On our quest to find the best fried pickles in Charlotte, BFTB and I decided to use a close-to-expiring Groupon and check out what Lebowski's Neighborhood Grill on East Boulevard had to offer. While I'd been there a good amount of times for happy hour drinks (they have an extensive beer list with a lot of good draft and bottled options, including a fair amount of local selections), I'd never eaten an actual meal at Lebowski's. Despite the allure of the unknown, I remember clicking "buy" on my Groupon app and immediately thinking, "Why did I just waste my money on that?" However, my frugal side prevailed and instead of just letting it expire and join its brethren in the land of unused e-coupons, we journeyed over to Lebowski's for lunch on a recent Saturday afternoon.
|Fried pickles - attractive, but not tasty|
On their menu, Lebowski's brags that their fried pickles are "the best on the boulevard." While I think that is a big exaggeration, they were... decent. The wavy pickle slices were coated in a peppery, floury mixture that didn't overwhelm the actual pickle. Had they been better prepared, they might have been tasty. I recently wrote that Joe Hooper's in Plaza Midwood has their frying technique down pat. Lebowski's should head over to Central Avenue and take a lesson. It seemed like the pickles were fried at the wrong temperature -the coating was squishy, floury, and thick-tasting rather than crispy, and the actual pickle was a mushy, salty blob. Lebowski's does have pretty good ranch and Sriracha ranch dipping sauces but they weren't enough to cover up the lackluster pickle.
|Jessie's BBQ Burger & Spot Tots with Dip|
For our entrees, I ordered the Jessie's BBQ Burger (topped with honey BBQ sauce, cheddar jack, and onion rings) and BFTB opted for the Grilled PBT (pimento cheese, bacon, and tomato on sourdough). Maybe I should have read the menu a little closer, but I was surprised when my burger came out topped with only sauce, cheese, and onion rings -I guess I assumed a slice of tomato or lettuce leaf would be involved, but I had to ask for them separately (which the server quickly and happily brought over). Once I added a little bit of vegetation, my burger was alright. It was nothing to write home about, but it was decent enough that I ate the entire thing (for some, that might be a ringing endorsement but as a longtime member of the Clean Plate Club, this doesn't mean much coming from me). The patty itself was overcooked and flavorless -possibly from a lack of seasoning, possibly just by being overcooked. The BBQ sauce on top was tasty and the onion ring added some juiciness but they were not enough to make up for the bland lump of meat.
My burger came with chips, but I opted to upgrade to the Spot Tots w/ Dip for an additional $1.99. Unlike your typical tater tot, these guys were made from sweet potatoes. I like a good tot, and I like a good sweet potato, so I figured I couldn't go wrong. I did go wrong. Just like the pickles, it seemed like my tots were fried at the wrong temperature. Maybe I sound like a broken record, but once again, just like the pickles, they were not crispy on the outside and the inside was a warm, mushy blob. The dip accompanying the tots seemed to be made out of cream cheese, a cinnamon and sugar blend, and some other sweet ingredients. It tasted like the sweet, frosting-like dip that comes with a cinnamon pretzel you buy in the airport. There's a time and a place for sugary cream cheese and I just don't believe it's alongside a shredded, incorrectly fried cylinder of sweet potato.
|PBT and chips|
BFTB's Grilled PBT was even less satisfying than my burger. It wasn't that anything was really wrong with it as much as there just wasn't anything right with it. The bacon was thin and floppy and while the pimento cheese might have been tasty on its own (perhaps as a dip with some bread or veggies?), it wasn't good enough to make up for the general unremarkable-ness of the sandwich as a whole.
While nothing went horribly wrong during our visit, the entire meal just seemed like a waste of valuable room in my stomach. The good things about this place have nothing to do with the food -it's in a good location with decent parking available, there's a vast drink selection, and a good amount of big, sports-playing TVs are scattered throughout the restaurant (including outside on the patio). I've heard decent things about the wings, so I might be forgiving (or hungry) enough to eventually try a few, but in the meantime I'll stick with a liquid diet whenever I next venture over to Lebowski's. All in all, Lebowski's gets a low 4/10.