Venue Review: Lebowski's Grill & Pub
The Charlotte Observer
1524 East Blvd.
Which in these economic times is no small feat for a locally owned, single-site, simple neighborhood grill, particularly one that opened in spring 2009.
The place has outlasted opening difficulties and the challenges of owner Kirk Weaver having been out of the restaurant business for more than a decade. He opened Township Grille in Matthews to great acclaim years ago, specializing in Buffalo wings before they were ubiquitous in Charlotte, and pioneering beef on 'weck in these parts. But he sold that and remained out of the fray until deciding, with daughters Jessica and Amelia, it was worth a shot in Dilworth, at what had been the handsome but often less-than-busy Restaurant i.
And what they've put together, amid a Dilworth dining scene that continues to morph from idiosyncratic to accessible (in both the good and bad senses), is a place that's solid.
To paraphrase the Coen brothers' film "The Big Lebowski" (in-jokes from which you'll find throughout the menu): Say what you like about the tenets of sports-bar cuisine, Dude, at least it's an ethos.
What that ethos takes to be successful is consistency and detail. Such as great rolls for sandwiches and breads, from Nova's and Artos. Check. Or a side of home fries that includes both sweet and white potatoes and nicely browned bits amid the onions and peppers. Check. And one weird good sauce for wings, along with Buffalo. Check. (It's "jerkiyaki" and it's just what you think.)
The haddock fish fry boasts well-fried fillets, with regular fries (battered; OK) or garlic ones. There's a Gardenburger among the beef and turkey burgers; you choose meat (or grilled chicken), then choose among nine "styles" (example: Dixie, with no-bean chili, American cheese, slaw). And that western N.Y.-styled beef on 'weck puts juicy, thin sliced roast beef in the salt/caraway-seed-topped rolls called kimmelweck.
Beer-braised brats are dense and tasty - not the snappy, juicy ones you may be used to, but well-flavored and wonderfully sided by those home fries and sweet-and-sour red cabbage, plus generous dollops of mustard. Salads are pale, with lifeless tomatoes, but the cilantro-lime dressing? Excellent.
Sliders come in seven versions, from pulled pork to the beef on 'weck; they're a nice size (maybe 31/2 inches across) and you can order two ($6.75) or three ($9.75), and add a side for 79 cents, a marvelous option. Sahlen's hot dogs (the Bills' stadium dog) are on the menu.
Framed album covers, drink signs and the occasional Buffalo emblem ("The West Side" photo) pack the place, a sort of L-shaped space with a street-facing patio and board games tucked into shelves (Yahtzee, yes, but Battleship, too!). Our servers were in jeans and assorted tops - and warm smiles, even when dishes got delayed - while diners were in really assorted clothes: beaded, backless top with couture jeans and heels on one side of the room, track suits on the other.
House White Russians are on the menu; you really need to see the movie to appreciate the extended specialty list, but there are plenty of beers and other beverages that don't have prerequisites for understanding.
And I don't think you need to get the whole Lebowski thing to see how the place is working to fit in the neighborhood. I don't know about you, but I take comfort in that.