This is the first in an occasional series of stories that profile appetizers and desserts at two different local restaurants.
App: Midwood Smokehouse
1401 Central Ave., 704-295-4227
Originally, I stopped by this Central Avenue restaurant for desserts (cobblers), but after seeing the barbecue queso and the pimento cheese fries on the list of appetizers, I couldn’t pass on them. Hickory smoke hangs heavy throughout the restaurant (and around the block for that matter), so it’s not surprising that both appetizers have a smoky component.
Green onions and your choice of brisket or pork (we got the brisket) are sprinkled over thin, crinkle-cut fries. But the pimento cheese sauce is the real star. It’s a little spicy and as good as it was, I appreciated the kitchen exercising restraint on the amount of cheese sauce it lavishes over the fries.
As for the barbecue queso, I think the best thing about it is the way the sauce from the chopped pork blends into the queso. Actually, throw that same pork on a bun and top it with some queso, and you’d have a fine sandwich. But we’re talking about appetizers and desserts here. The thin, salty tortilla chips that come with the queso are as good a vehicle as any old bun.
A reader recently emailed me to ask if I would ask Midwood for the recipe for the pecan cobbler. Sorry to say, the restaurant turned me down, saying there is an ingredient in the recipe that would be difficult for people to procure. Was it those lovely caramelized pecans? Or maybe it was the bottom crust that had a buttery, shortbread consistency? Surely it wasn’t the scoop of vanilla ice cream on top – which you definitely want to add, as it cuts the richness of the dessert.
In fact, I felt rather let down by the peach cobbler, which is more like a crumble, with its oatmeal topping.
Dessert: Crave Dessert Bar
500 W. Fifth St., 704-335-0588
Even if this restaurant on the edge of uptown didn’t have some killer desserts, it would still be a really cool place to hang out.
Sunday game nights (Jenga anyone?), drink specials (pitchers of white sangria with a plethora of fruit in the bottom) and some groove-easy music are the perfect way to head into the work week. The servers (all of whom were women on our visit) wore snug fitting red dresses, which made me wonder: How much of Crave’s candied bacon ice cream cookie and the pineapple 180 layer cake do they actually eat?
I certainly ate all of my ice cream cookie – a tribute to the ice cream sandwich. The dessert also proves what I’ve known all along: bacon truly does go with anything. This bacon studs the outside of the chocolate chip cookie sandwich, which is stuffed with soft-serve vanilla ice cream before being placed in a puddle of chocolate sauce.
As good as that is, the pineapple 180 certainly keeps pace. A layer of caramel pineapple upside down cake is placed on a layer of New York cheesecake. It’s like eating a citrusy cloud.