ELWOODS BARBECUE & BURGER BAR
Invite me to brunch, and you’ll get a look. When I ask you “what time” with furrowed eyebrows, it’s because I’m trying to determine whether you’re inviting me to have 10am brunch (AKA breakfast) or 12pm brunch (AKAlunch). I don’t do brunch. I love breakfast and I love lunch. Why consolidate the eating joy into one meal?
Enter Elwoods Barbecue & Burger Bar‘s new brunch menu. Needless to say, I ate my words. Brunch vendetta be gone. How could I say no knowing their juicy brisket makes an appearance in several of the menu items? Exactly. You can get straight-up brisket and eggs if you’d like, but if we’re doing brunch, might as well get a little fancy and go with my top pick: the brisket BBQ Benedict with poached eggs and grilled tomatoes nestled on English muffin halves and topped with their signature red sauce. It made a brunch believer out of me.
If you’re not in the mood for BBQ (blasphemy!), their take on chicken and waffles, with buttermilk fried chicken tenders, a homestyle waffle, and honey maple syrup is a solid choice. They’ve also got French toast make with thick-cut Texas toast, and you can even get it stuffed with peanut butter and banana or strawberry and cream cheese.
For you do-it-yourselfers, there’s a build-your-own breakfast sandwich, with your choice of bacon, sausage, pulled pork, or pulled chicken, plus an egg, choice of cheese, and bread, PLUS a self-serve Bloody Mary bar. Homemade, house-made, made-from-scratch–you can use these terms to describe practically everything on the menu, including the breakfast sausage. I snarfed down my whole side of their hashbrowns–they’re the chunky, chopped potato kind (not the shoestring kind, thank god), and they serve ’em up extra crispy.
Did I mention $10 bottomless mimosas? Who wants to meet me for brunch this weekend?
CHUY’S MEXICAN FOOD
Chuy’s Mexican Food, a kitschy, Tex-Mex restaurant, offers a low-price, family-friendly alternative to the many high-end restaurants in South Park. Yes, Chuy’s is a chain, but there are some things that might surprise you. First, the chicken they use is hand-pulled from whole chickens they roast in-house. They hand-roll their tortillas and make these seven sauces in-house every day: Tex Mex, Ranchero (made with fire-roasted tomatoes), Hatch Green Chile (a HOT sauce with fire-roasted green chiles and caramelized onions), Green Chile (thick, smoky, green chile sauce), Tomatillo (tangy, mild sauce), Deluxe Tomatillo (adds sour cream and herbs to the Tomatillo), and Creamy Jalapeno.
One of their most popular dishes is the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom chicken enchilada — but I actually preferred the creamy Boom Boom sauce over a ground beef enchilada, a substitution that was no problem to make. If you like spicy food like me, I’d definitely recommend the steak burrito. It’s served with their spicy hatch green chile sauce, green chile rice, and charro beans.
I wasn’t a fan of their thin chips–nearly each one broke under the weight of the salsa. This is my personal preference, and honestly, it’s ok–less chips means more room for margs. Specifically, their top shelf margarita, made with fresh lime juice (as all margaritas should be made). Also, the Dulce de Leche cake is bonkers. Even if you’re on the brink of food coma, grab a slice to take home—it’ll still be amazing the next day.
So yes, the decor is over the top, the guacamole is lacking oomph, and the free nacho bar is a bit tacky (though I’m sure kids and college students dig it). However, the price is right, the food is fresh, and it’s a place the whole family can hang out and enjoy a meal together.
Urban Sip, located up on the 15th floor of the Ritz Carlton uptown, has a new Chef (Chef Nathan Volz) and a new small-plates menu. While there are only a handful of options, the menu features five charcuterie choices and eight cheese selections, sourced from Charlotte’s own Orrman’s Cheese Shop (located in the 7th St. Public Market). Forget the cheese plate—at Urban Sip you can get a meat and cheese TOWER with five meats and five cheeses, plus fruit, honey, and sweet potato jam. Each of the charcuterie offerings were good, and of the cheese varieties I sampled, I enjoyed the mild Clemson blue cheese and the Spinning Spider Stackhouse best.
My choice for favorite small plate surprised even me, but the black-eyed pea hummus was the winner. It’s well-seasoned with coriander, espalet, cumin, garlic, and smoked paprika and comes with crispy fried black-eyed peas and warm, seasoned pita bread.
There are two tartare options: the wasabi tuna, topped with a wasabi-ginger-oil sauce and crunchy cucumbers, and the beef tenderloin, served with a mustard cornichon relish and house-made, ruffled potato chips. The scallop salad is a bit bizarre—it’s actually a chilled poached scallop mousse served with blood oranges and micro greens. The preparation caught me off guard (can’t say I’ve ever had scallop mousse!), but I did enjoy the flavors.
With floor-to-ceiling windows, awesome views, Charlotte’s largest selection of wines by the glass, plus the 35 scotches they keep on hand, Urban Sip is a perfect stop for pre or post-dinner drinks and nibbles. If your prefer a nice handcrafted cocktail, don’t miss their Citron Bramble—it’s like an adult version of a lemonade slushy, and it goes down FAST.