The Queen City of Food: Charlotte

In my year and a half as a “southerner,” I’ve had Charlotte on my list of spots in North Carolina to check out. A few months ago, I had a work event on a Friday in Charlotte and decided to stay the weekend to visit with a friend and eat our way through the city. I’ve never thought of Charlotte as a foodie town, especially not compared to the Instagrammable meals I’ve seen in Ashleville and Charleston, but I was happily surprised to discover that Charlotte has got a lot to offer for foodies. There are some drool-worthy photos in this post, so prepare yourself before scrolling any further for the best salty and sweet of the Queen City of Food: Charlotte, North Carolina.

Every now and then we get our group of digital consultants who are based in the southeast together in-person for a meeting, and since there is no majority of us in any particular city, we are able to pick any city where we have team members based out of. Last summer we were in Nashville, Tennessee where I stayed the weekend with friends to eat our way through that honky tonk town. In November, we got together again and decided on Charlotte, North Carolina – which was extra convenient for me since I could drive over from Raleigh. I ended up taking charge of planning the work-portion of the trip and then stayed with my friend Jackie who took the reigns on giving me the VIP foodie tour around the city. If you’re planning a visit to Charlotte, here are all of the spots that we ended up at and I can’t recommend them all enough. My only advice: bring stretchy pants.

NoDa Brewing Company: We started our work event off Thursday evening with a tour of NoDa Brewing Company. Despite not being a beer lover myself, we had an awesome tour guide and learned a lot as we got the full tour of the brewery and history of NoDa. The event organizer Jenn could not have been sweeter and more accomodating for our group. Our private tour was free, which meant we had plenty of budget left-over for pre-dinner brews.

Midtown Smokehouse: After the brewing company tour, we headed over to Midtown Smokehouse on a recommendation from a friend that this was THE place to go in Charlotte for BBQ. In fact, this is apparently where the Obamas go for BBQ when they are in town. I have no idea if that is an actual fact, but it was told to me, so I believed it and can attest to the BBQ being of presidential quality. We did a family size meal that I selected in advance for the group, which had so many smoked meats like chicken, brisket and the best pulled pork I’ve had in NC (fact!), lots of mac and cheese, some slaw and delicious, delicious cornbread. This is definitely one of those restaurants you need to bring your stretchiest pants to fully enjoy.

Tupelo Honey CafeAfter we visited the original Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville last spring, I have been dreaming of their biscuits and fresh jam ever since. After our morning meeting, a few of us grabbed a quick lunch at Tupelo Honey before my coworkers headed to the airport and I went to meet Jackie. I genuinely believe I could live off of these biscuits alone. My coworkers got the fried green tomatoes, and I had the fried chicken cobb salad, which doesn’t necessarily fall under the category of “healthy” but it’s the south y’all. If you make it to any of the Tupelo locations, you can try these southern dishes like Cackalackie Pork Shoulder Steak, Tupelo Shrimp & Grits, and Shoo Mercy Sweet Potato Pancakes. 

Dilworth Tasting Room: Out of all of the places we went in Charlotte, the Dilworth was my favorite, for my many reasons. First, I finally reunited with my long-lost soulmate Jackie and within minutes of reconnecting we walked straight to the Dilworth for a non-stop supply of vino and charcuterie. The presentation of the charcuterie was awesome (and Instagram worthy, obvs) and all of the flavors of olives, nuts, meats and cheeses were exactly what we needed on a Friday afternoon after a long work week. If we didn’t have dinner reservations for later that evening, I think we could have easily closed out the Dilworth and maybe wiped out their Pinot Noir supply. We opted to forgo showering or freshening up before dinner, just to really maximize every minute we had to spend at the Dilworth, which after a few classes of vino and catching up with an old friend was a no brainer.

The Cellar at Duckworth’s: Despite bellies full of wine and cheese, any good foodie knows you must power through to make the most out of 48 hours in a city. Luckily Jackie’s husband Ryan joined us for dinner so we could split a few things between the three of us, and not totally bust a gust. We ate a lot of things here, we also continued drinking, so my memory of exactly what we ate may be a little fuzzy, but there was one thing that definitely stood out as unique and delicious: House Made Waffle Cones with ponzu poke tuna , macadamia nut | coconut shrimp | chicken sriracha honey, bacon. SO. DANG. GOOD. Too bad it was dark (in the cellar) so we have no photographic evidence of this meal, but you’ll just have to trust me if you go and order that app. We also had truffle mac and cheese and split the Cellar burger, which left us happily full. But no true foodie is ever “too full to eat more” so we powered through to get dessert at a different spot.

The King’s Kitchen: Ryan was really talking up the Banana Pudding from the King’s Kitchen so we made a stop there after dinner. To be honest, I had never actually had banana pudding before this so I was half dreaming of my bed, but I trust my former-New Yorkers taste in food, and I’m so glad we made the stop. This banana pudding was b-a-n-a-n-a-s. The pudding was finished off with a marshmallow topping that was unreal. The rest of the menu at King’s looked great, and the restaurant supports a lot of charities and has a great mission which you can read about here. After that, we decided we had to call it a night. It’s a marathon not a sprint, and we had a full foodie day ahead of us on Saturday. Literally. The Charlotte Marathon was Saturday.

7th Street Public Market: Obviously we did not run a marathon. We’re foodies, not athletes. We took the light rail to the 7th street public market and after surveying all of our options, we settled on this salty and sweet selection of a freshly glazed donut and a side of bacon. The heart wants what the heart wants. Part of the reason Jackie and I have gotten along so well for all these years, is that we like to eat a little bit of everything instead of ordering a full entree. Which is perfect for Saturday morning foodie adventures. We also both spent the morning congratulating each other on how “easy breezy” we were being – since we might tie for the Gold in the corporate America olympics for high stress levels. But nothing calms the soul quite like an IV of coffee, and a bacon & donut breakfast combo.

Price’s Chicken Coop: After watching a bit of the marathon, we were motivated to skip the light rail and walk the mile and a half back to the house. It was a nice way to get in some steps and enjoy the nice weather. And just as we were patting ourselves on our backs for deciding to walk back, we smelled the most glorious smell you ever did smell. So we back-tracked a little bit to investigate and came upon Price’s Chicken Coop. The sign claimed it was Charlotte’s finest fried chicken, so we felt a moral obligation to see for ourselves. So like any normal person would do, we ordered one piece of chicken to share, sat on a stoop outside of the fire station and ate a few bites of fried chicken. And it was dang good. No shame in our game.

KindredAfter an afternoon of lounging around and prepping some cookie dough, we drove out to Davidson, NC for our early-bird-special-dinner-reservation at Kindred.We even showered and cleaned up nicely for this fancy dinner (see above for photographic proof). The Kindred is a hot spot and tough to get a reservation, and there were people lined up to pop in as soon as the doors opened at 5pm. This is DEFINITELY worth the drive outside of Charlotte to grab dinner here. And as soon as the bread comes out, you can totally see why. Ryan met us there which meant we could order even more food to share, which was perfect because it was hard to narrow down what to select from the entire menu, everything looked so good.

Look at that pop-over bread. It’s called Milk Bread and is made with homemade butter and sea salt. The menu changes daily, so there’s no telling what will be on the menu when you go there, but I guarantee everything will be just as delicious as our evening. We also shared the Scallops a la Plancha, Duck Fat Potatoes (yum!) and Tagliatelle.

Probably the best thing I ate the entire weekend (and my entire life) but did not get a great photo of before we dug in was the dessert: the Milk Bread Cinnamon Roll with cream cheese icing. MOVE OVER CINNABON there’s a new cinnamon roll in town and it’ll change your dang life. BLESS UP CHILD.

I’m a little ashamed to admit that after this amazing dinner we went home and baked (and sampled) three batches of cookies, but go big or go home right?

So if you’re making the trip to Charlotte and don’t have a VIP foodie tour like I did with Jackie and Ryan, you can follow our adventures from this post and I guarantee you will not leave the city hungry or disappointed. Enjoy y’all!