Posted on Jan 15, 2012 | 2 comments
This past week, I got the opportunity to check out Charlotte’s newest restaurant, Smalls Food & Spirits, at their pre-opening friends and family event. Smalls is situated on Elizabeth Avenue in a funky nook of the city just outside of uptown. The Elizabeth Avenue area has a ton of character and rich history, but has been underutilized in recent years.
Smalls, which offers chef-inspired food in an intimate loungey-chic environment, is a perfect fit for the avenue. From the outside, the restaurant is quite unassuming. We actually passed it twice before we noticed the red lettering on the front door. Once through the small entryway, the space opens up into an intimate dining and bar area that seats 80 people.
The décor is bright with lots of contrasting colors and eclectic decorations. Artsy without being snobby.
One of the owner’s goals for Smalls is to make sure every item on the menu is addictive. While the menu isn’t huge, it does offer a big variety including Lobster Bisque en Croute, Mulled Pear, a variety of sliders, and Drunken Short Ribs. Admirably, Smalls makes practically everything in house—they grind their own beef, make their own pasta, and even bake their own bread. They serve up small portions that pack big flavor with a focus on high quality ingredients, preparation, and beautiful presentation.
Once seated, it didn’t take long to sense the kitchen was experiencing a first-night learning curve. It took us nearly 30 minutes just to get some of these delicious homemade rolls. If we hadn’t been starving zombies by then, I’d of said the hot rolls were worthy of the wait. I double-fisted two of them as soon as the waitress sat them on our table.
After another lengthy wait, we were brought our appetizer: the $14 Molasses Lacquered Pork Belly with Spicy Ginger Napa Cabbage Slaw.
Jarrod and I have been trying to be more adventurous in our menu selections lately. Neither of us have had pork belly before, so we found the texture to be interesting. The meat was succulent and practically fell apart in my mouth. Each bite was wonderfully flavored and the softness of the meat paired very well with the crunch of the ginger slaw.
For our main course we ordered the Homemade Porcini Pappardelle with Cottonmill Farms Oyster Mushrooms, Caramelized Carrots, and Grana Padano. It too took quite a while to emerge from the kitchen. The owner came around and was very apologetic of the delays. He promised us a round of fried pickles on the house, which sadly never came (though it appeared other tables received their baskets).
Once the pasta arrived, we snapped a few quick photos before diving in.
The homemade pasta was deliciously buttery, though we were a little sad the kitchen wasn’t able to add grilled chicken to the dish.
The pappardelle portion was quite small as well and came in at $15. I’m not a huge fan of small plates, but despite that predisposition I think these dishes were on the pricy side for the portions being served. That being said, each item we sampled was thoughtfully flavored and well-prepared. I’ll definitely head back to Smalls in a few weeks, once they’ve had a chance to work out some of the new-restaurant kinks.
Smalls Food & Spirits provided us with food and drink free of charge. Other than the delicious meal, I was not paid for this review. This blog post and comments within are based on my unbiased honest opinions.