Wednesday, July 30, 2008

McDonald's Cafeteria **HALL OF FAME EATERY**

John McDonald at the helm (he would introduce himself simply as 
'the cook")

February 1982 photo of the original location

November 1989 photo

John & Eunice McDonald outside the cafeteria and hotel from February 1990

March 1997 interior shot with some of the regulars

For over 30 years, McDonald's Cafeteria was a West Charlotte institution. Opened by John McDonald at the start of the 1970's, McDonald's Cafeteria not only featured great home cooking, but was a gathering place for people of all races by promoting community and diversity.

John McDonald began his restaurant career in 1949 with the opening of the popular McDonald's Dining Room in Brooklyn, NY. He retired back to Charlotte in 1969 (he had left Charlotte originally in 1945), but by the next year had opened McDonald's Cafeteria in a small building on the corner of Beatties Ford Rd and LaSalle St. In 1982, he would move the restaurant to a larger building on Beatties Ford Rd at I-85. At the groundbreaking ceremony McDonald was quoted as saying "We're trying to give what the community is in need of...My concept is that we, as a people can do something to our own home by developing our own community. This is how we become a total person". The cafeteria would grow to include three dining rooms and several meeting rooms. McDonald would add a hotel adjacent to the cafeteria as a well as a minature golf course next door (named Fun City).

John McDonald died of a heart attack in October of 1995. The following year, the restaurant would close due to a fire. In 1997, the cafeteria was bought and reopened under the new ownership of a group of Westside investors led by former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt. In June of 1999, McDonald's widow and family opened Lil' Mac's cafeteria restaurant on Central Ave (a block from the Penguin). By the summer of 2003, both McDonald's and Lil' Mac would both be closed forever.

From its fantastic food (favorites included fried chicken, turnip greens, black-eyed peas, whipped rutabagas, pecan pie, and McDonald's famous sweet tea) to its larger than life owner, McDonald's Cafeteria will always be remembered as a place that belonged to the people.

REVISIONS -- 8/9/2008

1977 picture of LaSalle St location

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

John's Country Kitchen

Above pictures all courtesy of Rick Fisher

John's opens every morning before dawn

Livermush cooked correctly--crispy on the outside, creamy soft on the inside

John's signature dish-- brains & eggs

John's famous grilled biscuits

Breakfast menu

John's Country Kitchen opened in 1977 on the corner of Central and Thomas Avenues in the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood. John and Margaret Margiotis opened the restaurant in an abandoned storefront at the end of a small strip center (the strip center's main claim to fame was the home of the first Harris-Teeter grocery store in the 1940's--called just Harris then). With several prominent eateries located within a block (Penguin, Diamond, Ho Toy, Dairy Queen), the location would prove to be a successful choice. 

John's is popular for its hearty, made to order breakfasts and lunches. Portions are large and the prices reasonable. John's home cooking has developed a loyal clientele over the years. The interior of the restaurant has changed very little since its opening. It sports the original tables, booths, and counter stools and the walls are covered with photos, posters, and news clippings from Charlotte's yesteryear. 

John Margiotis passed away in 1989. His son Chris took over and continues to run the restaurant today exactly as his dad had planned.

Monday, July 21, 2008

La Bibliotheque **HALL OF FAME EATERY**

The famous logo

Above photos all courtesy of Scott Clackum (thanks also to Rick Fisher)

1984 photo

1985 photo

1990 photo

Above four photos all from 1993

Those are some red books!

Banquet photo

The lounge

1994 terrace photo

The empty terrace as it appears today

The back entrance of the office building which led to the restaurant

Front of the office building

Original restaurant map

1985 ad

1993 ad

Lunch menu

Dinner menu

Wine menu

King Shaul's (?) menu

Special birthday/anniversary menu

Located in the lobby of an office building across from Southpark Mall, La Bibliotheque was Charlotte's top French restaurant. 

La Bibliotheque opened in 1984 and was originally owned by James Body, Grant and Merry Schoormaker, and Winter Hodges. It featured tradtional French cuisine with specialities ranging from Chateaubriand, Dover sole, and rack of lamb to chocolate truffle mousse, strawberries Romanoff, and creme brulee for dessert. The original owners would run the restaurant until 1991 when it would close. 

La Bibliotheque would remain closed for almost a year when it would be bought by Adam Kantbank and reopened in late 1992. Under Adam and executive chef Mohammed Bentaleb, La Bibliotheque not only kept its famous traditional French menu, but also added many non-traditional French dishes (such as tableside prepared crepes Suzette).  Few restaurants in Charlotte history have risen to the level obtained by La Bibliotheque under Kantbank. It was the only restaurant in the area to achieve both the AAA Four-Diamond award and the Mobil Travel Guide Four Star rating for several consecutive years. Adam would leave La Bibliotheque in late 2001 (he would sell his share of the restaurant to co-owner Brenda Bowling) to open Adam's at Ballantyne. Brenda would keep the restaurant open through 2006. Current plans are to open a new La Bibliotheque in a new location.

In addition to the food, La Bibliotheque was famous for its atmosphere and decor. The main dining room was painted a deep red and featured bookshelves (most of the books were red) and paintings on the walls, and a coffered, chandeliered ceiling. Tables were dressed with white linens, silver candlesticks, and deep-red roses. Downstairs featured an immense wine cellar (behind locked wrought-iron) along with a special "wine cellar" dining table. In the mid-90's, the restaurant would add an outdoor terrace with fountains and lanterns. 

La Bibliotheque's slogan was "A Restaurant of Excellence". Hopefully, this tradition will resume in the near future.