While much of the current construction within Uptown Charlotte is hotel and apartment based, the development of a new restaurant is something a foodie gets excited about. During this winter, I watched the facelift on a corner of the Hearst Tower eventually become the new “farm to fork” seafood restaurant, Sea Level.
The restaurant’s specialty is raw oysters and they feature a daily happy hour (HH) special to support them. You can get their namesake oyster just a buck each during HH. You read that correctly, their signature item is only a dollar from 4-7 PM.
The oysters are served on the half shell on a platter of ice along with crackers, a lemon wedge, and two dipping sauces. When the platter arrived, my friend and I were somewhat intimidated. Let’s be honest, raw oysters are not the most beautiful creature from the sea.
However, the presentation is clean and fresh and we were ready to give it a try. We said “Cheers” to the new experience and took them like a shot of liquor. The taste is strong and varies from start to finish.
You can immediately taste the saltiness along the edge of the shell, but the oyster has a cool and raw taste that you tend to overlook when eating them fried. They are the perfect summer treat during these blistering hot days.
With so many great options on the menu, we needed a few extra minutes to order our main courses. The “Starters” and “Fun Food” section of the menu offers a variety of options that when combined can make a meal. The server suggested pairing two to three items when taking that approach.
One of my friends made her own taco combo by ordering each of the featured tacos on the menu. The tacos are of the smaller variety, but filled to the brim of the shell with meat and vegetable goodness. Each one can be consumed in about four bites, so order two if you have a favorite flavor.
I decided to order the Oyster Slider and the Shrimp and Grits. The fried oyster on the slider had a crunchy texture in between the lightly toasted buns. The jalapeno aioli gave it a little extra kick of flavor that pleased my spicy taste buds.
I must say, the “shrimp and grits” were the highlight of my dinner. The portion size was quite larger than I expected since it was listed on the Starter section. Because it was so delicious, I still ate every bite. As a born and raised Southerner, I know good grits and these were great! The dish was creamy and flavorful with the freshness of shrimp that you can’t always find away from the coast. The chorizo was, once again, that touch of spice that I enjoy.
If seafood isn’t your dish of choice, you can still find plenty on the menu at Sea Level. One of my friends that joined us for dinner does not eat gluten, is a vegetarian, and also lactose intolerant but she still managed to easily find a great dish. She had the Veggie Burger (with no bun) and a side of fries. Again, the portion size was generous and she thought it was a fantastic meal.
No Friday night dinner is complete without a few cocktails. My friends both had the Original Sin Cider which is served in a can along with a glass. They both often choose ciders at when ordering a drink and stated that this one has a lighter taste which they prefer.
I chose a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from the wine menu which was quite extensive. The glass was a large pour especially for the price. I saw several unique cocktails listed on the menu, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, that would make Sea Level a great choice for a happy hour spot.
If you need something sweet to complete your meal, don’t forget to check out the dessert menu. We tried the Pineapple Upside Down Dessert Shooter. It is a light dessert with a very generous price of $3.00. In addition to the pineapple flavor, it is made of vanilla cake with cream in between each layer. Let’s not overlook that it is topped with a dab of sea salt caramel…need I say more?
In addition to the great food and drink, the service was flawless from start to finish. I was easily able to make a reservation on their website. I received an email confirmation immediately after making the reservation as well as a follow up text on the day of attendance. Parking in Uptown can be discouraging to some, so please know that Sea Level will validate your parking from the Hearst Tower.
You can walk upstairs or take the elevator up to the Lobby floor where the restaurant is nestled along the corner closest to Tryon Street. Don’t forget to bring your ticket with you to dinner. If you decide to stay in Uptown to extend your evening, you’re centrally located on 5 th Street between Tryon Street and College Street. It will be a quick walk to most bars, Time Warner Cable Arena for a Hornets game, or Blumenthal Performing Arts’ theaters.