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Help, maybe relocating...

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I'm a chef/cook from New Orleans. Displaced by Katrina, I wound up in Miami, which is not a Food town, nor my kinda place. I'd like to visit Charlotte. Are all of the good dining spots close to Uptown? I ride a bike and don't like to commute more than 3 miles. What are the good areas to live in on the cheap? Are there any cool bars frequented by industry folk that I can visit when I do a recon this summer? How are working conditions up there?

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  1. Welcome! Charlotte is like most new cities - it sprawls out from the urban/corporate center and "progress" moves with that growth. The restaurants have moved with the people, That being said, there are plenty of places for your research.

    If I were you, I would look around in the NoDa (North of Davidson) and/or Central Avenue areas regarding housing - relatively inexpensive, artsy, a walk/bike ride to anyhthing you might need etc.

    Regarding working conditions - I worked primarily front of the house and have been selling wine for the past 6 years so I am a bit out of touch. The presence of Johnson & Wales seems to have raised the bar on the quality of overall staff. It's easy to find an inexpensive mercenary for the kitchen - it's better when you find someone passionate! I suspect there will be plenty of responses on this issue as well as the places to hang out.

    I know that "Intermezzo" on Central Ave. is an industry hangout. I live in the suburbs and need to be VERY careful about drinking and driving so I'm not out late with these "guys". I can say that the chefs in this town all seem to get along pretty well. They might rush to get their picks at the farmers market but then chat for an hour about what they'll make with the produce. Also, the is an established and growing locovore supply but the economy seems to be holding this back a bit at the restaurant level.

    If no one else offers up any ideas on where the hangout are, I'll do a bit more research and get back to you. Charlotte's a great town that thinks it's a city (or maybe the other way around?) I've been here for 14 years from the NY metro area and love it . Come up and check us out!

    1. You should check out the Triangle.

      1. What Suse said. Come to Raleigh!!!

        2 Replies
        1. re: cackalackie

          oh and I would love to check out Raleigh as well

          1. re: cheshire

            I agree with checking out the triangle. Durham has been named the "Foodiest small city" in the nation and loves food and diversity, and enjoys a reasonable cost of living.

        2. Cheshire........research Savannah/Charleston. I have relatives there and visit quite often. The restaurant scene in both cities is outstanding. Commuting on a bike in Savannah to work should be no problem. Charleston is a larger city but I am sure you can find living quarters near the downtown areas of both cities. I would love to live in either city. Charlotte is a huge city and spread out. I would hate to ride a bike there. I can see one riding in Savannah. It's a beautiful city. Good luck.

          1. Thanks to all y'all that replied. Let me respond to littleman, and cackalackie first; I, coincidentally, researched exactly those towns ( Savannah, Charleston) as well as Charlotte, before making my somewhat arbitrary choice, and was charmed by their cuisine. My fear was that they would be too small for a New Orleans type like myself, whom is always a lady but is also something of a tramp. I love the idea of Charleston, but wouldn't it be small for a vagrant chef from the bayou country? Will they accept a hard drinking, cigar smoking, female chef?
            to BDM1, Thanks so much for so much info. I just learned that I can drive a scooter there just as I do a bike here, which expands my territory vastly. I like the idea of the NO-DA area for a first start, but prefer historic districts.... after three horrid years in Miami , I'm willing to settle for almost anything. Sorry to sound glum.

            6 Replies
            1. re: cheshire

              cheshire, I would ADORE a hard drinking cigar smoking bayou chef in Chucktown. It's not a great biking town but it is fun. There is actually a Krewe here and we had Mardi Gras this year for the first time. It's not huge like Charlotte but we have a world class food scene. Bring it.

              1. re: cheshire

                scooters? cigars? vagrancy?

                Two words:

                Der. ham.

                1. re: peetoteeto

                  Yes, the OP would seem to fit into the Durham zeitgeist a touch better than with the Charlottean Lords of Finance.

                  1. re: peetoteeto

                    Yes come to Durham and wherever you land get Coop's fried chicken on the menu and maybe Shrimp Uggie too.

                    1. re: peetoteeto

                      my thoughts exactly! the Durty D. I know a wide array of NOLA Exiles in Durham begging for something good from home...

                    2. re: cheshire

                      Sounds like you might need to look up Ashley Christensen of Poole's Diner in Raleigh for advice. http://www.poolesdowntowndiner.com/

                    3. Cheshire,

                      I'm a life-long Charlotte resident (with the exception of a few years of schooling) and seem to share your interests. I would say that the #1 place to live (for someone with such interests) is the Plaza-Midwood/Elizabeth (these are two neighborhoods that are right next to each other) area. It's a very pedestrian-friendly area with a lot to do. I live in Elizabeth and walk just about everywhere-- to go get a beer, to get a bite to eat, to grab some groceries, etc. There are numerous bars and very good restaurants in these two neighborhoods-- again, all within walking distance of one another. These neighborhoods are also within a mile of downtown, where there's plenty of activity.

                      NoDa is another decent neighborhood that you might like, but it's a lot smaller than the Plaza-Midwood/Elizabeth area and and it's a little more secluded (in that it's surrounded by some rough areas on all sides).

                      I would say that the bars in both the aforementioned areas are frequented by industry folks, as many folks who work in one restaurant or bar in the area will walk to another one in the area and these areas have a fair amount of industry folks living in them).

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: ickymettle

                        I agree with you icky (like I always do). If I didn't have to worry about schools, I would love to live over near the Plaza, or Thomas Street. Lots of great restaurants and bars in walking/stumbling distance. I find the Triangle (aka "Nerdistan") to be really bland and boring. All the lords of finance in the Queen City have been laid off or moved back to NYC. That said, curious as to why the OP can't go back to NOLA?

                        1. re: ickymettle

                          Yep, icky nailed as usual. Plaza Midwood (and NoDa) is where you want to be. Industry hang outs over there include The Thirsty Beaver on Central Ave, and The Penguin & Thomas Street Tavern on Thomas St.. You'll find friendly faces and lots of back of the house crowds there.

                          We could use your kind in these parts. And by "your kind" I mean a NOLA native. ;-) I know Icky is a fan of your neck of the woods and so am I. FYI, there are a couple of cajun/creole inspired restaurants in our area. The most popular is Cajun Queen on 7th St. It's been around for a long time and is a solid place. Also Bourdreaux's up in NoDa. I've not heard great things about their fare, but I've never eaten there so I can't say for sure.

                          When you come up bring us some Zapp's chips, would ya? ;-)

                          Cajun Queen
                          1800 East 7th street, Charlotte, NC 28204

                          1. re: lynnlato

                            FYI if you're looking for Zapp's, you can buy them at Laurel Market and Arthur's. Probably Common Market too.

                            Laurel Market
                            114 Cherokee Rd, Charlotte, NC 28207

                            1. re: billyjack

                              Wow - thanks! I had ordered some online, but had to buy 12 bags - more than I care to have at my disposal at one time.

                              1. re: lynnlato

                                Sure thing, sometimes I need that Crawtator fix!

                                1. re: billyjack

                                  I like those too, but my favorite are the Voodoo Gumbo. If I can get those in here in Charlotte I'll be one lucky girl. :)


                        2. Folks, the focus of this board is finding great food and drink in the locale. Working conditions or other industry insider discussion is out of scope for this forum. Please do chime in with your recommendations for neighborhoods that are food friendly, and your recommendations for specific food retailers and restaurants.


                          1. Asheville, Charleston and Savannah are three southern cities on a list of top ten food and wine destinations: http://www.tripadvisor.com/TCDestinat....

                            When you are visiting the Carolinas you should take the time to visit Asheville. Of all the cities on your list Asheville and Durham are the most tolerant and multi-cultural. Asheville has a thriving food scene, growing number of small micro-breweries and you would certainly fit in the diverse mix.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Windsor

                              I will certainly look into both Asheville and Durham in my quest.
                              Last night there was an irritable reply from the moderator asking that chat stay on topic, which is touting specific restaurants. I responded a bit sarcastically, and see that that post didn't make it to the board. I thanked Sue in MP and promised to visit Chucktown, wondered what Shrimp Uggo is, and promised to look into both Durham and Elizabeth. Now Asheville is added to the list. As for Nola, we're a frigging mess and the oil spill hasn't improved anything at all on the Gulf Coast. The kind of thing that occasionally hits fans is weak.

                              1. re: cheshire

                                Yeah, that's what i figured you'd say. The whole situation is nauseating. BTW, Elizabeth is a neighborhood within Charlotte. Good luck to you.

                                1. re: cheshire

                                  FYI if you look at the Plaza-Midwood/Elizabeth area of Charlotte, Plaza-Midwood is where most of the action is (again, Elizabeth is right next to it), but Elizabeth has its fair share, and I tend to group the two neighborhoods together. Just off the top of my head, I can think of over 40 restaurants, bars and nightspots within about a 1-mile radius if you stand at the center of these two neighborhoods.

                                  1. re: ickymettle

                                    Cheshire, you may want to contact Joe and Heidi Trull of Grits and Groceries in Belton, SC. Although their restaurant is in a quite rural setting, they moved from New Orleans, where they worked in restaurants (and owned their own restaurant) for many years. They may have some good advice for you. Gritsandgroceries.com
                                    is their website.

                                    Grits and Groceries
                                    2440 Due West Hwy, Belton, SC 29627

                                    1. re: jjsouth

                                      I looked up Grits and Groceries, and well remember Elizabeth's in New Orleans... how cool. I made another post recently, which I don't think posted on the board, so I'm a bit confused as to which things I have responded to. The entire area sounds wonderful compared to this dump. (that's an inside joke; I work at one of the top rated restaurants here, and we all jokingly call it The Dump.) I hope to travel up with transpo that will allow me to visit Raleigh/Durham, Charleston and Charlotte, unless I simply unravel here (noted the word similarity in a typo) and fly by the seat of my pants. What IS shrimp ughee?

                                      Grits and Groceries
                                      2440 Due West Hwy, Belton, SC 29627

                                      1. re: cheshire

                                        Shrimp Uggie was a mainstay on the menu at Uglesich's.

                              2. I live in Concord (north of Charlotte) and work in the University area of Charlotte. The Charlotte region is a great place, but as a foodie, I find it very difficult to find ingredients. Within Charlotte, south Charlotte has the best selection, but it's one of the more expensive areas to live.. Within North Carolina, the closer you get to Raleigh, Chapel Hill, & Durham, the more choices you have. But if I'm looking for kidney, sweetbreads, goose, fois gras, rabbit, real pearl tapioca, Japanese ingredients, or caul fat (to name just a few things), it might take me all day, and I might well never find it. I frequently drive 58 miles round trip to find really good lamb shanks.