Our server comes by to ask about our meal, my husband looks at me, “Can I tell her what you just told me?”
“Sure!” I enthusiastically reply.
“She declared it was the best meal she’s had in Charlotte!” he says triumphantly. And he is right. Our dinner at Customshop was, so far, the most incredible meal I’ve eaten in Charlotte to date. Of course I’ve had some great meals over the last year (have you read my reviews?), but this one was transcendent. My husband agreed, and that takes a lot.
We walked into Customshop to find a lovely spacious bar in front, and the tables spread out over a reasonable sized area. The lighting was just right, dimmed, but not dimmed so much that you have to squint to see your food (a pet peeve of mine in higher-end restaurants). My husband aptly described the music as “chill.” It was a good mix, we definitely could hear it, but it didn’t take over conversation (except for the few minutes when we discussed the atmosphere). The décor is tasteful, setting the stage for a brilliant meal.
Customshop is founded around the idea of “handcrafted food,” each dish beginning with quality raw ingredients. Much of their ingredients are locally sourced, and, thus the menu changes every week to accommodate the availability of ingredients year-round.
After a bit of a search to find the drinks menu (wine is on the back of the main menu, ask for the dessert menu for the cocktail selection), we started off with a drink, my husband had a Manhattan, which he assures me was good – I am not a fan. I settled on a glass of 2008 Salentein Killka Malbec, and it took a good deal of self control not to order an entire bottle for myself.
Then we had to choose our food. It’s not an overwhelmingly large menu, ; a few raw items, a cheese and charcuterie plate, and a few starters, but they all sound so good, it becomes impossible to choose. We decided to forgo the cheese plate (hard to do), and share a starter, settling on the beef carpaccio, with the help of our server. What a good choice. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, paper-thin, and not a hint of chewiness. It was sprinkled with fresh horseradish, lemon and celery sprouts, lending it a bit of a punch, similar to sushi with a hint of wasabi.
Eventually, we had to return to reality and decide on a main course. My husband wanted to try one of the four pasta choices, and was eventually swayed toward the saffron fettuccini with Carolina shrimp, oyster mushrooms and pancetta. I was split between the duck confit, the short rib, the yellow fin tuna, the half rabbit, and the tilefish – not quite the whole menu, but almost. Eventually, I chose on the short rib (both decisions were aided by our lovely server). Neither of us was disappointed. The fettuccini was fresh and delicious, the shrimp was perfectly spiced, and the sauce was wonderful, with plenty of mushrooms and pancetta to go around.
The short rib was the star of the show. It was nothing short of amazing. The meat was so tender that, though I had a steak knife, it was unnecessary, my husband cut off a piece with his dinner knife, and the meat separated at the slightest touch. The flavor was perfect, sweet, but tempered by the grilled escarole and it’s slightly too salty topping (It was hard, but I managed to eat it anyway). The cipollini marmalade included a roasted whole onion on the side, which I had to fight my husband for.
As we approached the restaurant for dinner, my husband had noted that Elizabeth Creamery was next door and suggested we go for a bite after dinner. After our meal, however, he changed his mind. We leisurely ordered the chocolate soufflé (which, the menu notes, is a 15 minute wait, so order ahead if you are in a bit of a hurry), and enjoyed our post-meal daze. Soon our dessert arrived, and was everything a chocolate soufflé should be: liquid chocolate in the center, surrounded by a nice crisp shell. If you truly are not in the mood for one of their three dessert selections, check out their cocktails or various digestifs.
We left that evening completely satisfied, but not uncomfortably full. We strolled down Elizabeth Avenue back to our car hand in hand, reflecting on the past couple of hours and planning our next visit, to try their brunch.
1601 Elizabeth Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28204