First Bite is a look at, not a full review of, a new Charlotte-area restaurant.
The Food: Even with today's trend toward increasingly eclectic bar food, The Tavern on Park stands out, ranging from wood-fired flatbreads to free-range chicken saltimbocca, with Italian arborio rice pudding and a Cuban sandwich in between. Chef Andrés Arboleda, a native of Colombia, offers up an interesting skewered version of skirt steak with a well-flavored chimichurri sauce, and a Cajun popcorn appetizer was flawlessly fried. The Cuban sandwich was less entrancing, mostly because of the thick, cold chips that came with it; a tomato-red-pepper bisque was grainy but smokily rich.
The Look: Contemporary, in that woody, taverny kind of way – caramel walls, a view into the kitchen's wood-fired ovens, glass panels separating booths from a bar with handsome gold pendants, and a patio/covered terrace.
The Servers: An enthusiastic group, they greet with big smiles and recommend heartily. Ours overused “phenomenal” a bit, but I appreciated the thought. Service was somewhat slow on our visit, and included a manager coming to tell us we wouldn't be able to have the tuna we ordered because the chef didn't like its quality. (Kudos for the honesty, but servers should announce that in advance; it was 7:30 on a Thursday night, and surely the chef knew this earlier.)
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Details: 1600 Woodlawn Road at Park Towne Village, across from Park Road Shopping Center; 704-519-4740; www.thetavernonpark.com. Lunch ($7-$13) and dinner ($7-$27) daily.