Review: Smalls Charlotte

1 Feb

Have to admit, we felt a little special being greeted by owner Joseph DiLeo during our first visit to Smalls Charlotte last week.   We weren’t the only customers who got a VIP greeting, it turns out that Joe and his staff genuinely want you to enjoy your experience at Smalls, the most recent addition to the collection of eateries on Elizabeth Avenue near the Visulite Theatre. 

Streetcar construction a few years ago put considerable strain on existing businesses, and we were sad to see one of our favorite restaurants, NoFo on Liz, succumb to the dust, road blockages, and overall chaos that goes with installing tracks for a mode of public transportation that has yet to make an appearance.  No disrespect to NoFo’s, but Smalls is better in nearly every way (Christy would like to point out that NoFo’s gift shop was awesome, and she misses it dearly…) 

The space is dimly lit (a nice ambience) with a bar that seemed to be full of patrons by 6:15 pm when we walked in. There weren’t too many people dining at tables – just a few other groups, but a nice crowd had gathered by the time we finished our meal.

Being in love with all things brewed in North Carolina, we were excited to see a beer list comprised exclusively of North Carolina brews. Locals NoDa Brewing Company and Olde Mecklenburg  are available; we went with the Mother Earth Weeping Willow Wit (on special!) and Green Man IPA .

The menu features several tapas-style options that are great for sharing, while a larger entrée section is available for heartier appetites. We wanted to try a good sampling of the menu, so we opted for the smaller plates. This allowed us to SHARE our food, which as you know is an important concept that Jason is still working on.

 On to the food!

Crispy Eggplant Stack

JASON: I think this was my favorite item of the night. Breaded eggplant is stacked between fresh mozzarella and confit tomato with aged balsamic.  Each ingredient is showcased in every bite…don’t tell Christy, but I was kind of disappointed I had to share it with her. 

CHRISTY:  I love eggplant, I love mozzarella, and I love balsamic.  Full disclosure – I’m missing the gene that allows me to enjoy a good tomato.  Even missing the magic that I’m sure the tomato brings, this dish was still awesome.  If you order it, be ready – it’s stacked high and threatens to topple over if you look at it the wrong way.  It felt a little like we were playing Jenga with every portion we took, but who doesn’t like playing with their food?  I can’t wait to order this dish again!

Brussels Sprouts

JASON: If the eggplant stack was the dish I had trouble sharing, the Brussels sprouts were Christy’s weak spot. Or maybe I should say the seared bits of sweet potato in the sprouts were hard to come by on my side of the dish. Such a great side that’s likely a repeat next time we visit. Brussels sprouts are a new (in the last 2-3 years) discovery for us, and we love trying all the different ways they can be prepared. I’m not sure but it seems these were cooked in a cast iron skillet until the outsides were perfectly crisp. Sure wish we could get this recipe.

CHRISTY:  Not much description on the menu about this – just “Roasted Brussels Sprouts.”  Get ready for Brussels sprouts bliss on a plate!  Roasted sprouts are tossed with roasted bits of sweet potato.  Jason accused me of bogarding the sweet potatoes.  This from the man who’s trying to make more of an effort to share his food…

Crab Cake Sliders

JASON:  I wasn’t overly excited about these sliders. I was hoping the outside of the cake would be a little more done – it felt overly soft. Christy pointed out the Old Bay biscuit it was served on probably had something to do with my perceived mushiness. Still, it didn’t stop me from eating my half.

CHRISTY:  Mini crabcakes on a crispy jalapeno biscuit.  Despite their diminutive size (they are sliders after all) these little sandwiches are full of flavor.  The peppadew remoulade oozed just enough out the side to make it permissible to lick your fingers after biting into one of these bits of heaven.  Order them.  You’ll like them.

Korean Confit Wings

JASON:  Make sure you have a drink…or two nearby. The spicy Korean BBQ sauce used on the wings was definitely on the hot side (and our server warned us beforehand). It was a great mix of sweet and spice, covering a meaty wing that could rival any wing joint’s claim to fame as “best wing.”

CHRISTY:  Anything with Korean BBQ sauce on it is good, and these wings are no exception.  Our server described them as having a “kick”…she should have specified that it would be like a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the face .  I’m pretty sure the spice had something to do with the flakes of chili lurking in the sauce.  I’ve always liked a wing sauce with texture, so even though these made me cry a little, I definitely want to order them again!

Next time We’re Ordering: Black & Blue Sliders, Chicken & Waffles, Molasses Lacquered Pork Belly, and more Roasted Brussels Sprouts!

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