Tag Archives: bad review

Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina

My blog analytics allow me to see the search terms people used to find the Charlotte Spoon. My two favorite today:

“light eating in Charlotte”
“smothered pork chops”

Good to know we have varied interests around here.

After church this morning I decided it was finally time to try Salsarita’s. I’d heard a lot about it but hadn’t had a chance to visit.

Nothing jumped out at me from the menu. All the usual suspects were there (burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, taco salads, all available with a choice of chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp).

After a raging internal debate (this is not unusual for me when it comes to restaurant menus), I went with a small grilled chicken burrito. As I went down the assembly line (identical to Qdoba’s, if you’ve ever been there), I asked for: rice, black beans, medium salsa, added queso, extra shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and a little cilantro. It was a super quick process — all wrapped up and ready to go in a few minutes flat.

Flat . . . hm . . . yeah. That’s kind of how I’d describe the eating experience. How do you go wrong with that list of ingredients? It sounds flavorful and bold, right? Well, it wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t very good. The rice was a flavorless filler, the beans added a “goo” factor from not being drained enough, and I don’t think there was enough salsa or queso or chicken to overcome these downfalls. The result was a “just okay,” kind of plain burrito. At $6.22 for a meal that’s on the small side for me, it wasn’t expensive, but I’d definitely expect a better flavor.

It’s hard to rate a restaurant on one eating experience, so I want to disclaim. I’ve heard many folks say they didn’t like Qdoba’s burritos much either (too much rice is the most common complaint). I love Qdoba’s delicious chicken nachos covered in calorie-laden queso, though, so maybe if I shopped around on the Salsarita’s menu, I’d find something similarly satisfying.

Speaking of Qdoba’s, though, does it seem to anyone else that Salsarita’s and Qdoba’s are kind of the same restaurant with a different name and different decor? Same assembly-line concept, almost the same menu, similar pricing.

One thing I do have to complain about regarding Salsarita’s menu is the extra charge for queso. Without queso, that burrito would have been even less impressive. Guess how much adding queso costs. JUST GUESS. Adding queso costs an entire dollar extra. And you should have seen the tiny, miserly spoonful of queso my extra dollar got me! I almost wanted to say, “Really, that’s a dollar-worth of queso?!” Seriously, Salsarita’s, that’s annoying.

A big ol’ huge plus to end on, though, for you coke lovers: Salsarita’s does have fountain Coke Zero. This fact means I might give it another shot. Maybe. In the meantime, next post I’ll tell you where you should go to get quick, flavorful Mexican in Charlotte. You’re gonna love it.

So help me out here, Charlotte Spooners: if I’m trying to find the love at Salsarita’s, what should I order? Have you been and had a similarly lackluster experience? Or do you love it?

Charlotte Spoon Rating: 2 out of 5 spoons


Fiamma Restaurant

Restaurant: Fiamma Restaurant
Locations: 2418 Park Road
Website: Fiamma Restaurant
Dress: Nice-casual
Cuisine: Italian
Price Range:

  • Appetizers: $7.50-9.75
  • Entrées: $7.50-26.50

Rating: 0 out of 5 spoons

The Scoop:

I just need to vent for a moment. We’ve all had terrible restaurant experiences, right? The hair in the food, the rude employee, the outrageous check — there are plenty of things that can ruin an experience. I can roll with many a punch, but I want to share with you, as fellow consumers, how we were treated at Fiamma. Once you’re armed with the information, you can make the best choice about whether or not to patronize the restaurant.

Mike and I have been meaning to visit Fiamma since last year. We wanted to go during Charlotte Restaurant Week, but plans fell through. Since then, the somewhat expensive restaurant has simply never been at the top of our list. My very sweet roommate, knowing that I wanted to visit, gave me a generous sum and made a reservation for my birthday. I was beyond excited.

When Mike and I arrived at the restaurant, we were seated and given water and some absolutely delicious pesto. It was rich and drowned in flavorful olive oil. I was so excited about the meal to come, because surely, based on this tiny taste, it would be phenomenal. Well, unfortunately, we never ate another bite. Nor got drinks. Nor, apparently, even had a waitress. Let me explain.

Fiamma's Breadsticks and Pesto

The only morsel to pass through our lips at Fiamma: Breadsticks and Pesto

After we got our water, we were trying desperately not to fill up on the pesto, but no one seemed to be coming to take our drink order, much less our meal order. We waited. And waited. And waited. The two girls seated behind us, who were obviously in the same boat, finally flagged down a waitress and requested that someone serve them. She apologized, and we thought the oversight would be taken care of. So we waited. And waited. Plenty of employees were milling about, but apparently none of them were waiters? Perhaps they were simply restaurant props? A mirage produced by hunger? Who knows.

Finally, the host walked back and asked, sensing the problem, “Have you been waited on yet?” We told him no, relieved that the oversight would be taken care of. So we waited. And waited. And . . . you get the idea. The waitress did eventually come over, looking quite huffy (I think she was the only one waiting all those tables and, frankly, I’d be huffy too, though perhaps that doesn’t excuse it), and asked if we’d heard the specials. She quickly described them. I was about to cry out, “We know what we want! Here’s our order!” but her manner made it clear she was not our waitress and was only there to inform us. She left quickly. And no one else came!

Finally, I was feeling disappointed and Mike and I were both very annoyed. Mike walked over to the kitchen, unsure of where the waiters could be hiding, and said, “Can someone please take our order?” I hate having to press someone to serve me at a restaurant, though, because it makes me feel quite unwelcome. I collected my purse and we left. It was a struggle to find some other nice place to eat my birthday dinner with no reservation.

Everyone has their bad days, and perhaps Fiamma is en pointe all of the other 364 days of the year. My sister quite enjoyed a dinner she once ate there, and as I mentioned, they have great . . . uh . . . pesto. All I know is after my own ridiculous experience, I don’t feel comfortable giving them any spoons at all, and I won’t be giving them another chance to ruin my evening.

Okay, spill it! What’s your worst restaurant story? Whether you name names or not, tell us about a bad experience you’ve had. Or have you tried Fiamma and want to recount a similar or different experience? Share by clicking on the “Comments” link!


Restaurant: Lulu
Location: 1911 Central Avenue
Website: http://www.luludinewine.com/
Dress: casual to maybe a little spruced up for dinner
Cuisine: American/French
Price Range:

  • Appetizers: $5-26
  • Salads: $4-11
  • Entrées: $15-24
Rating: 1 out of 5 spoons

The Scoop:

To preface, I’m not one of those food people who has to hate everything to feel like my taste is “discerning” enough. I don’t think I’ve given a single negative review yet, in fact. And since I’d heard such great things about Lulu, and since I was shelling out lots of money for my meal, I was prepared to be impressed! Really! But unfortunately, dear readers, I was very disappointed with my Lulu experience.

The beginning of our meal went well. Lulu is located in a quaint little house on Central Avenue decorated impeccably with beautiful furnishings I’d love in my own home. We were seated as they were lighting the candles on all the tables, making for a charming atmosphere. After perusing the appetizers, we ordered The Movie Star to start our meal. It’s described on the menu as “gingered calamari, spiced slaw, and Asian love sauce.” While the presentation could’ve been more colorful, the calamari did, indeed, taste like quite a loving experience (and for only $9). The calamari was cooked perfectly, lightly breaded, and had a fantastic tangy flavor from the ginger and “love sauce.” We were sure at this point that the rest of the meal would be amazing!

Lulu's The Movie Star

Lulu’s The Movie Star

Unfortunately, that’s where things went downhill. To begin with, our server seemed unable to care less about our presence in the restaurant. Apart from drinks that went unfilled (I’m thirstyyy!), when I asked what his favorite entrée was, I received a gruff and somewhat exasperated, “Well, depends on what you like.” Uh, okay. He then quickly jabbed at 3 or 4 items on the menu to appease me. I chalked it up to bad people skills and chose the Make Your Bones, a “braised lamb shank, hazlenut gremolata, pumpkin polenta, [and] tomato fennel ragout.” Sounds fancy, huh? And for $20, I was definitely hoping for something fancy. The dish set before me did look and smell beautiful, and the lamb shank was quite tender and juicy, but beyond that, I was disappointed. With hazelnut, pumpkin, tomatoes, and fennel, I would’ve expected a delicious fall flavor, but the dish was quite bland. No flavor whatsoever stood out to me, and with every bite I grew more disappointed. In addition, there simply wasn’t much food. When I’m still hungry after eating a $20 entrée, something just isn’t right.

Lulu's Make Your Bones

Lulu’s Make Your Bones

I hoped Mike would fare better. He ordered Shrimp & Grits, a dish that’s easy to make delicious. It’s described on the menu as “jumbo shrimp, country ham, shrimp ‘gravy,’ and logan turnpike grits.” Unfortunately he ran into similar problems; that is, the gravy was rather bland and the $21 dish was simply unremarkable. Adding to Mike’s frustration was one of our biggest pet peeves: the shrimp were still in their shells. Don’t give me any of that “it adds to the flavor” nonsense, either! No one on this planet wants to hunt through their gravy and grits with their fingers to unpeel their dinner. Can I get an “AMEN”?! Mike’s constant refrain is, “I’m paying them to prepare my dinner, and yet I’m stuck doing part of the preparation.” Chefs of Charlotte, please peel those shrimp. Thanks.

Lulu's Shrimp & Grits

Lulu’s Shrimp & Grits

At this point, fed up with the service (still thirsty!) and the lousy meal, we decided not to even bother trying dessert (I think I just heard a gasp from the regular ‘Spoon readers). We paid our $60+ bill and left. After hearing so many recommendations to try Lulu and having such a poor experience, I almost feel like we must’ve been in the wrong restaurant!

I posted about my Lulu experience on a Charlotte Observer blog awhile back and Helen Schwab, whose reviews I always enjoy, suggested I give it another try. While I understand her point — after all, I’ve heard from so many Charlotteans who love Lulu, and perhaps we picked the only two unimpressive dishes on the menu? I guess? — I simply don’t have the budget to throw $60 away and “give it another shot.” There are so many delicious restaurants that are less expensive, and even so many expensive restaurants that are worth the prices they charge, that I wouldn’t feel justified wasting another dinner out at Lulu’s.

So there you have it, Charlotte. My first negative review.

Have you eaten at Lulu’s? Did you have a better experience than me? Tell us what dishes you liked, how your service was, etc., to give readers a balanced view. Should I try again? Share your comments by clicking on the “Comments” link below!