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Killingtons tries a better breed of bar food 

The Winter Olympics make me think about my dad flooding the patio and letting the Berkshire weather transform it into a mini skating rink. Then he would tightly lace up my double-bladed skates and let me fly across the ice. Later on, the Winter Olympics would cause my high school friends in Jersey to pile into cars and make the trek up to Killington, Vt., so we could show off our Alpine skills -- or become screaming starfish. Killington is inextricably linked to the Winter Olympics in my memory.

So here are the 2010 Winter Olympics and Killingtons is just up the road. Owners Greg and Shannon Roderick, who are also partners in SouthEnd's Tavern on the Tracks, opened Killingtons Restaurant & Pub in Huntersville in November 2008. Of course, this Killingtons is not a ski lodge, nor does it have anything to do with skiing, Vermont, New England, or even the Winter Olympics. Although I'm convinced various Olympic sports will play some of their 12 televisions this week, local sports fans are more likely to gather here for football or basketball. I'm told that Jets fans have made Killingtons home.

Killingtons is located in the Rosemont Shopping Center, which has seen its share of business turnovers. The dining room is filled with the casually dressed -- albeit our current Nanookian de rigueur -- neighborhood crowd, many with a baby on deck. This is not the group that would care about hat hair or crying babies. To the right of the entrance is the outsized bar area; to the left, the dining room with booths lining the wall and tables dotting the middle. The booths take up much of the real estate, but they are not upholstered and somewhat uncomfortable. The focus is not on ambiance.

After a long trek -- like to Exit 23 -- eating well takes on an added importance. Chef Brian Bruce's menu at Killingtons is packed with traditional bar foods: lots of sharable starters and salads; sandwiches including burgers, bacon-encrusted meatloaf on sourdough, and roast beef and horseradish; pastas; and entrées from an ambitious rack of lamb to chicken on mashed potatoes. The emphasis here is on size -- it does matter. Dishes arrive in gargantuan portions. "What's that?" my dining companion asks as he cranes his neck to see what the server had pirouetted on his finger tips. Turns out it was a salad -- more like the size of a sushi boat. The child's eyes at that table grew wide looking at her mother's dinner.

Our chill was immediately relieved by a steaming bowl of fragrant chili, with its appealing visual of the tricolor tortilla chips. The second salvo of grub included their sampler app: stumpy but meaty ribs, chilled shrimp, fried ravioli, and fried chicken tenders. Gee, did I say fried twice? The duck spring roll starter is more harmonious, tempered with smoke and tweaked with a sweet chili sauce. Salads, as I mentioned, are served in enormous containers. Unfortunately, the ingredients are downed in an ocean of dressing. Probably better to ask for it on the side.

Though flavorful, the salmon and its asparagus sidekick were overcooked, although the glistening shallot risotto is quite good. But the oh-so--swell sirloin steak goes a long way to make up for the other table flaws. Not all desserts are made in-house, but the rustic pecan butter tart is yummy, as is the more predictable kid pleaser: a chocolate brownie sundae.

The wine list could be better chosen for the food offered, but most of what they have is offered by the glass. A better selection of beers is available with 12 on draft and 20 by the bottle. Kids are kept content with a menu offering pasta, dogs, tenders, and burgers all priced less than $4.25. Prices on the entrées range from $9.50 for the meatloaf to $19.25 for a bourbon-marinated rib eye.

Killingtons had originally billed itself as a gastropub, the first in the area to do so. But the term was confusing and Bruce said they dropped it -- which is good because the food isn't on that level. Don't get me wrong. Killingtons has good solid neighborhood bar food, which is exactly what they set out to provide.

Know of a restaurant that has opened, closed, or should be reviewed? Does your restaurant or shop have news, menu changes, and new additions to staff or building, upcoming cuisine or wine events? To be included in our online blog, Eat My Charlotte, send information to Tricia via e-mail (no attachments, please):

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