Good Times at a Few Special Local Spots

Ashley and I had the weekend off together and spent some time enjoying some excellent local businesses. Offering some brief reviews in hopes you’ll also support your locally owned shops and restaurants.

Actually, a real highlight of the week came at the beginning of it. The anxiously awaited Kung Foo Noodle opened last Monday in the Birkdale Shopping Center in Huntersville. This is Tommy Tong’s new restaurant, and it is even more fantastic than his previous spot, Noodletasia. Noodletasia was our favorite Asian fusion restaurant, but I believe Tommy’s outdone his prior accomplishment now, giving us a new favorite. We didn’t go opening night, but did have dinner there the next evening. Every single thing about the experience was great.

The food was delicious, excellently prepared and presented. We shared a Lemongrass Hopper, then Ashley had the Budae Jjigae (fiesty, fiery, rich and complex broth, served with kimchi, kielbasa, bacon and shrimp) and I had the Curry Kick noodle soup (packed with chicken, herbs and string beans in a coconut curry broth).  Every bite was outstanding.

The service was also terrific, and the atmosphere and decor were exciting and comfortable.

Next to the food, though, Tommy is the star attraction, making every guest feel appreciated. He really knows what he’s doing, and I expect he will have incredible success with any and all of his projects.

Thursday we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in what has become out tradition, meeting up with friends at Sir Edmund Halley’s at the Park Road Shopping Center in Charlotte. It was a good time, of course. Sir Ed’s is a treasure and has some of the best bar staff in the area. You know they’re extraordinary when they can keep up with everything on a crazy busy day like St. Pat’s and still let you know they’re glad you came. They’re well known for pouring a perfect Guinness, and the food has won several awards. They have a wonderful corned beef and cabbage dinner on St. Patrick’s Day, which Ashley had for lunch. Believe it or not, I forewent tradition and tried the blackened salmon wrap for dinner. Very tasty.

A new craft brewery, Cabarrus Brewing Company, opened in Concord Friday. Personally, I believe this area has enough (maybe too many) craft breweries already, and I’ve dramatically cut back on drinking, almost to the point of quitting completely. However, since we hadn’t visited a brewer in a while other than a short trip to Bayne Brewing a couple weeks back, and we had time off, checking out the new place, in a town we don’t often visit together, sounded like a fun change of pace. Well…

We expected the grand opening to draw a big crowd, but didn’t count on the entire county population being there trying to cram in the warehouse sized place. It was totally packed, extremely noisy, and, we figured, not worth trying to wait and squeeze in. The trip wasn’t a waste, though. We had also been interested in visiting High Branch Brewing for a while, and it conveniently shares a parking lot with Cabarrus Brewing.

A friend and coworker, Sandy, has been talking up High Branch since they opened last November. Ashley had their Late Addition stout at Lil’ Robert’s Place a week ago and raved about how good it was. I have to say, she was right!

High Branch is a smaller operation than Cabarrus Brewing, but for me smaller has always been my preference. They were packed Friday night too, benefiting from the overflow and excitement of their neighbor’s opening night, but we could at least get in and move around. Service was good and quick. I ordered the Southern Sour Blonde and Ashley got the stout. The sour was all right (I gave it 3.5 bottle caps on Untappd), tasting somewhat like a cross between a sour and a lager. Guess I didn’t read enough into the ‘blonde’ part of the name before ordering. Still very tasty, and exceptionally fresh.

Ashley let me try the stout, though, and it blew me away! Totally delicious, I believe it is my new favorite, edging out Bayne’s, which is also fabulous. We only had the one beer each there, the crowd and noise being what it was, but I sure look forward to getting back and having the Late Addition again.

We went to the Thai House in the University area for dinner after that. Great experience, as always. Curry for both of us, Ashley with the Panang and me with the trusty green curry. They were prepared a little spicier than expected, but so very yummy!

After working out Saturday (I’m so proud of us!) we picked up salads from Pinky’s. I think Pinky’s is well-known, but I’ll mention it to people sometimes and they’ve never heard of the restaurant. We go to the one in Huntersville most often, since it’s closer to home, but both locations are good, and the menu is the same.

I think Pinky’s is thought of as a burger and hot dog joint, and known for things like their fried pickles, Pimp’n Fries (covered with pimento cheese), and the outstanding Ding Dong Chicken sandwich (Thai inspired marinated chicken breast topped with crunchy peanut butter, sriracha, and honey-cilantro slaw), but they have THE BEST salads I’ve ever had. I’ve been trying to improve my diet, going for more salads than meat, and Pinky’s makes it easy to crave your greens and veggies.

My three favorites are the Tahini Salad (traditional falafel cakes on a bed of mixed greens, topped with red onion, cucumber, feta cheese, tomato, pepperoncini & toasted sesame seeds – served with a zesty tahini dressing), which is what I had Saturday; the Kinda Fried Turkey Salad (herb coated poached turkey on bed of mixed greens, topped with shredded provolone, red onion, tomato and arugula), which Ashley introduced me to, a very filling, tasty delight which she ordered; and the Spinach Salad (fresh spinach, roasted red pepper, feta cheese, artichokes, red onion & sunflower seeds). Pinky’s is generous with the ingredients and the salads are big and filling. If you haven’t tried them, I recommend you do!

We had a terrific experience at a place we hadn’t been before later that evening. I’d spotted Waterbean Coffee a month or two ago, and while we were on our way to Lowe’s for some things for the house casually pointed it out to Ashley. We decided to drop in once we got what we needed at Lowe’s, and I’m glad we did.

I loved the atmosphere at Waterbean. Spacious, quiet, and well-decorated, it was very inviting and calm. There weren’t many people there at the time; maybe it is busier and louder during the days. I can’t imagine it being too bustling, though.

After taking in the food and drink offerings, Ashley and I chose a couple coffee drinks. She got a cappuccino with toasted coconut and caramel flavorings and I had a regular drip coffee. My coffee was above par, but Ashley’s drink was really something special. After this experience and our time at High Branch, I think I should just let Ashley order for me for now on.

I thoroughly enjoyed our time sipping our drinks. It was one of the more relaxing times we’ve shared outside of home. I very much liked that our drinks were served in ceramic cups with saucers — Ashley’s even garnished with a chocolate covered espresso bean — rather than paper cups with our names misspelled on them, and brought to our table rather than someone yelling our name out. I love my rowdy hangouts, but for a nice, peaceful time with my honey, the environment at Waterbean felt a little special, even if it was just a coffee place in a shopping center. I expect we’ll be giving them more business.

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