Friday, October 15, 2010

Paco’s Tacos and Tequila

Last week I went to Paco’s Tacos and Tequila for lunch with a friend. This place is nestled in the back corner of by Williams Sonoma in SouthPark. It's owned by the same group who runs Cantina 1511, Big Daddy's and Mama Ricotta's. These places are all pretty good so I was expecting something comparable...

Upon entering, we were seated quickly and brought water and menus. I looked around and it had a bar/Tex-Mex feel with old gas station signs and cowboy decor. We were sitting for about 5-7 minutes still waiting to see our waiter (and noticed that the table near us who were seated after us had chips and salsa already!). I shouldn't have been that excited about chips and salsa but it was lunch time and I was hungry. Finally... our server arrived with the chips and salsa and to take our order. Again, another table near us was told about lunch specials - us, nope - not really.

We ordered the following:

Me: Enchiladas - a full order (3) for $12. I ordered the cheese (with the chile con carne), chicken (with queso) and the beef (which had another 'chili' type sauce)
Friend: Tacos (2) for $10. One beef brisket and one chicken.

Now... to the chips and salsa. Very disappointing. Chips tasted like Tostitos and the salsa was watery and bland. There was no spice or flavor and pretty much tasted like they took a can of tomatoes and pureed them to make a salsa. Where's the spice??

The food came out about 15 minutes later and was warm (not hot...). Both dishes were served with Spanish rice and charro beans. My beans were still smoking but my friend commented that the beans were cold. The Spanish rice was not too good either - very tomato pastey....

Now - on to the main dish:

Beef enchilada: I did not like the sauce. It was overly smokey and was overpowering to the dish. The beef was pretty good but again, I couldn't get a good taste of it due to the sauce.

Chicken enchilada: Not too bad - the second 'best' of the three. The queso I could have made at home with some cheese and Rotel tomatoes. The disappointing part was the chicken. It was just grilled chicken thrown into a corn tortilla. Come on guys... I expect more flavor from you! Especially since you can achieve it at Cantina. I would have expected some spice, flare, flavor, something in the chicken... but no. What about shredding it even and simmering it for a bit??

Cheese enchilada: Surprisingly the best of the three. Yes - the simple cheese enchilada. The chile con carne sauce did it. It was quite tasty and played well with the crunch of the fresh onion.
My friend commented that the beef brisket taco was outstanding but had the same idea about the chicken taco as I did the enchilada.

The server came by once to refill our water and then afterwards we had to waive down servers to get another refill.

Paco's Tacos and Tequila did not meet my expectations - especially when it's in the same group as Cantina, Big Daddy's and Mama's... I give this place two ghosts. Come on, you can do better.

6401 Morrison Blvd
Suite 8A,
Charlotte, NC 28211
(704) 716-8226

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Township Grille

My friends suggested we try Township Grille last Saturday after our annual garage sale. This suggestion due to that none of us have been (we try places we haven't been... last year being Kaskav - RIP) and heard of the great wings there. So hungry and sun-tired, we headed on over.

We went in and found a table (seat yourself) and the waitress came up and took our drink orders right away. I ended up ordering jalepeno poppers as a starter. The poppers came out about 5 minutes and came out hot. There were 4 in the basket and served with salsa. They were pretty good but definately were the poppers from the frozen food aisle.

Our main order was:
Friend 1: 15 wings and fries
Friend 2: Chicken pita and fries
Spouse: Appetizer platter (wings, chicken finger, potato skins, mozz sticks, poppers)
Me: French dip and fries

Our food arrived about 10 minutes later and again - hot (you know me and my love for hot food). My french dip was served on a hoagie roll, topped with melted provolone cheese and served with a side of au jus. The flavor of the beef and au jus was average. I was expecting some salty/pepper taste or some other seasoning but nope. The fries were good - you can't go wrong with crispy, crinkle cut fries with season salt.

The spouse's plate looked bland and boring. Yes, it was a mess of fried food. The chicken fingers looked like tiny, burnt pieces of leather and didn't have much chicken and the potato skins lacked appearance and flavor (and does not compared to the best ones in town - Kristopher's). Again, the items on this dish all looked as if I could get them from the frozen food aisle. I guess it's the spouse's fault to order the appetizer sampler but usually you get better looking - and tasting items. I also snagged a couple of wings and YES - they were good. Nice and crispy and the sauce very flavorful with a slight hint of bite.

As for the friends' dishes, Friend 1 couldn't get over the wings. I thought that he was going to jump out of the chair and dance on the table as to how much he loved them. For Friend 2, I noticed that she did not eat all the pita but took a few bites then ate the items inside. She said it tasted good but usually if it's good - you eat the whole thing.

Leaving stuffed (and with heartburn), I didn't have to eat dinner that night.

I give Township Grille 3 ghosts. Mainly due to the frozen food aisle food and unseasoned french dip... but redeemed by the taste of the wings and fries.

10400 East Independence Boulevard
Matthews, NC 28105-4612
(704) 847-2480

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Maria's Mexican Restaurant

My friend and I went to Maria’s the other day for the first time. A bright, colored place on the corner of Tyvola and South…

Upon entering we were seated quickly and given a basket of hot tortilla chips (nice!) and a small bowl of salsa (ahhh man). The chips were great and had a good crunch – nothing better than fresh chips. The salsa – however – was a little watery but did have a nice ‘bite’ to it. I only wish the bowl was bigger and the salsa had more veggie chunk (I had several refills since the bowls were tiny).

For my meal, I went with the lunch special – beef burrito, beef taco and cheese enchilada. My friend ordered the rojo burrito. Our food came out rather quickly (within 5 minutes of ordering) and plates were hot. I dove into the burrito first. A nice size for a combo lunch plate special. The beef was good and had flavor and there was a good layer of cheese on top. The red sauce on top of the burrito was also tasty and did not over power the beef. Next, the taco. I have been eating tacos like crazy lately and this ranks in the top 3 – nothing like a taco loaded with beef and cheese. Finally, the enchilada. Sometimes when I order enchiladas, they are not too hot and the cheese is not fully melted in the middle. This enchilada had enough melted cheese it was oozing out of the ends (leaving even more melted cheese to sop up with tortilla chips). The enchilada was good but the sauce on top was ok. I rather would have had the red sauce from the burrito on the enchilada as well.

My friend enjoyed their rojo burrito. This was a regular burrito with the rojo peppers – a good little kick.

I would go back again when I am on that side of town. Plus, it’s a quick drive from work to get a good, cheap lunch. I give Maria’s 3 ghosts… mainly due to the watery salsa. And I believe it is a step below my El Valle (which is four ghosts).

Go give it a try – don’t let the bright colors outside distract you away…

5234 South Boulevard
Charlotte, NC
(704) 525-5075

Monday, June 21, 2010

South 21

I have been quite busy so here is a long-awaited review.... South 21.

I went here after driving by it several times and seeing it on the Food Network. I know Guy (from Diner's Drive-ins and Dives) raved about it on his show - especially the onion rings. Well, here's my review of the place.

Upon entering, the place seemed clean and service was friendly. I ordered the Jumbo Cheeseburger (a Super Boy with Cheese) and onion rings. I waited about 5 minutes and bingo - my meal was ready. The burger on first glance looked pretty good as it was topped with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions. I did notice that the burger patty itself was thin - like a McDonald's hamburger patty. So - having the two patties seemed more like a 'normal sized' burger. I took a bite and the cheese was melted nicely and oozed out. The bun was nicely toasted but the taste of the burger confirmed my initial glance of the thin patties. I was able to eat the burger pretty quickly.

Next, the onion rings. They were thin thin thin - just like the burger patty. I bit into them hoping for a gush of flavor - but nothing, nada, zeltch. No flavor in the batter and barely an onion inside the fried ring. I was very disappointed due to all the hype placed upon this onion ring. The onion rings were also very dry. No moisture+no flavor makes CLT Food Ghost a dull ghost. I had to use ketchup to choke a few more down.

Maybe it was an off day, but overall I was not impressed. And concluded that either Guy's tastebuds are wacked or he's a very good liar.

The service was great but the food... well... I give South 21 2.5 ghosts (with service saving them).
I can get a better burger elsewhere - one place being my own grill. Sorry South 21.

South 21 has a Matthews location which is more sit-down and the drive-in location up on Independence on the way to Uptown.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


has closed. Didn't survive the year due mainly to location. I was really craving some Lahmajoon and Blinchiks.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Arooji’s Wine Room

My spouse and I decided to go to Arooji’s Wine Room last week for a little celebration. We ended up going around 6PM on a Friday night to the South Charlotte location and it was pretty empty (maybe 4 other tables filled). We were glad there was no wait so we gladly accepted a booth. The waiter was friendly and attentive but also laid back. He took our drink orders and gave us time to review the menu.

The menu has several different pasta options and entrees as well as the regular ‘Italian’ type appetizers. The wine menu was a nice size and you could clearly see why it is a ‘wine room’. We settled on the calamari and I ordered the Lasagna all' Emiliana – which is lasagna with bolognaise sauce, parmesan, and provolone cheese and the spouse ordered the Ravioli Miramonti – which is lobster ravioli served in a light wild mushroom cream sauce. As we waited for our appetizer, we were brought some fresh bread and olive oil/balsamic vinegar with some white limas and tomatoes.

The calamari came out shortly after receiving the bread and it was plentiful and hot. The calamari was served with two dipping sauces – the traditional marinara and a roasted pepper aioli. The calamari looked pretty bland and when I tasted them, I knew I wasn’t going blind. There was really no flavor and I had to rely on the salt and pepper and the two sauces to eat them. The sauces were good though and was very glad I had them.

Once the appetizer was finished, our main dishes arrived. My lasagna was huge and hot. It had several layers of pasta and sauce and a nice serving of cheese. This is what I came here for – a good, hearty portion of comfort food. The bolognaise sauce had nice pieces of meat and was full of flavor and was more of a creamy tomato/vodka type sauce which was real good. The spouse’s lobster ravioli were also tasty. They were plump and had a nice amount of lobster. The wild mushroom sauce was also good and added a nice balance to the lobster ravioli.

The waiter was very good. He kept our glasses filled and was prompt and friendly. The restaurant started to get more crowded as we were leaving (~7PM). If I had to base it on the calamari alone, it would be 1 ghost but since the meal was delicious and service was good, I will give Arooji’s 3 ghosts.

Arooji's has two locations - one in South Charlotte at 485/Providence Rd and in South Park.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

She-Crabs in Charleston!

Well this past weekend I had a 3-day vacation in Charleston, SC... mostly due to the Good Neighbor promotion (you know - the creepy old guy in the street asking if you want to go see the harbour?)... anyways.

I have been to Charleston before and graded these items in my mind - but now - I am putting them on 'paper.' For those who don't know, She-Crab soup is the big thing in Charleston. You can find it EVERYWHERE. There is not really a crab that's a 'she-crab' but it's a female blue crab that is found off the coast of SC. I ended up trying the She-Crab soup at three places (and with my summary):

1) Amen Street -
The soup arrived hot and was served in a good sized bowl. The consistency of the soup was thick and taste had a good balance between the 'chowder' feel and the 'kick' of the low country spice. I was happy to find large lumps of crab within the soup - which made it seem more fresh. The soup did not need any additional seasoning and was very filling. A great lunchtime meal.

2) Poogan's Porch
I ordered a cup of this soup before my dinner. I was surprised that the soup arrived already with the sherry added on top. Disappointingly, this gave the soup a warm and watery substance. The overall flavor was ok and it definitely was more soupy than chowdery. There were no true crab lumps as they seemed to be blended into the heavy cream.

3) 82 Queen
Last but not least, 82 Queen. I hear all the raves about this place (and have been several times) and it has won the best She-Crab soup in the city. The soup arrived with the sherry on the side (a plus). This soup was also hot and had a nice, chowdery consistency. There were pieces of noticeable crab but not as many 'lumps' as the Amen soup had. I will mention that I ate this soup prior to my main meal (in which I got food poisoning - be careful of pork, folks!). It was a nice beginning to a sad and painful night.

Here's my rank:
3) Poogan's Porch
2) 82 Queen
1) Amen Street (and yes, can I get an AMEN!)