Charlotte, North Carolina is only an hour and a half or so from Greenville, but I feel like it’s still this really big secret. What you may not know, is that the Queen City is full of amazing hotels and restaurants, fabulous shopping, and family fun activities, in addition to TWO major sports teams, the Charlotte Hornets and the Carolina Panthers. A couple of weeks ago, I grabbed one of my friends and we hit the road to explore one of Charlotte’s top rated hotels, The Dunhill, and the hotel’s award winning restaurant, The Asbury.
The Asbury was named one of Charlotte’s 50 Best Restaurants by Charlotte Magazine, number six on the list, to be exact. It’s a well earned placement for Executive Chef, Chris Coleman, a devout locavore whose menu is a modern exploration of the farmers and growers of the south.
The 32 year old Charlotte native was deeply influenced by the summers spent with his grandparents in Mississippi. His restaurant career began at Charlotte’s famed McNinch House, where he worked his way up to Executive chef, while at the same time working his way through Central Piedmont Community College. His dedication to the art truly comes through on the menu.
His restaurant is a cozy little spot on North Tryon Street in the heart of downtown Charlotte. Whether you come in off the street, or meander your way through The Dunhill Hotel, it’s a delicious escape from city life.
Before heading in for dinner, my travel buddy and I settled in for a pre-dinner drink at bar at The Dunhill. The Bartender, Pete Ladino is know around town as one of the best in the business. We met another Charlotte bartender who couldn’t say enough about him! Pete poured me a New Fashioned, his take on an old-time favorite, made with Knob Creek Whiskey, St. Germain, Elderflower and a grapefruit twist. Perfect for clearing up my stuffy head. Before dinner, a couple of people were seated at the bar, mostly regulars stopping in for a drink after work. After dinner, the bar, which only seats a dozen or so people, was two people deep and full on alive with young professionals. I was surprised that a small hotel bar drew such a crowd. We were told it is just Pete. People like the guy!
“Pete has an uncanny natural talent for remembering people’s drink of choice. He can see someone once a year, and from year to year, he’ll remember their drink and something about them. This type of natural ability to relate to people plays a major role in determining how successful someone will be in the hospitality industry.” This comes from John Beatty, General Manager of The Dunhill Hotel. Pete was recently recognized as the Service Champion of the Year by the Summit Hospitality Group. He was recognized out of approximately 500 employees from the Raleigh N.C.-based Summit Hospitality Group, Ltd. Way to go, Pete!
There are little hidden nooks and crannies all over the hotel. This was a perfect spot right outside The Asbury. This is no ordinary chair. I swear I could sit here with my leg draped over the arm and read magazines forever. The Dunhill hotel opened as The Mayfair Manor in 1929. There have been major renovations, and name changes over the decades, but you still sort of feel like you’re going to see F. Scott Fitzgerald sitting and smoking in a corner by lamplight, scribbling in his notebook.
If you had a Southern MawMaw, then you know why Chef Chris welcomes visitors to the table with a skillet of his own MawMaw’s biscuits. Southern biscuits are like a big chesty, comforting hug. These were sidled up to bacon jam! I couldn’t eat the biscuits (gluten free and all), but I dug into that jam.
We really toured the menu at The Asbury, ordering Deviled Eggs, small bites, and bits and pieces from the rest of the menu. Here are a few of the highlights:
Mushroom Salad, fig jam, Benton’s ham, Lusty Monk mustard, oats. This dish was a textural playground! I love it when a chef pushes the boundaries. When they figure out a new way to present something so simple!
Chicken Liver Risotto with roasted lemon jus and poached egg. This dish was rich and luscious. I had a TERRIBLE cold at the time and it was so rich and comforting, like a twist on chicken and rice soup.
Bacon-Wrapped Duck Confit over beets and pickled apples.
Scallops with Roasted Root Vegetables with ginger and rosemary-scented Carolina Gold rice, apple, carrots, pickled beet, arugula, butternut squash bisque. Look at those beautiful colors!
Pork Cheeks with sweet potato casserole, Lusty Monk jus, pecan gremolata, Brussels sprout petals.
A beautiful creation by Pastry Chef, Jossie Perlmutter. Chocolate Mouse Cake with beet, raspberry and vanilla parsnip.
Is your mouth watering? These were only the highlights from our amazing meal! After dinner, we took our full bellies back to our comfy room.
The Dunhill Hotel is Charlotte’s only registered hotel with Historic Hotels of America, part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Designed by architect Louis Asbury, Sr.,the ten-story hotel has been fully restored, with comfortable modern touches. I love the art above the bed. This is one of many paintings scattered about the hotel by North Carolina native and Pulitzer Prize winning artist Phillip Moose (1921-2001). An army veteran often painted scenes of places he visited during his service overseas and his travels around the world. During his career, he taught at both Queens College and Davidson College, both in the Charlotte area.
That robe just screams, “Take a bath!” Doesn’t it?
I love the little touches, even in places you might not expect. Cookies and coffee by the check-in desk. A full spread at breakfast, including gluten free options like Cheerios, fruit and yogurt! A shower with bath products so good you won’t want to leave. And an umbrella in the room for rainy day walks around Charlotte. The room was a little loud at night from the hustle and bustle below on the streets of Charlotte. I’m used to the sound of the trees and rush of the creek. City cars and voices can jolt a country girl awake at 2:30am!
We didn’t order off of the in-room dining menu, but that just means I have a reason to go back soon! I was so sick during my stay, too. I can’t wait to go back happy and healthy and ready to explore more of Charlotte!
The Asbury’s Chef Chris will be taking this amazing talent on the road April 16th, appearing at The James Beard House in New York for the Taste of Charlotte. In case you aren’t familiar with the James Beard House, it is considered the Carnegie Hall of Cuisine. Only the best of the best grace that kitchen. Chefs are chosen based on their reputation, use of local and seasonal farm-to-table ingredients and their mastery of their craft. He’ll be joined by Executive Chef Blake Hartwick of Bonterra Dining & Wine Room, Executive Chef and Owner Paul Verica of Heritage Food & Drink, Pastry Chef Ashley Boyd of 300 East, and Heritage Food & Drink Mixologist Bob Peters of The Punch Room, located at the The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte. The chefs and mixologist will create a five-course menu highlighting Charlotte area farmers and producers, and will feature Springer Mountain Farms 100% organic Chicken. Charlotte diners are getting a taste of the action on Feb. 28 at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room at a sold out preview dinner of the NYC event. I know for a fact that there’s a web-cam in that James Beard House kitchen, if you want to watch the live action on April 16.