Have you ever been in conversation with a new person and thrown out the obligatory “so, Bill, what do you do for a living?” and had Bill come back with “well Mary, I’m a psychiatrist”?
When a person discovers they’re in the midst of conversation with someone who analyzes people for a living, they are immediately scared. (What the heck have I said in the last five minutes? … Does he think I’m a basket case… Why am I suddenly sweating profusely?!) All of this fear and anxiety is followed by near immediate curiosity.
Oddly enough, that’s a similar reaction to the one I get when I first tell a person I’m a food blogger. People get oddly weirded out, followed almost instantly with excited curiosity. I try to explain that I am not a food critic, but a food enjoyer. I’m not professionally critiquing food, but rather honestly sharing my experiences with the food with friends and fellow foodies.
Isn’t sharing food with others what makes a good meal great, anyway?
When Mathew of the Hawthorne Holding Group recently presented me with the opportunity to do a complimentary sampling of three restaurants in one of Charlotte’s most successful restaurant groups, I was floored. Actually, floored is inaccurate. When I read the email, I literally let out a squeal and jumped into a pseudo herkie with both arms thrusting toward the sky. Yeah. That’s how excited I get about food. I know it’s not just me.
My friends Brian and Angie, the BF, and I set out on what can best be described as a foodie field trip (or a little slice of heaven) this past Sunday.
On the agenda:
Our first stop on the food tour was what I would consider the cornerstone of the restaurant group, Hawthorne’s New York Pizza & Bar. Hawthorne’s has a huge menu jam packed with things I want to try. I’m talking pizza, pasta, calzones, subs, dessert, meatballs… mmmmm meatballssss.
It wasn’t easy, but we decided the best game plan was to go with a plain cheese pie so that we could really get a flavor for Hawthorne’s namesake.
This is The New Yorker 18” cheese pizza:
Can you believe this beast is only $12.00?!
The slices were big and floppy and foldable (in true NY fashion), and most importantly they were absolutely delicious. The cheese and sauce ratio was perfect, and my tastebuds adored their cheese blend. I’m a HUGE crust junkie—it’s arguably my favorite part of the pizza—and this crust definitely got my stamp of approval. It was crisp but still had a nice chew to it.
I love how the slice swaddled my plate like a big cheesy blanket
After we each slammed down a slice of the pizza, we were brought a *new* sandwich to sample. This is the chicken bruschetta sandwich:
Grilled chicken, pesto aioli, gooey provolone cheese, and tomato bruschetta sandwiched between a crispy ciabatta roll.
Jarrod said this was hands down his favorite menu item of the day.
Take a look at the CHEESE!
We left Hawthorne’s with delighted and full bellies… Needless to say, the four of us are not professional food tasters as we still had TWO more restaurants to visit.
Loco Lime was our next feasting locale, and as soon as we walked in I realized it is not your typical Mexican restaurant.
The music playing reminded me more of a Caribbean escape than of Mexico, and the whole place was dimly lit and lined with super tall brown leather booths.
The swanky vibe carried over to the queso samples we were brought:
This queso was silky smooth and thick enough that each bite I took seemed to coat my mouth and tongue in cheesy goodness.
Even though Loco Lime had a definite swank, it wasn’t too swanky to preclude the bartender from calling Jarrod a “lady” when he couldn’t decide what drink he wanted Nothing says home like a little rib jabbing!
When each of us were brought our own platter to sample, we realized our full bellies were about to be bursting at the (pant) seams.
We were lucky to get to sample a Chicken Flauta, Tilapia Taco, and Carnitas:
Time to loosen the belt, folks…
I found it interesting that each of us had a different *favorite* item on the platter.
Angie favored the flauta:
Ummmm can you see why?!
Brian really liked the carnitas and was surprised by how lean yet juicy and flavorful the pork was.
Jarrod loved the mango cilantro salsa and citrus cilantro slaw on the tilapia taco and I adored the tomatillo sauce so much that I dunked everything on my plate in it
While we sipped on house margaritas, Angie got a big smile on her face and exclaimed that this was the most fun day she’d ever had. No, I’m not kidding. And her comment pretty much made my day! I love when people get excited about food!
After our second stop we were all absurdly full. I did snag a picture of my fellow feasters as we headed into our third stop: Kickstand Burgers-n-Bar!
Kickstand is a bicycle themed bar. Yes, bicycle. As in two wheels and nothing to power you but the carbs you slammed for breakfast:
I REALLY like the concept of this restaurant. It’s unique but still cohesive, and I think the bicycle theme meshes perfectly with the neighborhood.
And YES that is Snoop Dog chilling in the corner.
And yes (in case you were wondering), real men drink mimosas.
Is that an extended pinky I see?!
Shortly after popping a squat, we were each brought not one but TWO burgers to try: the Morning Ride and the Spin Class.
All smiles before round #3 commenced:
So about that Morning Ride Burger? SERIOUSLY. WOW. A hamburger topped with a fried egg, American cheese, hollandaise sauce all stacked up on a toasty English muffin. Who could have guessed how ridiculously delicious that combo would be?
The Spin Class had a house-made veggie burger with pepper jack cheese, GUACAMOLE!, and chipotle ranch.
Oozing with deliciousness:
I can’t get over how insanely good both of these burgers were. It actually PAINED me to not be able to eat them all… Brian, however, earned the eater MVP of the day for downing both of his burgers. Way to bring your game face, Brian
Lest we not forget about the sides!
The Sweet Potato Tater Tots reminded me of mini French toasts sticks. Please take note of the slathering of brown butter sugar syrup on my thumb along with a dollop of hollandaise sauce. What can I say? I like to become one with my food
We also got to try the CORN ON THE COB!
This was INCREDIBLE! Spicy and buttery and crazy eye inducing:
This is what I’m screaming!
After all of that mouth watering food, we all agreed some sort of physical exercise was necessary so we headed outside to lounge on the terrace before hitting the cornhole boards.
3 straight games of guys on girls cornhole later (all of which the gals were victorious in.. can I get a BOO YA?), it was time to go home.
And do this:
Talk about a fun day