Salad Stories

I’ve always been a big fan of salads. I was that weird person in college who wanted a salad after a night of drinking instead of greasy food. Thankfully, eating salads carried over into my adult life whereas binge drinking did not. I work from home now and occasionally just want to get out for lunch. Zoe’s Kitchen was my quick, go-to spot until I had a series of bad experiences at the mid-town location (incorrect orders, slow service, ordering online and still having to wait 25 minutes after arriving… ), so I sought out on a journey to find the best lunch salads in Charlotte.

First up, Chopt:

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I have a mild obsession with Chopt (as in, I would eat it for every meal if I could). I love that you can choose from any of their creative salads or you can build your own. I would advise going right at lunch time because the line gets QUITE long, but I still put myself through the torture of it because the salads are that good. Pictured here is the Braised Greek (with added tomatoes and cucumbers) which is my go-to at Chopt.

Next we have Earl’s Grocery:

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The Mediterranean salad at Earl’s is small but full of flavor. Definitely a good pick for a fast, cheap lunch – and healthy, too! The food and service at Earl’s is amazing, plus, you can work there which is always an added bonus!

As I’m writing this, I realize that I have a tendency to order Greek salads wherever I go. So maybe I should change the title of this to “Where to find the best Greek salad in Charlotte.”

Anyway, next on the list is Pure Pizza.

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Yes, I realize getting salad at a pizza place is almost taboo but hey, summer isn’t that far away and everything Pure Pizza makes is delicious. I love the local ingredients they include and frankly, it was a pretty filling salad.

And continuing with the salad at pizza places, I also ordered a salad at Revolution Ale House:

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And it was also tasty. I LOVE their dressing. Plus they use huge chunks of feta.

I go back and forth at Bad Daddy’s between the Texican Chicken Salad and Stella’s Greek Salad. They’re both delicious and always so full of ingredients!

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The Stella’s is a little lighter, especially the dressing. But I don’t think I could say one is my favorite over the other. Try both and decide for yourself.

I’m a big fan of the build your own salad at Hickory Tavern:

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I usually go with spinach, red onion, red pepper, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggs, avocado and top it with fried chicken tossed in medium buffalo sauce. It’s literally the PERFECT combo.

Last but not least, in Steele Creek is Harry’s. I added steak to their salad and it blew my mind.

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Usually, I just go for a salad on the side of my burger (which is their specialty), but getting a dinner salad was a nice way to switch it up.

I’m glad to have options outside of Zoe’s Kitchen; although I did like their order online option. Let me know if you have a salad or restaurant that I missed and should add to my list!

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CO Pho

Okay, I know pho is actually pronounced “fuh” but it’s fun to pretend it rhymes with the name of this new, delicious restaurant in Park Road shopping center.

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The first time I tried to go to CO was at 6 PM on a Friday night. The wait was an hour and ten minutes. The hangry person in me was bound to come out if I waited that long to eat so I had to pass. But my craving was still there so we returned for lunch the next day and were promptly seated.

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I get hangry a lot so I immediately ordered an appetizer: the fresh summer rolls with shrimp and pork. I’ve never had them with pork so this was an exciting twist. They were very tasty, especially with the burst of mint in every other bite.

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I ordered the Beef Pho and my date selected the Vietnamese Ramen. I added jalapenos to my pho because the menu did not state that they were included, but boy did they load me up with jalapenos! I also asked for extra sriracha as they bring a bowl that is half sriracha and half hoisin sauce and I like my food kind of spicy.

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We were seated quickly, our appetizer and entrees came out timely and overall the service was great. I sat for a few minutes with an empty water glass after possibly adding too much sriracha to my broth but it wasn’t an unbearable amount of time.

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I loved the modern décor inside of the restaurant and they also have a fun outdoor area (which I won’t be using until it’s at least 40 degrees warmer than today!). I’ve long been a fan of one of the most authentic Vietnamese restaurants in Charlotte (Viet Thai Noodle House) but will certainly be back at CO. CO puts a modern twist on the best Asian dishes – and also has fun cocktails. If you haven’t checked it out, or been over to Park Road Shopping Center lately, you should swing by. You won’t be disappointed, pho sure. (See what I did there?)

Beer & Donuts

Last night, I went to Salud Beer Shop in NoDa to try some beers and stuff my face with Joe’s Doughs donuts. Central Coffee was also there to provide coffee along side the beer.

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We got to sample four beers, all stouts and porters from Stone Brewing Company, Highland Brewing, Bells Brewery and Founders Brewing. As you can see, they were pretty small pours – similar to what you’d get in a flight at a local brewery (maybe even less).

Donuts were passed around and we each got ONE. Now, it was delicious because everything Joe makes is completely amazing but I was prepared to fill up on donuts. Actually, I kind of thought that since it was a “pairing” that we’d get either a small donut to try with each beer or pieces of donuts and not just one regular sized donut to ration out though the tasting (you don’t ration with Joe’s. You gobble.).

Central Coffee provided a cup for everyone and there was plenty for seconds. The event started at 7 PM though, so I wasn’t really trying to get hopped up on caffeine just to try to go to sleep in three hours. I sipped about half of mine and left the rest. The part I drank was very good. If I lived in Plaza Midwood, I’d go there often. There are also several local breweries that use Central Coffee’s coffee in their specialty brews.

The beer, coffee and donuts were all delicious. I was a little surprised that the event cost $10 to get those four small pours and just one donut. I think moving to an actual pairing type event would make it better in the future, especially if they could get mini-donuts from Joe’s to accompany the beers. Otherwise, I say buy your own milk stouts and stake out the next time Joe is doing a pop-up and grab your donuts then.

If you haven’t checked out Salud and Fud at Salud, you should. The beer selection is abundant and the food is quick and tasty. While last night’s event was fun but somewhat disappointing, I’d definitely give it another shot.

SweetCakes Cupcakes

If you’re headed North of Charlotte, or have a sugar craving, you should plan to visit Cornelius. I stopped in SweetCakes to get a cupcake for my niece’s first birthday and walked out with a whole box full, half large and half mini cupcakes. I felt I would have been doing myself a disservice to not try more than just the one that I had initially planned to purchase. I justified ordering so many because some of them were mini cupcakes and they don’t have all the calories that the full size ones do.

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I stand by my decision because these were some of the best cupcakes I’ve had in my entire life. My favorite, and the best seller per the owner’s admission, was the Salted Caramel cupcake. Mocha, hummingbird cake and red velvet all tied for second. My husband said the Peanut Butter Truffle was his favorite. And my niece, who doesn’t talk yet, demonstrated that she enjoyed the vanilla cupcake with sprinkles by devouring the whole full-size cupcake.

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Brenda Lord and her daughter, Heather Allen co-own and operate SweetCakes. They started in 2008, baking in their home and have grown into their current location and also have a cupcake truck known as “Dottie.” Dottie visits various events, the Huntersville Business Park and food truck rallies in the area including Cabarrus and Southend. They even do weddings!

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Everything is homemade in the shop daily, from the cake to the icing to the candy on top of the cupcakes. Unique flavor options such as maple bacon, blackberry wine, orange creamsicle and strawberry lemonade will have you drooling. Large cupcakes are $3.25 and the mini cupcakes are $1.25.

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SweetCakes Bakery is located in The Shops at The Fresh Market at 20601 Torrence Chapel Rd, Suite 106, Cornelius, NC, and can most easily be accessed off exit 28 from I77.

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I highly recommend checking out this sweet spot and satisfying any and all cravings you have with their sweet, salty, and rich flavors.

Tacos and Tequila

Bakersfield on East is one of Charlotte’s newest (and best) spots for delicious tacos. This industrial spot is surprisingly large inside, with a wrap around bar for all of your whiskey and tequila needs. Old garage doors open onto East Blvd. letting in air and light on warm summer days. It’s as amazing as it sounds.

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The menu is a la carte and the tacos, while filling, are small. The average person probably needs at least 3 to consider it a meal. Chips and salsa are considered an appetizer and not free. I actually thought this was a good thing. Sometimes you eat so many chips before your meal comes out that you’re stuffed. If you aren’t just handed chips and salsa then you can’t do that. Personally, I didn’t splurge on the appetizer and saved all the room in my belly for tacos.

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The tacos come out ‘family style’ on a plate, making for a pretty display and the corn tortillas are made in house. Adding a salad or side of beans to the taco order will help with making it a complete meal.

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Habenero hot sauce and pickled jalapenos are extra, but worth it. The jalapenos weren’t super hot (for me), but the hot sauce was the real deal. The Cochinita Pibil had the habenero sauce on it and was DEFINITELY spicy. The waitress was nice enough to tell me how hot it was and confirm it was what I wanted to order before placing the order.

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The draft beer selection is slim, but there are plenty of bottle options. Or you can just go for the margaritas which will compliment your tacos perfectly.

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Parking can be tough on East Blvd, but Bakersfield offers free valet just across the street. Definitely recommend checking out this hot spot with friends and enjoying a wonderful Tex-Mex meal in Dilworth. Lots of good seating for parties and events, or just a date night. Order one of each taco, your palate will be delighted.

 

King of Pops

There have been at least 10 occasions this summer where I’ve claimed I *need* a popsicle to get me through another day of this North Carolina heat… and King of Pops has saved me from the brink of dehydration every time… quite possibly saving my life. Okay, maybe that’s a tad extreme but this heat has been unbearable at times and King of Pops happens to make incredibly refreshing popsicles and is conveniently available in areas that I frequent.

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King of Pops is actually a chain and can be found in many cities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia (just in case you’re dying of heat in a city other than Charlotte). Three brothers started the company years ago after falling for popsicles while vacationing. I am so thankful they took that vacation!

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The pops are either milk based or fruit based. I tend to go to for the fruit based ones since I limit my dairy intake, but I must say, the Chocolate Sea Salt one is INCREDIBLE. You can check out all the flavors here, and see which ones are made with your favorite flavors (and which are gluten free!).

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Business is obviously booming as more and more carts are “popping” up around town. They’re always in NoDa and Plaza Midwood, but more recently, they’ve been seen in Ballantyne at the corporate park.

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The pops are all natural and made with the freshest ingredients, their website even says you can catch the owners shopping at local farmers markets for fruits and herbs! For sweetening, they use organic cane sugar, honey and agave.

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If you don’t want to drive around town to find a cart, you can visit their shop in Noda, just behind Noda Brewing and Birdsong’s old building. They have a storefront there with a nice porch where you can enjoy your pops. Prices have jumped around a bit, last summer they were $2.50, I’ve paid $3.00 for most of mine this summer, but did go up to $3.50 at the NC Music Factory during a show. Still, for fresh, quality ingredients and a cold popsicle, it’s totally worth it.

At the Summit

In my best Chris Traeger voice, I literally loved everything about The Summit Room. We arrived 45 minutes early for our reservations and decided to grab a drink at the bar.

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That quickly turned into two drinks because they were so smooth.

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The Summit Room’s Cucumber Collins is the ONLY gin drink that I have ever liked. And by liked, I mean, I downed this drink in a matter of minutes. Then I had this Mango-Strawberry Splash which included a prosecco topper. Always say “yes” to prosecco toppers.

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My husband went with the Chocolate Old Fashion, but he assured me it was not like dessert, and I would not like it. He, however, liked it so much that he got the same thing twice.

IMG_5412To keep us from getting tipsy before dinner, we decided to order an appetizer to accompany our drinks. My husband, the expert food selector, picked the grilled zucchini flat bread. Definitely one of the more filling appetizers you could order but it was so delicious that I think we could have ordered a few more and called it a night.

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Because the first appetizer was so amazing, we ordered a second. Both the bartender and our waitress recommended the BBQ Shrimp, so we figured they had to be good.

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And boy, were they good! The shrimp were served over a corn pudding cake and were DEFINITELY a good choice.

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We got a quaint corner seat inside, and even though there was a big party sitting close by, it was still quiet enough for us to enjoy ourselves and to hear each other over dinner. There’s also a darling outdoor seating area and the cutest rocking chairs on the porch.

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My husband ordered the duck for dinner and it came with delicious blueberry grits and spinach. I had the salmon, which was thick but cooked perfectly.

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Since we over-indulged in appetizers, cocktails and our entrees, we decided to skip dessert, but not before at least taking a peek at the dessert menu. We decided then and there that we’re going back for drinks and dessert very soon.

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If you’re looking for a fun and semi-fancy place for dinner, I definitely recommend The Summit Room. They have a cool backstory and their tables were created from local landmarks. Plus, the cocktails… amazing… smooth… yum.