South End and Dilworth
AMERICAN BIG DADDY’S BURGERS Q1626 East Blvd. 704/714-4888, www.bi gdaddysburgerbar. com
HOURS: Mon.-Wed. 11 A.M.-11 P.M. Thurs.-Fri. 11 A.M.-midnight, Sat. 8 A.M.-midnight, Sun.8 A.M.-11 P.M.
One of the newer restaurants on East Boulevard, Big Daddy’s caters to burger snobs. The wait times are often long, especially in the summer when a craving for a burger and fries leaves the masses clamoring for a seat on the outdoor patio. Once your name is called, pull up a barstool or sit in one of the compact wooden booths and prepare to make some tough decisions: There are 14 different burgers on the menu. The staff is willing to offer suggestions but understands that it often takes a few extra minutes to make a decision when faced with the sheer number of choices on the menu. Order a basic burger or opt for something a little more outrageous: The Sam I Am burger is topped with cheese, a fried egg, ham, and pesto; the Cantina 1511 is a black bean burger with a combination of green chilies, cheese, avocado, and chipotle ranch dressing; and Save the Cows is a burger made from portabella mushroom caps. Half of a menu page is devoted to toppings, so go ahead and customize those plain beef patties (or chicken breasts, or black bean burgers, or turkey burgers ). You’ll also have to make a choice of side dish: All burgers come with a choice of homemade french fries, sweet-potato fries, onion straws, tater tots, or handmade potato chips. The salad offerings are extensive, but who orders a bowl of lettuce at a burger bar? Stick with what the restaurant does best.
MAMA RICOTTA’S ©0601 S. Kings Dr. Ste. AA, 704/343-0148, www.mamaricottasrestaurant.com
HOURS: Mon.-Thurs. 11 A.M.-10 P.M. Fri.-Sat. 11 A.M.-11 P.M. Sun. 10 A.M.-9 P.M.
Few restaurants rise to the level of iconic, but Mama Ricotta’s has done just that. Owner Frank
Scibelli started the small eatery in 1992 and it’s blossomed into a fixture on the Charlotte culinary scene. Along the way, Mama Ricotta’s has picked up just about every restaurant award available in Charlotte. This is not your typical Italian restaurant with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths and red, white, and green flags throughout, but the food is true Italian. The menu has staples such as the Pollo Carciofi (chicken with artichoke hearts in wine and caper sauce) or Penne Alla \bdka. Mama Ricotta’s serves hearty family dinners in the style of Scibelli’s ancestors, who emigrated from Italy in the early 1900s. Using a variety of local farmers market items and ingredients imported from Italy, the restaurant serves house-made fresh mozzarella, breads, sausages, and sauces. Scibelli often travels to Italy and brings back new recipes for Mama Ricotta’s.
PEWTER ROSE BISTRO OOO1820 South Blvd. 704/332-8149, www.pewterose.com
HOURS: Mon.-Thurs. 11 A.M.-2:30 P.M. and 5-10 P.M. Fri. 11 A.M.-2:30 P.M. and 5-11 P.M. Sat. 10 A.M.-2:30 P.M. and 5-11 P.M. Sun. 10 A.M.-2:30 P.M. and 5-9 P.M.
Judging by the number of women who show up to Sunday brunch carrying extravagantly wrapped gifts, every bride-to-be in Charlotte has her bridal shower at Pewter Rose. It’s not just a spot for special occasions, though. The restaurant, which is housed in a former textile mill, is one of the best brunch spots in Charlotte. Who can resist mimosas and mashed-potato omelets? It’s not all bacon and eggs; the menu has several vegetarian choices, too, including an amazing bananas Foster french toast. Inside, the restaurant retains its turn-of-the-century vibe with soaring ceilings, massive wood beams, and leaded glass, but the best seats in the house are on the 2nd-floor patio, where wrought-iron railings and an enormous awning feel like they belong in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
PIKE’S OLD FASHIONED SODA SHOP O1930 Camden Rd. 704/372-0092
HOURS: Mon.-Sat. 11 A.M.-9 P.M. Sun. 8 A.M.-2 P.M.
Skip over the soups, salads, and sandwiches and head straight for dessert. Pike’s is best known for its massive milkshakes (Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow shared a milkshake with two straws from Pike’s in the movie Shallow Hal). The dessertsTollhouse pie, peach cobbler, hot fudge sundaes, and cupcakesare worth the calorie splurge. For a true old-fashioned soda-shop experience, request a seat at the counter where the chalkboard menu, milkshake machines, and old-fashioned sundae dishes will make you feel like you stepped into the 1950s. In the summer, the patio is the place to be. Perch under a colorful umbrella with some ice cream and take in the sights and sounds of historic South End.