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Chow down with John Batchelor’s Tanger Center Restaurant Guide

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Chow down with John Batchelor’s Tanger Center Restaurant Guide
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With the Tanger Center fully operational now, it’s time to consider how best to have “dinner and a show.” This week, we look at recommended restaurants located close to Tanger. For my Nov. 17 column, we will visit Tanger’s pre-theater dining.

I would strongly advise making reservations well in advance.

B.Christopher’s (201 North Elm, 336-274-5900, bchristophers.com) is located right across the street from Tanger. The restaurant describes itself as “The Great American Steakhouse,” and I do like their steaks. My wife and I share the blackened ribeye. It’s big enough for two, and you can’t beat the flavor. Other cuts, of course, are available too.

The menu states the rest of the concept: “… everything on this menu is fresh, all-natural, hand-selected, and local when in season. This is ‘real food’ with no trans fats, hormones or pesticides. Our beef is corn-fed, our fish is fresh, and line caught, our chicken is free-range, and our produce is locally grown in season.”

Start with Three Cheese Ravioli, Fried Calamari with spicy chive aioli, Oysters Rockefeller, Bacon-Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp with horseradish-orange marmalade, or Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with lemon-dill aioli and roasted corn tomato relish.

Scallops Risotto, Blackened Salmon, roasted Free Range Chicken, and Roasted Portabella Mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese are stellar non-beef entrees. Sides are exceptional: garlic mashed potatoes, fried onion crisps, thin, crisp French fries (fresh cut in-house), corn crème Brulee, as well as green beans, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus.

The Undercurrent (327 Battleground Avenue, 336-370-1266, undercurrentrestaurant.com), about a block away from Tanger, ranks among the Triad’s absolute best. This kitchen is one of the most creative, yet food here is accessible, easy to enjoy, and even at this level of dining, a time payment plan is not necessary to accommodate the check.

Especially attractive starters gleaned from the current menu: Confit Beef Empanada, based on bacon braised beef, with roasted tomato salsa, chimichurri, and ancho carrot-jicama slaw; Roasted Brussel Sprouts with apple cider and grain mustard sauce; and Fenugreek Rubbed Chicken Satay with pickled beets. Fried Oysters and Spring Rolls filled with lobster and shrimp are permanent fixtures on the menu, due to their perennial popularity.

Entrée favorites include Grilled Pork Tenderloin with tasso, butternut squash, and bean ragout; Seared Sea Scallops with bacon (cured in-house) and caramelized onion risotto, roasted Brussels sprouts, parsnip pear puree, orange glace, and fried peppadew; Grilled Joyce Farms Chicken Breast with cheddar grits, roasted cauliflower, French beans, parsley-thyme puree, and red pepper jam; Skillet Seared Salmon Filet with roasted sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, grilled scallion aioli, molasses-mustard glaze, and a sesame-sunflower seed crumble; and Herb de Provence Roast Rack of Lamb with multigrain pilaf, roasted tomato and kale sauté, Bordelaise sauce, and pickled fennel. Bread Pudding is famous here.

Blue Denim (217 South Elm, 336-676-5689, bluedenimgso.com) is all about flavor- abundant, wonderful flavors that characterize the South, especially Louisiana cooking.

Consider starting with Crawfish Beignets, Fried Oysters with remoulade sauce, or Grilled Ribs with peanuts and cilantro. Shrimp and Grits with tasso ham and andouille sausage cream sauce, cornmeal-dusted fried Catfish with field pea succotash, Crawfish Etouffee, Gumbo YaYa, or Steak Frites with homemade steak sauce highlight the entrée list. White Chocolate Bread Pudding is decadent!

Liberty Oak (100 W. Washington St., 336-273-7057, libertyoakgso.com) has a pleasant patio area almost adjacent to one of the downtown parking garages. Convenient.

Consider starting with Truffle Fries, Dynamite Shrimp, or Fried Oysters, among the first courses. Especially appealing entrees: Steak Risotto, made with Certified Angus filet medallions; Seafood Risotto Carbonara with Applewood-smoked Bacon, sweet corn and green onions, finished with hollandaise; Crab Cakes; Blackened Salmon topped with cherry pepper vinaigrette; Shrimp and Grits with andouille sausage; or my personal favorite, Key Lime Pepper Grilled Shrimp with sautéed vegetables, saffron rice, and Creole remoulade.

White & Wood (215 South Elm, 336-638-1216, thewhiteandwood.com) offers a lot of cheeses and cured meats, in addition to raw oysters, beef tartare, plus unusually good salads. Entrée choices tend toward the higher end: a $22 burger, made from filet mignon and ribeye; Salmon with beurre blanc sauce, Halibut with green beans, Granny Smith apples, mango, and cucumbers; Baby Back Ribs with Brussels sprouts; and Rack of Lamb with herbed yogurt and root vegetables.

Two other places also get solid recommendations, but they do not take reservations.

Crafted (219-A South Elm St., 336-273-0030, eatatcrafted.com) is the most original restaurant concept in the Triad. The food is casual and inexpensive, but scratch-made from quality ingredients. Much of the menu is Latin American influenced, with some northern American traditions thrown in — a good burger, for example. Tacos are the main attraction, prepared in myriad ways.

Exit the Church Street parking garage, and you’ll walk right by Café Europa (200 N Davie St #15, 336-389-1010, facebook.com/europagso). Follow the sidewalk along LeBauer Park directly to the Tanger entrances. This restaurant has the largest patio seating area downtown. It really does evoke a European café ambience.

Choose from sandwiches, pizzas, four mussels configurations, or three entrees- Spanakopita (baked phyllo pastry filled with spinach, onions, and feta cheese), Pasta Primavera (vegetarian), or Steak Frites. I especially like the Garlic-Lime Shrimp starter.

I am a volunteer usher at Tanger, and I’ve also attended several performances in the capacity of a paid guest. This place is a treasure!

John Batchelor has been writing about eating and drinking since 1981. Over a thousand of his articles have been published. He is also author of two travel/cookbooks: Chefs of the Coast: Restaurants and Recipes from the North Carolina Coast, and Chefs of the Mountains: Restaurants and Recipes from Western North Carolina. Contact him at john.e.batchelor@gmail.com or see his blog, johnbatchelordiningandtravel.blogspot.com.

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