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If I wanted to really eat in Charlotte NC...


Malkavian
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Alright, so having lived in the Charlotte area for 4 years, one might think I'd know where to go...but most of that was spent as a poor college student, so I have more friends at the Flying Saucer and CiCi's Pizza than any kind of higher end establishment (not that there's ANYthing wrong with the Saucer :D)

Anyway the point of this rambling post is: I'm tired of it! I'm a pretty good cook for a college-grad guy but I'd like to live a little as far as food goes, just don't have the slightest clue what's worth my time and what isn't around here or what is "must visit"

For that matter, anything of note between Charlotte and Raleigh would be of interest, as I head that way somewhat often.

Cheers :)

-evan

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Evan, that's a question so wide, it's almost impossible to answer in this kind of setting. In September, I'll have spent 20 years answering it, actually. So, as your professors in college probably directed you, Narrow your focus.

Define "worth your time." Are you looking for fun/funky/real? White-tablecloth creative? Historic/traditional? And "between Charlotte and Raleigh" is about 3 hours and covers close to 200 miles. That's a lot o' road.

You could just enter "charlotte" in the search field and you'll turn up quite a few threads covering that.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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Well fair enough, that was a really vague question :huh: I guess white-tablecloth and/or creative venues are more what I had in mind, maybe not the most elite place in town, but at this point Pho Real in University area is about the nicest place I frequent, I'd like to find a dependable step up, even if it's just a small step.

A place with a lounge or bar that welcomed cigar smokers would be awesome, but I don't hold my breath for that anymore these days.

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Well, here's an approach. As your professors probably taught you, develop a theme that you can use to broaden your education. The ol' "be a rifle, not a shotgun" idea works well whether you're learning to cook, learning to enjoy wine or broadening your dining scope.

So why not start by focusing on chef-owned restaurants? Charlotte has a nice variety in that style, and you can shape your eating adventures by thinking about what you like and don't like in a particular place.

If I were starting out with a fresh, young palate, I'd start with Lulu on Central, Ratcliffe on the Green uptown, the Fig Tree and Customshop in Elizabeth. All are locally owned, locally chefed -- cheffed? -- and all are a little bit different from one another in style.

The nice thing about doing it that way is that you can move up and down the scale as your budget allows. Instead of Ratcliffe and Customshop, for instance, you could do Penguin, Dish, Creation and Lulu.

The other nice thing about focusing on the local is that if you're in mind to teach yourself to cook, you can get inspiration from what chefs are doing with basically the same ingredients that are available to you.

For your road-to-Raleigh question, you can really have fun. North Carolina has some great food towns. Greensboro, for instance, has a small but thriving local food scene. Durham is a great food destination, with some of the best restaurants in the state. And if you feel like going farther afield, Asheville, Wilmington, Charleston and Carrboro/Chapel Hill are all such great food destinations that you can plan whole weekends around them.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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we can not say enough about Lulu. We enjoyed it so much we went twice in three days (w/ a some what non-descript & basic steak house that was just there in between visits. The steaks were not bad it was just not any thing special). Lulu can be some what crowded and loud but it is a fun place. The food was excellent and just different enough to be fun. The prices were decent and the wine list was very nice.

We wished we had more time to explore.

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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Just looking at the websites for a few of those names makes my stomach growl ;) But thanks! This gives me a place to start, and I'll just have to look around some

But speaking further afield, I've got a daytrip to Wilmington (possibly several, I'll be staying just down the road for a week) planned--Can't wait to hit Elijah's and Front St. brewery, and I'm sure I'll dig up some other great places.

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along similar lines....

is there a brew pub worth any thing in Charlotte or general vicinity? We did not see any thing (but were not particularly looking).

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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Just looking at the websites for a few of those names makes my stomach growl ;)  But thanks! This gives me a place to start, and I'll just have to look around some

But speaking further afield, I've got a daytrip to Wilmington (possibly several, I'll be staying just down the road for a week) planned--Can't wait to hit Elijah's and Front St. brewery, and I'm sure I'll dig up some other great places.

Good call. Wilmington has really become a good food town. I'll be down there myself in a few weeks, so post back on your finds.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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along similar lines....

is there a brew pub worth any thing in Charlotte or general vicinity?  We did not see any thing (but were not particularly looking).

Yes, there are a few places to consider. For brewpubs, Atlantic Beer and Ice is usually pretty good. But I also like places that have good beer selections, rather than places that brew their own. Flying Saucer is one, and Gin Mill is another. The former Mellow Mushroom, now Moon Doggies, has always had a great selection. My understanding is that it changed names and affiliations, but has the same owners, so I don't expect the selection to change. And if you want to buy beer, Brawley's is always worth a stop just to talk to Mike and see what's he's happy about. And it also isn't a brew pub per se, but Tim Schaffer's at the Lake puts a strong focus on beer. Shaffer writes for one of the brewing publications and bills himself as the Brew Chef.

And Gene Briggs at Table is doing another beer dinner soon, all Dogfish Head this time.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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Lan4- My go-to beer joint in Charlotte is the Saucer. True they don't brew there, but they have somwhere between 6 and 10 (last time I bothered to count) north carolina brews that are all very good.

I think Rock Bottom in the middle of town (On N. Tryon yes?) still brews their own, the guy that works that angle there used to be a customer at my old homebrew job. I've actually never been there but I hear good things about it pretty regularly.

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Lan4-  My go-to beer joint in Charlotte is the Saucer. True they don't brew there, but they have somwhere between 6 and 10 (last time I bothered to count) north carolina brews that are all very good.

I think Rock Bottom in the middle of town (On N. Tryon yes?) still brews their own, the guy that works that angle there used to be a customer at my old homebrew job.  I've actually never been there but I hear good things about it pretty regularly.

Thanks for catching my typo. I meant to type Rock Bottom, not Atlanta Beer & Ice. My apologies.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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Lan4-  My go-to beer joint in Charlotte is the Saucer. True they don't brew there, but they have somwhere between 6 and 10 (last time I bothered to count) north carolina brews that are all very good.

I think Rock Bottom in the middle of town (On N. Tryon yes?) still brews their own, the guy that works that angle there used to be a customer at my old homebrew job.  I've actually never been there but I hear good things about it pretty regularly.

Thanks for catching my typo. I meant to type Rock Bottom, not Atlanta Beer & Ice. My apologies.

I am glad he caught it as well. I could imagine driving around Charlotte trying to find Atlanta Beer & Ice (which if memory serves was an actual brewing company fr/ early in this century that is long, long out of business. I believe the owner of Six Feet Under down by Oakland Cemetery is a collector of their merchandise as is a friend and tail gating buddy of ours.

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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I would try Taqueria Mexico on South Blvd. (just North of Arrowood). I've never had a bad meal there (althogh the red salsa may have been a bit "ripe" last week at lunch).

Be adventurous - order the Baracoa de Cabrito - "BBQ Goat" (it's really kind of a rich stew with great spicing, chick peas, etc.) if it's the daily special.

Looks like the prices went up a bit on the newly printed menu but you have to go out of your way (or drink alot of beer) to spend more than $15 with tip.

BDM

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The best meal I've had in North Carolina was at Enoteca Vin in Raleigh. It's just a terrific restaurant.

If I were starting out with a fresh, young palate, I'd start with Lulu on Central, Ratcliffe on the Green uptown, the Fig Tree and Customshop in Elizabeth. All are locally owned, locally chefed -- cheffed? -- and all are a little bit different from one another in style.

One thing I'd add there is that, if you're interested in getting a taste of current national urban upscale restaurant trends (which you seem to be), you should check out the restaurants from the Harper's Restaurant Group, such as Arpa and Upstream. The Harper's group is very much in touch with what's going on in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. The Harper's restaurants don't have the local character of the places Purvis has mentioned, but Harper's brings a lot to Charlotte's table.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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