Hungry hearts and happy bellies!

One of my favorite things to do with my husband is go out to dinner – especially if we’re trying a new place. This is our “us” time – without TVs, phones, dogs, or really any interruptions other than a waitress checking in. He’s definitely more adventurous with the things he’ll eat (rabbit, veal, sea urchin, foie gras…), but I do love exploring new menu options. We made a deal with each other to try at least one new place in Charlotte each month when we found ourselves becoming too routine in going to our “usual places.”  Since we made this commitment (pre-2014), we’ve done a good job of sticking to it. We went to Dandelion Market (Try the surf & turf), 5 Church, Queen City Q (delicious BBQ & smoked wings), and Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar (get the wild mushroom ‘za).We’ve been pleased with all of the experiences thus far.

We started a discussion around our Top 10 list with my in-laws, trying to determine where our favorite meals were created. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Elizabeth’s on 37th (Savannah, GA): the whole experience was charming and the food was delightful!

2. Fearrington House (Pittsboro, NC): Try the hot chocolate soufflé to end your evening. Recently ranked on USA Today for wine list and CN Traveler for best hotel and restaurant, and Open Table’s #8 restaurant in America!

3. Poogan’s Porch (Charleston, SC): You can’t go wrong with fried chicken in the South, with spicy collards on the side of course.

4. Eleven (Pittsburgh, PA): Best pork chop I’ve ever had. And the most adorable/delicious after dinner truffle.

5. Seer Sucker (San Diego, CA): First place I tried fish, and I loved it so much that I eat it on the regular now.

6. Passion8 Bistro (Charlotte, NC): Farm to table and table to full, happy tummy. We have loved every part of every locally sourced dinner at Passion8. Excited to hear about their move to the Elizabeth neighborhood in 2014.

7. Halcyon (Charlotte, NC): As much as we love the food at Halcyon, the drinks are what we really rave about. Their mixologist is insanely creative. I recommend the Southern Grit Bowl if you go for brunch (Geechie Boy Mill Grits. Pork Belly. Pimento. Greens. Poached Egg).

8. The Palisades (Eggleston, VA): This hidden gem is truly surprising in it’s atmosphere and delivery of high quality food. It’s on the outskirts of Blacksburg (Go Hokies!) and provides an eloquent yet rustic dining experience.

9. Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint (Atlanta, GA): Another delicious Southern meal full of fried goodness, hearty sides and live music. Doesn’t get much better than that!

10. The Fig Tree (Charlotte, NC): Fine dining just outside of uptown Charlotte. Top notch dining experience with to-die-for menu options. The perfect place for a romantic dinner.

This list was harder than I thought to make! We’ve obviously been lucky enough to eat a lot of delicious meals. A few more of my faves are Manna (Wilmington, NC), ONE (Chapel Hill, NC), Divine Prime (Myrtle Beach, NC) best steak I’ve ever had, Toast (Charleston, SC): Go for brunch and get a cucumber bloody mary!, Magnolias (Charleston, SC), Catch 27 (St. Augustine, FL), CODA (Boston, MA): Try the mussels, Lolitas (Boston, MA): you get tequila on ice upon arrival, Viet Thai Noodle House (Charlotte, NC): try the Pho, Atlantic Fish (Boston, MA): Try the cioppino.

I’d love to hear what some of your favorite restaurants! In addition to trying new places, we plan to continue traveling as much as possible this year and we’d love to check out exciting new food in those destinations. Cheers!

PS – you can friend me on Yelp to see all of my reviews, check ins and delicious photos!

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