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Taste Of Charlotte Talk With Unpretentious Palate's Kristen Wile

Taste of Charlotte
Taset of Charlotte in uptown.

The annual Taste of Charlotte Festival is back from today through Sunday. For a weekend of food, music and fun. Six blocks of Tryon Street will be filled with more than 100 restaurant tents offering samples. It's one of the Charlotte area's largest outdoor family festivals and admission is free. WFAE's Nick De la Canal talked about the Taste of Charlotte with Kristen Wile, founder of Unpretentious Palate. It's a digital publication covering food and drink in Charlotte.

Nick De la Canal: Hi Kristen.

Credit Kristen Wile

Kristen Wile: Hi. Thanks for having me.

De la Canal: Okay. So you're an insider in Charlotte's food scene. What do people need to know before attending this year?

Wile: Yeah so, that it’s free, but the food isn't free. That's one thing that I think people see that it's free and they're like, oh great I get all this, you know, food from 100 restaurants for free. That's not the case. You do have to buy coins and you trade those coins in for food. But there's a good mix of local restaurants in there this year. It does tend to lean a little bit heavier on the national brand side. But if you do it right you can hit up some really good restaurants.

De la Canal: Yeah, and there is a wide range of restaurants participating this year. We've got everything from pizza, Indian food, barbecue, chili, burgers, ice cream, seafood, I could really go on.

Wile: Yes, everything.

De la Canal: Is there anything you're most looking forward to sampling this weekend?

Wile: Yes. So my list probably starts, as you mentioned the chili cheeseburgers, Chubz Famous Chiliburgers is one of my favorite places in town and they're so underrated and people don't know about them. They're doing cheese fries and chili cheese fries. So that's definitely one of them. Stokes is taking part this year doing their doughnut. So I don't know if you've had their one pound doughnut but they're doing donut holes for the Taste of Charlotte. So it's like a mini version of their one pound doughnut. Sukoshi is another one. I love that place in uptown, so it's a lot of good uptown restaurants will be part of it as well.

De la Canal: And so then also there's going to be an awards ceremony later tonight at 8:00 p.m. Also in uptown at the festival.

Wile: Yes. So they have judges that will be tasting all 100 plus food items there and they'll be coming up with winners in different categories. So there's an overall winner and then a bunch of smaller ones. So entree, new bite, appetizer, most unique, healthiest and dessert will all get awards and they get a silver platter to display at the restaurant if they win.

De la Canal: And there were also cooking demonstrations on the schedule as well. Are there any that you're keeping your eye on?

Wile: So the cooking demonstrations are sponsored by Challenge Butter, so it's their corporate chef that will be offering the demos. And I think that'll **be more like instead of picking out a particular demo. They do have seating there. So if you're in need of a little break. I think it's a good time to kind of sit down, check out the demo, plan around the schedule or just pop in there when you need a break.

De la Canal: Also you know Charlotte has never really enjoyed a reputation for having exceptionally good food, I feel. I can't tell you how many people have told me you'd like in order to get good barbecue. You have to leave the city. Do you think that that's fair?

Wile: No, I don't think that's fair. It's actually funny timing. This week I was at a conference, Haymaker with the James Beard Foundation, and this was kind of the conversation. It was a lot of chefs around town. I think there were like 22 of us and just talking about how do we change that, that conversation.

And one of the things is, you know, Charlotte is just not a tourism town in the way that Charleston or Asheville are. Like, we don't have a beach, we don't have the mountains, but a lot of people come here.

And so Laura White from CRV was saying that, I think, it's 58 percent of people who come to visit Charlotte are visiting a friend. So I think a lot of it is on us to kind of be the ones to be like, 'hey, here are some great restaurants to check out here. There is this great barbecue place called Sweet Lew’s that you should go to in Charlotte' and kind of work from the inside to change that reputation because there is great food here.

De la Canal: Yeah. And I guess that this weekend would be a great opportunity to sample that with some of your friends?

Wile: Exactly. Yes.

De la Canal: Okay, Kristen Wile is the founder of Unpretentious Palate. Thank you, Kristen.

Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal