Twenty years ago, hotel restaurants weren’t exactly culinary destinations. The menus were unimaginative, the food equally so.
Fast forward to today and a number of hotels have stepped up their menus, but they still have to overcome the perception with local residents that hotel restaurants are just for guests. Brendan Flory – restaurant supervisor for the Omni Hotel’s Trade Restaurant and Bar – says the Omni wants its guests “to have the amenity of walking downstairs for that quick breakfast or lunch before walking out the door.” At the same time, it hopes to pull locals in off the street.
Here’s what several Charlotte hotels are doing to court guests and hometown folk, into their dining rooms.
The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge’s Gallery Restaurant
10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway, 704-248-4100.
Perhaps the only thing to rival the picturesque surroundings of the Gallery’s dining spaces is the food. Leading the way is a golden, roasted fall butternut squash soup with smoked bacon and toasted pumpkin seeds. Gallery has adopted the popular trend of sourcing local ingredients, which means its menu selections (spinach frisee salad with baked Johnston County ham; a burger featuring Old Mecklenburg Brewery Copper Ale) have roots in the community.
Charlotte Marriott City Center’s Savannah Red
100 W. Trade St., 704-363-8161.
Given the restaurant’s name, it’s no surprise the menu has a decidedly Southern leaning. Two highlights: lobster cobbler and Krispy Kreme bread pudding. Is anything else needed after that?
Double Tree’s The Market Café
6300 Morrison Boulevard. 704-364-2400.
Located adjacent to SouthPark mall, the menu at The Market Café caters to the masses. Look for: sherry-infused she crab soup; flat iron steak (with smashed potatoes); tequila chicken tacos; and the California club. And while it’s hard to beat those trademark warm Double Tree chocolate cookies, a lemon sorbet with blueberry compote could be a contender.
Omni Hotel’s Trade Restaurant and Bar
132 E. Trade St. 704-377-0400.
It’s got a well-stocked salad bar that includes grilled chicken and steak, plus composed salads, such as a cornbread crouton panzanella (spinach, tomatoes, radishes and goat cheese) that is zesty and crunchy. If you’re not counting calories, try the macaroni-and-cheese with smoked Gouda cream.
The Ritz-Carlton’s BLT Steak
110 N. College St. 704-972-4380.
This modern steak house’s Angus and Prime steaks (available with sauces ranging from Béarnaise to Roquefort) can set you back several pretty pennies, but go at lunch and order the carnivore’s idea of a grilled cheese – the prime steak and Fontina cheese panini. There’s also the Moody Blue burger with its addictively salty crust. Speaking of addictive, pop in next door to Bar Cocoa for a double chocolate chip cookie.
The Westin Charlotte’s Ember Grille & Terrace
601 S. College St., 704-375-2600.
You’re not supposed to drink your dinner, but the blueberry mojito might make it difficult to turn your attention elsewhere. But don’t imbibe too much and miss the roasted mushroom flatbread with Boursin cheese, or the cupcake flights featuring chocolate, vanilla, red velvet and peanut butter.
Note: The restaurant at the Dunhill, a historic hotel uptown that’s long been a popular destination for hotel-restaurantgoers, is currently closed to the public as it transitions from the Harvest Moon to a new concept from culinary director Chris Coleman.