The Cellar: Uptown’s Best Kept Secret
Place one foot in the door of Uptown Charlotteâ€™s brand new restaurant, The Cellar, and you will immediately feel as if youâ€™ve been transported back in time to the 1920â€™s. The Cellar, which opened July 12th, shares the same ownership as the popular Charlotte sports bar, Duckworthâ€™s Grill & Taphouse, and is located in the basement of the new Uptown location at the corner of 7th and Tryon. Although the two restaurants share the same owner, they differ immensely when it comes to The Cellarâ€™s shared plate style menu, and its speakeasy, prohibition-era atmosphere.
Another major difference between the two menus is The Cellar sources all of its produce from only local farms. With food items such as caramelized brussel sprouts, house made waffle cones, and truffle mac & cheese, The Cellar certainly aims to dig a little deeper with their menu while providing a refreshingly unique atmosphere that encourages patrons to sit back, relax and savor the experience.
Upon arrival, there is no immediate signage for The Cellar on the outside. To access the restaurant, you must enter Duckworthâ€™s and proceed down a flight of stairs into the â€˜cellarâ€™. Immediately, you are greeted and led through a sliding door into a private, dimly lit room. With original brick walls dating back to 1912, distressed wooden tables, dim lighting and a complete absence of TVs, stepping into The Cellar takes you back to a time where dining out was more intimate, memorable and free from distractions. When asked about the inspiration for the restaurant, General Manager Charles Reed mentioned the idea came to them after a trip to New York City in which they experienced many prohibition-like restaurants with secret doors and staircases.
In keeping with the gastropub concept, I decided to order multiple shared plates to start. The first order of the night was the preserved lemon risotto, catching my eye immediately with â€˜goat cheeseâ€™, which was followed by truffle mac & cheese and tuna tartare, both personally recommended by Chef Fred Quinones. At first glance of all three dishes, I immediately was impressed by the portion sizes. After trying a few bites of each, I was equally as impressed with their unique and bold flavors. The truffle mac & cheese, prepared with grafton cheddar and gouda, was rich but not too overpowering, and the toasted pancetta added a nice kick to counter the boldness of the cheese & truffle oil. The tuna tartare was incredibly fresh and seasoned with sesame seeds & chile oil alongside fresh guacamole and wonton crisps. Lastly, the lemon risotto, paired with goat cheese & tomato, had a refreshing taste with just the right amount of zest that contrasted well with the crunch of asparagus and almonds.
After stuffing my face with a handful of shared plates, we ordered two entrÃ©es that were also personal chef recommendations. First was the 8 ounce filet mignon which came paired with arugula salad drizzled with a lemon vinaigrette. The filet was cooked to a perfect medium rare in their 1800 degree oven, with just the right amount of crust to produce a bite that is absolutely superb. The second recommended item was the saffron fettuccine dish, mixed with fresh arugula and country olive oil reduction, and then topped with a large portion of charred octopus, cooked just right, and glazed with a light barbeque fig sauce. All of it together was the perfect mix of flavors.
Overall, the food was all incredibly fresh, with lots of unique flavors paired together in perfect harmony by Chef Fred. The portion sizes were more than generous and reasonably priced, and the staff was extremely attentive to us and very knowledgeable about the different menu items, craft beers & signature cocktails. If you happen to enjoy drinking craft beer, the restaurant, once completely finished with construction, will feature a vintage beer cooler with up to 3,000 different labels housed in three separate chambers, each set to a different temperature, and made visible through a glass wall separating the cooler from the dining room.
Chef Fred, who attended culinary school straight out of high school, said he has always had a love for pairing different flavors and tastes together and getting creative with his menu, and is already excited to start working on their fall menu which will debut at the end of the month. Needless to say, we can’t wait for a return trip to sample his next batch of creations.
For those of you who haven’t yet visited, The Cellar is a restaurant concept that Charlotte has yet to see, and one that is definitely worth exploring!