WFAEats: Charlotte’s Changing Tastes

Sep 21, 2018

If you want to understand how the Charlotte food scene is evolving, consider this: You can now get vegan barbecue just north of the city at a spot called Barvecue.

Take a moment and let that sink in. The most iconic food associated with our culinary legacy has been modernized – or ruined, depending on your point of view.

These days, cooks are deep-frying blocks of mac and cheese at the same time they’re making dairy-free cheeses from nut milk. They’re pulverizing greens that no one would eat just a few years back into pricy smoothies.

A dumpling is no longer just a piece of dough cooked and served with chicken. In Charlotte, we can buy them filled with pork, shrimp, or chicken from the Dumpling Lady food truck.

And speaking of chicken: You may have enjoyed some the famous fare from Price’s Chicken Coop. But did you know you can get some of the city’s best fried chicken at the Quik Shoppe gas station on South Boulevard just a few blocks away?

Plenty of people have indulged in the delights at Amélie’s French Bakery and Café. But have you sampled the dozens of sweet and savory pastries at the Hong Kong Bakery? Bet you didn’t know that the award-winning Renaissance Patisserie began as a modest farm stand. If you visit Trader Joe’s in midtown, you drive directly past Le Macaron French Pastries, a tiny shop that also serves gelato and is owned by a couple from France.

Super G on Independence Boulevard sells food products from all over the world and has its own small food court featuring cooked-to-order Korean dishes. A little further out the highway at Grand Asia, you can pick your fish from a tank and have it prepared while you wait.

People going gluten-free sometimes settle for tasteless versions of wheat bread. They may not know that delicious injera, made from teff flour, contains no gluten. It’s a mainstay at Abugida Ethiopian Café and Nile Grocery and Café.

A beef dish at the Cooking Pot will have a different texture than what most of us are accustomed to because the meat is grass-fed, the Nigerian owners explain.

Ropa vieja from Cuba at Piece of Havana. Matzo ball soup at Poppy’s Bagels. Armenian crêpes at Ararat 17. Pupusas from Honduras and El Salvador at El Pulgarcito. The special Korean New Year’s menu at China Wing.

Outsiders may not associate these diverse dishes with Charlotte, but that’s a mistake. Like the city itself, our culinary identity is changing.

No one is suggesting that we abandon our beloved and boast-worthy foods; just the opposite. Think of it this way: When we try unfamiliar foods, we develop a broader context for examining and understanding what’s on our plate. An open mind and palate can help deepen our appreciation for the tried-and-true along with the new, for bibimbap and barbecue.

The Charlotte Museum of History will host “WFAEats: A Food Tasting Event” on Thursday, October 11 from 6 to 8 pm. Restaurants, caterers, and food purveyors will serve samples of their best food and drink. Attendees will vote for their favorites. Proceeds will benefit WFAE’s award-winning local news and Charlotte Talks. For tickets, visit this link at eventbrite.com.  

Amy Rogers writes WFAEats, a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and tackle the meatier side of the food scene in and around Charlotte.