Blu Basil Café
306 S. Sharon Amity Road; 704-362-3731; 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. www.blubasil.com
Open for only about three months, Blu Basil Café brings Italian-style paninis and sandwiches to Cotswold Village Shops (in the former Bear Rock Café location). The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch (including Sunday brunch) in a casual, family-friendly atmosphere. Menu items include soups, salads, pastas, pizzas and sandwiches, along with some very tempting desserts. The restaurant also features a gourmet coffee bar, smoothies and gelato.
THE SCENE: The inside of Blu Basil doesn't look very different from the space's former tenant, Bear Rock Café. Booths and stained-wood tables are scattered throughout the restaurant. Patrons order from the counter and are given a number to display at their table so that employees know where to deliver each plate. The restaurant is quiet and clean. It's not unusual to see people working on their laptops while enjoying a cup of coffee.
THE MENU: On a recent visit, my friend, Walker Howson, and I started with feta cheese dip (sun-dried tomatoes, fresh spinach and feta cheese served with warm flatbread), which was outstanding. I ordered the Italiano panini, a combination of soppresetta salami, pepperoni and prosciutto topped with provolone cheese, tomato and balsamic vinaigrette on toasted focaccia.
The sandwich was better than expected and the homemade potato chips were a perfect complement. Walker enjoyed the mozzarella and tomato panini, which she said she would order again. Other popular menu items include the chicken di Napoli (grilled chicken served over a pesto penne pasta) and the oven-roasted salmon.
THE CROWD: Blu Basil offers something for everything. The restaurant is typically filled with families with young children and older couples. Many stop in for a cup of coffee or a scoop of gelato.
WHAT THEY'RE KNOWN FOR: Blu Basil is a clean, family-friend restaurant offering affordable food. Meals are usually ready in less than 10 minutes, making it easy to get in and out quickly. It's the perfect spot to stop in for a bite while shopping at the mall.
PRICES: All menu items are less than $10, except for the oven-roasted salmon ($11.99).
CASH OR CHECK: MasterCard, Visa and cash.
VEGETARIAN: There are a variety of soups, salads and sandwiches that are appealing to vegetarians. Try the grilled triple cheese, the black bean burger, the margarita pizza or the roasted portobello panini.
KID-FRIENDLY: There is an expansive kids' menu, which includes a few breakfast items and about five dinner options. During my visit, I saw many children eating with their parents for dinner.
TO GO? Blu Basil makes it easy to dine-in or take it to go. The restaurant also offers catering.
SMOKING? It's smoke-free.