We were in Charlotte, North Carolina for a few days and I got to try some BBQ, soul food, and other southern specialties.
Hungry after a breakfast-less morning flight, we started our first day with an early lunch at Mert’s Heart & Soul, where I had fried whiting (fish) with collards, okra/tomato, and cornbread. I was lucky our hotel (the Marriott Residence Inn – highly recommended!) had a kitchen with full sized fridge because I could already tell that the portions in this city were large. The image above is just my leftovers, which I gladly carried around until check-in time.
The internet seems to think that there’s no good BBQ in Charlotte but I thought the dinner we had on our first night, at Mac’s Speed Shop, was pretty damn good. We didn’t rent a car, so we took the Lynx (light rail) to get there – we probably could have walked, but it was getting late. A bonus was that Thursday night features North Carolina drafts for $3.50, and their beer list is large.
I tried my first ever boiled peanuts (left) at the not-for-profit King’s Kitchen, and I’d also never had pimento cheese before this trip - pictured left at King’s Kitchen and above in a creamy dipping version at Mac’s. I was under the mistaken impression that NC didn’t have regional hot dogs, but I was wrong. This one is from Green’s Lunch, a cute older hot dog spot near our hotel, and has mustard, ketchup, slaw, and chili. I ordered it “all the way” just like we do in Rhode Island.
The culinary highlight of our trip was Halcyon Flavors from the Earth. Everything they served was magic. We first visited for some cocktails on Friday night – it was a cool, clear night and perfect for sitting on their large balcony. Their cocktail list is mouth-watering and I especially liked the Some Pig, described as “Smoky Maker’s 46 steeped with Bacon. Orange bitters. Maple syrup. The best of brunch over ice.”
The next day for brunch we couldn’t stop ordering food – luckily there were three of us to share. My grit bowl, above, came with a choice of toppings – I went for maple griddle pork belly, pimento cheese, and roasted cottonmill mushrooms. I wanted to crawl into the bowl instead of going back to the airport. Later, when I did, I had to keep a close eye on the TSA agents to make sure they didn’t make off with our leftover honey-glazed blackberry-buttered cornbread.
What we loved about this restaurant was that despite serving up some of the most amazing food we’ve had, it didn’t take itself too seriously; on the other hand, the whimsy of the menu also wasn’t contrived.