Encore American Bistro opens in Winston-Salem

by Eric Ginsburg

Tiny burgers, Encore style.

The signs next to the kitchen and on a hallway door still read, “Rana Loca,” but on Dec. 1 the space officially became Encore, an American bistro replacing the global Latin restaurant. The staff, including award-winning chef Mike Millan, will stay on, and Encore will continue to buy “fresh produce grown locally.” A few other holdovers remain intact as well, including the more popular menu items like the black bean burger, fish tacos, Cuban sandwich and the mahi mahi. The rest of the menu received a signifi- cant overhaul, offering American classics with an eye towards Southern cuisine. The menu boasts fried chicken, French fries ($4) and macaroni and cheese ($7) as sides, BBQ ribs and steak ($25). Vegetarians can find a number of options marked on the menu too, as can diners looking for gluten-free choices.

There are two pasta options — mushroom fettuccini ($17) and baked bolognaise ($19). Seafood offerings abound, including a mouth-watering description of the crispy haystack calamari and the She-Crab bisque soup, a popular South Carolina dish. Appetizers range from $7-13, with a sandwich going for about $10 but most en- trees costing just under double. Encore, which takes its name from the Stevens Center for the Performing Arts next door and the theater district in the City of the Arts, is decorated accordingly. Patrons sitting at the bar will notice images from playbills and local movie posters, like one for the RiverRun Film Festival, as part of the countertop. Plastic film reels decorate a portion of a wall near a stretch of black and white carica- tures of actors and actresses. Dividing the restaurant through the center are the bar and flight of stairs leading up to a VIP room and private dining area and a balcony with a few seats overlooking the rest of the patrons. The right side of Encore is primarily more intimate seating and less well lit, giving off a lounge feel, while the left side has high ceilings, brighter lights, and exaggerated backs to the booth seats. Think classic American diner booths but taller and more elegant. Surrounded by dark yellow walls, the majority of the dining tables are black and circular, though the tables along the wall are dark wood. The chairs are black as well, firm but comfortable, and the bar stools come with a low back to provide a level of support. As part of the preview party, guests were invited to sample min- iature burgers as well as bread with a variety of spreads and enjoy free drinks during the late afternoon on

Dec. 1, prior to offering 20 percent off dinner. Guests entered via a long, red carpet past the outdoor seating, which varied from metal chairs to padded loveseats. The small burgers, which were seared, were likely prepared with eggs and were served with what was probably a house herb may- onnaise and pre-made bread. The mustard spread was rich in texture and likely made in house.

While there is significant car-ryover from Rana Loca, patrons commented on how different the space looked. Encore will offer live jazz every Wednesday night, as well as live music on the weekends. For now, the Rana Loca website remains unchanged, and a search for a site for Encore came up empty. The change may disappoint some devoted patrons, but owner Mike Cahoon helped explain the decision in a press release. “Even though we have received great comments about our global Latin food, we wanted to capture more of a weekly repeat customer,” Cahoon said.

Try out their Southern offerings for yourself and see if you fit the profile they’re looking for, assum- ing, of course, you can afford the prices.