Lake Norman Magazine

A feast for the eyes

5/26/11 An order of sashimi, one of the specialties of Latitude 36 in Cornelius.  David T. Foster
5/26/11 An order of sashimi, one of the specialties of Latitude 36 in Cornelius. David T. Foster

Editor's note: The restaurant closed its doors July 31. Read more here from Lake Norman News.

If you ate only with your eyes, Latitude 36 in Cornelius would be a four-star restaurant. On a summer night, it’s hard to beat a lake view that wraps around you like a blue shawl.The restaurant, in the building that used to be Midtown Harborside, is so large that even when the parking lot outside seems full, the inside has so much room that diners seem scattered like peas in a very big pod.It’s so large, the three pool tables at the front seem swallowed. Just getting to the outdoor seating on the deck is quite a hike. There’s an indoor bar, a small dance floor, a couple of levels of booths, an indoor/outdoor space with another bar, and then, finally, the great outdoors, with boat slips for water-based customers still ahead. In such a pleasant setting, the food really has to fight to get your attention. On the appetizer menu, the baked Crab Dip was definitely a winner, with plenty of crab, including a few flat chunks of backfin, and more than a hint of white wine and garlic. Served with warm pita triangles, you could practically make a meal off it. Blue Crab Fritters didn’t fare as well. Round and fried crisp like hush puppies, the interior was wet and mushy with a fishy taste. The chipotle-flavored aoili dipping sauce had plenty of heat, which helped boost the flavor a little. Crab and corn chowder was more potato than corn, with crab present only as white shreds. My dining companion’s description: “They whispered ‘crab’ over it.” Unfortunately, the rest of the chowder’s flavor was a wan whisper, too.In such a watery setting, fish gets plenty of attention on the menu, including grouper and crab cakes as sandwiches or a platter, several burgers and fish wraps, and several seafood pastas. The entrees also include a couple of steaks and chicken dishes, and a pork chop.Mahi-mahi, $17.95, with black beans and rice and grilled zucchini and squash, featured a thick cut of fish with good grilled flavor. The chimichurri that topped it was less successful. Instead of a brightly flavored, minced mixture of parsley, cilantro and garlic, it was a dark green sludge draped over the fish like green tongues. It tasted mostly of fiery chile and overwhelmed the fish until we scraped it off. Seafood Pasta, $18.95, was a generous bowl of farfelle – bowtie pasta – tossed with large chunks of red snapper, langoustines, crab and artichokes. With very little sauce, it was a bit bland, but all those big hunks of seafood kept it interesting. The dessert list is simple and was still in progress when we were there. We skipped Key Lime Pie in favor of the night’s chocolate cake, Chocolate Thunder, a tall slice of cake and mousse layers with a thick ganache icing. Latitude 36 is definitely built for fun times in the summer. With just a little more attention to the food, it would be smooth sailing.More information:Latitude 36 Raw Bar and Grille on the Lake, 18665 Harborside Drive, Cornelius, 704-895-7708, range: Appetizers $5.95-$10.95; raw bar (shrimp, oysters, clams, sashimi or snow crab) $9.95-$18.95; salads and sandwiches $5.95-$12.95; entrees $16.95 to $28.95.Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. Seating: 445 (317 inside, 128 on covered patio).