Twice a year, restaurants across the Charlotte area offer 10 days of prix fixe menus to diners from across the economic spectrum. Restaurant Week, which is popular in cities across the country, is fondly known here as Queen's Feast. The goal is to make some of Charlotte's fine-dining establishments accessible to all, evoking the feeling that any diner can enjoy meals fit for a Queen.
More than 130 restaurants participate throughout Charlotte and the surrounding nine counties, but let's be real, it can be a little overwhelming. To make things easier for you, I have narrowed this sprawling event to just four of my favorite participating Queen's Feast restaurants, each one offering something a little bit different.
Variety: Mimosa Grill. This is a choice Queen's Feast experience because of the wide variety of offerings on the Restaurant Week menu. Instead of just two to three choices, Mimosa Grill offers up its entire menu to diners on this special week, giving a true experience of the restaurant by showcasing the full range and quality of dishes. Appropriately, Mimosa adds a surcharge to the prix fixe price depending on the dish (entrees like scallops, steaks and other seafood get about a $6 uptick) but even with the surcharges, the meal is still a deal.
Adding to the delicious meal we had at Mimosa was its stellar service; the waiter was poised and professional, and brought us extra dessert on the house when she heard our lively debate over apple cheesecake and banana crème brulee.
Where: 327 S. Tryon St.
More info: mimosagrill.com
Must orders: Lobster Macaroni & Cheese, Charlotte's Hushpuppies, Pecan Crusted North Carolina Mountain Trout, and Pan Roasted Diver Sea Scallops.
Frugal going fancy: Lumiere. Don't be fooled by the strip-mall location, this classic French restaurant in Myers Park is the real deal. With entrees sometimes creeping into the $40 range, Lumiere is a must-visit during Queen's Feast because you can get the fine-dining, white-tablecloth experience without the price tag. Plus, the food is really, really good. Year after year, Lumiere has been consistently rated as one of Charlotte's top restaurants. We had a Friday late-night dinner date at Lumiere two years ago during Queen's Feast and it's a meal I still dream about (it was late-night because that's how competitive the reservations were). The food was decadant and the service impeccable.
Where: 1015 Providence Rd.
More info: lumieremyerspark.com
Must orders: Escargot Bourguignon, Fillet of Grass Fed Beef and Slow-Braised Beef Short Rib, Milk Chocolate Profiteroles.
Farm to fork: Passion8. If you're looking for local, look no further than this restaurant, perched on Elizabeth Avenue, which has become a little Charlotte culinary mecca. Passion8 exudes sophistication and romance with a hint of rustic. Husband-and-wife team Luca and Jessica Annunziata are passionate about food, emulating European hospitality with local ingredients from farmers and artisans in the Carolinas.
Where: 1523 Elizabeth Ave.
More info: thepassion8.com
Must orders: Pork Shank Osso Bucco, Baby Octopus Siciliana, Tiramisu.
The big add-on: Bonterra Dining and Wine Room. If you're looking for a great date-night vibe or an elegant evening out with friends, I suggest a bottle of wine (or a glass, they have more than 200 choices) and a table next to a window. Housed in a historic church, the space's casual elegance is matched by its contemporary, flavorful cuisine. Plus, the signature fried lobster tail available as an add-on to the Queen's Feast menu is totally worth it.
Where: 1829 Cleveland Ave.
More info: bonterradining.com
Must orders: PEI Mussels, Prime NY Strip, Caramel Cheesecake.