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Charlotte Dissed in Bon Appetit's Resto Issue

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I just received my Bon Appetit today in the mail. It's the annual restaurant issue. Interestingly, not a single restaurant from Charlotte is listed in the restos from the South. Yet, there are two from Raleigh alone. I'm not hatin' on Raleigh, but just last month (i think) Southern Living declared Charlotte the "New South's Food City". So, what's up?

I know GFL and I were in agreement that Charlotte has a way to go to be considered a "food city" (hope I'm not misrepresenting you, GFL). I think we're up and coming, we're certainly gaining ground w/ Johnson & Wales now here. It's just a matter of time. And don't get me wrong, there are a lot of great restos here. If we could just get off the chain bandwagon, that'd be great.

Raleigh always beats us at everything... or so it seems. Nordstrom, Whole Foods, Saks, a loop ( heck,they even have street lights around their loop which is more than we can say for I-277), etc. Hey, at least we got Trader Joes first!

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  1. There was a Trader Joe's in Cary (which, God forgive me, is kind of NoWhereVille) well before the one in Charlotte opened.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mrwaterslide

      Damn! See, Charlotte was supposed to have the first store, but noooooo....

      Thanks for raining on my little, pathetic parade I had goin' there.

      ;-)

      1. re: lynnlato

        lynn, you made me laugh with that one! thanks, i needed that.

    2. I was just going to point that out. We've had TJ's in Cary for quite some time now - sorry about that.

      We're very fortunate to have a great restaurant scene in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. I'm not sure why that is, but I can say that after living in both Charlotte and now the RDU area, I've found that the Triangle has a much less stuffy, less "corporate" feel than Charlotte does overall. I think that might lead to more experimentation on the part of diners, which of course helps local restos survive and prosper. I liked Charlotte, but to me it never felt like a city with a "soul".

      6 Replies
      1. re: Suzy Q

        I really think you've hit the nail on the noggin there, Suzy Q. Charlotte needs some one to slip some Happy Dust into her Shirley Temple. Johnson & Wales won't be the salvation of the Charlotte restaurant scene. Charleston had Johnson & Wales, but it also had Charleston. With JWoo gone from Charleston, the restaurants there will continue to thrive, and innovate. Charlotte needs more places like LuLu's: funky but not consciously hipper than thou. A couple of genius chefs who just don't give a damn would be great. The heck with expense account dollars.

        1. re: mrwaterslide

          "Happy Dust into her Shirley Temple"

          Amen. I love that! I am a huge fan of Lulu's and agree that we need more restos like it (and Nolen Kitchen, Ilios Noche). Charlotte has been in transition for a long time and it continues on. But, you know, so has the Raleigh area. The difference I think is that your area is a college town(s). You've got the cool factor. All those young folks running about eager to learn and experience new things. What do we have? Money and numbers. Yaaawwwwn.

          Interestingly, even the Lord Mayor of London, who was in town recently, said that Charlotte needs to diversify in order to become a world class city. Of course, that managed to piss off the locals.

          Bring on the world class food.... pleeeeease. Oh, but don't get me wrong, I love it here and it's way better than where I came from in term of diverse food options. Back home, you had Italian-American and PA Dutch, that's it.

          1. re: lynnlato

            Its all good in our hood-We are getting there. We are up and coming, we're certainly gaining ground w/Johnson & Wales now here. No J&W cant do it alone but coupled with the expected growth of the city. It's just a matter of time. Look at all the projects happening uptown - Epicenter, Levine Properties just announced a huge 20 acre plan. It is happening at a pretty good pace too. Yes, we need more lulu's and if they stay crowded will get them. Success breeds success. When something works others copy it. In the seven years I have lived here the culinary progress has been fantastic. I could be wrong but I think the next few years will yield even more remarkable culinary growth as we continue to get more sophisticated consumers,more young chefs,more restaurants we will see more and more great food. Stay tuned Its just starting to cook!!!!!!

          2. re: mrwaterslide

            Heh, and who is going to finance these genius chefs when they freak out the charlotte market with wacky things like sweetbreads and bone marrow and seafood cooked less than to death and back?

            The money follows the chicken down here - the cheapest dirtiest fowl available. And that's great -- price's is great -- but the fact that it's our local food landmark (maybe next to the penguin?) really shows how far this place has to go.

            JW might improve things but my (and others') experiences with their local students has led me to consider their degree to be pretty worthless as a metric of competence. CPCC and it's recent expansion on the other hand, could be of actual significance given its accessibility to those who are neither independently wealthy nor stupid enough to take out a ginormous student loan that nets ~10/hr in the real marketplace.

            1. re: avad

              You asking who is going to finance these genius chefs when they freak out the charlotte market with wacky things like sweetbreads and bone marrow and seafood cooked less than to death and back? Now that is a scary question.
              Both CPCC and Johnson and Wales have excellent culinary programs. Johnson and Wales is known to be the number two culinary school in the county.
              The number one being The Culinary Institute of America.
              I was surprised at this post of yours and then recalled I just read another post of yours where you were singing the praises of Fuel Pizza. I guess you talking food is like me holding court on brain surgery, something I know nothing about.

              1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                You have probably eaten more of it than I have.

                Edit for non-contentless post:

                It's not a matter of a supply where the number of competent chefs is limited so much as what the market down here will bear. Right now the market down here in general is not very sophisticated and the money has the habit of leaving town during the summer meaning that a successful place has to both cater to the lowest common denominator and have enough back to ride out the business cycle in fine dining here. If I did happen to graduate from the Charlotte JW I would relocate for work.

        2. Do you have a link to the article? Interesting in any VA restaurants that may be included.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Janet from Richmond

            The only mention of any VA restaurants was done so in passing, stating one of the chefs they were interviewing had done a stint at The Inn at Little Washington.

          2. You guys have a Sur La Table and we don't. There, feel better now? :-)

            8 Replies
            1. re: bbqme

              Thanks for the bone, bbqme!

              Janet, the Bon Appetit restaurant directory is not available online. But I did check for VA restos and the only one listed is The Inn at Little Washington. I'm sure you're familiar w/ that one!

              1. re: lynnlato

                Yep.....my first husband was one of their original employees and I've stayed there several times :-)

              2. re: bbqme

                And what's that big deli they have? I mean, it's not A Southern Season, but it's one of those you find in the big cities..........

                1. re: cackalackie

                  Dean and DeLuca?

                  1. re: cackalackie

                    Katz of New York in south Charlotte is a great deli...

                    1. re: Hapy

                      I've commented several times that I can't believe Raleigh doesn't have a decent NY/Jewish deli. With as many "transplants" as we have running around, you'd think we'd have one on every street corner!

                      Re: Southern Season, man, I love that place. It's a really good thing for both my waistline and my pocketbook that I don't live closer.

                      1. re: Hapy

                        Great indeed, no one even comes close. Katz New York is the best Deli in Charlotte. They are just damn good at what they do. No one even touches the corned beef or pastrami. The array of smoked fish is just mind boggling. Hell it may not be real Philly style but they make a cheese steak using brisket that tastes pretty darn amazing.
                        Lastly the owner who's name happens to be Katz is from NY/NJ. This restaurant is not part of any chain or related to Katz Deli in NY. Its one of a kind baby and right here in Charlotte

                        1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                          I've not had the brisket cheesesteak. Damn, that sounds good. And sweet potato knishes. How's that for a marriage of north & south?

                  2. I have just finished reading my copy of Bon Appetit and yes, it's a shame Charlotte got no mention *but* did you happen to notice why Raleigh got 2 mentions? No, it was not an in-depth article about the great restaurants here, it was solely based on the fact that one of their choices for up-and-coming female chefs happened to hail from Raleigh and worked at Enoteca Vin and now at Poole's Diner. That's all the mention that was given.

                    Raleigh also has a very long way to go to become a "food city" and needs to get off the chain bandwagon as well. The magazine really wasn't giving Raleigh any real props to be honest.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Erika RollerGirl

                      Having looked through the issue as well, I think you are reading way too much into this. It appeared to me that the largest concentration of restaurants was in NYC. Where is the editorial staff located? I couldn't tell for sure but it appears to be NYC. I spend a fair amount of time in both Chicago and NYC and happen to think that the restaurant scene in Chicago is every bit as interesting, maybe even moreso. But did they get equal weighting? Of course not.

                      Philadelphia is another city that has a great restaurant scene. Notice how many restaurants were noted from that city? One, if I recall correctly. Surely not more than two or three.

                      Birmingham, for some quirky reason had a number of recommendations. Is the restaurant scene there better than Charlotte or Raleigh? I don't spend much time in Birmingham but I would be very suprised if it is. Maybe one of the writers has family in that town. Who knows?

                      I suspect there is a preponderance of places noted where the editorial staff either lives or has connections. Or where a good PR firm has been hired to create buzz. Or where a theme, such as great women chefs, needed to find some poster children.

                      1. re: brentk

                        And, of course, Mario Batali is king of all restos yet again. Don't get me wrong, he's a genius. But damn, let's honor some other chefs in the biz.

                        I loved the piece done w/ Thomas Keller and Joel Gott. Nice to know that Keller eats fried chicken on occasion. Actually, I make his every day roast chicken and it's heavenly.

                        1. re: lynnlato

                          LL, what did the article say about Joel Gott? (This will probably get booted over to the media board.)

                          Gott makes consistently good zins. It was probably about his burger stand though?

                          1. re: HungryGrayCat

                            They had a weekend dinner at Gott's home and had Thomas Keller over. They prepared a casual meal together (as casual as TK would have it). Pancetta wrapped shrimp, fried chicken, cole slaw, corn bread, steamed brownies & wine (a chard & a zin), of course.

                        2. re: brentk

                          Birmingham does in fact have a great restaurant scene, spearheaded by Frank Stitt and nourished by the fine local produce. Charlotte . . . well, there's Price's.

                        3. re: Erika RollerGirl

                          Erika, have you been to either resto mentioned or have any familiarity with the chef, Ashley Christensen? She's amazing and the Triangle is lucky to have her.

                          1. re: Suzy Q

                            Not yet, as I have just moved back to this area after a long stint in Los Angeles.

                            The point of my post was not in any way negative about Ashley or the restaurants here, it was to point out to the OP why Raleigh was mentioned versus Charlotte.

                        4. if i had to offer up one thing that has made chapel hill/durham the food center that it is (and believe me i've very thankful to be able to enjoy it) it would be bill neal. so much of what the area has become can be traced back to bill and moreton's early efforts, the energy they created, and the people it attracted to either move to the chapel hill/durham area or move back after seeing a bit of the world. clearly there has been a lot of effort by many others to continue to move things forward, but i think that was the genesis here.

                          fwiw, there is very good to great pastrami in chapel hill, just not a true deli. neal's deli and, when they have it, the barbecue joint do a fine pastrami. but yeah there's a need for a real deli at least at one point in the triangle.

                          1. Okay, to all my research triangle area friends: I hate to gloat, really I do. Y'all have been so gracious in dealing w/ my whining on this thread... but... turns out we are getting an Ikea and it will be the first in NC!

                            So, now u ask why on Earth is she posting about this on CH, right? Well, I just read the recent post on NYT's Bittman's food blog Bitten. It is about the food court/resto in the Red Hook Ikea store. Apparently, the food is ethnically varied, pretty good and cheap too. I'm not big on Ikea furniture anymore (I outgrew the cheap, colorful & geometric furniture fad in my early 20s) but I'd enjoy exploring their cafeteria. My husband travels to Finland & Sweden a lot and it'd be nice to try some of the foods he has talked about in addition to other ethnic treats. Except for the salmon paste in a tube that Swedish friends of ours rave about. Apparently, it is the Swedish equivalent of peanut butter which they find putrid. Ha!

                            Anyway, yea for Charlotte! I can't wait to go. And to my triangle area friends, I know you guys still win by a mile. I'm just saying...

                            Here's a link to the blog post:

                            http://bitten.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/...

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: lynnlato

                              Back when GFL was still in Jersey the hoopla got the best of me and I had to go check out Ikea. Even if their furniture is not your bag it us one heck of an operation. The selection of kitchen gadgets was cool. I would visit again due to the one thing I remember about the trip. The restaurant served Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberries and they were fantastic also amazingly cheap.

                              1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                Yea, we used to go to the one in Philly and spend an entire day there. Oddly, we never visited the food court. So, I'm anxious to try those meatballs and check out their kitchen gadgets as u suggested.

                              2. re: lynnlato

                                Ikea has a food court? Who knew! Definitely a fun day trip.

                                1. re: Suzy Q

                                  The Ikea in Atlanta always smells of freshly baked strudel in the mornings!

                                  1. re: littlegirltree

                                    I love the smell of freshly baked strudel in the morning!
                                    It smells like victory!
                                    "Marlon Brando
                                    Apocalypse Now"
                                    Kinda

                                    1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                      That was Robert Duvall's line... :)