At some point in the last few weeks, I unofficially declared a new weekend goal: to try AT LEAST one new (to me) lunch spots in the city each week. It’s good to have goals in life, guys. You need to give yourself realistically obtainable milestones to strive for. Goals give your life purpose and destination, and, in my case, a full belly.
About 30 minutes into what should have been a 5 minute drive to Owen’s Bagels including FOUR (potentially) illegal u-turns, I finally (wo)manned up and called Owen’s to find out where the heck they were located.
With their direction, I quickly made it Owen’s, which is smashed at the end of the Pavilion Plaza on South Boulevard:
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you might drive by it (four times) blissfully (or not so blissfully, as the case may be) unaware.
Now normally I’d question the pedigree of a restaurant whose letters are peeling off the awning, but I haven’t had a good bagel in god knows how long and I swear if I see another bagel thin flaunting itself as a delicious bagel alternative I may go batshit.
So I made an exception. I do have goals to keep in mind after all.
Owen’s is locally owned and operated and they are all about fresh steamed bagels, which they purchase straight from an NYC bagel shop. The bagel sandwiches are made to order and come piping hot off the steamer. If you’ve never sunk your teeth into the chewy bliss that is a hot steamed bagel, I beg you to get your butt to Owen’s. Stat.
There was a whole lot going on inside of Owen’s. I spotted a couple dozen people laughing and happily enjoying lunch against a backdrop of crazy signs and oddball décor.
The quirkiness of Charlotte never ceases to surprise me. You just never know what you’re going to get, unless you take the time to look inside. I think that’s what this city is really about. Slowing down, and taking the time. Stopping to smell the bagels, if you will.
At the front of the store, you’ll see the ordering section complete with construction paper visual aids depicting their menu items.
I giggled over a few of them including the Muenster Mash, Tonya Harding Club, Ned’s Gandy Dancer, and the Booty Bagel.
After ordering, I popped a squat in a back corner and admired the writing on the wall (no pun intended).
It was EVERYWHERE. Kinda made me wonder why they don’t just stick a ladder out front and let some customer put a good sharpie to work on their awning lettering. There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for a couple free steamed bagels
After a short wait, my grub was ready!
I went with the Jake Delihome Bagel, which was loaded up with turkey, colby cheese, AVOCADO, onion, and tomato on a Bialy bagel:
I’m not sure what a Bialy Bagel is exactly, but the sandwich was awesome. The turkey and cheese and veggies were tasty, but it coulda been bologna sandwiched between that steamy bagel and I think I still would have been in heaven.
I was so so so happy to see that they had Cheddar & Sour Cream Baked Ruffles!! Cheddar & Sour Cream chips are pure nostalgia for me. They were the chip of my youth, whereas funyuns were the chip of my teenage years… mmmmmm funyunnssss…. Oh how I miss those stanky snacks.
And with this, I bid you ado:
I woke up this morning with no specific agenda. I had a list of things to do, but no specific order or priorities or timeframe to complete them in. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time this has happened to me. How did I get to this point of continuous overscheduling, overplanning, and overbooking? I am SO over it. Prior to moving to Charlotte, I envisioned every day being like today: a day full of unplanned meandering about the city. Days filled with simple things like walking around and trying restaurants. Meeting people. Talking food.
I realize wanting EVERY day to be this way is unrealistic. But how about EVERY weekend day? Is that too much to hope for?
I laid in bed for a while thinking about all the possibilities of the day, before heading out on my Sunday run. The Charlotte area had some crazy flash flooding on Friday, and the park behind my condo was literally under five feet of water! Thankfully the water has resided, but the whole area is basically a giant cow chip now. So, I decided to hit the city streets and explore some neighborhoods I don’t usually get to by foot.
After my run, shower, breakfast, and lazy time, I headed out to take some exterior photos of restaurants I’m planning to write reviews of this week. I played restaurant stalker for a while, got a few disapproving looks from various restaurant patrons (ahhh the life of a food writer *sigh*), then headed to Central Coffee Co. to try out their goods and take advantage of their free wifi.
Can I just say, I love coffee shops.
There are always interesting people around at coffee shops. People chatting and people who don’t want to chat at all <me>. People seeking inspiration <me> and people who just exude creativity.
I also love coffee shops for the fresh brewed coffee (obv.) and endless supply of tasty treats to sample (double obv.).
When I arrived at Central Coffee Co, I found a random seeming building that sure didn’t look like much from the outside. It sits at the corner of Central Avenue and Louise and has a tiny awkward parking lot. I wasn’t getting a good vibe as I walked up to the door, and I was almost hesitant to go inside.
Right when I opened the doors, that comforting smell a freshly ground coffee beans washed over me and I realized that the inside of this unassuming coffee shop told a completely different story. The shop was very long and narrow inside, with one wall of exposed brick running the entire length.
The walls were lined with a handful of small tables, mismatched chairs, and a swanky sitting area complete with white leather chairs near the fireplace.
I eyeballed their large selection of bakery treats, not sure which to go with. When I asked the barista how the zucchini bread was, he got a big smile on his face and said it was “awesome.” When the employees get excited about the food, that’s when you KNOW it’s good.
I went with my standard small black French Roast coffee (I’m hardcore like that) and a slice of that vegan zucchini bread, then grabbed one of the tables along the brick wall. Not only did they have free wi-fi, but they also had ample plugs for laptop charging = very happy blogger.
I sat back in my chair took a long sip of my coffee, and soaked in every ounce of this place that I could. Every sight, smell, and sound. The music was playing at the perfect decibel, and the barista stood at the counter, head bobbing to the rhythm, waiting for patrons in need of service. Strangers were sitting by the fireplace trading their top restaurant picks and their desires to try newly opened spots. The lights were dim and unabrasive, one of which was perfectly placed over my table. Occasionally, I would hear the coffee grinder buzz in the distance and that familiar smell would waft back over towards my table. I sat typing away on my computer and snapping random photos for a while before sitting back and savoring the zucchini bread. Every bite of the bread exuded intense cinnamon flavor. It was moist and slightly sticky, which made the crumbs hug my fork begging to be eaten. And I obliged.
As I relished my coffee, I realized this whole place was speaking to me. From the chalkboard menus on the walls, to the exposed beam ceilings and warehouse style air ducts. And of course, there was the giant biscotti perched in a glass jar on the counter. There was just something about this place.
I think I found my new spot.
Over the weekend, my mom, sister, and I made a trip to the Charlotte Farmer’s Market in search of delicious treats. It was my FIRST trip to the market since moving to Charlotte. What the heck have I been waiting for?!
I was really impressed by the wide variety of goods for sale at the market. Yes, they had your standard fruit and veggie selection, but they also had a fab selection of local meats, cheeses, jams, and even local crafts, pottery, and jewelry. And a bunch of crazy vegetables I’ve never seen before.
Here are some pretty shots:
We did a lap around the market in search of dinner inspiration.
And ended up nabbing quite a few goodies including these fresh tomatoes and basil which we combined with fresh mozzarella from Trader Joe’s to make a fantastic caprese salad:
We opted (aka I demanded) to put olive oil, salt and pepper, and balsamic vinegar on top:
We also snagged some corn on the cob and some grass-fed beef for our burgers. I haven’t had corn on the cob in quite a while, and the cobs we picked up from the farmer’s market were so tasty and sweet and the kernels were just the perfect size to fit between the gap in my front teeth.
Makes me think I need to incorporate that veggie into my life more often 😉
We sandwiched our grass-fed beef burgers between brioche buns courtesy of Trader Joes, and topped everything off with more tomato and onion from the market and lotsa ketchup and mustard, of course.
I know these look like little baby burgers, but they were actually six ouncers dwarfed by those delicious brioche buns.
The only things missing from our picnic in the penthouse were potato chips and dip. In my family, we eat chips and dip as an appetizer, and as a first course, AND as a compliment to any summer meal. We will down 2 bags with gusto, especially if there’s some Lawson’s chip dip nearby for dunking
My belly was still obsessing over the thought of chips and dip when I came home from work yesterday and was greeted by a large box of York’s Harvest Garden Chips from Charlotte-based Tropical Foods!
First off, coming home to a package of goodies to sample has to be THE BEST welcome home present EVER. I immediately tore into the package to check out the Garden Chips.
The chips are made from real vegetables (awesome), and they are completely natural, completely crunchy, and completely addicting
I was sent a few different varieties to try, including Okra, Green Beans, and the Mixed Vegetable chips (sweet potato, taro root, squash, carrots, and green beans). After trying each and every vegetable chip variety, I decided the carrots and the green beans are my fav
Have you guys tried these veggie chips yet?
More importantly, do you want to try them *for free*?! We all know I love freebies. I have no shame 😛
You can enter this giveaway for the York’s Harvest Garden Chips up to four times by leaving a comment on this post for each of the following:
1. Leave a comment and let me know your favorite cookout food (recipe links are always welcome!)
2. Add me to your RSS feed OR sign up for email subscription to my blog
3. Follow me on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway:
4. Like the Fervent Foodie page on Facebook:
Comments must be posted by midnight Thursday July 28, 2011. Then I’ll use a random number generator to select a winner
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?
As a foodie, I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that my world revolves around food. I spend countless hours each week reading about it, researching it, cooking it, exploring it, talking to strangers about it, sharing it… you get the point. From the 5:30am pre-body pump peanut butter toast to the hot fudge brownie bowls I’d like to cap every night off with, food is the thread that links the pieces and parts of my days together. It’s what brings passion to my eyes during conversation. It’s what brings a smile to my face at the end of a trying week. It’s what intrigues me, and challenges me, and nourishes my body and mind.
Bottom line: food brings me joy.
Of course, with all this love and warm fuzzies there is a dark flip side: the food flop. Nothing is more disheartening than experiencing a food flop. Perhaps it’s a new dish that’s lacking in taste or worse yet a new dish that straight up makes you ralph. Either way, a food flop is like a sharp nail on a chalkboard. It brings a party to a screeching hault in a matter of seconds.
It’s no secret that trying out new restaurants is one of my favorite pastimes. I love the excitement of experiencing something new and the opportunity to have ALL of my senses blown away by a fabulous dining experience. When I try a new restaurant and that restaurant doesn’t rock my socks off, whelp, it’s downright depressing. It feels like a waste—not only a waste of money, but more importantly a waste of time that could have been used to try out a different much more fabulous establishment.
Does anyone else feel this way? Maybe I’m a foodie extremist.
Speaking of trying new places, after my Ladies who Lunch post last week I headed to lunch with a lady (Jamie) at King’s Kitchen uptown. I was thoroughly excited for the opportunity to lunch with a new friend AND to try out a new restaurant that I’d passed so many times but never stepped foot inside.
While perusing the menu, I was pretty pumped when I saw “macaroni and cheese” as a vegetable. That HAD to be a good sign.
Another plus were the free biscuits we were brought:
Then the meal came—grilled chicken with macaroni, broccoli, and collard greens:
And that’s where the plusses stopped.
The chicken was dry – so dry that it was difficult (and awkward) to cut through even with a knife.
And the mac and cheese?
Whelp, it was oily and lacking flavor… As were the collard greens… and the broccoli.
Even with this disappointment, at the end of the lunch I put my hand on my belly and said almost robotically “that was so good!” As soon as the words left my lips, I thought to myself “ummm Mary, no that was NOT good.” But what didn’t come to me until later that day was that it was OK to admit the food wasn’t good. It’s not always rainbows and chocolate ganache. Sometimes it’s dry meat and oily side dishes.
Despite the food flop, Jamie and I had a great time getting to know each other. Some might think it’s crazy that I invite random people I’ve never met to lunch. But if you want to be a Lady who Lunches, sometimes ya just gotta do what ya gotta do