By Jennifer Brule | Photography by Michael Hernandez
Posted: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014
As Lake Norman has evolved and grown, so too has the restaurant scene. Long gone are the days when discerning diners have to trek down to Charlotte for a standout meal. From fine dining and casual family spots to delectable ethnic restaurants, theres a growing bounty of epicurean delights. Below some of the areas top chefs dish on what makes their restaurants special, and what new surprises they have planned for the year.
Since the husband-and-wife-team of Chris and Christian Phillips opened their European-style bistro in 2006, Restaurant X has become a local favorite thanks to its fresh ingredients and eclectic international menu.
Secret to success: We are both hands on owners, and we have a passion to provide great food in a convivial & warm atmosphere.
Why this business:Because we share a love for great food, we've traveled the world and want to share our culinary experience with the community at large.
Favorite dish:That is difficult to answer, but if I had to pick it would from our brunch menu. The fresh salmon hash with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce or our British breakfast with Irish sausages, bacon, two eggs, curried mushrooms, baked beans, potatoes and toast. That will keep you going all day.
Future trends:That we continue to grow our restaurant along with the community, and that people take advantage of both our growing brunch and catering business. Hopefully consumers continue to support the great efforts that are made at Restaurant X and other local, family-owned restaurants so we can remain competitive in an increasingly competitive and corporate arena.
Signature dish:The beef brisket that's braised for four hours in the oven.
408 S Main Street, Davidson
Il Bosco Ristorante and Bar
Jimmy Hermann opened Il Bosco three years ago and has been wowing Lake Norman residents ever since with his Italian specialties. Although not the chef, Hermann is a constant presence at Il Bosco, presiding over dinner service and making sure customers are happy.
Secret to success: Our success is due to our faithful clientele who appreciate the atmosphere and the quality of product we serve.
Why this business: The business is in me. I started as a busboy in 1976, working in a restaurant called Amato's of Amityille.
Future trends:We expect our breakfast and lunch to continue to grow.
Signature dish:We make all our pastas, sauces, and pastries in-house, so its hard to choose, but a favorite among customers in the winter is our house-made gnocchi Bolognese.
Il Bosco Ristorante and Bar
127 Depot Street, Davidson
At 70, Pasquale Caruso has been everything from an assistant diplomat in Switzerland to theology student to philosophy professor and, finally, chef. These diverse passions seep into every aspect of Carusos restaurant. Putting in 12-plus hour days, Caruso oversees everything from the intimate restaurant's design to preparing standout Italian cuisine.
Secret to success: Its simply hard work. And honesty. And quality. I try and give my customers the best quality for a reasonable price.
Why this business: Growing up, my mother had to work, so I always cooked dinner for my family in Italy. I ended up in the restaurant business by accident, really. I was studying to be a priest, but came to America for two weeks and ended up staying 45 years.
Favorite dish: Something comfortingfor me that is a nice homemade pasta with a light tomato sauce.
Future trends: We plan to update the interior and we will feature more of a rotating menu, including seasonal items. I hope that there is more locally owned competition, not chain restaurants, and more of a focus on whos using the highest quality ingredients and putting out the best food.
Signature dish: Our polenta-encrusted sea bass is very populareveryone loves that dish.
631 Brawley School Road, Suite 405, Mooresville
While Epic Chophouse is one of Lake Normans most popular steak and chop restaurants, its also noted for other gourmet dishes, including duck, lamb, pastas, and seafood. Chef Jon Spencer was the first employee hired when Epic opened in 2011, and now oversees not only the Epic kitchen, but also its sister restaurant, Chillfire, in Denver.
Secret to success: I think that Epic's success can be attributed to its entire aura. We offer a great meal, at a great value, in a great venue with a sense of community. We also have knowledgeable, friendly, and well-trained staff and a great management team that wants to continually improve our offerings to our guests.
Why this business: I am in the restaurant business because its the only business that I really know of that you know immediately whether you did a good job or not. You get your performance evaluation every day.
Favorite dish: The lamb rackits classic and timeless, and if its done well there isn't a whole lot of other things that I would rather eat. And we are one of the few places around that still does it.
Future trends: In 2014, I see Epic ascending to the upper echelon of great American steakhouses and extending our reach beyond the Lake Norman area while still remaining a local favorite.
Signature dish: Epic is known for its fabulous steak and seafood offerings, but I think that the rack of lamb is just as much a signature dish.
104 South Main Street, Mooresville
After owning and operating several popular restaurants both in Charlotte and in Davidson, Tim Groody and his girlfriend, Melanie McIntosh, opened Fork! in Cornelius last year. The restaurant specializes in farm-to-fork dishes, sourcing as many ingredients as possible from local producers.
Secret to success:We have created a restaurant identity. We have wines that are not available in grocery stores, lots of local ingredients, and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. We have stayed true to our customers.
Why this business:Because I can cook well. It is stressful, intense, slow one minute, and 100 mph the next. There is no better feeling than to receive a good review or a thank you for a crazy job well done.
Favorite dish: I would say the brisket or short ribs or house-cured bacon.
Future Trends: I see Fork growing in the next year. We have lots of plans to expand the wine list, offer small production wines, farmer dinners, wine and beer dinners, and hopefully enclose the porch. I think with the recovering economy and more quality restaurants opening, locals will have even more reasons not to head to Charlotte for a great dining experience.
Signature dish: This time of year our signature dish has to be one of our N.C.-produced cheeses with fried green tomatoes.
20517 N. Main Street , Cornelius
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less