If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s a good fried oyster. Too much breading, and you’ll lose the meaty middle. Too long in the fryer, and it’s a chewy mess.
Even days after trying the hushpuppy-dredged fried oysters from Queen City Craft & Gourmet, I still get a little wistful. Just the right amount of crispness surrounds a succulent treasure, accentuated perfectly by a house-made remoulade.
Thankfully, their doors are opening to the public today, Sept. 4, at 11 a.m., in the Promenade on Providence shopping center (5349 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy, Suite 100), near where I-485 passes under Providence Road.
“We’re a fine-dining experience in a casual atmosphere,” is how Charles Read describes the spot he’s opening with his wife Catherine. You may recognize him as the former general manager for The Cellar At Duckworth’s; you’ll soon know Cat for QCCG’s house-made bread.
Want a New Orleans-style muffuletta? You’re covered, and it’s quite the mouthful. Brioche for the burgers, Pullman for the rotating grilled cheese, and French bread for the savory onion soup. Pretzel sticks are baked mostly-through before finishing in the fryer, giving a satisfying snap before a comfortably chewy inside (pro tip: get them “loaded,” with beer cheese, scallions, and bacon).
House-made is a common thread on their menu: sauces, dressings, even the French dip uses house-roasted top loin. Executive chef Jon Yarbrough is joining Charles from The Cellar; he has a taste for seasonal ingredients and an eye for experimentation. “We want to do some stuff nobody around here has,” he says, casually mentioning the duck wings he’s excited to roll out.
“I want the chef to have the creative freedom,” says Charles. “My expertise is the service-side, the beer-side, and I’m trusting him to run the kitchen. He’s doing a great job with it.”
Now that you know to come hungry, what’s behind the bar? As of Friday, they were waiting for their alcohol permit due to the holiday weekend, but here’s what to expect:
The curated taps will carry a spectrum of styles; when one keg kicks, it will be replaced with a similar offering. Three taps will be devoted to both IPA and porters/stouts, two taps for Belgians and sours, and one apiece for pilsner, pale, wheat, brown, barleywine, and an “intro to craft” selection. Four taps will be “wild cards,” and a beer engine will handle cask-pouring duties.
There are already a few beer dinners with other businesses on the books: Bell’s is doing breakfast for dinner, Founders is bringing barrel-aged beers, and Mother Earth is pairing with deep-fried girl scout cookies. The off-to-the-side area of the dining room can accommodate 32 folks for these events, so keep your eyes on QCCG’s social media for details.
Don’t fret, oenophiles: there will be 40 wines by the glass, with an unexpected emphasis on port. Grab a “century flight,” featuring four ports aged 10, 20, 30, and 40 years.
So what’s the signature dish? “Cheese flights,” Charles quickly replies. Expect a daily rotating pairing of three cheeses curated with three 5-ounce beer selections or 2-ounce wine pours, all for $14.
At the end of an eight-course sampling, I’m uncomfortably full, but I just can’t resist nibbling on the bread pudding trio: maple bacon, chocolate cherry, and apple cider. All sandwiches will be served on baked-that-day bread; any leftover loaves become the aforementioned pudding, or French onion soup’s crouton, down to breadcrumb sprinkles, showing a commitment to waste reduction.
While the concept may say high-end, the prices are reasonable, and the environment is family-friendly. Don’t let the affordability fool you, though.
“You’re coming here for a culinary experience,” says Charles. “We have to have great food, great service, and a great beverage selection. Two of those three isn’t good enough for us.”