Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jojo's China Bistro

I went to Jojo's during lunch - right before they got busy. I noticed that the decor was pretty nice - wood floors, an open kitchen and big booths. The menu had several lunch specials in which you could order a protein plus two sides (salad, rice, spring rolls, soup or steamed vegetables). I settled on the Szechuan chicken with brown rice and steamed veggies.

The food came quickly and it was hot hot hot. The steamed veggies were my first victim. They were nice, crisp and bright - not ruined by oil or butter. There was a medley of mushrooms, broccoli, squash and carrots. The chicken was next - it was all white meat (yeah!) and tender. I wish that the chicken, however, was more spicy and less oily. The rice was simple brown rice in which I only finished 1/3 of the serving. Overall, the dish was pretty good and very filling. You could probably portion 3 separate meal servings from this dish (yes, I took some home).

The service was pretty good. My order was taken promptly and refills were provided. The food was also pretty good but as I mentioned above, I wish it was less greasy. The food was hot and tender and I did love that the veggies were actually just 'steamed.' I would go again - perhaps at dinner and try a different meal. I give Jojo's 3 ghosts.

Note - this is my smallest review!

7800 Rea Rd
Charlotte, NC 28277
(704) 541-6488

Monday, September 21, 2009

Don Juan's Mexican Restaurant

I ventured to Mint Hill today to try a Don Juan's (plus I had a coupon for a free meal!). Don Juan's is a Mexican restaurant behind Jimmie's on 51 and nested beside Rookie's Sports Bar. Going in, the restaurant looked new and some of the decor looked 'forced' into being a Mexican restaurant. We were told to seat ourselves and a server came to our table - which is good since we were the only people there. The server was friendly enough and brought us some chips and salsa as we browsed the menu. Let me explain the menu - it basically had headings of dishes - Burritos, Quesadillas, Tacos and under these headings were the meat you could get - Steak, Chicken, Pork, Chorizo, Shredded Beef, Ground Beef, Veggie, as well as some small combo plates (these were primarily a taco and chile releno). From looking at the menu, I was glad I had a free meal coupon as it seemed quite pricey for a Mexican restaurant and similar to 1511 Cantina menu prices (being this a very small restaurant, it surprised me). I settled on ordering the jalapeno queso and a beef burrito. My spouse ordered the chorizo burrito.

While we waited, we decided to snack on the chips and salsa. The chips = definitely store bought as they were perfect triangles and had no flavor what-so-ever. The salsa was a watery tomato mess with shards of herbs. It looked like they grabbed the cilantro - leaf and steam - and just threw it into the sauce. The queso came and it actually was a large serving dish versus a bowl ($4.50). It was the typical queso with slices of jalapenos chopped up and placed in there. I was hoping for a little more kick though.

Now for the main course... burritos. The plates were brought out and when placed down, the plate presentation was nice. The burrito, yellow rice and beans with a dab of guacamole and sour cream. I did not get the 'hot plate' warning only because when I touched the plate, it was cold. The burrito size was similar to a Moe's Jr sized burrito and filled with meat and more rice. The burrito itself was subwarm and lacked flavor. I am glad I had some leftover queso to eat the burrito with. The rice also was bland and it was basically yellow rice. I passed on the beans after one bite. As for the chorizo burrito, I took a small bite and again not too exciting considering chorizo is usually a flavorful sausage. It also seemed that the employees were almost too concerned about watching football than putting any effort in their food.

Again, I will state that I was glad I had a coupon as the burritos were $10 a piece (for me to say that my free burrito at Moe's early that week was better is scary). I left the restaurant with no real feelings except I still prefer El Valle (shout out!) and would probably not go back - even with a free meal coupon. I will also mention maybe an hour after leaving we both got bad stomach aches and heartburn... not fun. Thank God for Pepto. Since Don Juan's left me empty (and sick), I give you 1.5 ghosts (the .5 ghost for the queso 'saving' my burrito).

7102 Brighton Park Dr
Mint Hill, NC 28227-8052
(704) 573-0003

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

PJ O'Reilly's

PJ O'Reilly's is a new Irish pub off Ardrey Kell Road near Ballantyne. I found this place by accident as it is hidden in a shopping center and no bright lights (which the no bright lights is a good thing!). I went in and was very happy to find it was 100% no smoking and there were several televisions that decorated the walls. The restaurant was also decorated in the homely, pub flare.

The menu had a variety of food and not limited to "Irish" - Irish food (corned beef, cabbage and potatoes) and some English dishes (bangers, fish and chips) and America (burgers, chicken fingers, cheesesteak). I had settled on the Rynne's Ruben (corned beef, kraut, swiss and 1000 island dressing) and wedding rings (aka onion rings). I also ordered a Guinness for an appetizer.

The food took a little bit (but hey - it's a new place) but the server was very friendly and had a great attitude. She made the wait shorter by bringing another Guinness. My food eventually came and I was more excited about the wedding rings than the sandwich. They were fried in a Guinness batter - hot and crispy. As far as the Ruben, I was disappointed in the corned beef. Being Irish (ah oh!) - the corned beef was thick, dry and fat was covering the entire piece of beef. The beef was also very tough and grainy. I did not care for this at all and did not finish my meal. I was surprised that an Irish pub would serve corned beef in this condition. If made correctly, the corned beef would have been moist and the fat would be barely noticeable (noting that corned beef is a fatty meat) - primarily since the corned beef is cooked in its own juice and brine.

I was disappointed that the menu did not have enough true Irish food. Don't get me wrong, Irish food is not the most appetizing but it was more American food with witty Irish names. The service was great but the food failed. Again, this is a new place so I am sure there are some things to 'banger' out. I am torn but I will have to give PJ's 2 ghosts. Service and atmosphere = good but the food = not too Irish.

Feel free to give them a chance - I am sure I will be by there again for another Guinness and possibly another try.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Lupie's Cafe

On the way Uptown to see a disastrous football game, I stopped at Lupie's for my pre-game meal and drinks. You know this place is going to be good once you pull in - nothing like a gravel parking area and a 'waiting area' with a booth facing the street and your local newspapers (Creative Loafing included). There is also a smoking/bar section as well. We waited about 5 minutes for a non-smoking table and were seated by an enthusiastic waiter. Within seconds of being seated we already had out drink order in and were reviewing the menu. This menu has everything a little ghost dreams about - 4 types of chili (and you can make it a 'mac' with spaghetti), burgers, nachos galore, and good ol' Southern cooking specials nightly. I was in luck that Thursday night was chicken and dumplings night... and it came with two sides. I ordered the mac and cheese and the squash. The spouse ordered the Lupie's burger with all the fixins (mustard, ketchup, cheese, onions, lettuce and tomato). As soon as we took our first sip of our cold Guinness waiting for our food - poof! out it came! I think the food was quicker here than any other restaurant I have been to.

My plate came out oozzing devilish goodness (glad I went to the gym that day). It had a heaping serving of mac and cheese (the REAL stuff - with the cheesy crisp topping) and squash with a bowl of the chicken and dumplings and cornbread. I first bit into the squash and it was so hot I practically burnt my tongue... but since I am transparent - it healed quickly. Next the dumplings... there is something about a hot bowl of saucy chicken and dumplings. It had a perfect flavor and not overly salty. The chicken was plentiful in my bowl and very tender. The dumplings sized from small to large balls of dough - and they were delicious. I saved the taste of mac and cheese for last. Again, the mac and cheese was hot and the top was the most perfect toasted cheese topping I have ever had for a restaurant mac and cheese. Cheese pulled from the mac noodles and the fork could barely cut it (sweet goodness!). I also eyed Lupie's burger - which was covering the hands of the spouse. The burger was also a very good portion and served on an onion roll - this burger was gone before I could even ask for a bite! When we checked out, the service was just ask gracious as when we entered.

I give Lupie's a solid 4 ghosts!
Go check it out - I will again... to try the chili and nachos!