Phyrefly: the new way to save money dining out in Charlotte

1436994445743I first heard about Phyrefly through social media stalking, and then again on Charlotte Agenda.  Then I bumped into Phyrefly founders Kaitlin and Josh Krogh at a Piedmont Culinary Guild event, and then AGAIN at #weloveclt last month, which I took as a sign I needed to try out Phyrefly already.

So, what is Phyrefly?  It’s the self-dubbed Hotwire for restaurants.  Meaning you log into the site, check out the various deals available, and select one based on location and price range.  The specific restaurant is not revealed to you until after the offer is selected, just as Hotwire doesn’t reveal the specific hotel until you’ve committed to the deal.  You can browse Phyrefly deals by neighborhood, price point, food type, user rating, and ambiance.  Bonus:  these are all local restaurants.  No chains.

Double bonus:  unlike Hotwire, Phyrefly currently doesn’t charge you upfront—which means there is no fee if you decide to pass on the Phyrefly offer once the restaurant is revealed.  (Though this will likely change in the future, once the beta stage is complete.)

This concept is exciting for three reasons.  1.) it gets diners to step outside their usual routines, 2.) it helps restaurants fill tables during off-peak hours, and 3.) it saves you money.  Boom.

Here’s a play-by-play of my first Phyrefly experience:

Logged into website, browsed by neighborhood, settled on NoDa.

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Saw there were two lunch deals available that day.  Settled on the Gastropub.  Selected my party size .  Confirmed my RSVP.  Done!

At this point the restaurant was revealed.  I got Heist Brewery!

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The clock starts ticking.  You have 60 minutes to get to the restaurant and show your offer to the hostess.

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Easy to use?  Check.

Dined at a restaurant I normally wouldn’t have picked?  Check.

Saved money?  Check.


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Awesome concept, Phyrefly Team.  I cannot over-emphasize how easy this site was to use.  I definitely recommend giving Phyrefly a go, especially if you’re looking to shake up your dining routine or save some moolah.

Where to eat at Charlotte Douglas Airport

Sure, everyone complains about the parking and the construction, but after spending too much time in some straight up nasty airports the last couple of years (I’m looking at you, LaGuardia), I’ve really come to appreciate and enjoy Charlotte Douglas.  After my return flight home from visiting family in Ohio last week, I stopped into the new 1897 Market and was blown away by all that they’re doing.  I mean, local sourcing at an airport restaurant?  Come on!  That’s when it hit me.  Charlotte Douglas is actually pretty awesome.

This is my third post for the #DesignCharlotte campaign, a cool program (details below) encouraging Charlotteans to share their favorite things in the Queen City.  Not surprisingly, my first two posts were completely about food.  Interested?  Check out my Foodie Guide to Charlotte and Foodie Guide to Charlotte Restaurant Week.


 

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pzaWhat:  PZA (pronounced P.Z.A.).  Handmade dough.  Pizza, strombolis, salads, cheesy bread, spaghetti, meatball smashers.

Location:  Concourse E.

The secret:  dough is brushed with a garlic, thyme, and rosemary infused olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper before building the pizza.

Most popular pie:  Spinach and Mushroom.  Balsamic-marinated mushrooms add a little acid to contrast the cheese and spinach.

House Favorite:  Meatball Smasher.  Oven-roasted meatballs made of pork, beef, and veal with onions, thyme.  Smashers come with 6 or 12 meatballs stuffed in baguettes.

 

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What:  1897 Marketplace.  One-stop urban gourmet shop, with full-service dining room, raw bar, exhibition kitchen, grab-and-go, and retail marketplace wrapped into one.

Location:  the Atrium.

Insider tip:  One of the few restaurants at the airport focused on local sourcing.

Must try:  Barbecue Shrimp & Grits.  Stone-ground cheddar grits, barbecue rubbed shrimp, tomato and onion ragout, arugula, Tabasco vinaigrette.

Must try side:  Brava Potatoes.  Crispy potatoes slathered with smoked paprika aioli.

(Check out my full 1897 Market review here.)

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What:  Bacardi Rum Bar.  

Location:  Concourse D.

Must-try:  Breakfast Cubano. With pork tenderloin, cherrywood smoked ham, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard pressed between Cuban bread, then topped with two fried eggs.

Most popular:  Jamaican Jerk Chicken Bowl.  Mild jerk rubbed chicken breast, sofrito, grilled vegetables, seasoned rice, black beans, and lime crema.

 

BadDaddys

What:  Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar.  Charlotte’s favorite burger bar.

Location:  Concourse C.

Insider tip:  the airport location features a pared down menu–not the same menu as the standalone locations, but similar.

Must try: Mama Ricotta’s Burger.  Fresh mozzarella, pesto, vine-ripened tomatoes, pepperoncinis.

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What:  Brookwood Farms.  Carolina-style barbecue.

Location:  the Atrium.

Must try: pulled pork, mac and cheese, fried pickle spear.

 

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What:  Beaudevin.  Grab-and-go deli plus “refined” wine bar.

Location:  the Atrium.

To try:  Smoked Turkey Reuben (technically a Rachel).  Turkey smoked in-house plus kraut, housemade Russian dressing, and two pieces of swiss pressed between thick-sliced Rye Bread from Masada Bakery in Atlanta.

 

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What:  Whisky River.  Giant bull, belt buckle wall, bar food, and cocktails.

Location:  Concourse E.

Insider tip:  this is not the same menu as the Whisky River at the Epicentre.

Standout dish:  Dirty Tots.  Tots are arranged in a small cast iron skillet then topped with pulled pork, chipotle queso fondue, and Dale Jr’s Signature BBQ sauce.

House favorite:  Whisky River Chili.  Beef and bean chili with guajillo chiles, garlic, sweet onions, tomatoes, and a house blend of seven spices, topped with sour cream, cheddar, and scallions.


INSIDER TIP:  three restaurants will have their menus revamped this year:  Brookwood Farms BBQ, Stock Car Café, and Fresh Attractions.


#DESIGNCHARLOTTE

#DesignCharlotte is a sweet campaign through the Marriott Charlotte City hotel,  encouraging people to show off their favorite things in Charlotte.  The Marriott Charlotte City hotel is currently undergoing a major transformation, which will include a mosaic wall featuring photos and videos tagged with #DesignCharlotte on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.  How cool is that?  Plus, using the hashtag enters you into a contest to win a Grand Prize Getaway.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of #DesignCharlotte. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

1897 Market–the Charlotte Douglas Airport Game Changer

The typical airport meal is frantically grabbed from a cooler on the way to a connecting flight or begrudgingly eaten to pass hours waiting out a delay.  Which raises the question, does anyone actually like eating at the airport?  When I asked my boyfriend what came to mind when he thought of “airport food” he responded:  bags of nuts and bottled water.  This is sad.

Take a moment to ponder.  What comes to your mind when you think of airport food?  Is it chef-driven menus and hormone-free meats?  How about handcrafted cocktails and locally sourced produce?  Scratch-made pizza and local beer?  Not so much, huh?  This is precisely why 1897 Market at Charlotte Douglas Airport is a game changer. 

1897 Market Charlotte Douglas Airport

1897 Market is the newest concept launched by HMSHost, the world’s largest provider of food and beverage service for travelers.  1897 Market (named for the year HMSHost was founded) is a one-stop urban gourmet shop, with full-service dining room, raw bar, exhibition kitchen, grab-and-go, and retail marketplace wrapped into one.

Located in the Charlotte Douglas Airport Main Atrium, near Concourses A and B, this is HMSHost’s flagship store.  Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a sit-down dinner, cocktails or last-minute souvenir, the Market is the answer to all of your gastronomic traveling needs.2015-08-04 08.10.43 (more…)

Queen’s Feast – Charlotte Restaurant Week Guide

Ahhhh it’s that time of year again.  Restaurant week.  Twice a year here in Charlotte, over 120 restaurants offer prix fixe dinner menus to the masses.  Queen’s Feast, as we call it, actually runs TEN DAYS, and it can be an awesome but overwhelming experience.  Don’t ye fret!  I’ve got some tips for planning your best Queen’s Feast yet!

This post (and my Best Charlotte Restaurants Post) were written in collaboration with the #DesignCharlotte campaign, a cool program (details below) encouraging Charlotteans to share their favorite things in the Queen City.  Of course my favorite thing is FOOD.  Set let’s get to those Charlotte Restaurant Week tips!


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TIP #1:  SET A GOAL

First things first, we need to set some goals.  What is it you’re hoping to get out of restaurant week?  An incredible deal?  An incredible meal?  Those two don’t always go hand in hand.  So, dig down deep inside and ask yourself the tough questions.  Are we pinching pennies or living large this time around? (more…)

Best Charlotte Restaurants — A Foodie Guide

Best Charlotte Restaurants -- A foodie guide to Charlotte

Charlotte is one part small town, one part big city.  The people here are friendly and the pace of life is slow, but don’t let us fool you.  Charlotte is booming.  Everywhere you look, new things are being built.  Apartments, hotels, breweries, parks, restaurants.  YES, lots and lots of restaurants.

Several times a week, an email from a stranger will pop up in my inbox asking for a list of the best Charlotte restaurants.  I’ve been here over four years now, and have dined at MANY of the restaurants in the city, so these types of emails usually result in a list of two dozen recommendations I’m hoping the stranger can cram into a two-day stay, accompanied by instructions to pack their eatin’ pants.

As part of the #DesignCharlotte campaign (details below!), and for the fun of list making, I went back through those old emails and compiled a list of the restaurants and dishes that I recommend time and time again.  A foodie’s guide to Charlotte, if you will.  I anticipate this list will continue to grow and expand with time.  Did I miss your favorite?  Leave a comment below!

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UPTOWN

Where:  “Uptown” is Charlotte’s downtown area.  It’s the hub of the city and the point of reference for all other neighborhoods.  Uptown is divided into four wards, the center of which is the intersection of Trade Street and Tryon Street.

What:  Lots of banks and bankers, plus the Epicentre, all the sports (Charlotte Panthers, Charlotte Knights, Charlotte Hornets), theaters, and Romare Bearden Park.

Things to Eat:

  • Burgers:  Cowbell.  “Artisanal burgers with a side of rock & roll.”  My picks:  Big Will’s Breakfast Burger with praline smoked bacon and over-easy egg; Umami Burger with roasted shitakes, caramelized onions, and chipotle spiced ketchup; The Jett black bean burger with goat cheese and roasted garlic aioli; TATER TOTS.
  • Dinner on a Rooftop:  Fahrenheit.  Fantastic view.  Great for date night.  My picks:  Scallops with cauliflower puree, caramelized cauliflower, pomegranate molasses (best scallops I’ve had in Charlotte, no joke); Chorizo-stuffed dates; Charlotte Potato Chip Nachos.
  • Crudo & Steak:  Evoke.  “Chic, new-age steakhouse.” Gnocchi with jumbo lump crab and smoked pancetta; Escolar Crudo; Peruvian Ceviche; Diver Scallop Crudo; beef tenderloin Bucatini; 21-day Dry-aged NY Strip.
  • Lots O’ Options:  7th St Public Market.  The market’s focus is on local and regional farmers, food artisans, and entrepreneurs.  Local Loaf (Chicken and the Egg, Ham and Brie); Pure Pizza (Slap Yo Mama Lasagna, Chorizo); Hazelnuts (ALL THE CREPES); Not Just Coffee; The Sorting Table (wine); Greeneman Farms (produce); Orrman’s CheeseTanks’s Tap (beer).
  • Small Plates:  Dandelion Market.  One of my favorite uptown spots to grab dinner with friends. My picks:  Buttered scallops with toasted macadamia; cherry-glazed lamb lollipops; sausage stuffed poblano pepper; market mac and cheese.
  • Modern Southern:  Mimosa Grill.  “Global cuisine with a unique southern twist.”  Consistently good food.  Pecan crusted chicken salad with sweet mustard dressing; Iron Skillet Roasted Salmon.
  • Southern-inspired:  Roosters.  “Relevant without being trendy.”  Awesome open kitchen.  Wood-fired grill.  My picks:  scallop salad with buttermilk lime dressing; mac and cheese; Vietnamese pork sandwich.
  • Italian:  Aria.  3-course express lunch; cheese plate; all the pasta.
  • Gyros:  Little Village Grill.  Hands down, best gyros.  They even put a couple of fries inside.
  • Swankiest night out:  Dinner at 5Church followed by drinks at the Punch Room.  

PLAZA MIDWOOD

What:  One of my favorite areas to hang out on a weekend night.  Super walkable.  Funky, gritty charm.

Where:  2 miles east of Uptown, north of Elizabeth.

Things to Eat:

  • For all of the things:  Common Market.  Lovably grungy.  Delicious breakfast sandwiches, large wine & beer selection, random quirky snacks and chotchkies, happening patio, drink there or take it to-go.
  • BBQ:  Midwood Smokehouse.  Mac and cheese with big, curly corkscrew noodles; PULLED PORK CUBAN; BBQ tacos; Back Porch Tea.
  • Vegetarian food with flair:  Fern.  OM Burger with crispy fingerling potatoes; cauliflower appetizer (flavors change often, all are awesome).
  • International Cuisine:  Bistro La Bon.   Great atmosphere; interesting multi-ethnic dinner menu; SWEDISH MEATBALLS; all-you-can-eat brunch buffet. COCONUT MACAROONS.
  • Breakfast:  Zada Janes.  BUNNY RANCHEROS.  You won’t be sorry.
  • Rooftop bars:  Peculiar Rabbit and Whisky Warehouse.   Grab an order of fries, and enjoy the view.
  • Health-focused grocery:  Healthy Home Market.  “Locally grown, locally owned.”   Juice bar, hot bar, bulk bins.  Plantain chips!
  • Serbian/Italian:  Intermezzo.  My picks:  all the pizzas; house-made ravioli; steak & goat cheese sandwich on incredible house-made bread.
  • Swanky small plates:  Soul Gastrolounge.   “Innovative sushi, global tapas, and handcrafted cocktails.” Asian-glazed pork belly tacos; all the sushi; braised veal cheek ramen in a garlic cream sauce.
  • Comfort food:  Dish and The Diamond.
  • Tacos:  Krazy Fish.  “Seafood Fusion.”  CRAZY tacos; crazy décor; Szechuan salmon tacos are legit.
  • Coffee:  Central Coffee

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