Finally went to the Beef and Bottle after years of hearing about the place. Have always been put off by the street presentation which makes it appear more like a down and out illicit club than a quality restaurant and, as a result, speculated that its proponents were more provincial boosters than discerning diners.
Boy was I wrong.
While the menu makes few gestures to anything that has happened in the culinary world since the 1960s, this is a top quality steakhouse that is a welcome break from the ostentatiousness that goes with the territory at top drawer chains like The Palm and Sullivan's.
First, the interior. There are basically two decors from which a diner can choose - the dark and demure main dining room ringed by wooden booths or the bright indoor "patio" which has an al fresco feel accented by the use of outdoor furniture. The decor is not high end by any stretch, but it is a surprising counterpoint to the grim exterior.
The service is excellent and professional. Friendly and informative but never casual.
Having just been overwhelmed by a full head of iceberg lettuce at The Palm earlier in the week, it was nice to get a reasonable portion placed in front of me this time. Each diner can customize their salad from the tray of crudites that is placed in the middle of the table, an unusual presentation that wold work better if the crudites were cut into bite size portions. The best part, however, is the selection of homemade salad dressings which is also placed on the table - Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, French and Italian. Nothing that wasn't invented prior to 1965, but all very well prepared.
On to the steaks - we had the filet, the strip and the tenderloin tips. The meat was uniformly excellent, the portions reasonably sized, and the seasoning for each dish was distinct but appropriate. Hash browns are a unique presentation - they look like an arancini, for those of you who are familiar with the fried Italian rice balls - but within the crisp exterior is a soft interior of diced potato and onion. The side order of spinach was also excellent - seasoned with butter. Again, none of the artery clogging creamed spinach that you now see at the chains.
Finally, the cheesecake was excellent and also bested The Palm's contending entry.
My only complaint was that the wine list was stuck in the 1960s as well. There is a lot to be learned from the past as Beef and Bottle demonstrates so capably, but slavish devotion where unwarranted is also unnecessary.
Next time I want a great steak in Charlotte, to the Beef and Bottle I will go.