Over the years, I’ve developed a bad habit of eating at my desk and working straight through lunch. Bypassing a midday break means more work gets done, and, all else equal, I get to leave an hour earlier than I would otherwise. It’s a horrible, horrible thing.
Lately, in an effort to maintain my sanity and some degree of happiness, I’ve been making a conscious effort to break away from my desk every day for lunch. Most days, this means me, my salad, and my iPad huddled next to the fireplace in the back of Caribou Coffee. It’s incredibly relaxing sitting next to the heat of the fire and feeling the buzz of the city whirling by. Though, I’m quickly developing and addiction to afternoon lattes. Good thing or bad thing, I’m not sure.
Friday, I met my new friend Keia (check out her blog: the Sunnyside Up) at Harvest Moon Grille. Keia and I first met via phone when she interviewed me for her Creative Loafing article on what is means to be a foodie. This was our first official lunch date, and in true Mary fashion I started our convo off by awkwardly exclaiming “So… I want to be you!” I quickly followed our laughter with an explanation that I’d love to work as a freelance food writer and attend an abundance of fun food events as she does. And now you want to be her too, am I right?
Harvest Moon is one of my favorite spots for lunch uptown, and my Quinoa salad with garlic bread was light and wholesome.
There was a birthday celebration this week! Mr. Jarrod turned the big 2-8, thus voiding my cougar status for the next 5 months. Rawrrrr.
Friday night, we had a pre-birthday dinner at Fran’s Filling Station, which has been on my Urbanspoon wishlist since before I moved Charlotte. I’ve been to the Fran’s location at the 7th St Public Market, but never visited the main location in Dilworth. I’m so glad we finally made it in–I absolutely adored the place. The lights were low and twinkly, the servers friendly, and the menu has lots of shareable plates.
My one regret is not trying the bacon wrapped tater tots–I think every table in the restaurant ordered a cone full of them. I did try the thick-cut fried pickles, country bread with roasted garlic, Homegrown Barbera (an AWESOME red wine), spicy pork meatball, and the roasted chicken, which came with garlicky green beans and a delicious farro. Plus, there was Fran’s special bread pudding, just the slightest bit sweet and topped with strawberries and whipped cream. Another special treat was seeing Fran herself mingling with customers in the dining room.
That was just the tip of the weekend gorging, followed shortly by Jarrod’s favorite: pulled pork. In Charlotte, more restaurants have pulled pork on the menu than not, but not all of them do it well. I have my personal favorite (shout out to Midwood Smokehouse!), but Jarrod is set on trying all the big names in town. Sauceman’s, which won best NC barbecue from TLC BBQ Pitmasters, is a small barbecue joint, with limited seating and a super inexpensive menu. We’re talking $4.50 for a pulled pork sandwich here, or $9 for two if you’re “really, really hungry” like Jarrod was (and is every time we’re within a two-mile vicinity of pulled pork).
I went with the house chopped salad with smoked turkey, corn, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, cheddar, and house honey mustard. It was a great salad that I’d definitely order again, but my heart belonged to their onion rings. They were spectacular: thick cut, with a batter that clung to the onion even after I sunk my teeth in.
Onion ring photo shoot in progress:
Later that evening, we met our friends Laura and Darin (check out Laura’s blog: Chef Laura at Home) for a birthday dinner celebration at 131 Main. The restaurant recently reopened after being closed for several months due to a fire. 131 is swankier than I anticipated, and I felt a little underdressed in my jeans and flats. No worries, once we were seated in a cozy round booth with a large glass of Cabernet in my hand, clothes were the least of my concerns.
Based on some positive Yelp reviews, we ordered the double dip for an appetizer. It comes with guacamole, pimento cheese, and salsa (why is this not a trio???). I’m not a huge fan of pimento cheese–it’s cold, it’s lumpy, it’s just weird. The guacamole and salsa were good, but I’d pass on the dip next time and opt for some of the homemade cornbread, which is served in a mini cast iron skillet.
The Cajun penne pasta with grilled shrimp was great, and we liked the award-winning “Awesome Roast Beef Sandwich,” but the best part of the meal was DESSERT. Jarrod’s a banana man, so he requested the banana cream pie. Banana puddins and pies are not my sweets of choice, but this version was redonkulous. The graham cracker crust was the best part: soft and slightly crumbly, like a fresh baked cookie. In addition to the pie, I ate about half of Laura and Darin’s brownie a la mode. A hot brownie drizzled with caramel and fudge and topped with ice cream? I die!
Every person needs a few good friends who don’t bat an eye when you eat off their plates.