One of the great things about the food community here is how friendly everyone is. Several years ago, I’d regularly see Amy on Food at media dinners and we fast became friends. Sadly, she moved to Charlotte last year. The good news is, Amy invited me and the hubs up to stay with her and her family for a full weekend of good eating. So here’s what we did in our 36-ish hour visit to Charlotte.
Emeril’s – E2 Eatery
Located in Downtown Charlotte, is Emeril’s restaurant, E2. On this early Friday evening, the outside was packed with lots enjoying a crawfish boil. As crawfish was in season, Emeril’s had an all you can eat special for $5. But we weren’t here for that. We were here to get a taste of what Emeril’s is all about. Each visit to Emeril’s should begin with an oyster shooter – an oyster and Bloody Mary mix served in a shot glass. Get it with or without vodka added.
Emeril’s signature barbecue shrimp is on the menu, but if you really want a taste of New Orleans, get the gumbo. I’ve never had a dish that grew on me so much, so fast. Between meat and seafood, seafood is the winner here. While the huge, thick pork chop was tasty, the Drum with clams, mussels, chorizo in a tomato stew was outstanding. And they don’t give you any wimpy portions of any of the above mentioned seafood. Another dish of Trout and the fish special of the day, wrapped in kale, was phenomenal as well. Portions are big, but if you have room for dessert, opt for the bread pudding or bacon crepes.
Sleep in on Saturday, but do allow time to visit the Atherton Mill Market. This smallish farmer’s market has a diverse offering including fresh produce, cheeses, honey, pickled items and more. Vendors love giving away samples – so come with an appetite. We quite the enjoyed the pickled Kimchee and the spiked oatmeal, which tasted like Thanksgiving stuffing.
Ten Park Lanes
After leaving the market, plan for a late lunch at Ten Park Lanes. Surprisingly good beer and food can be found in this revamped bowling alley. They have a terrific selection of local North Carolina brews and I highly recommend trying them out, The Great Divide being a favorite of mine. There are wheat, pilsner, lagers and several other varieties of beer on tap.
The “jars” (see above left) sounded so interesting, we had to sample them. These are foods (beans, slaw and pork for example) all in one jar. Sounds weird, right? They are quite popular with regulars, so we gave it a try and were impressed. There are burgers and wings on the menu, which I’m sure are quite good, but how could you pass up barbecue when NC is known for that? Since we’d already had some of the delicious pork, we settled on the burnt ends. That paired with the outstanding house made mac n cheese and kettle chips was heavenly. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the house made barbecue sauces, especially the Jalapeno Coffee. Yes. Jalapeno. Coffee. Barbecue. sauce.
Do you remember the short-lived 5 Napkin Burger? They set up space in the old Nickiemoto’s spot and lasted only about a year? While the décor of Cowfish doesn’t remind me of 5 Napkin, the menu does. It is a strange combination of burgers and sushi. Unlike 5 Napkin, however, Cowfish does it right. Cowfish is definitely a see and be seen trendy spot. It was hopping on a Saturday night with two hour waits. Full from our heavy lunch, we were happy to have a late evening reservation.
Start your meal with the spicy cucumber. It is quite large, so perfect for a crowd to share. Also, get at least one order of the sushi to share as it is pretty darn good. The uniqueness of this spot, however, lies in the “Burgushi” – burger sushi. Confused? It is all explained quite well on the menu. Basically they take meat and vegetables and make rolls out of them like they would sushi, hence the name Burgushi.
Want to get a taste of both? Get the bento box. This features a smaller portion of the more popular sushi rolls, sides of edamame, cucumbers and a slider sized burger.
Block and Grinder
A mix of both butcher store and restaurant is Block and Grinder. It is rather new in Charlotte, but definitely a foodie spot. They’ve recently added brunch service to the offering, so we were excited to try. Unbuckle your belt and settle in for a meat fest. The sorghum biscuits were so tasty, they didn’t need any additional butter. And the sausage patties were yummy too.
The two best entrees were the crawfish and grits and hash and eggs. The crawfish and grits was a nice twist on the more traditional shrimp and grits. However, if you fancy a juicy burger or just need a cure for a nasty hangover, definitely indulge in their house greasy ground burger, with mushrooms, garlic aioli and gruyere cheese.
Tip: You’ll want to make your reservation after noon, when they can legally serve liquor. Their bartender whips up some sinfully spicy concoctions like the Chupacabra and Blood Water (pictured L to R above).
Whether you want to use this as an itinerary for a foodie weekend in Charlotte or you find yourself in Charlotte in business and looking for somewhere to eat, I hope you find it useful. Happy Eating!