The little eatery might be called diner, but it’s a far cry from what you might envision. Trade Street Diner was the venue for the latest Chef’s Table. It’s always fun when the owner picks a “slow night” for the event. And then the place gets packed with us and walk-in patrons who then got into the fun a little as plates of surprise courses whirled by.
Trade Street Diner opened last fall in Sweet Potatoes former residence at 529 North Trade Street by two well-respected chefs and businessmen, John Tharp and Freddy Lee. Click here to see my review right after they opened. Lee has been in the restaurant industry for years and opened the beloved Bernardin’s with his brother in the 90’s and since then a second Bernardin’s location in Charlotte, Bleu Restaurant and Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse. Tharp was chef at Bleu for ten years after relocating from New York. After a number of years working together, they partnered up to buy Town Centre Diner in Wallburg and last year decided to go a little higher end when the space in the Arts District came along. Tharp says both are diners, but the word diner is about all they share in common. “It’s a modern take on a diner. We give people a little more than what they expect. Town Centre is a family concept, breakfast, lunch and dinner. More homestyle choices and priced accordingly, with meat and two or three. Whereas, Trade Street is a little more eclectic and higher end but simplistic in its approach.” Tharp says they took the concept and inspiration from Poole’s Diner in Raleigh. “We felt like Winston-Salem needed something like that. Something very approachable with mid-range prices. You can came two or three times a week, have a glass of wine, have a salad or mac & cheese, or share an appetizer, hang with friends or have a nice date.”
What the diners experienced at Trade Street Diner was something of a departure from the regular menu. This fully showed how Chef John Tharp was intent on celebrating the flavors of the season but also demonstrated his creative side. Anyone who’s attended a Chef’s Table knows that there’s never a menu ahead of time (and often none at all, which is encouraged) and the guests are sort of at the chef’s whim. It does no good to “cheat” and check out the restaurant’s online menu. You may or may not see that item in front of you at the tasting. And so it was last week, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see these dishes in some form when you choose to visit this inviting diner.
We love getting a little palate teaser before the rest of the courses rolled out. This Asian inspired had a nice little kick of wasabi oil, enough that our table mate, Melissa, felt the need to alert us. But the wasabi walloped us a bit in the very best way.
A selection of fresh fish sautéed scallops. It was a beauty. Fresh seafood lovers, this dish is for you.
House-made goat cheese ravioli with pea puree and tomato fondue
This light little ravioli was a true hit at my table. Tharp is a big believer in making his own pasta and though it’s not on the menu very often at the diner, the flavors of spring in this little dish made us wish we could go back for some more. Plus the look of it just said “spring.”
Seared Scallops with Crispy Potatoes
The course is pretty self-explanatory with seared scallops and potatoes with a bit of mushrooms. The creamy sauce was a perfect consistency and added a lovely richness and coziness to the seafood component.
Filet with Red Pepper Sauce and Parsnip Puree
The filet lets you catch a glimpse of the steak you might order at Trade Street on any given night. The red pepper sauce was bright and flavorful and added a bright pop of color.
Triple Berry Cake with Dark Chocolate Mousse
If the mousse is ever on the menu at Trade Street Diner, we suggest you order it. It’s perfectly creamy and rich and this dessert paired ever so perfectly with the diner’s freshly brewed coffee.
Tharp has been in the restaurant industry since he was 14 years old, working his way up from bussing tables and ultimately went to culinary school at Johnston & Wales. “I’ve never wanted to do anything else, “ he says. After working in Charleston, Tharp decided to broaden his view of restaurants and moved to New York, where he was a sous chef at Tribeca Grill. “It really opened my mind because every plate had to be correct. There’s no room for error, which is typical of New York.” Tharp says laid the groundwork for his focus today. “We have to make sure it’s the best at all times. We try for every dish to be as perfect as it can be.”
The menu at Trade Street Diner is set up to change often. Tharp says, “We want the menu to be special enough that the customer keeps coming back. It’s great concept to live by because it keeps me and it keeps the kitchen pushing to be better.” He adds, “We want to elevate the common food like a hushpuppy, and that reinforces what we’re really trying to do here. We want our guest to think, ‘Wow, what’s coming next because this is exceeding our expectations.’”
After speaking with Tharp, it’s clear this chef has some very interesting ideas for the dining scene in Winston-Salem. He’s also has goals to travel more to add breadth to his culinary skills. I really truly wish I could tell you some of his ideas but we need to keep it mum. Just follow along for the fun ride here at this foodie channel.
“Some chefs are fortunate to travel to Asia and Europe to learn about spices and concepts and that’s something I’d like to do in the next five years or so, to travel often and learn about cultures and the food and put my own interpretation on it. Food is food the world around typically it’s all been thought of. So new flavor combinations or ways to invoke a memory are what makes a restaurant different.”
May marks the two-year anniversary of Chef’s Table. What started out as small group of local food lovers gathering together for an evening of surprise plates has continued with larger gatherings, new friendships and sell-out foodie events where we get to learn more about that chef and be surprised by what he or she is working on. Cheers to supporting our area chefs and restaurants and the local goodness they embrace. And we JUST announced our next Chef’s Table..as we head back to Meridian Restaurant, where we visited March 2017. So many people wanted to go back, how could we say no? Get tix here!
To hear my podcast featuring Chef John Tharp, listen to “At the Table with Triadfoodies” on the Triad Podcast Network. triadpodcast.com
Wanna go? Trade Street Diner is located at 529 North Trade Street, Winston-Salem. tradestreetdinerws.com Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday, Brunch and dinner on Sunday.
Hi, foodies! I wanted to let you know we have another Chef’s Table coming up in a little over two weeks. Get your tickets ASAP as they will go fast. As of this posting, we have 7 tickets remaining. We’re headed back to Winston-Salem this time to one of my new favorite restaurants, Trade Street Diner. Here’s the Eventbrite listing. Get tickets here.
We’re back and so ready to spring into a colorful and vibrant season of Chef’s Tables featuring the area’s most talented chefs. This month, we’re so excited to be headed back to Winston-Salem where Chef’s Freddy Lee and John Tharp and their team at Trade Street Diner will tantalize our tastebuds with multiple courses.
You know Chef Lee as chef at the renowned Bernardin’s at the Zevely House in the West End as well as his partnership at Cowboy Braziilian Steakhouse and Bleu. Chef Tharp’s restaurant, Towne Centre Diner, in Wallburg, has been called a hidden treasure. If you’ve been to either of these restaurants, then you know the talent these two chefs possess. They’ve partnered up to bring us yet another wonderful eatery in downtown Winston-Salem.
Trade Street Diner blazed on the scene in 2017 and Freddy and John have wowed their guests with their creative take on diner-inspired ingredients with a creative twist. And seriously, that truffled salmon with mushrooms pictured above is the BEST salmon I’ve ever eaten. Read about our experience at Trade Street Diner in my review for YES! Weekly. We can’t wait for your to try what Freddy, John and their culinary team have planned. What’s on the menu? Well, that’s half the fun. We let the chefs surprise us.! What’s never a surprise is how much each Chef’s Table guest is delighted with the food and atmosphere as we fellowship together.
Here’s how it works:
Reserve with a ticket here and you’ll join us at our table on Tuesday, April 24 at 7:00. A reminder of our pricing: Your ticket price of $30 INCLUDES your multi-course dinner as well as tax and gratuity associated with the meal. Beverage (and gratuity for the purchase of beverages) are not included in the ticket price. Please take care of your server on any beverage service. Seating will be extremely limited.
We’ll see you on April 24!
** Follow us on Facebook for the latest details and get in on the chatter by tagging @tradestreetdiner and #triadfoodiesChefsTable on Facebook and Instagram.
Please notify me at Kristi@triadfoodies.com if you have any food sensitivity or if the chef needs to be aware of any concerns.
To see this article in YES Weekly, click here. Featured in the 2/28 edition.
Something special happened on the evening of February 19. Gone was Valentine’s Day, but love was certainly in the air. The love of food and fellowship. Thus, the story of another Chef’s Table. This one, featuring Chef Chris Russell of B. Christopher’s Steakhouse. It could’ve been made special by the fact that the 40-seat dinner sold out in two days flat. It could’ve been made special by the fact that Chef Russell added four more seats that sold out in ten minutes to accommodate a waiting list. But what made it most memorable and extraordinary was the sheer delight in the camaraderie of Russell’s guests, some who’d never stepped foot in his restaurant. And that’s what Chef’s Tables are all about. To introduce you to a chef, get to know him or her a little better and to dive in and try a restaurant that maybe you just haven’t gotten around to yet. Oh, and it’s to also have a little fun. And by the chatter in the room, I feel pretty certain that folks were having a great time.
Established in 2000, B. Christopher’s American Steakhouse was a popular restaurant in Burlington and enjoyed business there for nearly 15 years before Russell relocated to downtown Greensboro four and a half years ago. I’d just eaten there for the first time last August and reviewed it here on Page 8 after a wonderful experience. It was then we all agreed that this steakhouse, which was about much more than just steak, was a natural fit for a Chef’s Table. Russell spent part of his growing up years in Burlington and attending Elon College before he began his culinary journey. He says his first love as a chef has been roasting and grilling proteins but he’s enjoyed and going in many other directions over his 30-year professional career. “Lately, I don’t think about what I cook or how I’m cooking necessarily, but why I’m cooking and putting this on a plate,” he says. Russell says today he’s taking a more artistic approach. “Not to be too serious about it because it is just nutrients that people need, but like any artist, I want people to see what I’m up to. Hopefully people will see the care in it, whether it’s the knife skills or vegetable cuts, the layers and depth of flavor. Our palates works in a linear way and a bite may catch you one way and by the time you finish the it may taste another way.”
Chef prepared four courses, each featuring a different key component from Shellfish to Sweet. Shout out to my girl, Ericca Smith for taking photos of the courses. She’s a great photog.
Citrus/ Thai chile / mango / ginger / rice vinegar / mint / oil
Grilled Pear Salad
Greens / pears / candied walnuts / blue cheese / mustard vinaigrette / caramelized onions / balsamic
45-day Dry Aged Ribeye
Horseradish potatoes / roasted roma tomatoes / foyot sauce
Flourless Chocolate Torte / raspberry coulis
Each course was thoughtfully prepared and I heard more than one person say that the salad was the best they’d ever had. I, for one, love a great steak. And Russell’s ribeye was simple, yet beautifully presented. I can’t think of a single time I’ve ever enjoyed a flourless chocolate torte, but our dessert that evening was very creamy and very rich and really delicious.
Speaking of his cooking style, Russell told me, “I like clean approachable ingredients that people are familiar with and I like to sneak in some that people aren’t and that’s also fun.” Russell’s approachability extends far beyond just his food in the kitchen. After welcoming the guests at the Chef’s Table and retreating to the kitchen to get some courses out, Russell made it a point to come out and speak to each guest, often taking a seat at their table to enjoy some conversation. Chef’s Table “alum” Meg Lohuis, of Greensboro said, “Not only was the food phenomenal, but it was awesome that Chris was as involved with the group as he was. It was great chatting with him. It really struck me how personable he was.”
Russell has also been a mentor for many young chefs in the area, most notably, Chef Kris Fuller of the widely regarded Crafted restaurants in Winston-Salem and Greensboro. “When I met her as a teenager, I knew she had more get up and go in her pinky than most people had in their entire body, so it’s wonderful what she’s done and today I get inspiration from her and she and her family are very good friends.” Fuller recalls the day she walked into his restaurant and he took her under his wing, “Chris and his brother Eric were so kind and patient with me as just a kid in high school trying to figure out if my passion for cooking meant that this should be my career path. I didn’t know it then, but I know now that my time with them was very important in me pursuing this career. And all these years later, it’s great to have had worked under them and to still have a relationship with Chris to this day.”
Russell says he considers it a great accomplishment that he has been able to serve as a mentor for many sous chefs and others in his restaurant that he’s seen leave to achieve their own dreams. “It is one of the greatest feelings that one can have, when you can mentor or inspire a person in a way that they go on and do great things. I want to take what I’ve learned and give that to someone else. It should be the natural way of the world, to pass on our knowledge so that others can move on and do better. I take a lot of pride in that.”
Wanna go? B. Christopher’s American Steakhouse is located at 201 North Elm Street, Greensboro. bchristophers.com
OMG. Please eat here. ‘Nuf said if you ask me but I’ll go a touch further.
I’ve enjoyed a few great meals with mr. foodie at Vin 205 recently. One was a Wine and Swine Dinner that blew us away and blew our wine budget too, lol…because we bought some great new wine.
So good, in fact, that we decided to bring Chef Oren Feuerberg in on one of our Chef’s Tables. Four courses, family-style, with a great group of foodies and friends.
Read about it here in my latest food column in YES! Weekly!
Vin 205 has a little wine market with all kinds of lovely wine, plus local meats, boutique cheese, chocolates and wine accessories and they have plans to add even more. Vin 205 also has a great-looking brunch. Check them out!
Our next Triadfoodies Chef’s Table will be announced later this week. We’ll be doing a special kick-off of our High Country Events in October with Vidalia (date announced soon) and our November Chef’s Table returns to the Triad at Sophie’s Cork & Ale in Lexington on November 13. You’ll see that update in a future email.