EDITOR’S NOTE: The Harvest Moon Grille is open Tuesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for take-out only. “Oh, man,” a diner
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Harvest Moon Grille is open Tuesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for take-out only.
“Oh, man,” a diner at the next table says. “I’ve never had a breakfast bowl like this before.” She plucks out a pink sliver and drags it through fried rice, vegetables, and beef topped with pickled cabbage, greens, and sunny-side-up eggs. “Goes perfectly with the eggs,” she tells her friend, and I’m instantly jealous of her menu choice.
Later, Cassie Parsons, chef and owner of Harvest Moon Grille, enlightens me: “That’s the Korean-inspired bibimbap breakfast bowl.” The pink slivers, she explains, are pickled turnips grown not far from Lincolnton’s city limits.
All around us is a sea of fast-food restaurants and other chains — “84 at last count,” Parsons says, but she isn’t fazed. Her concept for Harvest Moon Grille is a focus on local food from small, sustainable farms, and the community to which she belongs. “We do a lot of forgotten arts around here: canning, curing, reading, talking, enjoying each other’s company,” she says, interrupting herself to jump up and give a hug to someone named Matt. “He was my first customer, six years ago.”
Parsons uses the word “intuitively” to explain how she cooks. “I like whimsical, fun food — taking traditional items and spinning them just enough to make them more relevant to where we are.” Rather than mix or blend, Parsons “builds” her dishes.
That description certainly applies to my own order, Harvest Moon Grille’s signature dish named for her son. “The Jeremy” is a “burger” of fluffy sweet potato, shredded carrots, and Pink Lady apples — a crate of them sits on a nearby bookshelf — coated with bread crumbs, topped with sprouts, and slathered with an aioli jam made of jalapeños, sugar, vinegar, and mayo, Parsons’s spin on sriracha, “because I was over that.” The result is a soft, patty-shaped soufflé with the slight crunch of fry, plus a combo of sweet and heat, all on an old-fashioned yeast roll made, like all of the restaurant’s breads, right on-site.
“We do a lot of forgotten arts around here: canning, curing, reading, talking.”
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A devotion to regional, seasonal food means the restaurant’s suppliers are close by. “All our protein [comes from] only 15 miles away,” Parsons says. She has relationships with her farmers, and, for a long while, she owned a farm herself, named Grateful Growers — “because we were.” A Florida native, Parsons spent a month every summer working on a farm outside Asheville, and, having fallen in love with the area, she attended college in Brevard and at Appalachian State University. No surprise, given those Southern roots, that chowchow is on the menu, and the house salad dressing is a vinaigrette made with sorghum. “The flavor is stupid good,” Parsons declares.
Twice a week, she takes reservations for a dinner that grew out of a successful Brunch & Learn concept, where diners “get what I give you,” she says. Those evenings, Parsons creates a surprise meal of what’s fresh, in season, and unique, then talks about where the ingredients came from and what she did with them. “I’ll learn as much about you as possible before I begin building something,” she says. Today, she’s tinkering with a Cuban-inspired recipe of tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, onion, tomato paste, oil, and a cabbage chiffonade wrapped within homemade Turkish flatbread, “and it is duh-licious.”
So keep going. Swim through the neon-lit moat of franchises toward downtown. Where the speed limit slows to 20 and sidewalks line the street. Where the old buildings are red-brick, and the courthouse stands tall on the square. Where Harvest Moon Grille occupies what was once a hospital, and Cassie’s in the kitchen, building something fresh.
Harvest Moon Grille
331 East Main Street
Lincolnton, NC 28092