit to his wife’s Mexican hometown, the co-owner of The Prickly Pear vowed he would name his first restaurant after the delicious fruit borne from cacti. Today, the fruition of that fruit-inspired idea offers expansive views of Lake Norman from its generous windows or patio seats, as well a menu of Mexican cuisine. Not content with just offering traditional tacos and burritos, the kitchen crafts modern Mexican dishes that have earned it numerous local press mentions. They pair the usual flavors of cotija cheese, chipotles and cilantro with, for example, fruits such as pear, mango, and pineapple, all in an effort to add savory, piquant, or sweet depth to shrimp dishes and adobo-rubbed chicken. To augment the adventurous atmosphere, live musical acts entertain guests on Thursday and Sunday nights—but they never say in advance exactly where in the restaurant they’ll hide as they play.
Shoals Grill aims to please visitors of all ages in a dining room centered around its polished wood-paneled bar. The restaurant's chefs craft a menu of comfort cuisine, including fried pickles and Angus beef sirloin, as well as special meals designated for each day of the week. On Fridays, for example, they fry fish and chips, and on Sundays, families can stop in for a wholesome roast-beef dinner with mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables. Dessert choices include four-person servings of s'mores, for which servers present tables with a flaming bowl and a spread of chocolate, graham crackers, marshmallows, skewers, and an acoustic guitar to lead campfire songs.
From the sleek wood of a guitar to the rough stubble of a basketball, the confectionary masters at The Icing & The Cake make fondant look like anything their clients can imagine. Their huge, colorful cakes have served as the centerpiece for many special occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, and daring prison escapes involving the use of a life-size cake replica. The shop's pastry chefs also craft individual cupcakes, cake balls, and cake pops for spur-of-the-moment sweet snacks or to treat septuplets to their own personal birthday cake.
Owner Ronald LeBreton brings more than three decades of New England–area restaurant expertise to the menu at Joe Fish Casual Seafood. Diners sink teeth into haddock sandwiches, chargrilled mahi-mahi and salmon, or handmade crab cakes. Servers ferry plates of fresh seafood, steaks, and pasta to high-top bar tables or seats on the canopied outdoor patio.
Start your cruise through Vinnie's menus with the pelagic flavors of one-dozen oysters, blackened and served hot and spicy ($10.99). For diners that are extra-hungry and in need of an odd hat, there's the big combo basket of all of Vinnie's fried delights: crispy oysters, butterfly shrimp, calabash shrimp, and fish fillets ($16.99). Vinnie's original fish sandwich with fries ($9.99) offers a handheld seafood option, not to be confused with the derivative fish sandwich—the chicken club ($8.99). Vinnie's seasoned chefs also put together wraps and entrees such as the shrimp and grits, which fuses ground-corn flavors with ocean-fresh shrimp ($10.99).