Chef Tim Groody, whose impressive resume includes stints at Sonoma-Uptown in Charlotte, Cantina 1511, and Flatiron Kitchen and Taphouse in Davidson, has now turned his attention to Fork! The new Cornelius restaurant, which he opened with his girlfriend and general manager, Melanie McIntosh, is situated along N.C. 115 in a 1906 barn-red house that was formerly Meatballs on Main. Groody says he loves the small, unpretentious location, which lends itself to the “farm-to-fork” ethos he’s known for. “I like to really know the farmers we buy from,” he says. “I like to know where the ingredients are grown and who is growing them. I want to understand the farmer’s story and their intentions.” There is plenty of outdoor seating on the restaurant’s expansive and inviting porch. The interior warms with cozy, earth-tone hues. Reclaimed wood lines a wall in the casual bistro room (one of three dining rooms in the restaurant), which is adorned whimsically with three, huge metal forks. The lighting is subdued but not too dark, with chandeliers handmade out of colorful wine bottles. Everything on the menu is served a la carte. The diner chooses a main course, vegetable, and starch independently of one another. For larger parties, the sides can be served family style. The menu is adventerous and a little mysterious. For example, under main courses is listed “Ashley Farm chicken,” with little else in the way of portion size or how it’s prepared. Alas, when the dish arrived, it was a boneless chicken breast with the wing attached that had been nicely roasted, but with no sauce or apparent seasoning. The regular dinner menu is augmented by daily specials, depending on what Groody finds at farmers’ markets or what’s available from his local suppliers. Appetizers run from $5 to $8. Don’t miss the crisp, spicy chicken spring rolls with sweet plum sauce and wasabi—at $5 they are a great-tasting deal. Another standout special was the Korean flatiron steak with kimchi, which was succulent and flavorful. The shrimp and grits ($12) was very good with just the right amount of spicy kick, although the grits were a tad undercooked. Other tasty options include scallops (five plump, big ones for $16), that were sautéed perfectly—pan-seared and caramelized on the outside and succulent and moist inside. Finally, a truffle burger was the best of all four entrées. It was super juicy and flavorful, but not overpowered by the truffle. As for sides, the creamy lobster mac and cheese ($7) had a very nice flavor, and the Parmesan fries ($4) were out of this world, and the nightly special, truffle mashed potatoes, was divine. The spinach side dish ($4) was perfectly sautéed and so fresh there was no need for much embellishment. Fork! offers a solid wine list, with wines by the glass running around $10. There are six draught beers and 12 craft bottle beers. Additionally, they offer daily and weekly cocktail specials made from local and seasonal fruit purées and fresh herbs. We especially loved the “Smitten,” which was peppery and delish, featuring house-made watermelon purée, hot sauce, and tequila. Having happily carb-loaded on truffle fries, mac and cheese, and roasted fingerling potatoes, we went easy on dessert, opting for the deep-dish key lime cheesecake. Another tempting seasonal option is the pumpkin cheesecake. Sunday brunch offers a completely different menu from the daily menu, with specialty burgers served all day and into the evening. Lake Norman is lucky to have chef Groody back in the area. His notable culinary talent is heightened by his passion and determination to support local farms, farmers, and food artisans. Fork! is well worth a visit.
Fork! 20517 N. Main St., Cornelius www.forkrestaurantcornelius.com