This year’s Charlotte SHOUT! will wrap up two weeks of art, food, music and ideas with Charlotte StrEATs Festival, an immersive two-day festival within a festival celebrating the city’s diverse food and drink scene, held in Uptown from April 15-16.
The festival will be broken up into three events: StrEATS Smarts Seminars, StrEATs Tasting Tour and the main Charlotte StrEATs Festival. With 20 restaurants representing a dozen Charlotte neighborhoods, visitors will be introduced to the city’s diverse culinary personality through tasting events, cooking demonstrations, seminars and a live competition to determine the 2023 StrEATs Neighborhood Champion.
The StrEATs Tasting Tour will allow attendees aged 21 and up to journey through Charlotte’s most iconic neighborhoods without ever leaving Gateway Village. Held on April 15 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., it’s a showcase of the city’s many personalities through each neighborhood’s participating restaurants’ dishes. There will also be live music.
Queen City Nerve caught up with a few restaurants involved in the StrEATs Tasting Tour to give you a small taste of what’s to come.
Sea Level NC is challenging itself to gain the trust of first-time oyster eaters during the StrEATs Tasting Tour, said Alex Flores, brand and culture director for High Tide Hospitality. Sea Level NC will be serving its signature oyster, the Sea Level Salt, which is available daily at the restaurant — elevated with a seasonal granita for the Tasting Tour. All of Sea Level’s oysters come from a sister oyster farm in North Carolina.
Flores said the StrEATs Festival encourages creativity, and there are so many ways to enhance oysters beyond cocktail sauce, lemon juice and Tabasco sauce.
“One of our favorite things is helping someone enjoy their first oyster and then show them all the ways to dress it up once they fall in love,” she said.
Flores noted that the festival brings local and regional folks to Uptown that may not be familiar with the area. The variety of vendors in a single spot allows foodies to get a taste of places they may not have thought to visit, she added.
Sweet Lew’s BBQ is a small shop embedded into the Belmont neighborhood that provides a simple environment to enjoy a plate of wood-smoked meats and Southern sides, all served with big smiles, added the restaurant’s owner, Lewis Donald.
Donald told Queen City Nerve his team will feature their smoked brisket meatballs with a Carolina sweet heat sauce at the StrEATs Tasting Tour.
“If we’re feeling froggy, you may see a smoked pecan dessert,” he added.
Donald said the StrEATs Festival helps promote the Belmont neighborhood and distinguish it from the nearby city of Belmont. It also helps highlight his restaurant’s range.
“It’s an opportunity to be somewhat creative and [let] people know we are more than just pork sandwiches,” he said.
Supperland will feature its classic sausage gravy croquettes created by Executive Chef Chris Rogienski. The dish combines house-made sausage with sage and black pepper gravy, panko-fried and topped with house-made pickled red onions.
“The sausage gravy coquettes are a unique twist on a classic, hearty dish — a dish representative of the classic, casual vibe of Plaza Midwood,” said Allie Papajohn, Supperland’s marketing manager. Papajohn also runs the popular Charlotte food Instagram account @eatdrinkclt.
She said the upcoming festival helps expose Supperland to new faces and gives the restaurant the chance to connect with others in the industry.
Supperland boasts an extensive wine collection of over 200 bottles, curated by its Level 3 Sommelier Michael Klinger, so expect vino on the menu.
Under the same ownership as Supperland, Haberdish is known more for its Southern food (fried chicken, chicken & waffles, house-made biscuits, etc.) as well as craft cocktails.
The restaurant plans to serve its signature cornmeal hushpuppies and crowd-favorite mac & cheese during the StrEATs Festival.
Papajohn describes Haberdish as a “Southern mill town kitchen,” though both Supperland and Haberdish will be offering dishes with Southern flair.
She added that StrEATS Festival allows these restaurant’s chefs to meet customers directly and interact with the communities they serve daily.
“This event is a great way to get our chefs out of the day-to-day of kitchen life and in front of the public,” Papajohn said.
Christa Csoka, chef and owner of The Artisan’s Palate, said the StrEATs Tasting Tour is a chance to introduce new customers to its food.
The restaurant will serve its favorite “elevated comfort food” with a twist so people get an idea of what is usually served while leaving room for experimentation. The exact dishes are still in the works by the restaurant.
The Artisan’s Palate takes cuisine from all over the world and reimagines it through its comfort food, serving it “tapas style,” so it’s meant to be shared.
“The idea of customers sitting around a table and enjoying each other’s company while eating and drinking is what we strive for,” Csoka said.
She emphasized the potential economic impact the festival could have on her small independent restaurant.
“It will pull staff away in order for us to man the festival … but the hope is to expose our restaurant to new people and have fun while doing it,” she said.
As one of the few art galleries left in NoDa, Csoka believes The Artisan’s Palate represents the “arts district” that the neighborhood originally was through its hybrid restaurant/gallery.
Its support of local artists and locally sourced food is apparent through the artists showcased in its gallery and the food it serves, she said.
“If that isn’t NoDa, I don’t know what is,” she said.
StrEATs Tasting Tour tickets start at $75 and are on sale now. Admission is free to the Charlotte StrEATs Festival on April 16 from noon-5 p.m. at Gateway Village, but organizers ask that attendees register to provide the best experience.
Attendees will enjoy handpicked food trucks, beverage vendors, live music and art, cooking demonstrations and a neighborhood cook-off emceed by world-renowned chef Alex Guarnashelli to decide the 2023 StrEATs Neighborhood Champion.
While the festival is open to the public, you can purchase wristbands for a craft cocktail tasting.
Charlotte StrEATs Smarts, a newly-introduced seminar, will be led by experts in the city’s hospitality industry in the two weeks leading up to the festival, from April 1-14.
The five seminars target food and drink lovers and will cover topics like wine, gardening, cooking and more in various locations around Uptown Charlotte. Ticket prices and further details will be announced soon.
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