Zink American Kitchen

Zink American Kitchen gives you and your family the opportunity to dine affordably in a quietly impressive art deco environment. The predominant decorative art style of the 1920s and 1930s, characterized here by bold columns, strong colors, gargantuan gilded mirrors and colossal hanging lanterns, demands more than just a passing glance.

Striking and somewhat audacious, Zink’s interior also conveys a special feeling: a feeling, particularly to kids, of the absolute need for exemplary behavior. This is a fine linen, fabric-covered, deep pile-carpeted, city slicker of a restaurant, where the chefs have the capacity to dazzle, and where the kids are made to feel more than welcome. I relish places like this.

New American cooking refers to upscale, contemporary restaurants serving ethnic twists on old standbys and old-world peasant dishes made from luxury American ingredients. Examples are the pumpkin-crusted Maine scallops with smoked tomato grits and curry-spiced butter, and roasted Idaho brook trout with shellfish risotto, asparagus, salsa verde and lemon vinaigrette.

Despite the menu’s enticing array, our children predictably opted for one of their staples. Zink’s buster burgers come with cheddar cheese, applewood bacon, to-die-for parmesan herb fries and onion rings — a mountain of food for $6. The parents opened with stout beer-battered oysters with a fennel-watercress salad and English mustard sauce, together with a crispy pork confit with sweet potatoes, and apple and celery root salad ($9 each). Hot on the heels came duck “two ways,” a seared breast and duck leg confit, accompanied with sweet potato andouille hash and a honey seed reduction ($19). Also, we tasted an oven roasted chicken Panini with fresh mozzarella, roasted garlic aioli, basil and tomatoes ($11).

Zink is run by Tom Condron, the executive chef who directs 10 restaurants making up the Charlotte-based Harper’s Restaurant Group, including the Mimosa Grill and Upstream. Condron has globe-trotted his way to excellence by working with other top chefs in London, New York and Paris, and it shows.

Zink is a 5 o’clock Shangri-la after the umpteenth Saturday trek around Discovery Place — a deserved culinary utopia. Equally, Zink can be a prelude to an evening at the nearby children’s theater or, in our case, the professional bull riders’ event at the Bobcats Arena. This delightful restaurant is perfect for a special night on the town when you’re ready for food that is top flight, or a classic home-style lunch on the outside patio when weather permits.

Dollar deal: Lunch from $6-$19; dinner entrees $11-$28
Kid-friendly: Yes, very much so
To avoid a wait, go: Anytime. Very popular with families in summer.
Noise level: Usual laughter and dinner conversation
Décor/Atmosphere: Art deco/friendly, efficient and professional
Kiddie fare: Lunch menu offers mac & cheese
Anything healthy on the kiddie menu?: No kids’ menu, but the chef will try to accommodate any requests; perhaps grilled chicken breast.
Parent fare: Choices, choices . . . from scallops to short ribs
Bathroom amenities: No changing table, but very clean
High chair/booster cleanliness: Good
Got milk/juice?: Yes
Address: 201 North Tryon St., Charlotte
Phone: (704) 444 9001
Web site: www.arpawinebar.com
Overall rating: 5 out of 5