Last Thursday my hubby turned 30. For those who are curious, he handled it far more gracefully than I did six months ago.
In keeping with our tradition of a dinner date out, just the two of us, I asked Pat a few weeks prior to the Big Day where he’d like me to make a reservation.
“Beef ‘n Bottle?” was his response.
Now, if you’re not familiar with Beef ‘n Bottle, it’s a Charlotte institution. It first opened in 1958, and from the looks of it, not much has changed. Located on South Blvd, just north of Woodlawn, this old-school steakhouse is as understated a place as I’ve ever seen.
And yet, when you walk through the front door (which is actually a side door), you are immediately transported to Old Hollywood, in a low-ceilinged, candle-lit, boisterous little joint, where you feel certain you might just bump into Frank Sinatra himself. If my grandfather were still alive, I feel certain it would be his go-to spot in the Queen City.
I could barely contain my excitement as we were led to our wooden booth. The benches had tall backs, (which I love), and our table had a single rose and black & white photo of an actress whom I wish I could’ve identified.
I was in Heaven.
Here’s a rundown of the evening:
A very kind woman approached our table moments after we sat down, filled our water glasses, assured us our server would be right with us, and told us she’d be right out with our crackers and soft, sharp cheddar cheese. I was intrigued.
As promised, she was back a few minutes later, and sure enough she brought with her a basket of Saltines and Captain’s Wafers and a ramekin of the most tasty cheddar cheese spread I’ve ever had. Yum. I did my best to restrain myself, knowing we had even more deliciousness to come. And I must say, I did a pretty damn good job of it.
As we enjoyed our little amuse bouche, our server, John came to check on us and take our drink orders. Pat ordered a Tito’s dirty martini on the rocks and went with standard olives over the bleu-cheese-stuffed that John offered. I stuck with water (#pregnancy).
As we gazed at the menu, I couldn’t help but smile. It was simple and straight-forward, but there was more than enough to choose from. Additionally, there were a couple of specials to add to the mix.
I went with the 6 oz. filet, a caesar salad to start, and mashed potatoes on the side. As John took down my order he looked up to ask, “would you like cheese and bacon on those potatoes?”
I gently responded “yes, please,” but what I really wanted to say was, “is that even a question? of COURSE I want that! Toss it on! Let’s do this!” We were celebrating, after all.
Pat ordered the special – a 6 oz. filet and fried shrimp. He chose the house salad with homemade bleu cheese dressing to start, and buttered broccoli on the side. He finished it off with a glass of malbec. (Sidenote: wine is half price for the glass or bottles up to $80 on Thursdays.)
We sat back, took in the scenery, and enjoyed each others’ company for a while.
The restaurant was packed, and the vibe was killer. There was a table packed with what appeared to be three generations of a family, celebrating the youngest member’s birthday, a mom, dad and their daughter who seemed to be celebrating either her graduation or bday, a lively crowd of men, out having a good time, and a few couples sprinkled around the edges, enjoying their own date-night out.
Our salads arrived, and though my caesar was delicious, it was immediately clear that Pat had won Round 1. His salad was served on two plates – one for the lettuce, and one for the accoutrements: cherry tomatoes, sliced green peppers, radishes, red onion, and the best bleu cheese dressing I’ve ever put in my mouth. I snuck a radish, dipped it in the dressing, and smiled from ear to ear.
We enjoyed our salads, chatted, and before we knew it our entrees were delivered. John placed the plates before us, asked if we needed anything else, and added, “Enjoy! Bon appetit!” I looked at Pat and informed him that I was in love with our waiter.
The smell of our food was to-die-for. I grabbed my steak knife and cut into the filet. I have used the saying “like butter” many times in my 30 years, and sure, I did so honestly, but I have never used that phrase to describe steak…until last week. The medium-rare filet was the best steak I have ever eaten in my entire life. It was tender and juicy…and like butter. There are no other words.
Speaking of butter, John returned a moment or two after the initial entree delivery and dropped off a basket of the warmest, butteriest bread I’ve ever tasted. (OK, I feel like I’m starting to sound redundant, but I speak the truth.)
Go there. Eat their food. You will agree.
We took our time, savoring every bite and soaking up the evening. I took a trip to the Ladies’ Room, as I’m wont to do, and couldn’t help but giggle at the summer-camp-style bathroom – men’s on one side, women’s on the other, and the sink for both just outside the doors. Classic. Old School. Love it.
As our evening came to an end, John asked the standard, “May I bring you a dessert menu?” And though I am rarely one to turn down a dessert menu, Pat politely informed John that I had made him a delicious (box) cake that we’d be enjoying once we got home. John quickly took the chance to ask if it was Pat’s bday and told us he’d be back with something special.
And did he ever.
Moments later John returned with a brownie in a martini glass with whipped cream and, I kid you not, a sparkler. It. Was. Awesome.
So, rather than enjoying my cake, we shared the brownie and laughed ‘til our bellies ached (which didn’t take too long given the amount of food we had just consumed), at the sparkler and Pat’s reactions to it.
Overall the night was one of the best I’ve had in Charlotte in a long time, and I can’t recommend Beef ‘n Bottle enough. It may not be the hippest, fanciest, Uptown-ist spot in the QC, but it’s certainly a local treasure that I have every intention of returning to it sooner rather than later.