Catch Fort Mill on the Flipside for lush, local

06/05/2014 8:41 AM

06/05/2014 11:43 PM

Good breakfast, with good coffee and classics on the menu, plus a gaggle of more interesting options, too? That’s a rarity in these parts.

And the Flipside Cafe in Fort Mill, S.C., from chef Amy Fortes invites you to nestle in, get comfy and yes, have a second maybe a third cup.

Counter Culture, from Durham, is the brew. Fortes, formerly a sous chef at Upstream, aims for local and regional product and is cultivating purveyors and farmers and fetchers. That can be a little more challenging for a small place (it’s got 40 seats), from procuring small batches of foodstuffs to waiting, as she must, for some local beers to be available in less-than-keg sizes.

But she’s proud of the slow build. “We’ve got a surprising amount of regulars alreadygreat people who appreciate what we’re doing.”

That “we” includes a cooking staff she says she consults regularly, along with husband Jon Fortes, who’s executive chef at both Mimosa Grill and Upstream (those are part of Harper’s Restaurant Group; Flipside is not).

For the upcoming spring/summer menu, she plans to ask her sous chefs to “get a list together of what’s in your head.” She says: “We were allowed to do that at Harper’s; it drives creativity and morale.”

Current breakfast fare: Crisp-edged delicate waffles with bright, fresh berries and melon. An alternate version that uses Cinnamon Toast Crunch, cooked down with oats and brown sugar and butter, with spiced bananas. Luxuriously thick and creamy grits. A hash of soy chorizo and well-browned potato chunks, topped with perfectly over-easy eggs with plenty of pepper. Housemade granola with verve and crunch, atop tangy Greek yogurt drizzled with local honey – or housemade ricotta with fruit and spiced pecans.

This is the stuff of leisurely, lavish first breakfast, or mid-morning second breakfast (see: Bavaria and/or “Lord of the Rings”). Served 7-11 weekdays and, with a few additions such as a lobster omelet, for brunch 10-1 Saturday and 10-2 Sunday, it’s distinguished.

But lunch and dinner also offer the sort of lush and simple things one might linger over, and careful service and clear enthusiasm – and the relative youth of both the place and its staff – make this feel like a find. (Sorry to bust it for you, insiders.)

Amy’s Pimento Cheese employs white cheddar in a pimento-y ramekin’d version of the classic, served with fat, warm, soft pretzels. Amy’s Shepherd’s Pie is a clever use of short rib topped with very buttery potatoes and sided with bright “local greens”: whatever’s at hand.

There’s a $5 burger lunch special, the burger made with chuck and topped with bacon jam and pimento cheese, and a layered meatloaf done as a sandwich at lunchtime, an entree at night.

Half a chicken is thickly glazed with barbecue sauce and juicy inside, and comes with mac and cheese and spinach; salmon is roasted and served with ribbons of asparagus and bacon jam.

This lineup leans to the warmly starchy, the bacony and meaty (it’s scheduled to be updated in the next few weeks), and there’s a warm precision to presentation, as well, from the plates and servingware to how often your drinks are checked. Staff willingly engages, and likes to brag on the kitchen’s educational and professional background. Tucked into a little strip mall about a mile southeast of Carowinds might not be where you expect to find these pedigrees.

Adding beer and wine about a month ago has boosted the dinner business, Amy Fortes says, and find a Napa Valley Cabernet called “B Side” delighted her. The Flipside has four reds and half a dozen whites: “We’re trying to keep it little because – we are little.”

Indeed, and that intimacy works.

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