Featured photo by Felicia Perry Trujillo of Food Seen
I’m almost embarrassed to admit it took me so long to get to The Katharine. When I visited the Twin City from Colorado back in 2015, The Cardinal Hotel—the upscale Kimpton property in which the restaurant resides—was not yet open. And since I’ve been back in Carolina, I’ve focused on exploring the restaurants in my own backyard as High Point Foodie.
What a pleasant surprise to finally experience the restaurant and the beautiful historic property it calls home. If the building looks familiar, it’s because the art deco skyscraper, completed in 1929, served as the inspiration and prototype for the Empire State Building. In its previous life, it was headquarters for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. In 2016, it reopened as the Kimpton Cardinal, named for our state bird. For those unfamiliar with the Kimpton brand, they are known for breathing new life into iconic buildings while retaining the history, integrity and story behind the structure. The hotel occupies the first six floors of the 22-story building with 174 rooms and shared spaces like a gym, bowling alley and lounge areas; private residences make up the rest.
The Katharine is named for the Reynolds family matriarch, and the restaurant is an homage to her love for French food, which she acquired while honeymooning in France with her mogul mate. You’ll find subtle Southern influences like North Carolina trout and regional cheeses, but nothing about the fusion feels forced. Modeled after a traditional French brasserie (a relaxed café), the space retains many historical features of the original building with art deco touches throughout, making this a standout architectural space in the Triad’s dining scene. The raw bar area lies just beyond the host stand, beckoning guests to linger over a craft cocktail and an impressive seafood collection that includes $1 local oysters from 5–7 p.m. each night. While the special includes North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia oysters, several other varieties are typically available as well ($3 each). If you’re into oysters, you will love it here.
Large windows offer a peek onto Main Street and an outdoor patio, which I’m told gets quite lively during summer. Light fills the lower bar area and filters into the main dining room, where the standout feature is the open kitchen. As we settled in for dinner, I admired thoughtful touches like the industrial-chic lighting and the craftsmanship and gold detailing on the metalwork that frames sexy black leather booths.
For dinner, we started with the classic French Onion Soup along with the Apple and Roquefort Salad. The soup was absolutely perfect—melty Gruyere over a crusty French baguette and rich, savory broth with a hint of chives. The salad—crisp frisée, arugula, celery, walnuts, apples and white balsamic vinaigrette—was just the right combination of sweet, fresh and tart. Our server, Leslie, kept the baguette bread coming, which we slathered with easily-spreadable, room temperature butter, which was a nice touch.
It was hard deciding on entrées, but I went with the Bouillabaisse, a fish stew that originated in the port city of Marseille in southern France. The broth was delicate, and the shellfish cooked perfectly. The winner, though, was the Gnocchi dish—handmade and served with Duck Confit and Root Vegetables. Its rustic presentation was simple and lovely, and it tasted like fall. Even though I’m not a huge duck fan, I love a good confit, and The Katharine does it right.
For dessert, we enjoyed the Profiteroles—puff pastry filled with orange cream—and a decadent Chocolate Tart. Paired with espresso martinis, it was the perfect ending to an outstanding meal.
I’d be remiss not to mention the outstanding cocktails. Against my first intuition, I started with a mai tai. Not very French, but I’m a sucker for homemade orgeat, which is an almond-based syrup used in high-end tiki drinks. (Y’all, it was the best mai tai I have ever had!) My dining companion had a top-shelf play on a margarita. As previously mentioned, the chocolate martinis were a hit. The wine list is ample but not overwhelming, with options to fit every price point, and you’ll also find several North Carolina craft beers in the rotation. I would definitely visit again just for the cocktails! I’m already eyeing the Cheerwine Old Fashioned for my next visit.
The Katharine is open for breakfast, lunch and brunch, and I can’t wait to check it out at different times of day and year. At brunch, there’s live music and a mimosa and bellini bar.
If you’ve been meaning to check out the restaurant or have already worked your way through the menu and want to try something different, now is the perfect time to visit. Chef Adam Barnett premieres a Christmas menu based on the namesake matriarch’s own private holiday menu starting Friday.
This year, the Katharine Reynolds Christmas menu will be available nightly from Dec. 13–23. The three-course meal features Bouquetiere Consomme (chicken broth, carrots, turnips, haricot vert), Pancetta-Wrapped Pheasant served with potato-cauliflower purée and heirloom carrots, and Chocolate and Hazelnut Bread Pudding with caramelized bananas and crème anglaise. Check the website for special extended holiday hours.
I don’t know what took me so long to get to The Katharine, but one thing is for sure, it won’t be long before I return. Many thanks to Leslie for the warm, excellent service!
Davina van Buren is an award-winning travel and food writer whose mission is to eat all the food. Follow her on social media at High Point Foodie.
The Katharine Brasserie & Bar is located inside the Kimpton Hotel at 51 4th St. E, #100. It’s open for breakfast Monday through Friday from 6:30—10 a.m.; lunch Monday through Friday from 11–2 p.m.; brunch Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m.–2 p.m.; and dinner Sunday 5–9 p.m. and Monday through Saturday 5–10 p.m. The bar is open from 3–10 p.m. on Sunday and 3–11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Check the website for extended holiday hours.