So, I'd like to dedicate this first Charlotte Unhitched restaurant review to Tara, in what will exclusively be known as the "Girlfriends and Grub" sector of the blog.
This wasn't our first trek to the Charlotte favorite The Penguin, located on Commonwealth near Elizabeth, across from Boris and Natasha's, Dish, and the Thomas Street Tavern. In fact, our inaugural visit seems like a haze full of greasy goodness. We dove right into the menu letting our eyes grow larger than our stomachs, and we ended up with a table full of food we could barely eat. I was eager to make a second splash into the waters of The Penguin (first bad pun of the day), so we headed back for a more premeditated meal.
As soon as we walked in, I noticed that the lunch crowd was quite a variety bunch. There were a few slightly older patrons, probably in for a regular Friday visit, a family here and there, and the most noticeable group, a rowdy bunch of college kids in a back booth. The Penguin gears toward a younger crowd, in my opinion, with menu quips from Wedding Crashers (Ma, the meatloaf) and Tommy Boy (wait for it...the Tommy Boy). However, the fare is classic North Carolinian fast food with grease, cheese, and chili with a twist (a black bean burger and some tantalizing salads). I indulged in a Ma, the meatloaf on my first trek ( a hot dog with onions, chili, and slaw), but this time I tried the soy dog, the Best in Show to keep things a little on the healthy side. I tend to do this...order a Diet Coke with a cheeseburger, a water with movie popcorn, ice cream without the cone. I figure every little bit helps. But I didn't skimp on the one thing that I remembered best from my last visit...the sweet potato fries. Sweet potato fries are what Heaven is made of in my mind...literally, like Willy Wonka's candy factory, where you can eat everything. I get all googly-eyed when I see them on my plate, standing out, bright orange, distinguishing themselves from the crowd like a short skirt at a home school convention. They're a little bit crispy, a tad sweet, and one of the most popular side items on a lot of Charlotte restaurant menus. "They ain't your mama's french fries... or your daddy's for that matter." But enough about the most scrumptious starch in my food index. I found my soy dog, fries, and the honey butter for fry dipping to be a real Friday afternoon treat. The atmosphere of this dive is what I'd call "Diner Chic". In other words, it eats like a good ole Carolina hot dog joint, but it looks like a Travel Channel special.
I highly recommend The Penguin, under new ownership, open seven days a week, when the generic neighborhood Sonic won't kick your need for a hot dog fix. I'll give it 5 ice bergs, because it will really melt your appetite:)