Taking the ‘Big View’

Diner wows with all-day breakfast, broad menu

By Amy Rogers | Photos by Ray Sepesy

An audacious restaurant boasting it has something for everyone, Big View Diner has earned those bragging rights. Where else can a table of hungry customers order breakfast, burgers, steaks, seafood, cakes and cocktails — all at the same time of day?

This busy Ballantyne spot is a hybrid of an old-school diner and a modern, full-service restaurant, offering an expansive — but not necessarily expensive — menu. Guests can perch at the counter for a quick bite, relax in a comfy booth for a full meal or watch a sporting event in the “Big Bar” — which offers a full range of libations that include more than a dozen beers from local breweries.

The diner culture so familiar to many northern urbanites is still unusual in the Charlotte area. The original establishments became popular in the 19th century when entrepreneurs began selling casual meals from train cars to traveling and working folks who appreciated the late-night hours and varied menus.

Big View Diner, located in The Shoppes at Ardrey Kell, is a joint effort between members of the Kaltsounis and Lambos restaurant families. They’re behind the success of sister restaurants Ilios Noche (two locations in south Charlotte) and the iconic Landmark Diner on Central Avenue.

Big View co-owner Frank Kaltsounis lives in Weddington, where for years he’d been watching development spread from Charlotte’s center city to surrounding areas. He and his partners envisioned a restaurant that would be a “one-stop shop.” They knew it was just a matter of time before Ballantyne would gain enough residents — plenty of them from New York and other cities where people flock to diners routinely — to make the neighborhood a perfect location.

Big View opened in May 2009 and has become a go-to destination for everything from weekend brunches to date-night outings. There’s also a private dining room with dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows for extra special celebrations, such as wedding rehearsal dinners.

Served all day, breakfast is a showstopper — featuring sublime French toast made from challah bread as well as fluffy omelets (all gluten-free) with maple-cured ham, wild mushrooms, feta cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, or most anything imaginable. An on-site bakery produces a stunning sweets array that includes house-made, yeast-raised doughnuts. Guests can watch through a large window as workers in the Big View Bakery create cakes, pies, scones, cinnamon rolls and other goodies. These pastry purveyors also offer classes in cheesecake baking, among other cooking topics.

Comfort foods such as brisket, meatloaf and pot pie are classic restaurant mainstays. But seafood abounds, too, prepared with strong Greek and Italian influences. A balsamic-grilled salmon with roasted asparagus and a goat cheese salad makes a perfect lighter entrée. It’s more colorful than a typical meat-and-three plate; though, the traditional version never leaves the menu for those who have a hankering.

Now that summer is here, Big View also beckons with a changing menu of ice cream flavors. Look for strawberry to be accompanied by peach, blackberry and other seasonal fruits in handcrafted confections guaranteed to bring on a welcome chill, whether sitting inside the restaurant or on the adjoining, shaded patio.

These days, families have replaced railroad workers as typical diner clientele. Decisions about meals are often driven by school schedules rather than train times. Nevertheless, the diner culture that began long ago is still flourishing at places such as Big View. Like the Charlotte region itself, the restaurant pays homage to the tried-and-true while continuing to reach for what’s new.