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Venue Review: Common House

Taste, value are common here
Common House
By "Helen Schwab"
The Charlotte Observer

Pare away pretense – and three or four bucks an entrée – from most of Charlotte's upscale-casual places, and you've got Common House.

Owners Ryan Looney, Mike Fisher and Andy Robinson and chef Emily Hahn have hit a smart spot on the spectrum in just about every respect: locale, range of offerings, use of local foodstuffs, décor, price. They've even managed to offer bracing refreshment in menu language: Dishes are downright starkly titled, as in “Wings” and “Seasonal Fish” and “Fried Green Tomato BLT.”

That last one is a good example of Common House's charm: Thick-sliced Texas-toast-style bread, swiped with spicy mayonnaise, encasing thick-sliced and perfectly fried tomatoes, with a few slices of crisp apple-smoked bacon and Bibb leaves tucked in. Delicious, homey, but with enough style to pay for.

I felt the same way about a daily fish: N.C. trout cooked beautifully, over simple succotash (using speckled butter beans), with a marvelous whole-grain-mustard and butter sauce. Fried pickle spears, greaseless and crunchy, with a buttermilk ranch for dipping, also excelled. Pasta used to be a daily special, but the spaghetti carbonara proved popular enough to earn a regular spot in the lineup: Grateful Growers chorizo sparks this version, to nice effect. A roasted beet salad proved robust, with walnuts, bright parsley, a red-wine vinaigrette and not quite enough goat cheese.

Less delectable were a warm pimento cheese dip with overcooked bits of shrimp and not enough crusty bread, and too-small wings. I loved the taste of the shrimp burger, studded with roasted corn and scallions, but it fell to pieces in my hands.

You can order sandwiches anytime – terrific! – and they run $6 to $8 (including salad or fries), and there's a grilled veggie club on pumpernickel toast with sharp cheddar. And I love that on two of three visits, sauteed escarole starred among sides; this underappreciated green gets its due from Hahn.

You enter Common House from the back, not the Central Avenue side, which is a little hard for newcomers to see – and unless a staffer is near the door, it's also hard to figure out where to wait. Since the place seems to run a mite understaffed, there's often not someone in that vicinity, which means people pause and fumble once inside. It also means you can wait awhile to order, to request and get things, and have your table cleared.

The bar, with detailed woodwork and pendant lighting, is nearly as long as the dining room and offers a better-than-usual beer list. Celery-colored walls and a whole front wall of glass lighten the largest part of the dining room, while black-and-white atmospheric photographs in thick black frames and bulbous, deep-orange pendants perk up a line of booths parallel to the bar. Simple and homey, with just enough style to pay for.

Common House
1101 Central Ave.
(704) 332-1010

Reviews & Comments
CRITICS REVIEWS
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05/07/2009 - The Charlotte Observer - Helen Schwab

Common House does away with the pretense and the upscale prices while offering variety and comfort at a favorable location.

(Full review)
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(no rating) Feb. 13, 2009 - The Charlotte Observer - Helen Schwab

First Bite is a look at, not a full review of, a new Charlotte-area restaurant.

(Full review)
USER REVIEWS
(no rating) May 08, 2009 - AVEPENT
Uptown

I went once and left without ordering. The menu looked very southern to me. Lots of fried this and that and of course, pimento cheese. Not my bag. But if that's the kind of food you like then it's probably for you. Prices looked very inexpensive and the decor is not bad at all. To me, from what I saw on the menu and peoples plate it looked like a more upscale version of the Penguin restaurant.

May 08, 2009 - wec38
Went once, no rush to go back...

Aburnett -- It is on Central Avenue... if you're coming from town it's just before the intersection of Central & Pecan on the left hand side.

The menu is not very extensive and the food is dull. I went once and the experience was ok but I wouldn't rush to go back.

May 08, 2009 - shandew
Common House

I thought the food was fair! And I definitely think that they are understaffed. I did like the atmosphere though and will surely give them a second try!

(no rating) May 08, 2009 - aburnett01
Looks good.

But where the heck is this joint?

Feb 26, 2009 - Hernandez
Common House

$5 burgers you can't beat & thick, juicy zesty wings along with a staff/mgmt committed to customer service!!

Great value for the $$$


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