The Queen's Feast, Charlotte's homegrown restaurant week held twice a year, is a great opportunity to get up to speed on some of the newer restaurants around the region, and try some different dishes that you might otherwise miss. Young restaurants often participate in restaurant week to build up their reputations and clientele. Since the failure rate for restaurants has always been, and remains, high, catch these gems now, and help them hang around awhile. Here are some of the newcomers in the class of 2013.
The Peculiar Rabbit, in the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood, practically demands a look-see. The towering three-story edifice, months in the refit, is the sister restaurant to Jackalope Jack's over on 7th Street, but presents a more upscale profile, combining English pub food and Southern classics in an eclectic menu washed down by lots of microbrews on draft. Entrees on the Queen's Feast menu include the signature Peculiar Rabbit (braised rabbit leg with white bean cassoulet), a lamb shepherd pie and wild mushroom risotto, as well as chicken and fish dishes. Don't miss the Vidalia onion bisque topped with bacon and truffle oil as a starter. Also, be sure to climb the stairs to the heated rooftop deck to take in the spectacular view.
Heist Brewery is another spot making waves in its neighborhood, this time in NoDa. Located in the historic Highland cotton mill along North Davidson Street, Heist is enormous inside, with views of the brewing vats in the dining room, and has several patios as well. The handcrafted beer is excellent, but it is the food creating the buzz. Chef Rob Masone calls his menu "twisted" and it certainly isn't like any other in town. The Queen's Feast offerings include several of his unique creations, including Kurobuta pork belly corn dogs with rootbeer barbecue sauce, pipe-smoked salmon, chicken and waffles sushi, and banana eggrolls filled with Nutella mousse. A pint of house-brewed beer is included, and vegetarian options are available.
Delta's, a classy new soul food spot in Uptown, joins Queen's Feast with a broad sampling of their Southern favorites, including collard green dip, smothered turkey or pork chops, and Delta's signature take on chicken and waffles: three pieces of fried chicken atop a sweet potato waffle. For dessert, make your choice among red velvet cake, peach cobbler, and classic banana pudding. Time your arrival, if you can, for Tuesday, Friday, or Saturday evenings, when Delta's hosts live jazz and r&b bands.
Malabar, another top contender for 2012 best new restaurant honors, serves a delightful menu of Spanish tapas and paellas designed by Chef Gabriele Grigolon, executive chef for the Conte family of restaurants. Queen's Feasters dining here get to sample a variety of the Uptown restaurant's best dishes. Grigolon, by the way, won the prestigious Grand Cordon d'Or of Monaco during his career in Europe.
Not far away, the stylish new 5Church also opens its doors for the Queen's Feast, offering a menu of several of Chef Jamie Lynch's most popular dishes, from hangar steak, to wasabi crusted salmon, to crispy marinated tofu, one of several items appealing to vegetarians. While there, don't forget to look up: the entire text of Sun Tzu's "Art of War" is painted on the ceiling.
Fans of all-you-can-eat have several choices this year, including two new Brazilian-style steakhouses, both featuring the signature rodizio tableside meat carving. Brazz Carvery & Brazilian Steakhouse, located in the Green on College Street, includes free parking and a glass of wine or beer with your meal. In Matthews, Amor de Brazil Steakhouse, flagship of a budding chain that plans to open locations in Los Angeles, Denver, and Nashville during 2013, is convenient for South Charlotte diners. Despite the emphasis on meat of all sorts, rodizios are good choices as well for people with smaller, less-carnivorous appetites. The huge AYCE salad array, seafood selections, and hot and cold buffets are great values, even if you don’t touch a bite of meat.
The newly opened Napa on Providence debuts at Queen’s Feast. It occupies the location of the longtime favorite Providence Café in Myers Park. As the name suggests, it takes its inspiration from the Napa region in California, featuring rustic yet sophisticated dishes that pair perfectly with wine. During Queen’s Feast, house wines, tapped from the barrel, are on special.
The Vine American Kitchen, a newcomer in the Ballantyne neighborhood, is also wine-oriented with 40 vintages available by the glass. Its Queen’s Feast menu meanders from gumbo to Wagyu pot roast, finished off with bing cherry bread pudding, all made from fresh, local and organic ingredients.
And don’t forget e2, the local entry of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, located underneath the new Mint Museum Uptown. The Queen’s Feast menu features a number of specialties from the regular menu that would cost considerably more ordered a la carte.
For more on Emeril, Grigolon, and other top chefs participating in the Queen’s Feast, see our article:
You can find menus for all the participating restaurants on the Queen's Feast website, along with special offers, parking suggestions, and other details. Reservations are highly suggested.
We've published several other articles on past Queen's Feasts, and have updated them for 2013. Check these links:
Best Bets for Queen's Feast: Steakhouses