Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Debby's Visit Part 3: Soul Gastrolounge - Plaza Midwood

Sunday morning, my parents and Debby joined my friend, Lindsey, BFTB, and me at Soul Gastrolounge for a midday brunch. I've been to Soul a countless number of times for dinner but I've never made it to one of their infamous Disco Drag Queen brunches, so I was excited to check it out. My mom and Debby, lovers of all things fun and disco, were equally excited. We expected to have to wait around for a while since Soul doesn't take reservations, but our timing was perfect and we were seated at a big booth right away. After sitting down, I looked around and realized that two very important things were missing: disco music and a drag queen. When our server came by the table to deliver some drinks (I went with a Diet Coke, Debby and my mom had the unsweetened iced tea, Lindsey and BFTB had coffee, which was described as "not what they do best," and my dad was the fun member of our group and kicked off his Sunday with a big, spicy Bloody Mary), we asked about the disco/drag queen dilemma (check out that alliteration). He informed us that the DJ had called in sick that morning so they were temporarily disco-less and that the "drag queen" part of disco brunch had been permanently cancelled due to some... issues (I'm inferring diva-esque behavior, which really only makes me want to go to drag queen-hosted things even more!).

Regardless of the complete 180 in the theme of our brunch (Soul was playing a blend of bluegrass and country music -a far cry from the Earth Wind & Fire and BeeGees combo I had envisioned), the menu looked great and we were all excited to do some eating. We placed our orders and... waited. I'll admit that our group might have been relatively large, but I don't think six is an outrageous number of people to have at one table (there are that many in my immediate family alone) and during the next thirty minutes, the only plates that were delivered to our table were two little cups of fresh fruit for BFTB and my dad. That said, I would still grade the service as excellent because our  both our server and the host were incredibly friendly, knowledgeable about the menu, and helpful when we had questions. For a restaurant that could very easily get away with giving off a snobby vibe, I really appreciate that everybody was personable and hospitable.



Anson Mills Grits
Eventually we all got our meals and dug in. It seems that I'm a complete failure on the picture-taking front (again), because I can't find a shot of my chicken and waffles anywhere... and they were so pretty! So I apologize but you'll need to use your imagination. The thick Belgian waffle was a little soggy, but tasted rich, almost nutty, and kind of like the waffles served at Waffle House (and I seriously mean that in the most complimentary way possible). Atop the waffle was a big pat of butter and three pieces of crispy fried chicken -a boneless thigh, a drumette, and a wing. After dumping my entire mini-bowl of syrup on top of everything, I grabbed my knife and fork and enthusiastically took my first bite. Besides the fact that the relatively small pieces of chicken were kind of annoying to pick the bones out of, I thought that the chicken itself was good. The thigh meat was a bit dry, but otherwise the pieces were well-seasoned and the crunchy, surprisingly non-greasy chicken meat was a savory complement to the sweet, fluffy waffle. I also ordered a side dish of the Anson Mills grits, which were dense and creamy (just how I like my grits) but desperately in need of some salt and pepper.


French Toast Panini stuffed with cream cheese and fruit

Lindsey ordered the French Toast Panini and opted to have it stuffed with fresh fruit and cream cheese. The panini was ginormous, dusted with a solid coating of powdered sugar, and neatly stuffed with a cheesy-fruity blend. Linds let me steal a bite, and it was really tasty. The panini was surprisingly light in texture (I expected a dense, compacted blob of sticky dough), and the cream cheese/fruit blend was flavorful without tasting overpowering. I'm not the hugest fan of overly sweet foods when they're not counterbalanced with something salty, so I don't know if I would order this for myself, but I was glad that somebody else did so I could get a taste!


Steak and Egg Sandwich

Both BFTB and my mom ordered the Steak and Egg Sandwich, which consisted of a round of toast topped with a big piece of hanger steak, sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms, provolone, and a sunny-side up egg. Unlike the similar Chivita sandwich I ordered at Nolen Kitchen, the hanger steak on this sandwich was left in one piece (rather than sliced) and both BFTB and my mom felt that the meat was a little tough. Overall, they both enjoyed their meals, but agreed that they would probably try something else if they came back.


Mac & Cheese

Noticing that the menu listed pimento cheese and bacon in its description, my mom excitedly ordered the Mac & Cheese to share with the table. My mom (whose nickname coincidentally is "MAC") loves, loves, loves macaroni and cheese and is on a neverending quest to find the best mac & cheese in Charlotte. Unfortunately, Soul's recipe underperformed. The dish consisted of a mess of cavatappi noodles swimming in a pool pimento cheese sauce (I'll call it that even though I had a really tough time locating a single pimento anywhere) and topped with a sprinkle of crumbled bacon. To me, a combo of bacon and pimento cheese should scream "Flavor! Flavor! Flavor!," but the cheese sauce was underseasoned and disappointing. Although it was served in a cute, miniature, cast-iron skillet, it didn't seem to have been baked at all since there was no crispiness to the limp noodles. Instead, the cavatappi seemed to have just been tossed in the bland sauce and poured into the skillet as an afterthought. All in all, the Mac & Cheese was a bust, and I definitely would not recommend it to anyone looking to satisfy a hankering for cheesy pasta.


Breakfast Pita with spinach, feta, egg, and tomatoes (back) and Sweet Potato Browns (front)

Debby ordered the Breakfast Pita with spinach, feta, egg, and fresh tomatoes (there was also an alternate bacon, egg, and cheese option) and a side of the Sweet Potato Browns. The fluffy, white pita enveloped a large portion of scrambled eggs that had been mixed with a feta/spinach blend and small chunks of tomato. It was very tasty and probably one of the lightest options on the menu. The Sweet Potato Brown side dish consisted of large chunks of both sweet and white potatoes mixed with both green and white onions. The potatoes had a good crunch to them, but were soft on the inside. On its own, it seemed a little greasier than I'd prefer, but each bite was delicious and the dish had a surprising, spicy kick to it. 


Monster Hash

My dad's Monster Hash was my favorite meal of the morning. The same spicy Sweet Potato Browns that Debby ordered as a side constituted the base of the dish, but they were sautéed with sage rope sausage, garlic, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and chipotles, then topped with three fried eggs and a heavy-handed sprinkle of white cheddar. On their own, the Sweet Potato Browns were really good, but as a part of the Hash, they were fabulous. With a few quick jabs of my dad's fork, the runny egg yolks oozed over the thick cuts of potatoes and veggies, coating the entire dish with silky, rich flavor. The Hash tasted appropriately seasoned, although the heat from the sweet potatoes did cause me to break a miniature sweat. My dad gobbled up his meal and everybody seemed a little jealous of his choice. 

In sum, despite the MIA drag queen and a few less-than-fabulously-executed dishes, everybody was happy that we chose Soul as our Sunday brunch location. I'll definitely go back and will make sure to take a picture of the chicken and waffles next time. For now, Soul gets a 7/10.


Soul Gastrolounge on Urbanspoon

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