When Timothy DePeugh, Queen City Nerve’s very own food writer and restaurant critic (BKA @TimTimTokyo in my contact list) texts you a proverbial, “Let’s jump…,” it never ceases to amaze me how astonishingly quick I am to say, “How high?”
A little over a year ago, in a bold fangirl moment, I slid into his DMs. But to an outsider looking in, it would appear we’re two old Golden Girls talking shit like we’ve known each other forever. (Is that an exaggeration, Tim?) That ease of friendship is rare for an extroverted introvert like myself and makes it that much easier to say yes to just about any adventure … even one that drags me to South End. And y’all know I avoid South End like the plague.
“Yo wanna be my +1 next Thursday,” Tim texted, followed by two screenshots, one a picture of Chef KJ Townsend of Louisiana’s Quizine Quarters and one of Charlotte’s own Chef Hector González of El Toro Bruto.
I’d heard whispers of a Louisiana x Charlotte food collaboration event happening at a handful of QC restaurants so, despite knowing this event would feel like going on a forced blind date with Resident Culture’s South End location, I jumped.
Call me Regina George, because the way everybody has hyped up this Resident Culture location since it opened earlier this year has had me feeling like we need to “stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen.”
But alas, here I was off to follow the sheep because of, one, the food, and two, Louisiana food, and three, El Toro Bruto (previously Chilito Tacos, whose breakfast burritos had us all in a chokehold during the pandemic) is the shit and has found a home at Resident Culture in South End. And to El Toro Bruto I say, “Well so be it. Where you go, I go. Me and you, us never part. Makidada. Su casa es mi casa.”
But typical Tim, he got me out here looking like the “Ashleighs,” a term he coined for doing basic bish things like date night in South End. I chuckled at the irony and I pictured him sitting in his favorite booth, peering behind sunglasses, and the sunshine conjuring sweat on his brow as he meticulously plots what tea he’ll spill in his love letter to Resident Culture. It’s a visual that will rival Mean Girls’ Damian Leigh when he shouts, “She doesn’t even go here!” at the school assembly.
“Let me know when you’re here! Sitting at the bar,” I texted Tim as soon as I walked in, hoping he would save me sooner rather than later from my South End judgment spiral. I debated whether the red glow emanating from string lights that hung in the rafters felt menacing or cozy. But before I could decide, my sight shifted to the Evel Knievel-inspired moto “chandelier” that hung from the ceiling and immediately got Hard Rock Cafe vibes (am I the only one?).
“Can I get you anything?” the bartender interrupted, saving me from yet another rabbit hole of Myrtle Beach proportions. I panicked and agreed to the “crowd favorite” Blood Orange Margarita on draft. If that alone doesn’t make you judge me, maybe the fact that I paid $16.88 with tip for one of them will.
Thoughts of sticker shock also grew smaller as my eyes shifted to the corner of the bar where it appeared the initial course was being prepped. That’s right, Aerin, focus on the food, not the location. I began to worry as I heard what sounded like the start of the event toward the rear of the space and thought, “Surely, timely Tim isn’t late.”
But just as I began to craft a corny equivalent of a “BP Time” joke, I peeked around the corner to see where the “host’s table” was, and lo and behold, there was the back of Tim’s head bobbing intently. I giggled, even from there I knew he was already wooing them with his gift of gab.
“Why didn’t you text me?” he exclaimed as if caught in the middle of gossip as he scooted his things to make room for me. “I did!” He checked his phone to see the text I’d sent 15 minutes prior and a childlike grin spread across his face because he knew that I knew that we knew he was too busy chattin’ to see it.
I’d like to think that my presence at the host’s table was mutually enjoyable, but it could be the two or three more sugary Blood Orange Margaritas that snuck up on me as I flapped my gums about everything from culinary trails and cultural revival to snake meat and getting T-bagged by a cow.
If the innovative and symbiotic courses that those two chefs curated didn’t reinvigorate my passion for food and nightlife, listening to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” on repeat as Tim dropped me off sure the hell did.
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