Charlotte’s Top Dining Destinations: Village Tavern

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The Chef: Chef Mary Grace Viado Howard

The Corporate Executive Chef of Village Tavern, Chef Mary Grace Viado Howard, has been cooking since she was a young girl and believes her mother is the best cook ever. Howard earned an undergraduate degree in hospitality management, but decided her heart was in the culinary arts. She received her degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Howard has been cooking professionally for 24 years and takes inspiration from many famous classically trained chefs, including Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud. When developing new ideas for the menu, Howard analyzes each category on the menu and takes into account whether or not a particular dish can be successfully executed. She also collaborates with Village Tavern owners Scott Richardson and Tony Santarelli to discuss new menu choices. All final decisions are made by listening to both guest and employee feedback to ensure it will be well received.

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The Look: Open & Vibrant

Opening in 1989, Village Tavern was one of the first restaurants in South Park. Around three years ago, management decided to bring a fresher feel to the establishment and remodeled. Community tables replaced the booths that once sat in the middle of the restaurant so guests could comfortably make conversation with other diners. The restaurant strives to have an “open, fun environment that gives that sort of ‘see and be seen’ kind of element, with a lot of great color,” says president and COO Tony Santarelli. The atmosphere enables guests to talk and hear the people they are with while still being a vibrant restaurant. Renowned for its Scratch Kitchen and Craft Bar, the restaurant features an award-winning wine list, offering more than 50 wines by the glass, craft cocktails, and local craft beers. Village Tavern also is known for its patio, with the Charlotte location voted best outdoor dining in the Charlotte Observer’s Reader’s Choice Best of 2015 contest.

The Dish: Steak au Poivre

Between the spinach salad, bacon-wrapped scallops, southern shrimp and grits, and a variety of other incredible dishes ordered day in and day out, it’s difficult for Village Tavern to choose one dish in particular as its signature dish. However, one menu item that may stand just a bit above the rest is Steak au Poivre. A classic French dish served in Paris bistros for many years, the steak au poivre is prepared in a traditional way. It features hand cut, certified Angus beef cooked on a wood fired grill with peppercorn, a reduction of beef stock, heavy cream, and cognac, then reduced with red wine. A menu staple for more than 20 years, guests continue to love it because it stays relevant throughout the years. Guests can come to the restaurant and have this classic French meal while their dining partners enjoy fish or a burger. Every meal from the scratch kitchen can be a completely different experience than the previous visit.

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Village Tavern: 4201 Congress Street, Charlotte.

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