Country-style steak, candied yams and Beethoven?
Southern diners are in the grips of transformation.
People from regions beyond the South often sign on as owners at longtime neighborhood restaurants. That's when nuance creeps in:
Maryland crab cakes, Mongolian barbecued baby back ribs and Beethoven are specialties at Basil's, a 15-year-old diner on Old Pineville Road. Hong Kong native Joseph Wong and his Korean-born wife, Hanna, bought the 110-seat restaurant less than two years ago.
The Wongs kept its name and most of the old menu.
Monday through Saturday mornings they serve waffles, omelets, hot cakes, biscuit sandwiches and breakfast plates. At lunch they serve burgers, salads, sandwiches, seafood and a few Italian dishes, such as veal parmigiana with spaghetti ($7.75).
As a Southern diner, it has home-style lunch specials: meatloaf ($6.25), baked chicken with dressing ($6.25) and fried flounder ($7.50), served with soup and two side dishes. He sometimes adds a Chinese stir-fry special.
Joseph Wong worked in the restaurant business in and around Washington, D.C., for 30 years. Longtime patrons welcomed the couple to Charlotte and Basil's.
Wong thought they also might like the special recipes he had developed. His Maryland Jumbo Lump Crab Cake ($8.95) is so popular it's on the menu every day now.
Wong also changed the music from rock to classical and jazz, saying it eases digestion.
Familiar customers are still coming. They stop in wearing jeans, suit jackets, lace-ups and work boots.
Maybe new customers from farther away will come on the Lynx Blue Line, which has a station down the street at Woodlawn Road. Wong hopes they'll feel at home.
“Our clients are like family,” he said. “It's very friendly.”