Warm, local, approachable: That’s been the mantra of the Harvest Moon Grille at its best since its earliest days.
Those came as a food truck born in 2009, hawking the wares of its parent Grateful Growers Farm, and, as chef Cassie Parsons said then, seeking to prove Charlotte-area diners would seek out (and pay for!) locally raised and grown foodstuffs – particularly the Tamworth pork Natalie Veres and she were raising on that Denver farm.
The business is living its third life now as a tiny Main Street USA storefront in Lincolnton, serving up “morning ensembles” such as the HMG OMG and corned pork hash, and sandwiches of single or double pork burgers and black-eyed-pea falafel.
The menu lineup isn’t the higher-end creative fare Parsons did in her roughly four-year stint at the uptown Dunhill Hotel. Nor is it the tacos and braised neck bones she called “redneck ribs” from that orange truck window.
It’s simpler and more straightforward, although, as usual, Parsons has big plans: As soon as she adds a walk-in, probably by June 1, the sporadic handful of dinner specials will grow, and she’ll try more stuff she calls “funky” but “relatable” – like a recent special of fried catfish with Korean barbecue sauce, shiitake mushroom kimchee and rice from area Hmong farmers.
When we went for dinner, we weren’t offered a specials list, and when we asked we got a cursory description. (It was perfectly nice, just very brief and not enticing.)
So we’ll focus on what we know is there: a heartiness worth seeking out.
Pork appears on your plate in a plethora of forms, from house-made bacon to cured ham to corned ham (want them all? Get the “Three Little Piggies club”), to a center-cut chop among dinner specials. It’s worth working through all of them; I’m a particular fan of the corned ham.
The pork burger’s a marvelous foil for caramelized onion, pimento cheese, lettuce, tomato and a mayo-mustard blend, while tender flatbread works perfectly with hummuses of many flavors. The HMG OMG puts scrambled egg and sausage patty between two slices of French toast. Cheddar and bacon pancakes are just what you think, with a fried egg on top and maple syrup. Marvelous.
French toast on its own didn’t work, the thick slices dry and heavy inside, though the eggy edges were marvelous. Grits also disappointed: too thin, too fine.
The well-turned-out breads and baked goods come from parent company Farmer*Baker*Sausage Maker (which does an on-site reservation-only brunch). Nearby farms and growers providing foodstuffs include Little Tree (lettuces and greens), Ellis Farms (chickens, potatoes, carrots) and Gobble-Us-Up Poultry (turkeys and eggs from turkeys and ducks).
Chefly details pop up occasionally: The club sandwich’s “ice box pickled veggie” might be nearly anything pickle-able, for example (rutabaga!), and her tika salad dressing/sauce is a nod to Romania. But Parsons is “still feeling the community out.” The flash and the funk stay fairly well confined to specials.
She says she’s still pursuing the five-restaurants-around-a-hub idea she laid out a couple of years ago, in which each (HMG being the first) would buy from farms closest to it, nurturing a sustainable food region.
The reality is “the world has slowed me down in the last year.” Some plans (such as finding this Harvest Moon site) took longer than expected, some were revised, some remain wispy.
But the passion for putting foods from around here on plates around here persists.
Harvest Moon Grille
A little Lincolnton spot for breakfast, lunch, brunch (and a bit of dinner).
331 E. Main St. in Lincolnton; 704-735-4199; www.harvestmoongrille.com.
HITS: Earthy breakfasts with plenty of pork, pleasant surprises in seasoning (five-spice-seasoned sweet potato hummus, for instance), sizeable sandwiches and warm service.
MISSES: French toast that was both dry and heavy; bland, dull grits; servers don’t always offer dinner entrees.
PRICES: Breakfast (served all day) $5-$13; sandwiches, salads and cold plates $8-$12.
HOURS: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday, to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
INSPECTION SCORE: 99.5 (Dec. 17).
☆☆☆☆= excellent; ☆☆☆= good;☆☆= fair;☆= poor