The Packhouse, the new restaurant on Morehead Street (look for the rocking chairs out front, just before the Dowd YMCA), officially opens July 6, but they held a quiet opening over the weekend for a few small groups. We grabbed tables on Friday and Saturday nights to see how it looks.
Short answer? There are lot of things to like here. Owner Deedee Mills, who already has The Mayo Bird and The Summit Room in Dilworth, is good at paying attention to details, and those details stood out.
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1. The wooden bow ties. We’ve already reported that Mills wants the restaurant to be a homage to her Eastern N.C., tobacco-country roots. The interior is built from three old tobacco packhouses that she had taken apart and brought to Charlotte. But we didn’t expect every server to be wearing spiffy wooden bow ties. Each one was carved by a 93-year-old whittler who lives in Martin County, near Mills’ hometown of Williamston.
2. The inside/out feel: They already have rocking chairs and a few outdoor tables on Morehead. But we discovered that the glass wall at the front can be opened up like an accordion, giving the dining room an open, airy feel and showing off a nice uptown skyline view.
3. The bar, with metal tractor seats and a bar made from lacquered tobacco leaves. Yes, the restaurant is on the right side of the road for people leaving uptown at 5 o’clock to head toward Providence Road neighborhoods. And there’s free parking in the deck behind the building. Not that we’re suggesting anything that will delay your trip home after work.
4. Of the dishes we tried – including smoky shrimp & grits with kernels of corn, the picnic basket with deviled eggs, cheese straws, Bertie County peanuts, pimento cheese and benne crackers, a very cheesy tomato pie and a charcuterie board with honeycomb – the winner was the fried chicken: Sweet tea brined, with a crunchy crust, served on succotash with creamy macaroni & cheese.
5. The mismatched dishes: Mills has haunted thrift stores for months to come up with a collection of vintage plates, bowls and casserole dishes.
6. The oatmeal pie. The dessert offerings also included hummingbird cake and chocolate pie, but that oatmeal pie, with butterscotch-sweet cookies and a butter/sugar filling, puts Little Debbie to shame.
7. The location: Time to start a new debate on Charlotte neighborhood names. It’s outside the I-277 loop that defines uptown. It’s on the very outer edge of Dilworth. So what should we call businesses along Morehead Street that are really between uptown and Dilworth? We’ll go out on a limb and suggest: Dilmore. Order a round of oatmeal pies and discuss.