Small Plates, Bye Bye Dates

Tapas can help you out of an awkward situation

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This past week, an old friend came into town for a quick visit. In her usual flair, she returned to the Q.C. with a bang. Day two, she was sighing aloud about how disinterested she was in traditional dating now that she's relocated to Nashville. You know the deal: having dinner and going through the motions of getting to know a complete stranger over the course of a single meal.

"I just wanna eat. That's all I wanna do. I don't want to get to know you. What am I gonna ask or talk about if I don't wanna do my usual of telling you my entire life story? 'What's your favorite color?'"

These are a few of her least favorite things.

A hearty laugh from both the male and female audience followed. I can't blame her. If love fails me again in this life, and my boo and I don't work out, the last thing I'm going to want to do is pretend to enjoy getting deep with anyone ever again. Call me bitter or pessimistic, but when you've watched a movie over and over again, you never expect the ending to change. *steps off soapbox*

All jokes aside, my friend's perspective had me taking a new look at the Queen City's recent small plate craze. Personally, I'm obsessed with the whole tapas concept. What are tapas, you ask? It translates from Spanish as any sort of small portion of food. That being said, I thought about what my friend said, and thought, "Actually, small plates are a great compromise for an awkward date scenario."

Picture it. Tinder date, 2018. You order two small plates, and if you're not enjoying the conversation, you're free to enjoy the glass of wine or cocktail in front of you and then dip. It's the perfect speed date for any guy or girl, if you ask me. No qualms, no drama, no having to sit through a appetizer or large meal. And no having a friend call you 15 minutes in so you can potentially fake an emergency. Either it's working out or it's not. And if not, each of you can go on about your night.

So, I started thinking about the handful of restaurants in Charlotte that I've actually been to that serve small plates, and here's my list thus far:

The Stanley: I've already written about this Elizabeth gem. Long story short, every small dish, no matter how obscure for my inexperienced palate, was amazing (and I've been twice). Not to mention, they've managed to create some version of a unique menu every single week since they opened. Say what?! The peas and carrots were phenomenal. Pro tip: You'll need a reservation, so get on that. Also, they don't stay open super late, so keep that in mind.

Soul Gastrolounge: If you've lived in Charlotte for any decent amount of time, you better know about Soul. You certainly need a reservation for this Queen City staple (I've happily waited more than two hours for a table before). But they've managed to thrive and create a real footprint in the Charlotte area, so if you haven't been, you better effing go. They do quite a few specials, however, their regular menu alone is phenomenal. Go to their website and plan your night out (or a bite-'n'-go escape) in Plaza Midwood.

Bardo: Located in South End's Gold District, Bardo definitely has a littleSpoon Eatery vibe, based on the type of music that plays inside. Enjoy Biggie, Tupac and beyond while you're delving into carefully crafted small plates that are great tasting until the last bite. Be smart and get a reservation beforehand, just in case. Maybe you'll at least enjoy a few tunes before you head out early "due to an emergency."

Kindred: You're going to have to travel a hop, skip and a jump to get to Davidson, so if you ride with your date, a quick escape won't necessarily mean a fast end to the night, but all the more reason to take your own car. As far as Kindred goes, believe the hype. They're worth the trip — especially if your meal is free. Boo Boo and I had an absolutely delicious experience that you can also read about in a recent column of mine.

Dandelion Market: I've also already written about good ol' Dando. I experienced their market dinner (which is everything on the menu for $295) for my birthday party and it was epic. They have plenty of small plates for you to choose from. Not to mention, if you schedule your date for late enough, you can hope for a successful dinner and a long night upstairs on the weekends, as they stop serving food and the second floor turns into a dance party.

Those are my top five for now, but I've been to plenty more. Tell me, where would you go to drool over a small plate or two, whether or not you're avoiding a "horrible date situation." Share it with me.

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