* Driving down South Boulevard you might think you're seeing double, but you're not. Villa Antonio has hung a large sign across the space that housed The Silver Cricket. Says owner Antonio Garcia, "We are going to demolish that building in March. And then we are going to construct an addition to our facility which will have an 80 seat banquet room, a nine to 10 seat bar and a room which will also have nine booths." The banquet room will be able to further divide to accommodate smaller groups. The addition is planned to open August 20 this year. Restaurant operations will continue as normal through the construction period.
* Green's Lunch, 309 West 4th Street, is holding their annual hot dog eating contest to benefit the Children's Make a Wish Foundation on Saturday, February 23, at 1:30pm. Green's owner will match the donations to the foundation. Entries are $10. Prizes awarded. For more information, please call 704-332-1786.
* Speaking of hot dogs, the frankfurter cutting the mustard at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City is made by Fred Usinger, Inc., a gourmet sausage and specialty meat company located in Milwaukee. The hot dog chosen is made from Certified Angus Beef, and it is expected that 1.6 million will be consumed during the games. Usinger is a family run company established in 1870 by Frederick Usinger, an immigrant from Wehen, Germany. The company makes more than 70 different items including all-beef salami, knackwurst, beerwurst, ring bologna, kishka, liver sausages, blood sausages, summer sausages, applewood smoked bacon and, of course, frankfurters. Their products are available online: www.usinger.com or through a catalog: 800-558-9998.
* The Knife and Fork stands empty with a "for lease" banner draped across its sign. The landmark restaurant, near the corner of Sharon Amity North and Independence Boulevard, was opened in 1965 by Thomas Pauls. In 1977 the restaurant expanded their hours and became a 24-7 restaurant. During the 80s on any given Saturday at 2am, you could see a wide variety of Charlotte's citizens -- from the tuxedoed to punk -- eating eggs and swilling coffee. It was one of the great places to watch people. Eva Pauls, Thomas' widow, still owns the property. The family also owns Mr. Paul's Cafe in Plaza Midwood.
* Representatives from the Mecklenburg County Health Department say school administrators did "all the right things" after a mouse was sighted inside the kitchen area at Olympic High School. Two field mice had been caught in traps set under a sink. Olympic High School scored a 93.5 on its most recent inspection posted by the Health Department.
* Owners Madeline Cueto and Carol Torrez have moved La Gran Havana across and down the street a bit into a 6,800-square-foot, freestanding space, formerly a Grady's location, at 5546 Albemarle Road. Hours are Monday through Thursday 11am until 11pm, Friday and Saturday from 11am until midnight and Sunday 11am until 9pm. Live music on Friday and Saturday. 704-535-0223.
* Owners Chris Joannides and Mary Polan opened the 93-seat Deli Experts, a New York Italian deli, last June at 1809-J Cross Beam Drive, near the airport. Hours are 7am until 8pm Monday through Friday. 704-357-0357.
* Owners Lam Buond (a Thai native) and Chef Thom Soundara (a Laos native) hope to reopen Monsoon, Thai Cuisine Restaurant, 2801 South Boulevard, by the end of the month. The restaurant has been closed since July 1, 2000 due to a fire. "Everything will be the same," says Buond. "Same owners, same menus. Different servers though." Hours are Monday through Saturday 11am until 2:30pm and 5:30pm until 10pm. 704-523-6775.
* A second Romano's Macaroni Grill is planned to open in the middle of March in The Promenade on Providence Road. The restaurant is a subsidiary of Dallas-based Brinker International. The first shop opened in the University area on Harris Boulevard last June.