Noodles in the Wings?


Today felt like a sushi for lunch kind of day.  NC Noodle Bar came up in the search for local (Rock Hill) sushi and was some place I hadn’t been before.  It was one of many but I’m so glad I decided to check them out over the others.

At about 4 miles from my house it was pretty convenient.  I got there fairly early for lunch and was the only patron.  It’s a fairly small place with about 9 or 10 tables and 4 seats at a counter.  I was told to have a seat anywhere and they’d be right with me.  Of the three people I saw working there all of them were very friendly and smiled a lot.  They have menus on the table but they also bring over a paper sushi menu with “happy hour” and regular pricing and I was in during happy hour.  Score!  As the name implies they have various noodle dishes from southeast Asian countries but also salads, soups and rice dishes.  The post is tagged Japan because I got sushi which is a fairly recent addition to their menu.  I placed my order and the guy who took my order was also the sushi chef so that was interesting.  They brought out a single chicken dumpling as a free appetizer.  It was crunchy and you can see from the picture it wasn’t steamed but I’m not sure if it was baked or fried.  Either way it was a nice little start.

I ordered the stuffed wings and the NC Noodle Bar Special Roll.  The roll was ready just a bit before the wings so I actually ate that before the appetizer.  I thought it was visually appealing but you can judge for yourself.

The roll had red and white tuna as well as salmon.  There was a slice of avocado on each section and each slice was topped with a dab of sauce and there were 4 different fish eggs represented.  The interior of the rolls had cucumber and some crabmeat and cream cheese and there was something crunchy.  It was very enjoyable and quite filling so the appetizer was looking like desert.

The stuffed wings were “huuuuge”.  They were deboned and stuffed with mushrooms and rice noodles and deep fried.  A sweet sauce accompanied them but it was a bit too sweet for me.  Those things were good and I don’t know how they do that magic but I’m glad they do it.  Between the dumpling and the big sushi roll I had to bring one home with me for a snack later.

There is no question I will be going back here and recommend it.  It’s not big or fancy but the food was great and the staff was very pleasant and helpful both of which are high on my list of desirable traits in a restaurant.  One question I forgot to ask was why they are called NC Noodle Bar when they are located in SC but that’ll have to be on the next visit.



FTF – South End

Food Truck Friday

I took a break from the blog for Easter but I did hit Food Truck Friday in South End on Good Friday.  This is a regular event hosted by Sycamore Brewing a local brewery with a nice taproom, beer garden and a big parking lot they corral the trucks in.  Sycamore is on Hawkins Street in Charlotte and this is a very popular event.

The normally quite sufficient parking lot is blocked off for the food trucks and patrons so here’s a caution for anyone planning to go, parking is a bear.  The event is from 5:00pm-10:00pm and I had arranged to meet a friend at 5:30ish and I arrived at 5:20 and it was quickly evident there was going to be a walk in my future.  I drove around for a while before parking at a business off Rampart St. hoping they wouldn’t be the towing kind.  Some of the businesses had signs up explicitly stating they would boot or tow.  Fortunately the weather was good so the short walk wasn’t bad.

I met my friend Jody and we did a circuit of the 8 trucks we had to choose from and I decided to try Queen City Sliders but they were having technical difficulties and didn’t take an order for some time that exceeded my patience so I jumped into the line for Tin Kitchen.  These folks have several trucks and a pretty regular schedule so they are easy to find if you need a fix. 

The menu has interesting tacos, quesadillas, nachos & sliders as you can see from the menu below.  I thought hard about the Special but I’d had my mind set for sliders so I decided to go that route.

I got two Korean BBQ sliders and one of the Balsamic Portabella Stack.  It took about 10-15 minutes after ordering for the food to come up but it was worth the wait.

The Korean BBQ sliders were made with beef topped with what they called 30 minute kim-chi and some hoisin sauce on a brioche bun.  The meat was tender and moist with a good flavor, slightly sweet with a hint of spice and more filling than they would appear at first glance.  I got the portabella stack just for variety with fairly low expectations of a meatless slider but was really pleasantly surprised.  The portabellas were balsamic marinated and there were grilled red peppers and fresh mozzarella cheese plus basil and tomato aioli on a brioche bun.  That was so tasty I forgave it for the lack of meat.  The tang of the marinated mushrooms and the mildness of the cheese plus the textures all worked well together and honestly if I was to do it again I might get one BBQ and two portabella sliders.

Jody decided to try out Papi Queso, which has been featured on a previous blog but I will share a shot of the Pig Mac she got.  This is a pulled pork and mac and cheese grilled cheese that was apparently really filling and delicious based on her feedback.  If it was anything like the quality of the sandwich I tried before then they are two for two.

We ate our meals sitting on a low wall between the beer garden and the parking lot.  So here is another caution for those interested in checking out FTF, this is a dog friendly event and that is taken to heart.  The website says dog and child friendly but we saw twice as many dogs as we did children.  Now all of these animals were on leashes and their owners kept them under control pretty well so there were no incidents but I caught a malamute eyeing my sliders pretty hard.

After finishing our food we adjourned to the taproom to try an adult beverage.  The bar was several people deep so it took a few minutes to get to it and get some service.  I opted for their honey toasted amber and Jody got a Windy Hill Orchard peach cider.  They also have some wines for those who go that way.   The beer was decent but not really noteworthy.

We found a small table near a window so we have a view of the live music outside but couldn’t hear much because it was loud in there but we were able to toast a successful venture to expand our palates.

I’ll be hitting Food Truck Friday again this year for sure but I’ll consider a couple of lessons from this trip.  First if the weather isn’t too hot I’ll probably take the light rail to the East/West station with is just a couple of blocks from Sycamore Brewing.  If it is hot then I think trying to get there before 5:00 and trying to find a parking place then or wait until after 6:00 when the other businesses are almost guaranteed to be closed.


I Shall Return


This weekend I was able to add a new stamp on the Culinary-Passport by visiting a Filipino restaurant with great friends and previous blog participants, Andy, Melanie and Ian McGehee.  Any meal shared with friends I’m predisposed to like but Hot4Wings / Filipino Flair in Lexington, SC earned my like by serving up some great dishes.

The restaurant is in a busy little shopping center and isn’t very big but the few booths and tables they had accommodated the small number of patrons that visited while we were there. That was good for us but this place should be busier than it was on a Saturday afternoon.  As the name implies the place has wings and in quite a large number of flavors but that wasn’t what we came for and judging by what we heard I think the Filipino Flair side of the menu is what’s growing and was certainly what we came for.

The gentleman working the counter and we presumed an owner of the establishment was very glad to answer any questions and offer up suggestions from the menu.  One thing to note is this is a smaller place and they may be out of some of the items temporarily or have limited supply.  He was quick to point out what he was out of or was limited in so as to set expectations which is a great customer service move.  As we talked through out orders we made it clear there would be sharing and he brought plates and the meals were set in the middle of the table so they could be communally shared.

We started with the lumpia rolls.  We got pork and allegedly they had vegetarian as well but there was an option with meat so….

Lumpia are basically a deep fried egg / spring roll kind of deal but these had some very tasty marinated pork in it and not just a speck but a significant porcine presence.  The dipping sauce was a fairly spicy chili sauce, not too hot and a little sweet.  Great way to whet the appetite for the feast to come.

Next up we got the house pancit.

This dish was rice noodles with meat and shrimp and a lot of goodness.  The noodles were light and flavorful while the meat was tender and tasty.  The shrimp all disappeared as well so I’m assuming it was good.  We quickly put a dent in this which was good because the next two dishes arrived soon after.

Here we had the pork adobo and sizzling sisig.  Both came with white rice and the adobo had some vegetable garnish as well.  The adobo was marinated pork bites served in some of the marinade that made a nice gravy for the semi-sticky rice.  The sizzling sisig was shredded pork cooked in a sauce that has mayonnaise as a key ingredient and those red peppers on top added spice aplenty.  For the curious sisig was originally made from the pigs face being all chopped up with other ingredients that wouldn’t necessarily make the first cut at your finer dining establishments.  I doubt this was pig face sisig but even if it was I don’t care because it was good.  The last of the entrees we were told would take a little bit longer and it showed up after we had done some serious damage to the these two.

The final entrée was crispy pata which is deep fried pork leg.  I expect this takes longer because as I now understand it the joint is typically boiled to tenderize it a bit and then deep fried.  The deep frying turns the skin into crackling and actually cooks out some but not all of the fat.  The pata was served with two sauces, one vinegar based and one we couldn’t determine the composition of but it was brownish grey, a little bit sweet and complimented the pork very well.  I think the vinegar was rice wine vinegar but I wouldn’t swear to it.  Dipping the pork in the vinegar gave it a kind of eastern NC BBQ flavor.  Oh yeah it had that unnecessary vegetable garnish as well.

As full as we were we had to try one of the deserts and opted for the banana lumpia.

The banana lumpia is pretty much what you could guess.  Banana and some mystery ingredient (we forgot to ask) wrapped in a roll, deep fried and topped with powdered sugar.  It really wasn’t that sweet and there was general agreement with Melanie’s observation that they would go great with ice cream.

I’d definitely recommend this place to anyone.  I know most of our dishes had pork but they have a number of chicken and other shrimp dishes as well as wings and sandwiches.  If you can round up friends to take all the better.  Give them a try if you’re in the area and if you want to know more about the Philippines check out the Tell Me More page.


Seafood Sunday


I kept it domestic this weekend and decided to visit a place I’ve been meaning to check out since I moved up here from Augusta. Captain Steve’s.  As the name and the post title suggest this is a seafood restaurant although they have steak, chicken and pork as well.  I had seafood on my mind however so I thought I’d give them a shot.

When I moved to Fort Mill the parking lot, which is huge, was gravel and dirt and the exterior had the look of a fish camp.  One of those places that has a ton of seating in an open area with lots of plain tables and chairs designed not to be too comfortable because they have a high volume of people to serve on any given weekend.  That’s what I imagined anyway passing it countless times without ever going in.  Over the years they’ve obviously been successful and the parking lot has been paved and the exterior got a facelift and based on what I saw I’d say the interior got a boost as well.

The parking lot was about half full when I arrived and I was seated immediately.  They do have efficiency in mind because they have two lanes for you to get seated, one for parties of 4 and under and one for larger parties.  Being Sunday after noon the attire of the crowd was everything from me in my shorts and t-shirt to the guy in the 3 piece suit and family all dressed in their Sunday best at the table next to me.  As you can see from the menu they’ve got a pretty good selection so it is a place you can bring just about anyone.

Going against my southern DNA I decided to get broiled instead of fried and chose the 2 item Create a Platter with the Greek style flounder and sea scallops.  As a side note here my server was a very pleasant young lady who’s name I didn’t get but I liked that when I asked a couple of question she didn’t know the answer too she admitted it and offered to let me try an item or she could ask someone else.  The question she did know the answer to, “What’s Greek style?”, she led with “Do you like feta?” and when I said yes she completed the rest of the ingredients.  She only checked in a few times but they were are the right times and my tea didn’t get empty and I didn’t have to wait long when I was ready for the check.  Ok, back to the food.  The platter came with a house salad and side which I elected to be potato salad.  Along with the salad, which could have been a meal by itself, a basket of hushpuppies was served up.

A nice thing about a place that’s really busy is you can count on the stuff being fresh and this salad tasted fresh and I’m not even really a salad person.  I tried a couple of the hushpuppies and they were decent as well.  Then came the seafood.

The flounder fillet had feta, tomatoes, celery, onions, carrots and herbs, all finely chopped, on top and the generous portion was cooked just right.  The flounder had mild fish taste as you’d expect  and the feta was in fact the strongest flavor in the mix.  The potato salad was ok but I only ate a couple of bites because I had to prioritize at this point and the scallops were going to be priority one.  The scallops were about the best I’ve had in a long time.  They were tender and had a great scallop taste a subtle salt flavor like they were just pulled from the sea unlike at many places where they are rubbery and almost tasteless.  I’m not sure what seasoning they used on them and at first I was afraid it might overpower the scallop taste but it didn’t.  I finished the scallops and most of the flounder but I could not clean my plate today.

So lessons learned, either don’t eat the salad or go for a one item platter otherwise something gets left behind.  I definitely will be going back to Captain Steve’s and trying something fried just to keep things in balance.