09 September 2011

Charlotte, NC is A-OK

I was in Charlotte, NC for the National Flute Convention (and yes, I suppose that is as dorky as it sounds) and got a chance to check out a little bit of the city.  They have light rail, a pretty comprehensive bus system, and some chi-chi looking restaurants.  Like most cities who cleaned up their acts in the recent past (circa 1995), the old buildings in existence are all scrubbed and surrounded by new, play-city looking buildings that are overly neat and bright, but it's a pleasant aesthetic that makes one feel safe. The public transportation system looks excellent on paper, but you're just sort of supposed to know that certain bus times printed on your schedule are not for real (particularly on the weekends), which is reasonable enough if it follows conventional wisdom.

The interior of Halcyon is as beautiful
as their Stone Soup.

And then there are the restaurants.  Halcyon boasts "flavors from the earth", which I guess describes anything that is served on Earth (?), but I will just say that the cooking methods of their local, impressive-sounding ingredients leave a bit to be desired.  And when you think about it, "Stone Soup", while it sounds so back-to-your-roots and everything, should not cost $7 for a teacup's worth of broth and vegetables.  That's what you make at home when you are poor (I should know).  Nor should three dried out meatballs with sauce cost $11 from the appetizer menu.  Nice try, though.

Same with Luce, a super-hip, bass-pounding-on-the-stereo Italian restaurant in the chic Uptown sector of Charlotte.  The restaurant is beautiful and the menu sounds really impressive. But execution of food was merely alright. The complimentary snacks on the table were the best: crusty bread, marinated white beans, beautiful olives and homemade potato chips--and the wine list was wonderful. If you wanted to just sit for a while and order a glass of wine while hogging a table, you would be a very tacky person (or a college student), but you'd have a good experience.  But my angel hair pasta was overcooked, and the tomato sauce is nothing special. Risotto was good and desserts were beautifully arranged, but overall, food quality is too inconsistent to trust that you will have a great eating experience. And the service was friendly but very slow.  Our waiter came by no less than four times to tell us he'd be right back to get our order.  A member of my party finally had to stop him and beg to place an order for an alcoholic drink, which you'd think he would be in a hurry to get out of the way; I know when I'm buzzed, I order more food.  

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my stay in Charlotte.  People were exceedingly friendly and helpful everywhere I went, and with bus schedules as screwed up as they were, I had some pretty obvious tourist-type questions.  Somehow, although it was hotter than Hades and equally humid, I didn't mind the weather too much.  And, although I think they are still playing at being a worthwhile city, they're working on it, which is a valiant effort.  I can say far less for many towns I visit.  

Looks cool; it wasn't on time, though.