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Venue Review: Big View Diner

Diner takes a concept large
Big View Diner
By "Helen Schwab, Restaurant Writer"
The Charlotte Observer

16637 Lancaster Highway

More info about restaurant

The Big View Diner is a big idea, executed with sizable ambition, in a locale that's trying to catch up with its own growth - and it's a tough time to be doing that.

The idea: a chef's-palate take on classic diner food in all its diversity, served in a slick but retro atmosphere and with at-least-somewhat retro pricing.

And it comes close on lots of the many levels it's got going on.

Servers bustle, collaborate, coach you on choices, call you "sweetheart" and "baby" (at least my favorite one does), and get your drinks fast and keep them topped off.

It's a little noisy when busy, but seating is sufficiently spaced that it's not a problem once you're seated.

It's well-lighted.

And it has the best burger-and-dessert combo I've ever put together: The Big View Cheeseburger "Deluxe" and a fat wedge of chocolate silk pie. Fantastic.

But there are some food problems standing between Big View and the sort of all-hour, all-customer support it needs.

On my visits, dishes tended to come out slowly, even on a not-busy night. Preparations were generally underseasoned (which may be intentional), and often came out cool (which surely isn't). The result is an overall watered-down feeling.

Since Big View is the venture of the folks who brought Charlotte the vibrant ilios noche and Nolen Kitchen, I think they'll figure this out. Co-owner Stratos Lambos said he and Angelo Kaltsounis have been working harder than they ever have, and unpredictable business has been more challenging than expected.

Noteworthy: Oven-roasted turkey slices that get you eager for Thanksgiving. Slow-roasted beef brisket with good texture, though the broccoli, carrots and green beans with it were chilly and bland. Full-of-chicken noodle soup. Generous salads with good croutons. Little sliced loaves of light, faintly sweet cornbread. Housemade potato chips - big browned crunchy slices with Maytag blue cheese sauce. A special of Greek chicken with lemony potato wedges and a bright sauce tinged with oregano.

Unsuccessful: Flash-fried calamari that was bready and dull, with too little of a Thai chili lime glaze. A grilled cheese BLT club with little flavor and no crunch. Painfully bland marinara over too-cooked spaghetti, though the three golf-ball-sized meatballs fared better.

Frank Kaltsounis's desserts vary in success. That silk pie was flawless, while a lemon meringue pie - actually a little tart - was stale and gummy. The cookies are gigantic (and should be for $1.99); the milkshakes are smallish for $4.99 but done with housemade ice creams and worth the price. (There are also house combo shakes, such as toasted coconut, apple pie and peanut butter banana.)

Spend a few minutes browsing the glass cases before you sit down, since you'll want to have an idea about dessert when ordering the rest of your meal. Labels on selections in the case would be immensely helpful.

The place - at Ardrey Kell and Johnston Road, south of Ballantyne - is gorgeous, its palette of deep red and brown and gold repeated in elaborately tiled floors, roomy booths, interestingly finished walls and menus and signage. It's spacious, too, and thankfully sports some extra-wide aisles, the better to accommodate running kids and those bustling servers.

Big View gets the vista right. Now it needs to zero in on the food.

Reviews & Comments
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Oct. 9, 2009 - The Charlotte Observer - Helen Schwab, Restaurant Writer

Gorgeous eatery near Ballantyne nails the theme, but the food quality is a bit uneven.

(Full review)
Dec 20, 2009 - whanna1
Big Nothing

The burgers are decent but the fish & chips is terrible. Tried the fish a second time in case it was an anomaly, but it wasn't.

Oct 30, 2009 - SandN2009
Good Food, Reasonable prices....

Okay be willing to try again yes breakfast is crazy and not served all day but they are trying and the Country Ham is AWESOME!!!! Lunch and dinner are great the meat is cut by the chefs the soups are made daily ( hint on Saturdays the Tomato Basil ROCKS), Daily Specials every day food and alcohol (half price Martinis on Thursdays) by the way. Almost always you have the owner or head Chef on Expo (and if you do not know expo is who plates the food on the trays etc) they are trying and love to hear the feedback. The head Chef Drew joined not long ago but I am sold! He has made changes and variety that's needed. Angelo one owner is always there to help and will listen to all complaints and actually care unlike at other restaurants and you can tell he respects his staff but also respects his guests! The food is not highly priced and so worth it. Once you (if you can) get to dessert its fabulous Frank and his girls are unbelievable in the bakery!

So if you have been there and it was a bad experience I soooo recommend trying it again, you will not regret it!

Oct 12, 2009 - goldnmom
Big View +++

I have had three meals at Big View now, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Florentine Benedict with arctichoke hearts was excellent! The eggs were poached perfectly and the Hollandaise was exceptional!

For lunch one day I had the Chopped Cobb Salad. I liked it so much I just couldn't stop thinking about it, so three days later, I picked up another one for take out. It was just as good the 2nd time.

The crab cake sandwich was excellent as were the homemade potato chips. Service has been good for three visits now. It is a bit noisy sometimes, but they do a bustling business, so it is understandable.

My favorite thing about Big View is knowing everything is cooked to order. For example, Hollandaise Sauce is not from a mix, it is made to order with every Eggs Benedict. Vegetables are not frozen or canned, and are served with some crunch rather than overcooked and mushy. Soups are made fresh, as are desserts and everything else.

I think Big View is a great place to eat. They have excellent food, good service, and the prices are very reasonable considering the excellent quality of the food.

Next visit I will try a dessert. They look soooo good!

Oct 10, 2009 - brwest
Not a diner

Diners are known for great cheesburger deluxe and most important breakfast all day. Open 24 hours. If you dont have that,
your not a diner. I been there three times and food was slow, cold and inedible. Must not have a greek in the kitchen. I will go to Delancey Street Diner on the other side of Ardrey Kell and Tom Short in Fountains Shopping Center. Great Burgers and excellent breakfast I can get all day

Oct 10, 2009 - joemnc
Not so great

I do not understand why so many people are saying the burgers are so good. If you want a good burger, go to "Big Daddies", which also just opened. I like the waitress I had at the Diner but will probably not go back. It's just not that great.

Oct 10, 2009 - passerby
And what about their employees

If you think the food is bad you should see how they treat their employees. I would never allow my daughter to work for such a bad employer. And you wonder why they give such poor service.

Oct 10, 2009 - travlr
great concept, great food

I come through Charlotte quite often. Saw this place being built, could'nt wait to try it. Diners are known for having good burgers, but their burger takes the prize. It was awesome. I've also had their brisket which was very tender and filling. Their desserts look mouthwatering, so far I've only tried a couple of their cheesecakes, and they were on the money. Not too expensive either. The service was pretty good. I saw a couple of waiters that looked like they were in training and needed to learn the ropes. I guess with every new place you got to work the glitches out. Overall the place is beautiful and very relaxing with great comfort food.

(no rating) Oct 09, 2009 - jimo
on a downward slide

after the restaurant had been open a month or so we finally went there for dinner. it was a good experience....food was very tasty and the portions nicely sized. the only complaint is that i wish the chips had been served hot and not cold....to me they were no better than bagged chips. on our next visit we sat in the bar area at a table and our server was more interested in chatting with his girlfriend at the table beside us. our service was very slow, drinks not refilled while we watched our server take his girlfriend to the alcove where the restrooms are located and continue to talk and laugh with her...then to hug and kiss on her while our needs were neglected. i ordered the exact food i ordered the first trip and the food on our plates were half the size of the first visit. we dine out most nights and this was one of the worst if not the worst dining experience. we vowed then not to return. we also took the general manager's card and both emailed him with our complaint with both the service and the food. we never heard back...weeks later, we still have not heard a word back. that alone will keep us from returning and recommending this place to others. it is a shame since it is a nice looking space and a great concept. so a word to the owners and management...pay attention to your customers and dont play best friends with your employees as it seems you do during dining hours.

(no rating) Oct 09, 2009 - goodeye
Always great! Dining there tonight!

Been there often and taken friends on several occasions. Must see this place and enjoy yourself as I did.

Oct 09, 2009 - nicandra
Pleasant and Refreshing

Big food, big concept, big risk in this economy... but well worth the wait. my family and i watched this place go up and anxiously waited it's arrival. the decor and atmosphere is top notch - especially provided the affordable prices. kid friendly and the variety offered has something for everyone. good food, good service. a definite staple and comfort place on our list...

(no rating) Oct 09, 2009 - Jovardy
Not fantastic but not horrible

I have been there on three occassions and the first time I went I had a burger which was fantastic. I have had their mac and cheese and wings on differnt occasions. The one horrible meal I had was the fish and chips. The fish was full of bones and not good.

(no rating) Oct 09, 2009 - therightage

A bad excuse for a restaurant!

I am not sure we can't get goreat food down south of Charlotte! The only exception is the Gallery restaurant & bar in the Ballantyne but that's about it!

There are some restaurants built for volume (Big View Diner) and others for quality and great food (Gallery Restaurant at Ballantyne). Not much more ot say!

(no rating) Oct 09, 2009 - nancyt
Not impressed with service

My daughter and I ate here a few months ago. Beautiful decor. Our appetizer arrived quickly, no problem there. My cheeseburger was too pink inside and they forgot our fries. Manager finally had to go see about our fries while we were halfway through our burgers. Waitress bugged the dickens out of us by trying to grab everything off our table before we were through. Tab was pretty expensive for, what I considered, mediocre food and bad service. Desserts looked fabulous but did not try those.

Oct 09, 2009 - cltmoto
1 time and out

Went there about 1 month after opening - yes, the place looks great, but that's about it. Food was sub-par, service was slow, desserts so-so. Family of 4 all agreed that was our 1 and only visit, especially at the higher price.

Oct 09, 2009 - jasonannan
Terrible Service, Blah food

We visited 3 times. 2 successfully, 1 not so. On 2 occasions we arrived at 11:50 AM on Sunday and waited 30 minutes--dozens of tables sat empty. I asked "Why the wait"? The answer: "We are finishing breakfast service, and only serve lunch after noon". What?!?!??!

I second the thought that the spaghetti was bad--it's Ragu! The chicken sandwich I had was decent.

Put anywhere else this is a sub-par "Chili's" or "Beef-o-Brady's". But because two of Charlotte's "lah-dee-dah" restaraunteurs own the place it gets 2 stars. Poppycock!

(no rating) Oct 09, 2009 - CNBserious

You would think all the money to open a new place in this economy - the last thing they would want to do is serve lousy food!

Oct 09, 2009 - ebowman29
Food Under-Par

Ate here once right when it opened. Service was slow and my fish and chips were quite possibly the worst I have ever had. I also thought the prices were outrageous. I would not go back here again to eat dinner.

(no rating) Oct 09, 2009 - charlottetean

I recently ate here with my husband for the first time for lunch and to our surprise it was very busy for 2:30pm. The resturant decor is very nice and the booths are plush and comfortable. My Barbeque burger was excellent. My husband had the ruben but wasn't impressed. Our waitress was not so good. She never gave us a refill on our drinks nor did she come around again to check up on us after our food arrived. We only saw her again when it was time to pay the check. Since my burger was pretty good, I'll give this place another try if I'm in the neighborhood again but I wouldn't go out of my way to come back and eat here. I give this place a B-.

Oct 09, 2009 - gravedancer
Service vs. Quality

I agree with Helen somewhat, however my family has been to the Big View on two separate occasions and have waited to be seated (approx 20 minutes) and have chosen to leave both times with our order converted to take out, due to extremely poor and uneven service (people seated after us and tended by the same sever were served 15 - 20 minutes before us). Once we got home each time and dug in to the vittles, it was scrumptious. The restaurant, although a "large appearance" from the outside, is really not that big and should not have these types of issues, even in early stages. We will try again.

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