If you’re not averse to ordering at a counter, this is a good time to be checking out new places, with new Moroccan food in Plaza Midwood and new locally-maximized food in Waxhaw.
The food: Tagines, couscous, briouats, the housemade hot sauce called harissa – fans of Moroccan food, which we’ve had only intermittently in the area, will rejoice. This little Plaza Midwood storefront offers a surprisingly long lineup at its surprisingly long counter, where you can get a peek (and sometimes a taste!) of the wares. Tagines, essentially stews with marvelous depths of flavors often with notable fruit, range from lamb with preserved lemon to chicken with prunes and almonds to kefta, the Middle East’s meatball, here a dense and heavy version served with tomato sauce and potato. Fluffy, light couscous can be had topped with a vegetarian lentil stew, a chickpea melange with candied onion, chicken with apricot and more. Harissa, a vibrant red, isn’t insanely hot; get a side order to play with.
The decor: The counter dominates the space, which was quite toasty indeed; you can pull up a seat to wait in front of one lovely, brilliant orange wall with a few knickknacks, or at a bench inside, or grab a chair outside on the tiny strip-mall sidewalk.
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The service: Engaging and enthusiastic, chef Craig Linthicum talked to every customer, between quick stirs of enormous pots, and offered detailed lists of ingredients. He’s not Moroccan, but studied the cuisine at Johnson & Wales (you may know him from Nourish) and tinkers a bit here and there for this audience.
The details: Entrees about $9.25-$10.75; 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; 2903 Central Ave.; 980-349-4015; http://ajbanirestaurant.com/.
Provisions Food & Drink
The food: Go into the Provisions Local Market, to the counter at back right to order (grab a drink from one of the coolers, too). Then wander the aisles for a moment and enjoy the diverse offerings, from spelt flour to banana chips, marinara to Maple View fresh butter. The menu’s a simple one: soups, salads, sandwiches and more, with a slant toward fresh/local and quality brand staples – like the fat Hebrew National hot dog. Here, it’s served with guacamole, finely chopped onion, hot pepper relish, a bit of cheddar and hunks of crunchy pork cracklins in a combo called The Dog. Also well-done: a sizable sandwich of smoked turkey, spiked with sriracha aioli, bacon, a little Swiss and some avocado. There’s a club (though mine omitted the middle piece of bread; is that even legal?) with good, well-cooked bacon (the second key to clubs, in my opinion), and the housemade potato salad is simple and fine. If the chilled cucumber, yogurt and pesto soup’s on the menu, get it.
The decor: The market opens onto a big, airy dining room, with hardwood floors and white walls dotted with farm-related art and implements, and signatures and doodles by customers on “The Wall of Haw.”
The service: Polite and accommodating, ours knew where things were and what went in them, and proffered a recommendation, quickly followed by a smiling “but everything is good.”
The details: About $5-$10; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (but restaurant closes at 7 p.m.); 105-107 W. South Main St., Waxhaw; 704-256-3642; www.facebook.com/provisions?fref=ts