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The Boss Lunch 

Spots for business wheelers and dealers

That cozy intimate spot you just chose for the romantic dinner is not necessarily the best spot for your next business lunch. While it's true that having knowledge of a restaurant is an absolute requirement for a business lunch, ambience and service will play a large part in whether you get the raise or the contract.

First and foremost, the restaurant must have good service. If your boss or client has only an hour or so for lunch, you'll need a server who can pace the meal so you can eat, discuss, and get out of there in the required time. Second, the ambience should not be too stiff, nor too relaxed. Go for the country club atmosphere. Also, keep your plastic handy so when the check arrives, you can give it to your server before the boss does.

In Charlotte, one of the foremost places for the power lunch is the Capital Grille. Even though this corporate restaurant has the boys' club mentality and appeals to our innermost atavistic spirit, the Capital Grille has exceptional service and a menu that offers appealing choices for everyone, from the Ribeye Steak Sandwich ($15.95) to the decadent, and popular, Lobster and Crab Burger ($13.95). A choice of side is included. Want to let your client or your boss know you value them? This space speaks volumes.Capital Grille, 201 North Tryon Street. 704-348-1400.

The new kid on the Center City block — vertically, that is — offers a spectacular view if the conversation lags. Try Bentley's Restaurant on 27 for some traditional choices of Salad Tuna Nicoise or a Bobcat steak ($12). Make reservations if you want a specific table next to the windows. This restaurant could be particularly helpful for anyone selling real estate downtown since you can just point to the site.Bentley's Restaurant On 27, 201 South College Street, Suite 2750. 704-343-9201.

The Palm has the SouthParkers schmoozing at lunchtime. This spot is especially appropriate if your boss or client has his or her mug painted on the wall and thus is sure to stroke that ego. Although the Palm is known for their red meat, I've always found their crab cakes to be some of the best around. Lunchtime favorites include the Cobb Salad — hard to argue with a classic ($9.50) — the crabcake sandwich ($11), roast beef sandwich with blue cheese and horseradish ($8.50), and the very Southern fried chicken salad ($9). Palm has also started a new Business Lunch program for $14.95.The Palm, 6705 Phillips Place Court. 704-552-7256.

If you're located in southeast Charlotte, the grilled-over-wood burgers ($7.25) at Dearstyne's Bistro may be the point that makes the sale for you. Owners Tammy and David Dearstyne are both CIA (Culinary Institute of America) graduates and produce well-crafted dishes.Dearstyne's Bistro, 130 Matthews Station Street, Matthews. 704-708-8800.

Finally, if you need to visit a client up on the I-77 corridor, take him or her to Main 131. This spot has a more laid back atmosphere but serves consistently good food.131 Main, 17830 North Statesville Road, Cornelius. 704-896-0131.

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