Friday, December 16, 2011

Carolina Kitchen

Carolina Kitchen
38 Macaulay St, Coorparoo

Last Friday night, I did something that should speak volumes about the dining selection in Toowoomba. We drove all the way to Brisbane to have dinner, before driving all the way back (about 3hr return journey). It's not just that there aren't many restaurants around here to begin with, the quality/price is just not competitive compared with what Brisbane has to offer. Not only that, I just haven't been to anywhere new and exciting in so long (evident by my lack of new posts) that I HAD to.

I chose Carolina Kitchen because I'd heard so much about it. It carries a lot of hype in the food blogging world. I've seen mentions on Twitter and posts on Urbanspoon. Southern American food is something I don't have great exposure to but completely appeals to me (hearty soul food... how could it not?) Mochi went with her friends a while back and claimed it was good.

She had warned me that the restaurant was located randomly in a very residential part of Coorparoo. She wasn't wrong there.

When we walked up to the restaurant, I was very taken aback. For one thing, calling it a 'restaurant' is stretching it. It's basically a takeaway store and a small one at that. There are a few tables inside but they were very competitive when we first got there. I think it's a miracle we got a table at all (in fact, we ordered takeaway, assuming we'd have to eat in the car, but another diner vacated just in time).

I had expected a real Southern-style diner (kinda like Sylvias that was featured on Australian MasterChef) but instead, it's a takeaway shop that sells some food items that could be considered Southern.

Being very hungry and curious, we ordered a smattering of everything: ribs, wings, fries and a chili dog.

NY Fries

The fries arrived first. They are crisp shoestring fries with a bit of sour cream, cheese and chili sauce. Byron hated these because he thought they were over-cooked and too thin. I love thin fries and especially love crispy ones so I thought these were perfect.

Buffalo wings with a blue cheese dipping sauce

Next came the wings. The wings had an alright flavor - nothing stand out. They weren't super juicy but then again, they weren't dry either. I did like the cheese sauce and ended up using that to dip my fries.

Chili dog

The chili dog came next. The appearance underwhelmed me and indeed, this was something that Byron wanted to try but I didn't care much for. It ended up being the tastiest order!

Chili dog interior

It was a very simple hot dog with a soft bun, mustard and a squishy chili sauce but it tasted sooo good.

Aunt Lilly Mae's BBQ ribs

Finally, our ribs arrived. This was the part I was looking forward to the most but unfortunately it was a let down for me. I mean, they weren't terrible but my expectations were quite high and they weren't even close to meeting them. The sauce was just like plain BBQ to me, and too sweet for my palate. The ribs themselves... it seemed like the flavor hadn't penetrated into the meat and was just sitting on the outside? They weren't very tender/melty either. I've definitely had better ribs out (The Smoke beats this hands down). Heck, I know I've made better myself!

I wouldn't recommend Carolina Kitchen except maybe for their hotdogs. In my opinion, its the perfect example of somewhere that's been brutally overhyped. If I had zero expectations of this place, I might've thought 'yeh... it's alright' but as it was, I felt like I wasted my trip. Sorry guys!
Carolina Kitchen on Urbanspoon


  1. I agree. I so wanted to love this place but was really disappointed on all counts - food, service and price. Don't believe the hype!

  2. We tried this place before it became huge and loved them, but in my opinion it's now too big for such a small place and can be a bit disorganised sometimes.

    Shame you didn't like the ribs, as my american friend thinks these are the BEST in brisbane :)

  3. After reading mixed reviews, my husband and I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. The staff were friendly and it didn't take long for the place to fill up with dine in customers.

    I have to say that the food was average - we shared the wings, hot dog with chilli, fries and a grilled chicken burger. It was fresh but not all that tasty.
    I won't be going back again.

  4. It is slightly amusing that the tastiest thing you tried seemed to be the chili dog which, is prossibly the least Celiac friendly menu item when in your picture of the front of the restaurant, there is a sign for 'Celiac Supplies'. :P

  5. Hi Anonymous...

    I completely different notice that! I'm not Celiac (clearly). I guess for those who have those requirements would find the food more suited?

  6. thanks for the review...i've been wanting to try this place for ages but might give it a miss now. although you did get me curious about the hot dog!

  7. Celiac supplies is a separate shop, Also i have ordered a few things off the menu at this place the New york Fries are great. The Hot dogs and the ribs are ok but the real star is the Hoagies should definitely try them i still go back to this place for the Hoagies.

  8. This place is only 1 of 3 Southern American places in Brisbane, and quite frankly, I find it to be one of the best and most affordable ones. Telling people to "give this one a miss" is doing nothing but hurting this small business run by a very friendly family.

  9. Hi Anonymous...

    This is my food blog where I give reviews and suggestions based on how much I enjoyed the food. The bottom line is I didn't enjoy it that much and I don't recommend people go there with high expectations for the food. I'm sure the family is very friendly and if they take heed of what others think of their food, their business will be all the better.

  10. To Anonymous,

    Just because it is unique and a small business should not make it taboo to provide constructive criticism.

    Southern American food certainly has a long way to go in Brisbane and I admire anyone with the courage to take a risk and do what they love.

    However, the ribs and wings of this place were most definitely sub-par.

    They appeared to be pre-cooked and simply reheated when ordered. The result was a fairly dry meat which is unusual for chicken wings and pork ribs.

    The flavour was nice but it was lack lustre. I have had better wings on the bbq at home and better ribs from Sizzler.

    I really liked the chilli dog however.

    As Cora said, I would not recomend anyone make a special trip to go there with very high expectations (which is what we did). It is a great takeaway store, but nothing more.

  11. Unfortunately for Carolina Kitchen they have never claimed to be anything BUT a take-away store. The hype received for what in my opinion is great food has caused people to believe it's more than what it is; it is not a restaurant. You won’t get white table cloths, bottles of sparkling water, fine china and silver wear. Do me a favour and take a trip to North Carolina next time you are in the US – assuming you’ve actually ever been. Carolina Kitchen is a unique, family business in suburbia Brisbane offering something different in a town over-run by sushi shops! (Which, by the way no-one ever bothers to do a review on?!) To compare Carolina Kitchen to Blue Smoke a place with a half a million dollar fit out and location to boot is ludicrous! I appreciate this is YOUR blog and therefore YOUR opinion but I recommend you get down off your soap box because could you really do a better job if you weren’t hiding behind your computer screen?

  12. Hi Anonymous...

    That's a good point about the fact that they never claimed to be anymore more than a take-away store. Hype is a double-edged sword.

    I think you're right about how unfair it is to compare fit out with other, higher-budget restaurants but I stand by what I said regarding the food itself, particularly the ribs. They just weren't that great. The chili dog was delicious though and I loved the fries, both which I've acknowledged in my post.

    I'm not sure what you mean about going to North Carolina... as for hiding behind my computer screen, I wouldn't say I'm 'hiding' here. This blog isn't my job. It's not my way of hurting small businesses in secret. It's just my hobby and means of recounting food experiences as I see them and I've hardly been secretive about who I am throughout my posts.

    You had some valid points in your comment (i.e. about comparing like businesses) and I agree with them. In the future I'll take that aspect into account when I'm critiquing :).