Queen City Nerve

Charlotte's Cultural Pulse

New Column Will Feature First Look at Queen City’s Food Scene
A transplant's first impression

By Darrell Horwitz

October 28, 2019

Change is never easy, especially when you’ve lived in one city your entire life. You know where everything is, you know what you like, and in my case, you know your favorite spots to eat. Since I live to eat, that’s very important to me.

Moving to Charlotte from Chicago means better weather, better taxes and (I’m hoping) more great food. Since I’m new in town, my quest involves finding must-eat establishments that make my mouth water and I’ll be taking you along for the ride.

With so many people moving to Charlotte, like me, this is an opportunity for you to get a head start on places to check out. Perhaps you’re a native, but don’t get around much. I’ll do it for you. Or maybe you’re someone just visiting looking for a place to eat. You will read about the hits and misses, with none of the bias that a longtime Charlottean may bring to the table.

Along the way on my road to discovery, you’ll learn a little about me. My wife will often accompany me, both for companionship and so we can try more dishes. While I live to eat, she eats to live, but don’t worry, I will sample everything she orders. And if she gives it a thumbs-up, you might want to give it a try.

I’ve already visited several restaurants in town. Some might stretch your wallet a bit, while others can become a regular spot to check out. While I tend to gravitate toward meat on special occasions like my birthday, I like to sample everything life — or in this instance Charlotte — has to offer. When choosing sides, I choose spicy, but the wife is there for everyone that prefers the milder side of the spectrum.

On our recent wedding anniversary, we went to a local establishment that served one of the best pieces of fish that ever crossed my lips. I’ll tell you about it in the near future. I’m excited to try a certain Thai hot spot, as I’ve always enjoyed the cuisine and can’t wait to see if they’re cooking up the same good stuff here that I used to eat back home.

As well as advising you of places to try, I want to give you fair warning if something is not up to par. I don’t want to alienate my new neighbors, but it wouldn’t be fair to you if I wasn’t truthful.

Here is one of my favorite food memories. Many years ago, my brother read a review about Chicago’s in the Chicago Tribune. He ventured out later that night and woke up the family by sticking a rib under our noses as we slept. We groggily wandered into the dining room like the walking dead as we sat at the table and sucked the meat off the bones of a few before heading back to sleep. I remember getting up that morning licking my fingers as the taste still lingered. It was that good!

To get a better idea of what I like, these are a few of the dishes indelibly etched in my brain that I had to have before leaving Chicago. Most of them had my doctor on call, monitoring my cholesterol. I had my last burger at Au Cheval, selected Best Burger in America in 2012. It lived up to the title, and the fries are just divine too. I hope to find something close in Charlotte.

Al’s Italian Beef, named one of the best sandwiches in America by the Food Network, was a must-have. I was surprised to run into a Charlotte establishment that serves Italian beef, as I worried that it would no longer be an option for me here in Charlotte. I will let you know if it’s worth a visit for you once I try them out.

I visited Smoque BBQ for their luscious brisket one last time. Being in Charlotte, I’m looking forward to trying the local barbecue spots as I know it’s one of the foods the city and state is known for.

After reading this, you can understand why I checked out a healthy alternative shortly after moving to town. Just like me, it’s a recent addition to Charlotte and I’m sure you will hear about it from me.

It may seem like all my faves involve red meat, but you’ll discover my range is more expansive than what I’m letting on here. I always like trying new things.

Food is something that everyone and no one can agree on. Maybe you will like my suggestions or question my palate, since food is subjective. I think if you give me a chance, you will find I won’t steer you wrong. And if you’re good, I’ll give you a cookie. You will see how that fits in, as well.

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