Bistro La Bon and I go way back. We go all the way back to September 2012, my first weekend in Charlotte. My roommate and I came down for a short weekend before starting work a short two weeks later to find a place to live and explore our new city. We spent a tiring six hours looking at apartments on Friday; some that we liked, but none that we loved. We saved our favorite ‘hoods for our Saturday search–we both had a gut feeling that we would be Plaza Midwood or Elizabeth gals. We were right; after a early morning head start and visits at only two apartments, we moseyed up Central Ave to grab some late breakfast/early lunch (brunch brunch brunch!). We were really playing hard-to-get with the leasing agent, didn’t want to sign a lease immediately after being shown an apartment. We also wanted to explore our new neighborhood (because we totally knew we were going to sign a lease)! (PS–We aren’t really good at playing hard-to-get; a mimosa and an order of Eggs Benedict later we scampered back down the hill to seal the deal on our new place). So there you go, Bistro La Bon, you are my oldest Charlotte relationship and I haven’t gotten sick of you yet!
I suppose now is the appropriate time to address what took me so long to write a review about my first Charlotte love, Bistro La Bon. To be honest, it was because I never had a picture to go with a post to do the place justice! I go to Bistro La Bon quite often, and usually with friends, so I’m either too busy soaking up good conversation and chowing down on good food to take a photo, or, the lighting is too dark to do anything justice. Luckily, we recently scored a prime window seat at brunch and now here we are.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much from a place squeezed in at the end of a shabby, Family Dollar strip mall and spitting distance from a pawn shop. But don’t let its location fool you; in fact, Bistro La Bon’s Family Dollar shopping center home has become one of my favorite parts about it. They’ve done the place up with planters, patio tables, chalkboard menus–and that’s just the exterior. The bar space and dining area (which recently got a facelift and makeover) transports you out of a tacky shopping mall and into a place full of people who care about good food (and good wine and cocktails for that matter too). The overstuffed couches are welcoming (comfy enough that I’ve considered taking a nap on them), and the colorful rugs and bookshelf full of knick knacks make you feel like you’re in a friend’s living room. The bar area is sleek, rustic and modern at the same time, with wooden high top tables, a smooth wooden bar, flowers, candles and dim, friendly lighting. The dining room is friendly and intimate, and tableside windows provide for good people watching up and down Central Ave. and some glimpses of the Uptown skyline.
Bistro La Bon is one of my favorite restaurants in Charlotte, and that is not even an exaggeration. I’ve enjoyed every single thing I’ve ever eaten at Bistro La Bon–from bar bites, to brunch to fancy date night dinners, everything (to be fair, there was one time where I got a Bloody Mary at Sunday brunch and I very much did not enjoy it and had to send it back in favor of a mimosa; but my waitress did not mind that at all and they have remedied whatever iffy Bloody Mary situation was going on). I have to confess the only meal I have yet to eat at Bistro La Bon is their weekday lunch buffet–I made two attempts on snow days when I was home just down the street, but they were closed too–but if the lunch is as good as everything else I’ve ever eaten there, then I know I’m going to love it.
As you probably already can tell, I have a strong affinity and emotional connection to Bistro La Bon, especially because they make some damn good food. My personal favorite is their Sunday Smorgasboard–an all-you-can-eat-brunch situation with a wide selection of delicious eats for you to load your plate with as many times as you want. I’ve been to Bistro La Bon’s all-you-can-eat-brunch several times–we celebrated Kate’s half marathon finish last spring (complete with 4 mimosas, 3 hours of eating and friends and a 4 hour food coma to follow); celebrated Andrea’s August birthday with some chocolate waffles after a Saturday full of sunning, swimming, beer and karaoke; and went just because we felt like it (after an adequate workout, sometimes, of course), AJ and I went recently on a rainy Sunday after some hot yoga and indulged (or gorged, you decide) ourselves for two hours on all kinds of foods and $4 spicy Bloody Marys and $3 mimosas. Round one for me included cured salmon with red onion and cucumber, mozzarella pinwheels with basil, tomato and balsamic (the cheese is made in house!), fresh bread, potatoes au gratin, Swedish meatballs, and some sauteed veggies (green beans, asparagus, zucchini and carrots) to at least pretend I was being healthy. Bistro La Bon’s Swedish meatballs are the best (better than Ikea, and only moderately better than my own mother’s, sorry mom) and I could eat them all day, every day (they are so savory and tasty and I love mopping up the gravy with a piece of bread). I also can’t get enough of the potatoes au gratin–creamy and smooth with every bite.
In between rounds one and two, we took advantage of the brioche French toast and bacon and eggs that your waiter brings to your table family style (family style chocolate waffles are also an option and are quite tasty, but on this particular visit we decided to put all of our efforts into French toast). The French toast comes out swimming in maple syrup, and adorned with powdered sugar and whipped cream. It’s crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside and there are hints of cinnamon in each bite.
Round two included asiago cheese grits (I never liked grits until I moved to the South, but now I love them and I love these!), cheddar biscuits bathed in sausage gravy, jalapeno mac and cheese, fruit salad with yogurt, more Swedish meatballs and a lemon tart with fresh fruit. Round two was just as good as round one. The mac and cheese was perfectly cheesy with a little kick in every bite; the grits were smooth and indulgent (grits are such a great vehicle for any flavor), and the Swedish meatballs were still delightful. My new favorite had to be the cheddar biscuits and gravy, a new addition (to me) to the Sunday menu and definitely well worth it. Please give me fluffy biscuits bathed in sausage gravy anytime. We finished up with a mimosa and a lemon tart for the road.
I’ve also had the pleasure of enjoying dinner, bar bites, cocktails and Saturday brunch at Bistro La Bon on several different occasions. Brunch is my jam, so I’ve been to Saturday brunch a few times. The Eggs Benedict are delightful and the hollandaise is so creamy, savory and flavorful, and really giving me any dish in which I can make an eggsplosion (see what I did there?) and I am in heaven. The smoked salmon and chives omlette is also delightful and packed with fresh ingredients. Recently, Katie Claire and I swung by after a morning run and took advantage of the new Bloody Mary Bar (pickles in my Bloody Mary galore!). The Bloody Mary bar was amazing–so many choices to make one of my favorite drinks just the way I like–a little spicy, a little tangy, and with lots of great snacks to eat as I sip my way through.
In an attempt to be healthy and support the miles of running I had just completed, I munched away on the Farmers Market Salad, which I really enjoyed (don’t worry–I got my carbs fix by ordering a potato cake with tons of ketchup for dunking on the side). The Farmers Salad is seasonal; so I was lucky enough to get a few blueberry surprises, and the salad dressing is so yummy and bright. I love how eating a good salad can make me feel healthy and still be delicious.
I didn’t check out dinner at Bistro La Bon until six or so months into my stint in Charlotte, and now I can’t stop dreaming about the mussels in saffron broth and am counting down the days until I go back (the plan is to go on a Tuesday for half-priced wine bottle night). My one dinner experience at Bistro La Bon was not one to forget–a nice bottle of wine, a whole order of mussels in saffron cream sauce to myself (seriously the best mussels–I could have drunk the sauce but the piles of bread served on the side worked out just fine), and a some bourbon brioche bread pudding to finish the night off right. While the mussels are an appetizer, I ordered them as my main course, and the portion was big enough to fill me up (Bistro La Bon, when are you going to start offering those mussels for Saturday a la carte brunch?!?). On top of the lovely dinner experience we had, our waitress was a delight–she was super friendly and attentive. The kitchen got a bit backed up at one point, so to distract us (not that we minded because the food is worth the wait) she brought out a complimentary appetizer–the dip trio (at the time it was hummus, eggplant and olive tapenade, but as I understand the dips have changed since my last dinner experience). Regardless, that was also delicious. I’m going back for dinner really soon, I promise.
The bar bites menu is unique and delicious, and the bites pair perfectly with Bistro La Bon’s signature martinis ($6 on Wednesdays!). My friend Tina was in town for a long weekend in February all the way from Wisconsin and we indulged in some bar bites and girl time on her first cold, rainy night in town. We salivated over the fried avocado (creamy and crisp, and love the kick of the chili dipping sauce), the crab stuffed peppadew (peppadew is a great vehicle for any kind of stuffing and I love crab so much, and it was so fresh and bright), calamari (crisp and a bit spicy) and Swedish meatballs (duh). And while I’m definitely a beer gal (and red wine, and Bloody Mary, and margarita, and fruity tropical drinks while on vacation) sometimes a gal just needs a good martini–and Bistro La Bon’s are definitely good (and strong). Girly if you want it (Flirtini and Cucumber Watermelon are my jam) or manly if you need to grow a little chest hair (the Blood Orange Manhattan is quite potent, and while manly, it is still served in a martini glass).
I suppose I’m gushing, but BLB is really that good and is a love that will just grow stronger with time. In true Plaza Midwood fashion, Bistro La Bon is truly a diamond in the rough–and while its pawn shop proximity may cause folks to overlook it, I urge you to stop by. It’s totally worth it (you can also go there on purpose, and tell them I sent you).