Venue Review: Terrace Cafe
The Charlotte Observer
4625 Piedmont Row Drive
Just can't get enough breakfast options in Charlotte to suit me. So when I find one with not only buttermilk pancakes and scrambled eggs and bacon and housemade biscuits, but also nutritionist-approved egg-white omelets and red velvet waffles with cream cheese drizzle and four different benedicts, I am attentive. And happy. And torn.
Because breakfast is served at the Terrace Café near SouthPark throughout its operating hours, which are 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day. Meaning that I should probably try lunch, too. But ... they serve breakfast all the time!
I ended up splitting the difference - getting several breakfast items, one lunch and a cheater compromise of shrimp and grits.
This last was among the best: nine medium-sized shrimp with a nice bursting quality over rich but not excessively creamy stoneground grits, with a probably-too-mild Creole-seasoned sauce, a few chunks of chorizo and a sprinkling of fried okra pieces. Generous, for $12.50.
A Florentine benedict arrived with fresh sauteed spinach and tomato between each perfectly poached egg and its English muffin seat. This was good, though the muffin had grown soggy by the time it came to the table. The little side salad tasted good, but its dressing veered muffin-ward, too. Service is enthusiastic and gracious, but dishes can take some time getting to you, and some suffer more than others.
The full breakfast, for example, suffered not at all: two over-easy eggs with housemade, mild patty sausage and a gorgeous cake of shredded potatoes browned on each side. I'm not sure I'd call this hash browns as the menu does, since it's not what most would expect, but it's delicious and a nice change-up.
Breakfast sandwiches proffer Canadian bacon and Swiss cheese as options, and French toast comes in four flavors: plain, California (orange-infused honey and cranberry butter), banana pecan and "S'mores" (chocolate-dipped, coated in graham crumbs, sandwiched with marshmallow cream and more chocolate).
Steel-cut oatmeal with maple rum sauce, toasted walnuts and fruit; a banana split with low-fat yogurt and berries; fried green tomatoes; steak and eggs - it's a regular festival of breakfast choices. And there's a full complement of coffees and coffee drinks, too, along with plenty of takeout pastries.
My lunch dish (though the kitchen was out of the signature fish and chips) fared well, too: The Penick Wedge includes a fat wedge of iceberg, crumbled bleu cheese, shredded carrots, bits of crisp bacon, halved cherry tomatoes, ribbons of fried red onion and a thin and juicy Wagyu beef burger. All are separate on the plate and you can combine or not, as you choose. (Smart, as are the fresh and really edible garnishes on each plate we had.)
This is also the case with the interesting tofu lettuce wraps: cubes of tofu, water chestnuts and peanuts are stir-fried together, then placed beside leaves of Bibb lettuce, a mound of cucumber relish with a bit of kick, some cooked purple cabbage and raw shredded carrot and a small dish of apricot sambal (essentially a sauce) with a decided little burn. A little muddled on flavors but a surprising and welcome change for vegetarians.
More traditional are sandwiches of steak (blackened ribeye with caramelized onion), Buffalo chicken (fried and tossed in sauce with a bleu cheese "fondue"), chicken salad (on croissant) and grilled cheese (Colby-jack on sourdough); entrees of oven-roasted salmon and chicken with white-wine lemon-butter sauce over mashed potatoes; and salads that range from tomato-and-mozz to grilled chicken Cobb.
Desserts come in individual sizes and cost $3.50 or so - one of the smartest things about the place. Try the tiny layered coconut cake, complete with a bit of toasted coconut on top, or the apple fritters.
Twiggy sconces and landscape art decorate the two-level, gold-walled space with wood tables, curvy glasses and diamond-shaped plates. Fresh, different and fun, just like the menu.
Executive chef Thomas Kerns and owner Stewart Penick plan to begin dinner in the next week or so.