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MEDITERRANEAN FROM AROUND THE WAY

 daniel@yesweekly.com | @Daniel_Schere

The upstart Brookstown neighborhood of Winston-Salem may be one of the city’s most beautiful hidden gems. It is still relatively tranquil at night, unlike its counterparts of Fourth Street and Trade Street, which are buzzing with activity. At 6:30 pm, Meridian Restaurant is mostly empty with only a few customers at the bar. But over the course of the next 30 minutes that begins to change, as several parties stroll into the dimly lit dining room.

Meridian is a dinnertime-only operation that offers cuisine from the Mediterranean, especially southern France and northern Italy. The main menu changes every day, with everything being made in-house and 90 percent of the ingredients being local, says executive chef and owner Mark Grohman.

“We’re really hands-on here,” he said. “We fabricate meals. We don’t just open up packages and throw it on the grill.”

The homemade elements come to life in his house lasagna, which features layers of sweet potatoes and herbed ricotta cheese that melt in your mouth, complemented by a garlic cream sauce. Most entrees on the menu tend to be on the expensive side, but there is also a tapas menu with less expensive, less filling options like chorizo stuffed mushrooms and garlic sautéed shrimp. Meridian also features a lengthy list of local, national and international wines that give this restaurant the urban, up-tempo feel that is gracing this part of town.

Meridian has an ambience, which is almost a cross between bistro and bar. This is accomplished through dim lighting and large windows that give it a swanky appearance. It is the kind of place you can take a date, go out for a friend’s birthday dinner, or plan an after-work outing. The restaurant will turn eight in February.

Grohman moved around several times growing up becasue his dad was in the army, and he attributes his cooking skills to his mom’s side of the family. He has been cooking since 1990. In college he worked in the restaurant industry for beer money and rent. He initially had ambitions of becoming a pilot, but after the 9/11 attacks he was unable to find a job in aviation and decided to head to the kitchen instead.

He has participated in the Fire in The Triad competition for the last three years, where he has gone as far as the semifinals. He says Friday and Saturday nights are Meridian’s busiest. Sometimes, Grohman will come into the dining area and make conversation with customers or even serve their food.

Grohman thinks the emphasis on locally grown food has given his restaurant a high reputation. The ingredients come from six farms, all located within 20 miles of the restaurant.

“It depends on what my farmers are pulling out of the ground and what I feel like bringing in the door,” he said. !

WANNA go?

Meridian Restaurant is located 411 South Marshall Street in Winston- Salem and is open Tuesday-Sunday from 4:30 pm until 10 pm. Call 336-722-8889 or visit http://meridianws.com/home.

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