Special occasions demand a special place to celebrate. My one-year wedding anniversary happened to land on the day after my wife and I moved to Charlotte. Searching in my phone for places to eat, I made an astonishing discovery: A lot of restaurants in Charlotte are closed on Sunday. Welcome to the Bible Belt.
Getting shot down left and right trying to find a destination, I asked my wife if she would be okay with a Southern-style restaurant. She agreed, and we were on our way to Dogwood Southern Table and Bar in SouthPark. Being a beautiful early-autumn evening, we opted to sit outside in their small outdoor seating area. On a less optimal weather day, we would be greeted by white table cloths in the main dining room and a more laid-back bar area with a fireplace.
Alisa welcomed us shortly after we arrived and announced she would be taking care of us. Little did I know at that time how appropriate a pronouncement that was.
Being a long-time fan of oysters, we opted to start off with Oysters Dogwood, roasted in the shell with chorizo, chives and shallots. They had a smoky taste that was addictive; so addictive, in fact, that I slurped the remaining juice from the shell before I allowed them to clear the plate from the table.
Dogwood is a farm-to-table restaurant and the menu changes regularly, though there are some go-to’s that are always available. My wife chose one of those — shrimp and grits.
At the suggestion of Alisa, I opted for one of the specials: Lane Red Snapper. Alisa really sold the dish and I was in need of something a bit more healthy than the red meat I had been devouring before I left Chicago. To say her suggestion was spot-on would not do it justice. The dish came with shishito peppers and meaty trumpet mushrooms, making for a pretty presentation on the plate. It tasted better than it looked.
My first bite led to an out-loud exclamation: “Wow!” It was pan-seared in herbs and butter and could not have been spiced better. The flesh had a sort of crunch each time you bit into it and was delicious down to the last bite. If you see it on the menu, don’t hesitate — order it. You won’t be sorry.
My wife enjoyed her shrimp and grits. The plate included sausage, okra and scallions. These were generous-sized shrimp, cooked perfectly, as were the grits. I stole a few bites and I can confirm it was an excellent dish.
We finished the meal with a peanut butter and chocolate chip cheesecake. It was creamy and not at all heavy, with a little taste of raisin. I have had better desserts, but it’s mainly personal preference, as I have a weakness for chocolate and didn’t find a fit on the menu that called out to me.
The bill came out to a little over a $100 before tax and tip for an appetizer, two entrees and dessert, along with my beer and the Uncle Scott’s Root Beer that my wife enjoyed. It was worth every penny as the entire experience exceeded expectations and made our anniversary special.
We stopped back a few weeks later for lunch. I know dropping a hundred to go out is not in everybody’s comfort zone. It’s still not a cheap lunch, as it will run you close to $20 a person with tax and tip if you select from the main menu without a drink. It could go higher depending on what you order.
We started with the bacon jam. It came with country bread to dab on top. The bacon had a sweet, smoky, barbecue-like taste. If the bread was grilled, that would have put it over the top. It was worth the six bucks.
My wife ordered the blackened catfish and I had the Duck ‘n’ Dumplings for my main course. The catfish came with black rice risotto while my dish was enhanced with bits of ham; soft, doughy dumplings; and mushrooms in a chicken stock enhanced with butter. It was a bit salty, but still tasted good.
My wife said the catfish on its own didn’t have a lot of taste. I agreed, though the salsa verde helped spike it up a notch. From blackened catfish, I expect more pop than it delivered.
The service was again top notch. Lunch didn’t blow me away like dinner, but all in all, Dogwood Southern Table and Bar is definitely a worthwhile destination. Just be sure to bring some dough.
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 bites.