Charlotte: Bonterra Dining & Wine Room
In 1999, Culinary Institute of America and Napa Valley alum John Duncan opened Bonterra Restaurant in a renovated 110-year-old church in the heart of Dilworth, just west of uptown Charlotte. The restaurant features private dining in the choir balcony overlooking the main dining room, an outdoor patio and even a custom built wine cellar perfect for more intimate dinner parties of 6 to 10 guests. Bonterra continues the area’s tradition of success and sustainability by offering much more than just a rich history. This beautifully revitalized sanctuary-turned-fine-dining establishment possesses white tablecloth elegance and offers exquisite American Cuisine, minus the typical caveat; wimpy meals high on presentation, low in satiation. Duncan and Bonterra Executive Chef Blake Hartwick are committed to preserving a sense of value when it comes to portion size. Simply put, the dishes are lovely and you won’t leave hungry.
The kitchen is outfitted with professional cook-tops and special wood-burning grills used by top restaurants in San Francisco and Northern California, but rarely seen in the southeast. This specially designed kitchen turns out unique flavors such as the salmon filet, roasted at 500 degrees on fresh-cut cedar planks in a wood-burning brick oven designed by Aztec Indians. This cedar plank roasted Cypress Island salmon is accompanied by black barley and white asparagus risotto with a lemon Fleur de Sel gazpacho. The fire-roasted filet mignon is served alongside horseradish whipped potatoes and grilled asparagus in a tawny port wine reduction. The fried lobster tail, served with braised leek mashed potatoes, baby vegetables, sweet and sour mustard aioli with a wildflower honey and soy reduction, is Bonterra’s signature dish. Not only is it wildly popular but it also has a great story behind it. After 12 years of service, Duncan left The Buckhead Life Group, an Atlanta restaurant group, to open his own restaurant and they gave him the coveted recipe as a departing gift. “When they handed me the envelope, I thought maybe it was $1000 or something like that,” Duncan recalls with a grin.
The wine bar houses an impressive 200 wines by the glass in open air merchandise coolers and offers another 300 wines from the private cellar. The restaurant’s “food for wine” menu includes an eclectic collection of cheeses such as a Roaring Forties Blue from Australia, delicious house-made pates, charcuterie, unique spreads like hummus with roasted peppers and a selection of spicy olives. Hudson Valley Foie Gras with French toast brioche, spiced pear and pineapple jam and Fried Calamari and Rock Shrimp with Moroccan spiced piquillo pepper aioli are just two of the items available as starters. The dessert menu offers molten chocolate cake, Grand Mariner soufflé, and Tahitian vanilla bean crème brulee with Kahlua cappuccino mousse, just to name a few.
While their creative menu selections change seasonally, little else at Bonterra shows any sign of revision. Little to no employee turnover means contented staff members have become familiar faces to their guests. Duncan and Chef Hartwick still purchase meat and seafood from the same vendors they used when the doors opened nearly a decade ago. Bonterra and sister restaurants, Las Ramblas and Mac’s Speed Shop, have always been committed to offering reliable food quality with authentic, personable service. John Duncan places a high value on building lasting relationships, often knowing the names of his guest and their children, while Chef Hartwick believes that local restaurants can bring a neighborhood together and thrive during an economy that can be tough on independent businesses. It seems Bonterra has inherited the Church’s spirit of permanence and found its place at the heart of this community.
History of Bonterra
The 1880s was a time of vigorous economical and industrial growth in Charlotte. Textile mills were thriving, cotton was being refined locally and a variety of companies were opening local operations. The Atherton Methodist Church was built in 1885 and became the first church in the Dilworth suburb of Charlotte. Then, in 1915, members of the church converted the original wooden structure to brick and it was renamed Dilworth Methodist Church South. In 1999, Culinary Institute of America-Napa Valley alum John Duncan opened Bonterra Restaurant in this renovated 110 year-old church in the heart of Dilworth, just west of uptown Charlotte. The restaurant features private dining in the choir balcony overlooking the main dining room, an outdoor patio and even a custom built wine cellar perfect for more intimate dinner parties of 6 to 10 guests
Bonterra Dining & Wine Room
Bonterra is located at 1829 Cleveland Avenue & East Worthington Avenue in Charlotte. 704-333-9463
From Interstate 77 N take exit 8, Remount Road, turn right on Remount Road and turn left on South Blvd, then turn right onto Cleveland Ave.
From Interstate 77 S take exit 9 Wilkinson Blvd/I 277 E and turn left on West Blvd. Continue on West Blvd until it becomes East Blvd then take a right onto Cleveland Ave.
The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday, bar opens at 4:30 and the dining room opens at 5:30 PM.
By Rachelle Atkins
By Rachelle Atkins
added: December 15, 2008
updated: December 24, 2008