Food & DrinkFood Features

Eat Black Charlotte Expands on Food Festival with Bites on Seventh

Live music and entertainment adds to block party vibes

a portrait of people enjoying a food festival with live music and entertainment in Charlotte, NC
Bites on Seventh Festival (Courtesy of Bites on Seventh)

Eat Black Charlotte started as a simple hashtag in 2020, a way for local foodies to better highlight Black food businesses in Charlotte, but like any good social media campaign, it eventually grew into something more.

The Eat Black Charlotte Food & Culture Festival was launched originally as a way to wrap up the Eat Black Charlotte Week, a weeklong event that encouraged residents around the city to support the area’s Black-owned restaurants.

Now four years in, the Eat Black Charlotte team continues to evolve the yearly event, turning the Eat Black Charlotte Food & Culture Festival into Bites on Seventh, an all-day festival that adds some culture to the mix, with live music and entertainment planned throughout the day, bringing more of a block party vibe to the festivities.

“It’s beautiful to see something that started as a hashtag in 2020 grow into a cultural movement,” said Eat Black Charlotte co-founder Erique Berry. “We were super intentional with how we designed the festival this year. We prioritized the commuter parking experience, partnered with Charlotte Mecklenburg Library for literacy programs and leveled up the entertainment factor.”

North Carolina comedian Tim Shropshire will emcee this year’s event, plus live musical performances by Salisbury’s own 5-year-old rap sensation Savannah “VanVan” McConneaughey, Charlotte’s Ray Singleton, educational programs for children, and more.

Scheduled for June 1 from 2-7 p.m. and expected to attract more than 3,000 people to Uptown, the event will span multiple blocks of First Ward including Victoria Yards (209 E. 7th St.), WFAE’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement (301 E. 7th St.), and The Market at 7th Street (224 E. 7th St.).

Read more: 7th Street Public Market Deserves Your Support (2021)

“The added entertainment and performances this year will set the vibe,” said Cory Wilkins, cofounder of Eat Black Charlotte. “You’ll get good food and it will also be a festival where you’ll want to hang out all day while celebrating some of the best Black-owned restaurants in the city.”

Even with the new additions, good food is still the foundation for Bites on Seventh, with attendees traversing food tents and sampling curated bites and beverages.

Nearly two-dozen food and drink vendors are confirmed for the event, both inside and outdoors. Patrons can expect to see Charmed Cuisine, FunOhCakes, Jhase Made Lemonade, Ms. Didi’s Caribbean Kitchen, So Icy (Philly Water Ice), Q’s Culinary Cart, Ve-Go Food Truck, Boujee Soul Food, Jazzy Cheesecakes, Ever Real Empanadas, and various vendors located in The Market at 7th Street.

Queen City Nerve spoke to one of the vendors, Chef Lavonna Quick of Boujee Soul Food, to get her thoughts on Eat Black Charlotte and the impact of the coming festival.

Boujee Soul Food succeeds despite adversity

Chef Quick established her love for cooking as a teenager. Her stepmother only cooked dinner on Sundays, leaving Quick to cook for herself and her brothers during the week.

“I had to learn how to cook,” she said. “I used to look on recipes with books and things like that, and I realized that I like building recipes.”

Things took a tough turn for Quick at 17, however, as she ran into trouble and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Chef Lavonna Quick of Boujee Soul Food, a vendor at Bites on Seventh.
Chef Lavonna Quick of Boujee Soul Food, a vendor at Bites on Seventh. (Photo courtesy of Boujee Soul Food)

Doing her best to find the good in a bad situation, Quick continued to cultivate her passion despite her lack of access to ingredients and the like.

“I was incarcerated when I was a teenager and that’s when I really, really felt my passion,” she said. “I was there for five years, and my family used to send me books and things like that. I used to tear all the recipes out of the books and just imagine doing my own recipes or whatnot.”

When she was released at 23 years old, it was tough to find work. Her criminal background and tattoos made her unhirable in the corporate world, but she found her professional home in the kitchen, starting as a dishwasher and moving up to line cook.

Quick has now worked in the culinary industry for about 15 years, helping to open a number of restaurants including Stoke Charlotte in the remodeled Marriott Center City. She’s also worked at Angeline’s, Merchant & Trade, Indaco and others.

Her goal was always to open her own business, however, and she accomplished that in 2021 with the launch of Quick’s Catering, which expanded to become Boujee Soul Food in 2022.

The following year she hit the road in the Boujee Soul Food truck, then continued to grow, offering an expanded menu out of The City Kitch in west Charlotte. Quick said she named her business after her niece.

“She was a different child,” Quick said. “She liked things done a certain way. I called her ‘Boujee.’ She was more on the fancy end.”

Strawberry French toast from Boujee Soul Food. (Photo courtesy of Boujee Soul Food)

The food, however, keeps things casual, billed as “fine fusion soul food.” The menu features favorites like the oxtail hash, collard greens and lobster wontons, wings, cod fish sandwiches, the Southern-style sweet tea fried chicken sandwich, braised oxtail sliders and more.

With all the experience she’s cooked up in the culinary industry during her time in Charlotte – Quick says she’s been here all her life – she’s had a front row seat to the changes in the area and she’s happy to be part of that.

As for her past, it’s not worth dwelling on, she insists. In fact, there are more goals she’s focused on in the future, including opening a brick-and-mortar space for Boujee Soul Food, so she will continue to look forward.

“My goal is to own an official restaurant so that [I can hire] people who, like me, that was incarcerated and having a hard time finding jobs,” she said. “I want to hire felons, misdemeanors, things like that, when I do open a restaurant.”

With the way she has climbed the ladder of the local culinary industry and quickly expanded her own business in Charlotte, it seems just a matter of time before she’s there.

Preparing for festivities

Chef Quick did bring her food truck to Eat Black Charlotte’s festival last year, though she had just gotten the truck rolling at the time. This will be her first year as a featured vendor and she’s excited to participate.

“I feel like it’s going to be a lot of fun,” she told Queen City Nerve. “I think it’s amazing that a lot of food trucks and people – the Black community – can come together and do something like that, and with a lot of food critics.”

As with other food festivals highlighting Black food in Charlotte such as the BayHaven Food and Wine festival, Eat Black Charlotte was born out of a desire to showcase Black culinary artists in Charlotte who often go overlooked. This was a sentiment that Quick was familiar with.

More selections from Bites on Seventh vendor Boujee Soul Food. (Photo courtesy of Boujee Soul Food)

“When I first started, you didn’t see too many Black people with power in the kitchen,” she said. “Mainly if you saw them, they weren’t on a level that you would see other chefs — [Black people] were just a cook, or a dishwasher, or a food runner. But now there’s a lot of [Black] chefs out here. There’s a lot of Black chefs out here that’s actually showing what they’re capable of and that they’re able to do things just like everyone else is.”

Though Quick said she felt that the Black culinary scene is growing as a whole, she also said it needs events like Bites on Seventh to keep that growth going.

“The culinary field in Charlotte is actually where the Black culinary field is really growing” she said. “It’s growing, and I feel like it’s important because a lot of people didn’t get work [in the culinary field]. It’s just growing.”

In late April, Quick and the Boujee Soul Food team sold out of their selections at the CLT Got Soul festival in Ballantyne, hosted by the South Charlotte chapter of African-American cultural organization Jack and Jill of America, Inc.

Having seen the impact of such events, Chef Quick said she hopes to see more opportunities to platform Black culinary artists as the scene continues to grow.

According to Eat Black Charlotte, Bites on Seventh “is poised to expand its impact to cities across the nation,” so Quick may soon get her wish.

Bites on Seventh will take place at multiple locations along East 7th Street in Uptown’s First Ward on June 1 from 2-7 p.m.

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