Thursday, January 29, 2009

Quixote Cafe

Since I moved to the Lake Norman area a year ago, I've been in search of a locally owned coffee house that felt friendly, had good coffee, AND had great pastries. My search finally ended when I entered Quixote Cafe.

The Cafe is owned and operated by a husband and wife team, who also happen to have a computer repair service next door. The cafe is open, but small (I counted about six tables inside, and a few more outside.) and the locals are friendly.

Once I entered, I smelled home-made pastries (Gabby makes all the pastries herself) and the welcome aroma of coffee. On my way to the small counter, I passed the pastry case which quite simply played with my emotions. After all, how can I choose just one of the many tasty options? So, upon some deep thinking, I chose the cream cheese danish (GOOD CHOICE), and ordered my espresso favorite -- a caramel mocha.

The cream cheese danish was perfect. The crust light and flaky. The filling tasty, and not gooey. In addition, the Mocha wasn't too sweet or too bitter, and hot enough so that I could read the entire paper and it remained warm.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 12/15
Price: $ (coffee and pastry for less than $10)

Conclusion: The coffee and food were both better than I could make at home, and I was out of there for only $5 and change. They also have several available computers for browsing, and WiFi. If it were two or three miles closer to my house, I'd practically live there.

Restaurant Info:
Quixote Cafe
19900 S Main St # 2
Cornelius, NC 28031

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Charlotte Restaurant Week

As you may know, this week is Charlotte Restaurant Week. I stongly suggest you get out and go enjoy some of the great meals and deals out there. Basically, if you go to a participating restaurant you'll get three courses for $30. And, this can be a real steal if you pick the right restaurant. So, hurry up and go to and get the info you need to have a great meal at a great price.

Here's just a sampling of the restaurants involved:
The Capital Grille
Copper Modern Indian Cuisine
The Melting Pot
Red Rocks's Cafe (Charlotte)
Ruth's Chris Steak House (Uptown and Southpark)
Sonoma Modern American

So, go to, and make your reservations now! Bon Appetit! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know if you enjoyed your meal.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

House of Taipei

Last night I dined at House of Taipei with several of my friends. To be honest, this restaurant was at the bottom of my list -- I just wasn't in the mood for Chinese. However, I'm glad that I went because I finally found a good "Crispy Beef" dish in the area!

Once we arrived, we quickly found our friends around a large gathering of tables just past the main entrance. The restaurant is large and somewhat cavernous. And the decor is of the standard Chinese restaurant variety. But everything was clean, and well lit, so at least I could see what I'd be eating.

Once I started reading the menu, my eyes immediately started scanning for a "Crispy Beef" dish. Several years ago I became addicted to this type of entree when I lived across the street from a Chinese restaurant in the Bay Area. Ever since I moved, I've had a difficult time finding a restaurant that was able to do this dish justice. So, once I found it I selected the mildly spicy scallion sauce, and the challenge was on.

While waiting for the first course of wonton soup, the table was given long crispy noodles with duck sauce and mustard sauce for dipping. The noodles were crunchy, and dipping them made for a tasty, but light, appetizer. The wonton soup arrived, and I have no complaints. The wontons were large, and contained a good amount of pork. But for some reason the soup was lacking a little flavor. So while it wasn't bad, it's not on my best soup list.

Next came the crispy beef. And, finally, I wasn't disappointed. While the beef could have been slightly more crispy, it had a good combination of a crispy outside and a tender inside. In addition, the scallion sauce was very good. It had a smokey sweetness to it that I found addicting. Even though it was listed as mildly spicy, I didn't detect any spiciness at all. I will definitely be ordering this dish again.

While there I also had the opportunity to sample the Pork Fried Rice. It was also very good. The pork was good and lean meat, and the rice contained the proper mix and amount of vegetables. I'm typically not one for pork fried rice, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 3/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 10/15
Price: $ (Many dishes $10 and under)

Conclusion: This is the first non-chain, sit-down Chinese restaurant I've found in this area. The majority of the food was good, the atmosphere informal, and the service quick and efficient. In addition, they made one of my favorite Chinese dishes very well. I'll definitely be back when I'm in the mood to go out for Chinese cuisine.

Restaurant Info:
House of Taipei
16500 Northcross Dr.
Huntersville, NC 28078

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I enjoy living near the Birkdale area. I like the shopping, the movie theater, and the dining. And while I've enjoyed many of the restaurants in the area, the place I keep going back to is Eez.

This past Wednesday, we arrived at Eez without reservations, nonetheless we were seated immediately. As we walked past the typically busy bar, we entered the larger dining room which contains the kitchen. The room is decorated with a minimalist Asian style and can get loud if the room is packed. However, this time it was half-full, and the din was quiet enough to allow for easy conversation.

Upon sitting we browsed the menu, and the waiter gave us a listing of the specials, and informed us that the wine was half price. Excellent! Next we looked at the menu, and a new menu insert. They now feature an order-your-own sushi menu. So, now you can list the ingredients you want in your sushi-roll, and they'll make what you want -- in addition to their extensive list.

My wife and I started with a new appetizer for us, the Sweet and Sour Pork Potstickers (try saying that 3 times fast!). I have one word to describe them. Absolutely amazing. Ok, that was two words, but one word really doesn't do this dish justice. The melody of flavors that washed over my tongue was fantastic, followed by some serious heat. This dish has two "peppers" next to it on the menu, indicating that it is "quite spicy." As far as I am concerned, it should have three to four peppers listed next to it. The heat was quite intense, and ALMOST overwhelmed the flavor for me. Next time I'll probably ask for it to be just a little lighter on the spicy.

Next came the orders from the sushi menu. First we had the Baked Fillet Mignon and Jalapeno Pinwheels. Yes, the meat is cooked (though rare), and yes, it's cow listed on a fish menu. BUT this is such a treat, you've got to try it. The filet is wrapped around jalapeno spears, and topped with a spicy cream sauce and mango. The flavors again swirled in my mouth, and I ate the large portions ravenously (when I say large, I mean a mouth-full per piece). Beware, this tasty delight costs $17 and has about eight pieces, but I believe it's worth every penny.

Next came our own sushi concoction. Shrimp tempura, kani, avocado, and cream cheese wrapped in seaweed and white rice. I thought it was good, but lacked the flavor of the previous dishes. However, that's not the fault of Eez, since it was my idea. Next time I'll stick with the standard California Roll.

And last, but not least, came dessert. After a furious debate we decided to split the Bananas Foster. Personally, I wanted the yummy Banana Spring Rolls, but I caved-in to my wife's charm and big brown eyes. Needless to say, I was unarmed against such an onslaught.

Back to the Bananas Foster. It simply melted in my mouth. Even though it was not served flambe, I can't deduct points from this rich and decadent dessert. It was delicious.

Atmosphere: 4/5
Food: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 13/15
Price: $$ (average entree between $10 and $20)

Conclusion: This family-friendly, asian fusion restaurant is a great and informal way to treat your tastebuds to new and enticing flavors. I go there at least once a month -- 'nuff said.

Restaurant Info:
16925 Birkdale Commons Parkway
Suite F
Huntersville, NC 28078

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Bambini

A couple of weeks ago I had a serious craving for really good, homemade-tasting, italian food. And I'm not talking about the chains like Olive Garden or Carrabbas. They'll do in a pinch, but I was looking for a restaurant that looked and smelled like an Italian restaurant, and had delicious flavorful food. Unfortunately, I Bambini did not fill this need.

Upon entering, I was quickly seated to a booth along the wall. The inside had a generic restaurant feel -- it almost felt like a cafeteria. Though there were photos along the wall, all my eye could see were an endless sea of white walls. The booth was spacious, and our table had a white table cloth (perhaps accentuating the white in the room).

The menu was huge. I was almost overwhelmed with the choices. About 30 different types of sauces on the first page alone. After a long time of reading the menu, I settled on the veal parmesean -- one of my favorites.

The salad that arrived was decent, but not extraordinary. In fact, it seemed very ordinary. And the italian dressing, had another flavor that I wasn't expecting -- I think it was ginger. Needless to say, I didn't finish my salad.

The bread that was brought to the table was warm, but slightly over-cooked, which left the bread with a hard and crunchy under-side.

Finally, the veal arrived, and again I was underwhelmed. The veal was tough, and the tomato sauce lacked flavor. And it just wasn't my dinner that had problems, my wife ordered a Special chicken dish, which was also bland. The food felt as if it came from a cafeteria -- food that was mass produced to the point where it lacked any flavor or character. This was not the type of food that I was expecting from a locally owned restaurant. In fact, I wouldn't expect this from a chain either -- the food was just too poor quality for the chains to produce.

Atmosphere: 2/5
Food: 1/5
Service: 3/5
Total: 6/15

I cannot recommend this restaurant. I can honestly get more flavorful food with a bottle of sauce and a box of noodles from the grocery store.

Restaurant Info:
I Bambini
2785 Charlotte Hwy.
Mooresville, NC 28117

Friday, January 9, 2009

131 Main

Located behind a small strip mall, in a small Cornelius community, 131 Main offers big taste with a moderate price tag. When I enter, my mouth starts to water immediately. The kitchen is in plain sight and the aromas coming from it are intoxicating.

Upon seating, I can't help but notice the exposed brick and gas lamps giving it a relaxed, yet nice atmosphere. For a brief second I felt as if I were in Charleston, SC, and not Cornelius, NC. The service was impeccable, and even a dropped fork, was replaced faster than I could actually ask for a replacement.

If you're heading here, you should do yourself a favor and get the corn bread for an appetizer. In addition, you should bring your appetite. The portions are huge, and taking home a doggie-bag with the remains of dinner for two, still gave us three servings worth of food. I don't consider the menu to be large, but it has more than enough to choose from. In addition, the wine menu was very nice, and included options for all varietals and price points.

My favorite entree here is the baby-back ribs ($22). The meat is so tender, it literally falls off the bone. The fish special was also amazing, and I'm typically not a fish person. When it came time for dessert, we threw in the towel, and asked for the check -- only because we were so full. To be honest, we both wanted to try the home-made desserts, they looked fantastic.

With great food, service, atmosphere, and it's low-key location, I highly recommend 131 Main in Cornelius. I haven't tried the other locations, but if they're anywhere near the quality of this one, you're in for a treat.

Atmosphere: 5/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 5/5
Total: 14/15

Restaurant Info:
131 Main
17830 N. Statesville Rd.
Cornelius, NC 28031

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Penguin

Where do you find blue collar workers, white collar workers, preppy students, and bikers with LOTs of tatoos? Answer: The Penguin Drive-In.

The Penguin is no longer a drive in, but it does have some seriously good burgers. It wasn't until the final bites of my Small Block (1/3lb burger) that I realized I had not yet applied ketchup. And the thin-cut onion rings, were astounding. The veggies on the burger were fresh, and stirred some memories of In-& Out Burgers on the West Coast.

I sat at the bar, and was constantly attended to by the staff behind the counter. The sweet tea was delicious, and my glass was re-filled several times (leading to an extremely full bladder!).

Though the food is good, this place reminds me of some of the dive-bars I hit in my college days. Fortunately, Penguin seems to accept this and manages to be a dive, minus the feelings of concern for personal safety. It is not a good place to take a first date, but perfectly acceptable for hanging out with friends. In addition, there is a full-bar as well, so this place would be great to get drinks, and then follow-up with the necessary grease to minimize the hang-over.

Over-all, I recommend Penguin if you're in the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood or if you want to people watch. The food is good, the staff friendly, and where else will you find such a mixed group of patrons?

Atmosphere: 2/5
Food: 3/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 9/15

Restaurant Info:
The Penguin
1921 Commonwealth Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28205

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

La Unica

In an old stip mall off of Hwy 73 with a tired exterior, and even more tired fast-food restaurants in the parking lot, I found a diamond in rough. La Unica, opened its doors less than two weeks ago, but it has already found a way into my heart via my stomach.

The restaurant has a more of a trendy cafe feel to it, than the typical wrought iron filled mexican restuarant. There are two HD TV's easily seen from the 20 or so tables about half of which were booths. The tables, chairs, and booths all appeared to be new and exceptionally clean.

Upon seating, I had two small carafes of salsa (hot and mild), chips, and a small bowl of lime wedges given to me. I instantly went for the hot salsa, and was pleasantly suprised. It was spicy, but the heat didn't overwhelm the flavor of the salsa which included chunks of onions, tomatos, and other veggies and herbs you'd expect to find. If this salsa came from a can or was freshly made, I couldn't tell.

I ordered the Lunch Chimichanga (filled with ground beef), a lunch special. About two or three minutes after I ordered, the food arrived. Again, I was suprised. The nacho cheese, was not the standard, neon yellow cheese wiz topping that I was expecting. It was white and made from real cheese (I'm guessing Asadero). Personally, I would have liked the cheese topping to be a little thicker, but it's flavor was good. The beef had a good flavor of cumin and oregano, and was exactly what I was hoping for.

The chimichanga was good and the service was great -- the wait staff were very attentive. And considering how hard it has been to find a decent mexican restaurant in the Huntersville area, I'm ready to jump for joy that I found this great little taqueria.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 11/15

Conclusion: Great restaurant, great food, it's a good value, and definately a diamond in the rough. Including food, drink, and tip, I was out of there for less than $10, but for the non-lunch specials expect about $12 per person. I'll definately be back.

Restaurant Info:
La Unica
9121 -1 Sam Furr Road
Huntersville, NC

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Reviewed Restaurants

Below is a list of the restaurants that I've reviewed by name. I'll update it as often as possible. Included are the name, city, score, and a link to the latest review. I hope you find it helpful.


131 Main, Cornelius, 14/15
300 East, Charlotte, 12.5/15
Azteca Mexican Restaurant, Charlotte, 12/15
Bagel Bin & Deli, Huntersville, 9/15
The Boathouse, Isle of Palms, SC, 11/15
Big League Hot Dog Company, Mooresville, 12/15
Brixx, Huntersville (Birkdale), 10/15
Brooklyn South, Cornelius, 10/15
Chico's Mexican Grill, Huntersville, 10/15
Cafe Mia, Huntersville (Birkdale), 12.5/15
Casablanca Cafe, Charlotte (University), 7/15
Cookout, Denver, 11/15
Cookout, Huntersville, 11/15
Coral Sushi, Huntersville, 10/15
Dilworth Coffee, Denver, 11/15
Donato's, Huntersville, 9/15
Dressler's, Huntersville (Birkdale), 13/15
Due Amici, Charlotte, 10/15
Eez, Huntersville (Birkdale), 13/15
Everest Grill, Denver, 9/15
Firebirds, Charlotte (Northlake), 12/15
Firehouse Subs Huntersville, 11.5/15
Five Guys, Huntersville, 10.5/15
Fusion 108, Huntersville, 12/15
Geppeto's Pizza, Denver, 11/15
Hickory Tavern, Huntersville, 10/15
High Thyme, Sullivan's Island, SC, 13.5/15
Horsefeathers, Sherrills Ford, 11.5/15
House of Taipei, Huntersville, 10/15
I Bambini, Mooresville, 6/15
Jason's Deli, Huntersville, 8/15
JD Rockers, Huntersville (Birkdale), 10/15
Jeffrey's Restaurant, Mooresville, 13.5/15
Killingtons, Huntersville, 12/15
L.A. Murphs, Salisbury, 11/15
Lancaster's, Huntersville, 12/15
La Patisserie, Mooresville, 9.5/15
LaSpada's Original Cheese Steaks and Hoagies, Cornelius, 9/15
La Unica, Huntersville, 11.25/15
Lupie's Cafe, Huntersville, 11/15
Maddi's Southern Bistro, Huntersville (Birkdale), 13.5/15
Mama Mia Too, Huntersville, 12/15
Matt's Chicago Dog, Cornelius, 10/15
Mickey and Mooch, Huntersville, 12/15
Micky's, Huntersville, 10/15
Moe's Southwest Grill, Huntersville, 10.5/15
North Harbor Club, Davidson, 13/15
Ollie's Bakery, Winston-Salem, 15/15
On The Border Charlotte (Northlake), 9/15
Open Kitchen, Charlotte, 10/15
Outback Steakhouse, Huntersville, 8/15
Panera Bread Company, Huntersville, 10/15
Pellegrino's, Troutman, 11/15
The Penguin, Charlotte, 9/15
Pho Nam, Cornelius, 11/15
Pops BBQ, Huntersville, 7/10
Positano Osteria, Huntersville (Birkdale), 10/15
Prickly Pear, Mooresville, 12/15
Prosciutto's Cornelius, 11/15
Pueblo Grande, Mooresville, 9/15
Qdoba, Huntersville (Birkdale), 10/15
Quixote Cafe, Cornelius, 12/15
Red Rocks, Huntersville (Birkdale), 12/15
Red Taco Stand, Huntersville, 9/15
Salsarita's, Huntersville, 10/15
Sangam Indian Cuisine, Cornelius, 12/15
Showmar's, Huntersville, 10/15
Sports Page, Denver, 11/15
Steak 'n Shake, Mooresville, 9/15
Sonoma Modern American, Charlotte (Uptown), 9/15
Sunset Terrace at Grove Park Inn, Asheville, 9/15
T1 Tapas, Huntersville, 11/15
Taco Stand on Old Statesville, Huntersville, 5.5/10
Taxco Mexican Grille, Huntersville, 9/15
Taste of Buffalo, Huntersville, 10/15
Tenders, Cornelius, 12/15
The Tavern at J.R. Crickets, Huntersville, 11/15
The Coffeehouse, Denver, 12/15
TJ's Deli and Grille, Mooresville, 6/15
Toast Cafe, Huntersville, 12/15
Tijuana Flats, Huntersville, 9/15
The Soda Shop, Davidson, 10/15
Sunshine Cafe Huntersville (Blythe Landing), 8/15
Sushi at The Lake, Cornelius, 11/15
Vinnie's, Mooresville, 9/15
What-A-Burger, Mooresville, 8/15
Wrenn House, Salisbury, 11/15
Yiasou Greek Festival, Charlotte, 10/15
Zapatas Mexican Restaurant, Cornelius, 9/15
Zaxby's, Mooresville, 11/15
Zevely House, Winston-Salem, 10/15

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The Lake Norman Foodie Blog is the only daily blog that focuses on the restaurants of the Lake Norman area. This blog is now selling a limited amount of advertising space.

The Lake Norman Foodie Blog contains anonymous reviews of area restaurants, which are open to comments by readers of the Blog. To make this Blog user-friendly, links to a map containing reviewed restaurants are provided with contact information, ratings, and prices. The Blog also contains a wine rating every Wednesday and a recipe suggestion every Friday. In addition, every few weeks, the blog features a poll where readers can vote for a restaurant to be reviewed.

Featured on the Lake Norman Social website (, and found in articles by the Charlotte Observer and the Lake Norman Herald, the Lake Norman Foodie Blog is one of the fastest growing blogs in the area. Since February, the Blog’s unique monthly visits have increased by over 1,000%! Between February 28 and July 28, the blog has received over 7,700 unique visits, with over 2,100 unique visits during the month of July.

Ad information and rates can be found on in the link above. There are only eight spaces available. Four are large banner ads (two at the top and two at the bottom of the page), and the remaining four ads will be found in the left column of the blog. Once the advertisements are placed, these ads will be available in the same location on EVERY page -- over 170 pages and growing.

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Lake Norman Foodie

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Contact Me

Do you have any news of restaurants opening or closing? Would you like to contact me? Got a complaint or a question? Don't want to post it on the blog?

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Lake Norman Foodie's Calendar

Looking for a calendar of food-related stuff to do? This is the place! If you know of any events like a restaurant week, fund-raiser, etc. Send an e-mail to lakenormanfoodie (at) gmail (dot) com and let me know.

FYI, this calendar is meant to be more along the lines of a community service, and NOT an advertisement.

Farmers Markets:

Saturdays - Lincoln County Farmers Market: 8:00am - TBD; Rock Springs School on Highway 16; Denver, NC; ends September 26, 2009

Tuesdays and Saturdays - Huntersville Farmers Market; 7:00am - 1:00pm; Main and Maxwell, Huntersville, NC; ends October 24, 2009

Saturdays - Davidson Farmers Market; 8:00am - 12:00pm; Between Main and Jackson Streets; Davidson, NC; ends November, 2009

Restaurant Events:

July 10 - 19, 2009 - Charlotte Restaurant Week. Participating Lake Norman area restaurants include: Dressler's, Kabuto Japanese Steakhouse, Maddi's Southern Bistro, Mickey & Mooch-Huntersville, Positano Osteria, Red Rocks Café-Birkdale Village, and T1 Tapas.

more information coming.....

About the Lake Norman Foodie

During a period of unemployment, I decided to flex my creative muscle and create a blog about one of my passions -- food (and wine).

So, now I visit restaurants in the Lake Norman area anonymously and post a review of my most recent visit. These reviews represent my experiences only and may not necessarily reflect your experience at these restaurants.

All restaurant scores are based on three categories (atmosphere, food, and service), and each category is given a numeric rating. Where 1 is the worst possible rating for that category, 3 indicates an average rating for that category, and 5 ranks exceptional rating for that category.

This score represents a sliding scale, where a restaurant is compared to other similar restaurants. For example, Tenders fast-food restaurant scored 4/5 in each category for a total of 12/15. This means that it was above average in all categories compared to other fast-food resturants.

This score does not mean that it is almost the same experience as 131 Main which scored 14/15. These are two different restaurants with vastly different menus, price points, service, and atmosphere. This is why I also provide an in-depth written review of my experience; so that readers can fully understand the difference between the two dining options.

But don't just take my word for it. I strongly encourage all of you to visit these restaurants too, and post your own thoughts. Your experiences and thoughts are important to this blog, and I hope to have a civilized discussion about different points of view.
The price scale is rated with dollar signs. Each dollar sign shows an increment of $10. So, $.01 through $10.00 is given one "$". And $10.01 through $20.00 is given two "$"s, which appears as $$.

FYI, I post to this blog during the weekdays, and along with informational posts, I try to follow the schedule below:
Monday - Restaurant Review
Tuesday - Restaurant Review
Wednesday - Wine Rating
Thursday - Restaurant Review
Friday - Recipe Suggestion

Images for Lake Norman Foodie Website