Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Well I decided to hit up the Penguin for a Monday night meal - hoping it would not be too crowded. When I arrived, I my name with the host and learned the wait was 30 minutes (30 minutes is not bad when people wait an hour + on the weekends). While waiting, I noted a beer special of Shock Top for $1.50/pint or $5/pitcher - so of course, I got a pint and the wait was soon over.

The menu is the typical 'diner' fare with sandwiches, hot dogs and vegetarian options... with their main item being the hamburger. They have three sizes of hamburgers - the single, double and the triple stack (or the 'Hemi') and you get add-ons such as pimento cheese and dressed all-the-way (lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, mustard, mayo) or Southern style (which has slaw, chili, and some all-the-way items).

The server came to the table immediately and took my order - fried pickles, a single burger with pimento cheese dressed all-the-way and sweet potato fries. The pickles came out hot and fast - so hot I had to blow on them to cool down. The pickles were nicely fried with a hint of grease and had the perfect salty dill flavor in each bite. The pickles also come with ranch dressing for dipping that allows for a yummy bite. The 'regular' size is big enough to share with others and a good appetizer until the main event comes. The burger and fries came - and again, the food was on fire! I could barely wait to gobble the burger down so I risked burning my mouth in order to take a bite and it was delicious! The burger was moist and the pimento cheese (made daily by the Penguin) added a great flavor. The burger was about 1/3 lbs in size and was very filling. It was so good though I could have made room for another. Lastly, for the sweet potato fries - I was a little disappointed. Yes, they were hot - but they were limp and soggy. I like my fries crispy! They were also very thin-cut and usually sweet potato fries are a little bit bigger sliced...

The burger is about ~$7, with the pickles and fries adding about $3-4 each to the total. Leaving the Penguin, I was still craving the salty taste of the fried pickles and the perfectly cooked burger and thinking nothing of the fries... I give the Charlotte drive-in 'gem' 4 ghosts.

The Penguin is located at 1921 Commonwealth Ave, Charlotte, NC in the Plaza-Midwood district. Get there early on the weekends or try it during the week for dinner - you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Today some co-workers and I decided to go out for lunch and try Rotelli’s. Since none of us has eaten there we figured it would be a good place to try – especially since it was around the corner. We entered the restaurant and were hit in the face with the smell of pizza cooking (always a great sign) and greeted warmly by the hostess (I will also mention it was nice and cold in the restaurant – could have been the 90+ degree days we have been having). Browsing the menu, I noticed there were some lunch time specials – there were five that varied between slices of pizza to half sandwich combos – all under $6. Our waitress then came to the table to take our drink orders and to bring us some garlic rolls. The rolls were warm and buttery and I liked how the rolls were lightly crisp on the outside and very soft in the inside…. Did I mention we had about 12 rolls in our basket!

Trying not to fill up on bread, we decided to all order the half sandwich combo, which comes with a side salad (or soup if you prefer) and a slice of cheese pizza. You also get to select which half sandwich you want so I opted for the eggplant parmesan while my co-workers got the meatball parmesan and the spa grilled chicken. Our salads came first and they were big! Usually a side salad is small and lacking but this was a good sized salad with mixed greens and romaine, red cabbage, cucumbers and carrots. This ‘side salad’ could have been a meal. Next our slice of pizza came – which was hot out of the oven! The pizza had a very thin crust – which I like – and had some nice spices mixed into the cheese. The slice was also large, equivalent to the “NY Slice”, and initially required a fork to eat. Lastly, the sandwiches came – which were on 6-inches of lightly toasted bread. Biting into my eggplant parmesan, careful not to burn my mouth, I noticed that the eggplant was not greasy and was tender. I would like to see a little bit more seasoning in the eggplant but overall with the marinara sauce, mozzarella and ricotta cheese, it tasted good. My co-worker enjoyed their meatball parmesan and also commented it was very hot. The meatballs were moist and nicely flavored. We both liked how hot the sandwiches were as the cheese stretched between a bite and the sandwich – cheesy goodness! My other co-worker ordered the spa grilled chicken. Per the menu, it states that it is marinated in 12 spices and grilled – but looked more like a regular piece of grilled chicken as I didn’t see 12 spices or hardly any seasoning. I took a bite of the chicken and confirmed what I noted – it was fairly moist but no flavor at all. My co-worker commented that if the chicken was the only item ordered and not the combo, that they would be disappointed and possibly not return.

I give Rotelli’s three ghosts on the seasoning but four ghosts on the food quantity, hotness and price - so an average of three and a half ghosts. Overall, my dish was very good and very filling - I am so full I do not think I will be eating dinner. Not to mention, but this lunch combo was only $6. We had fast service at a great price – perfect for the lunchtime crowd.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dorian's Deli and Grill

If you are ever in Matthews and looking for an out-of-the-way place for lunch (or breakfast) - check out Dorian's Deli and Grill. Dorian's is a small, Greek family owned deli open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday (Sat is lunch only). It's a 'seat yourself' and usually grab your own menu type of place (before seating - check out the daily special near the cash register ~usually $5). The menu has the typical deli food (turkey sandwiches, burgers, salads) but also has some Greek dishes such as gyros and slovoki. The waitress came to the table pretty quickly after sitting and brought us some ice, cold unsweet tea - yum!

I ordered the chicken slovoki with the Paul's Chips (you get a choice of a side) and my partner ordered the pita cheeseburger. The meal was turned around in about 10 minutes - looking very delicious. My chicken slovoki was served in a warm pita with chicken tenderloins, onions, lettuce and tomatoes and slovoki sauce was on the side. The pita was warm and the chicken was moist. The slovoki sauce was very light and tasty when added to the pita. Now, on the Paul's chips.... these are homemade chips with a cajun/season salt on them. They are quite tasty! There is usually a mix of the real crunchy and some not-so-cooked ones - but even those are good. I also tasted of the pita cheeseburger, which was nice and hot. The burger itself was very moist and the cheese was nicely melted. The burger was also served in a warm pita. Once the food was brought, however, we never saw our server again (and I wanted a tea refill). I had to get it myself when we paid at the register. I guess a family owned business does not allow a full wait staff - but the food definitely outweighs this one con. My meal with tip was ~$8.

I give Dorian’s 3 ghosts in service and 4 ghosts in food, for an average of 3.5 ghosts. Don’t let the 3.5 ghosts scare you though as the food is a great quick-time lunch place.

1240 Matthews-Mint Hill Rd Matthews, NC 28105 (near the bowling alley)

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Food Blog

I also wanted to state that I am clearly not a writer... but wanted to write about the places I eat at and whether they are 'ghost' worthy. Restaurants can score up to 5 ghosts - 5 being the highest. Scores are based on waitstaff, quality of food and overall enjoyment of the environment. Yes - there are some places I will write about that I can clearly make at home - but hey - everyone eats out once in a while.

I will admit I have eaten at many places but when I decided to actually write about the places I have been, I have promised myself to have 'an open mind' and give places a second.... or third chance. Again - no chains - except for the local chains...
Good food, good times and good friends.... BOO!

The Roasting Company

As I was driving to the Southpark area on Sunday afternoon, I realized that since it was Father's Day it would be likely that most of the restaurants would be crowded. Wanting something fast - I decided to eat at the Roasting Company.

When you walk into the RC, the decor doesn't grab you - but the food eventually will. Menus are near the front of the door, which consists primarily of chicken and pork. Each dish has a piece of cornbread and a choice of 1-2 sides. The sides change daily and are posted on the chalk board above the 'order here' area. I decided to order the chicken and black bean combo (rice topped with chicken, black beans, onions, cheese, and jaco sauce), okra and tomatoes and the spicy mac and cheese (a pure carb overload - but excited!). While I waited for my food (which took all of 2-3 minutes), I browsed the salsa bar for a spicy addition to my meal. The salsa bar consists of a mild, hot and very hot sauce and onions. I opted for a mix of the mild and hot and by then, my meal was ready.

My plate was overloaded and HOT! At places like this, I usually like to eat my meal in pieces so I started with the steaming hot okra and tomatoes. The okra was nice and tender and the tomatoes had a nice flavor (not over salted). I sopped up the remaining tomatoes with my moist cornbread. Once I gobbled that down, I started in on my chicken and black bean combo. This meal completely covered the plate and piled high - still piping hot. The jaco sauce is a sweet, brown sauce that is over the chicken. A lot of the sauce would be almost too sweet to eat but if you order it on the side, you can mix in the perfect amount. I was also happy to find out that the sauces were organic and very low in calories. My dish also had more chicken than the 'fillers' you get at other places. Finally - my spicy mac and cheese. Yum - my weakness. It had pieces of pepper in the dish which gave it a nice Chuck Norris kick and it was not overly cheesy. It was the perfect side dish and surprisingly still hot after completing the remaining items of my meal. My meal was ~$10.

I give the Roasting Company 4 ghosts just for the speed of delivery and the hotness of the food!

If you go for lunch - get there early as it gets packed. The RC also does take-out.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Maestro's Pineville

Since Charlotte Restaurant Week is around the corner (http://charlotterestaurantweek.com/), I thought I would write about an experience I had during the Winter restaurant week....

When we pulled up, we thought this place could have a lot of potential with the 'old house' charm... instead it was very poor service and cold food. We arrived to a semi-crowded restaurant with little greeting. It took the server ~15 minutes until we were even provided water - and we had to let him know that we wanted to order a drink (this was 30 seconds before we got up and walked out). Then another server came to take our order... which was basically all she did. No 'hello, welcome, how are you" or anything... We both ordered the wild mushroom soup, which could have been better if it was hot. Instead it was sub-warm. I ordered the filet, which was not too bad but really - you can't mess up steak too bad. My partner ordered the veal picatta - there were pieces not fully cooked and the dish was cold. The only redeeming part of the meal was the dessert (Choc mousse). Again, no one came by to ask how our meal was or offer any additional service... Our bill came (at this time we were contemplating our tip) only to find that 18% was already added on. They over-tipped themselves for sure. As we left, there was also no thank yous for coming, see you next time or anything. For a place that was in such a great building and area, the food and service ruined it all. This by far has been one of the worst places I have eaten at in the Charlotte area.

1 ghost
enough said...

Nikko - Ballantyne

Went to Nikko Sushi Bar in Ballantyne, which is a step-down on the 'hip' scale from the South Blvd location. I have dined here before - but I am going in with an open mind. We were seated promptly where the waitress came and took our drink orders. This place has some good martinis and I always order my favorite (an off menu item) - a plum martini. This is half plum wine and half sake... a nice balance of sweet and tart. This was shared by an appetizer of edamame.

For dinner, I decided to order sushi - the restaurant's namesake. From reviewing the menu, I wish there were some more options of sushi but it appeared to be primarily salmon and crab based items. I ended up ordering the dragonfly roll (a spicy, fried tuna roll with crab), the Philly roll, the scallop roll and the spicy crab/shrimp roll (the best sushi I have had is a place called Seito Sushi which is not in Charlotte - best roll - Sunset Roll that has salmon, a lemon wedge and crab).

Once I ordered, the edamame came out hot! It was as good as edamame gets. Good service so far but that soon changed. While sitting in the restaurant, I noticed that other diners were complaining about the lack of service. The dining room was not too full but it seemed like there were only 2 waitresses, which could have been the cause of the lack of service. Viewing the sushi bar, it had 3 'sushi artists' which did more talking then making sushi and this seemed to cause a break-down in the food serving. From the time I ordered, it took about 45 minutes to get the four rolls of sushi I ordered. During that time, the waitress did not come by the table to ask if I wanted another drink or refill the glass of water. Like I said -good service went down quick!

Finally - the food came. I can't complain about the sushi. The dragonfly roll is a larger roll with tuna that resembles more like chopped tuna (instead of the sushi grade tuna I am used to) but was still good and has a piece of crab. I believe it is the hot sauce they add to it that gives it the great flavor. The Philly and scallop rolls are the 'regular' rolls that you can get anywhere - but the fish tasted fresh and they were wrapped nice and tight. Finally, the spicy crab/shrimp roll was a 'salad' like roll with the same hot sauce used on the dragonfly roll. It too was good but I believe that the hot sauce gave it its flavor.

At the end of the meal, the waitress finally came and refilled the water. Too bad she did not do this while I was eating the spicy rolls!
Overall, the meal with two drinks, appetizer, four rolls and tip was ~$65.

Food = 4 ghosts, service = 3 ghosts for an average of 3.5 ghosts.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Fig Tree

I dined at the Fig Tree this past weekend - my first visit. We opted to go there as I have heard many great things about this restaurant. We was able to get a 6PM reservation, which was fine as it was not overly crowded. Upon entering, I found the restaurant very warm and comfy. It is in an old house in the Elizabeth district and it is always nice to dine in a historic home (the Lucas House).

We were welcomed promptly by our server who took our wine order and presented us with warm bread slices (that kept coming) and a home-made rosemary olive oil and garlic pate for dipping. I ordered a glass of the Kangarilla Road Shiraz 2005 - which was nice and light.

For starters, I had the Bison Carpaccio. This dish had approximately six to eight thin slices of bison, which was dressed with some baby arugula, red onions, parmigiano-reggiano slices, and a horseradish vinaigrette. The appetizer was a perfect fit as we were both able to split this dish and did not make us too full. The bison was very thin and tender and adding a slice of the parm-reg and vinaigrette gave it a nice 'bite.' The bison was a nice subtle appetizer as it prepared us for the salad course.

Each main meal at the Fig Tree comes with a salad course which consists of mixed greens, carrots, cucumbers, croutons and tomatoes. You can upgrade to the Caesar or add gorgonzola, calamari, feta... and a few more options. I ordered the regular mixed greens, while my partner ordered the Caesar with calamari. My mixed green salad was nice and light and I enjoyed the vinaigrette and homemade croutons. I tasted of the calamari on the Caesar, which were delicately fried and tender. No grease and perfect seasoning. It made me jealous I did not order those as well.

As for the main course, I ordered the halibut - served with a lobster butter and asparagus. My partner ordered the lamb chops (medium) - served with a kalamata olive 'bread pudding' and asparagus. My halibut arrived at the perfect temperature and was a generous portion size. The fish was very tender and flaky as when I touched it with the forked, it melted on the plate. The lobster butter added a nice flavor against the tender fish. The fish was also topped with a lobster claw - and I wish there was more! The lamb chops were served with a red wine sauce, of which I also tasted. The lamb was cooked perfectly and very tender. The red wine sauce gave the proper balance on the plate. The bread pudding was also good, however, my partner commented it 'filled the stomach'.

We skipped dessert for Irish coffees as we were pleasantly full. Meal was also reasonable. For an appetizer, main dish, coffees, 4 glasses of wine (2 for the each of us), and tip - the meal was approximately $180.

I will start off this blog with a perfect 5 out of 5 ghosts. This was by far the best 'upscale' dinner I have had in the Charlotte area and the service was beyond excellent.

The Food Ghost is now appearing....

I am a Charlotte resident and love food. I have read many critiques on restaurants and have agreed and disagreed with many and feel that another voice is needed to find the 'perfect place'. I also know that the 'hole in the walls' are the best and chains... well - we will never mention that word again. As I dine at the Charlotte area restaurants, I will document my dining experience. I plan to remain like a ghost - as I may haunt your establishment and will love it or leave it! I will love to take recommendations as well - so list your favorite place - and who knows, I may like it!