Made for TV | Charlotte's got a lot | Charlotte NC Travel & Tourism
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Made for TV

These Charlotte-area eateries have hosted numerous TV food shows, offering a taste of Queen City cuisine to a global audience.

By Michael J. Solender

Charlotte’s burgeoning culinary scene is catching the attention of globe-trekking gastronomic adventurers who are bringing Crown Town’s eclectic craft creations, Southern fusion fare, ethnic mashups and the freshest regional dishes to the big screen. More than 30 local dining venues have been featured on national food shows, leaving viewers all over to discover what locals have long known: Charlotte’s got a lot of delicious food.

  • 300 East: Indulgence is on the menu at this eclectic Dilworth eatery known for American bistro fare and signature desserts. Guy Fieri, host of Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” enjoyed butterscotch ice cream sandwiches with molasses cookies and caramelized pineapple here and proclaimed it “Off-the-chain!”
  • Antojitos Mi Colombia Bakery: Pan de bono, pillowy orbs of corn flour bread, cheese and eggs, is the specialty at this homey Latin bakery. Cooking Channel’s “Eden Eats” was treated to arepas reina pepiada, a cornmeal patty stuffed with spicy chicken and avocado. Picante!
  • Bar-B-Q King: “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” host, Fieri, called the barbecued fried chicken here the best he’d ever eaten. Fieri also heaped praise on Bar-B-Q King on Food Network’s “The Best thing I Ever Ate.” The family-run, curbside drive-in has been serving up its signature chicken, burgers and barbecue since 1959.
  • Brooks Sandwich House: Burger mavens across Charlotte place this no-frills, walk-up burger joint on the tops of their bucket lists. Brooks’ All the Way cheeseburger, filled with homemade chili, cheese, onions and mustard, is a Carolina classic. That’s what Travel Channel’s “Burger Land” host George Motz inhaled when he stopped by the place. For breakfast, try the liver mush sandwich; locals love it.
  • Cabo Fish Taco: Regulars abound at this popular beach-oriented spot, which brings Baja tastes to the edgy NoDa neighborhood. Cabo’s honey wasabi tuna burritos and barbecue fish tacos are top sellers and what “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” host Fieri enjoyed when he filmed a segment here.
  • Caribbean Hut: “Eden Eats” swayed to the tropical vibe here where food from the islands brings in fans like Carolina Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton. Jamaican mainstay tin mackerel and boiled dumplings is the house specialty. It’s so good that the show’s crew wouldn’t leave without the recipe. 
  • Charlotte Regional Farmers Market: An all-season cornucopia of the freshest produce, meats, cheeses and artisanal baked goods at this granddaddy of area farmers markets attracts local and home chefs alike. Iron Chef Bobby Flay brought Food Network’s “FoodNation” here to sample grass-fed beef, cheese and produce.
  • Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar: South Park’s “burgushi” place, Cowfish turns an unlikely pairing into a sought-after art form at this lively, oversized restaurant and bar with a super patio. When the Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise” visited, the crew chowed down on Cowfish’s specialty Dynamic Duo burger—a half-pounder with short ribs, roasted garlic, provolone cheese, tomato and onion jam. The Granny’s Southern Pimento cheeseburger also made the list as well as the Porky’s Revenge burger with fried pickles.
  • Crave Dessert Bar: This sophisticated lounge and dessert haven made the short list for AXS TV’s “Drinking Made Easy” as it visited the Queen City in search of the best of the best. Spirited chocolate fondue with a kiss of Frangelico was definitely a winner for the TV hosts who enjoyed the people-watching as much as the sweet treats.
  • Diamond Restaurant: A neighborhood place where even newbies are treated like regulars, the Diamond was established in 1945 as a soda shop. Today, the institution’s signature Engine Block burgers and fried pickles draw neighbors from all over town. George Motz brought the “Burger Land” crew here for the burgers; everyone left with a smile and a full belly.
  • Dish: Plaza Midwood’s Dish may not have put chicken and dumplings on the Carolina map, but its version owns the Queen City’s reputation as the best in town. Spiky-haired Fieri and the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” crew couldn’t get enough of this Southern mainstay when they visited. Southern comfort food is the order of the day at Dish. Don’t even think about leaving without a slice of the vanilla bourbon sweet potato pie.
  • Grand Asia Market: One of the largest Asian markets in the Carolinas, Grand Asia Market in Stallings is a food fanatic’s heaven. Produce, meats, fish, condiments and staples from Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and beyond line the shelves here. “Eden Eats” took over Grand Asia’s bakery and restaurant while here, enjoying the tangy Taiwanese pickled mustard green sandwich and milk bubble tea.
  • Intermezzo Pizzeria and Café: Hand-tossed pizza and traditional Serbian fare may seem an unlikely pairing, yet this food partnership shines at this casual eatery. Brothers Branko and Djordje Avramovic bring traditional recipes from their grandmother—think becka snicla (weinerschnitzle) and sarma (cabbage rolls)—to hungry patrons. “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” couldn’t get enough musaka when visiting.
  • Jackalope Jacks Restaurant & Bar: Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food” host Adam Richman downed more than two dozen pulled pork sliders at this family-friendly neighborhood sports bar. The amped up Mexacali burger also made Richman’s menu and wowed him with its zesty black bean salsa and pepper jack cheese. Come early to Jacks on game days in the fall; this place is Panther-crazy during football season.
  • Jake’s Good Eats: Southern. Retro. Jake’s. It’s all about comfort food at this throwback renovated gas station with Western themed decor. Fried green tomatoes, blackened flounder and maple-glazed pork chops are part of the constellation of stars on the menu here. Fieri, of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” went crazy over the venison quesadilla—a Jake’s specialty.
  • Krazy Fish: Wildly eclectic describes Krazy Fish’s menu and decor alike. Diners cruise past the outdoor sculpture garden into the pop-art-infused dining room for nontraditional takes like shrimp and jalapeño cheddar grits and the Krazy Fish Fry with honey wasabi sauce. “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” loved Krazy’s gumbo, a hearty stew with cactus, chicken, pork and curry.
  • Landmark Diner: The adjectives cool, casual and classic sum up the Landmark, a breakfast, lunch and dinner spot delivering the goods early, late and in-between. Breakfast specials, like corned beef hash and biscuits and gravy, are standouts as are staples like country-fried steak and chicken souvlaki. “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” went for the classic Greek spinach pie, spinokopita, and the Turkey Dinner with stuffing and gravy.
  • Mert’s Heart and Soul: Low-country, Gullah-style soul food is on the menu at this Uptown legend. The joint has been feeding hungry bankers, police, construction workers and traveling Broadway show stars for nearly two decades at the tiny College Street location. Luscious red velvet cake, macaroni and cheese, salmon cakes and collard greens are just a few must-haves. The “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” crew devoured Mert’s Soul Rolls—egg rolls filled with chicken, collard greens, rice and black eyed peas that are impossible to put down.
  • Nova’s Bakery: Old World European-style bread and pastries are Nova’s calling card at the original brick oven bake shop on Central Avenue in Plaza Midwood. Patrons flock here for flaky, butter-rich croissants, country breads and signature scones. “Eden Eats” sampled just about everything when the show came to Nova’s, proclaiming the yeast bread most divine.
  • PePeRo: Budget extra time when visiting this Korean restaurant and market in Matthews. After enjoying specialties, like mixed rice bibimpap, spicy bulgogi beef, and garlic-heavy daikon and cabbage kimchi, visitors lose themselves in the crowded aisles of Korean dry goods and groceries in the adjoining market. Eden Grinshpan, of “Eden Eats,” loved the sticky rice cakes—ddeok and kimchi-jjigae—so much that she wouldn’t leave without the recipe.
  • Pinky’s Westside Grill: Crowned with a red, white and blue Volkswagen atop its roof, Pinky’s screams rock ‘n’ roll diner and doesn’t disappoint. Chef Greg Auten’s deep-fried pickle chips are the best in town as are his Pimp’n fries—pimento cheese-slathered french fries that are to die for. Fieri, of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” matched beards and tattoos with Auten over the corn dog shrimp and Carolina burger chili.
  • Pit Road Bar & Grill: This fun fuel stop is paired with heart-pumping go-kart racing for NASCAR lovers and speed enthusiasts at Victory Lane Karting. Fieri absolutely devoured the signature Hot Lap sandwich—pulled grilled chicken that’s been marinated in bloody mary mix, horseradish and hot sauce—when he came with “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
  • Price’s Chicken Coop: This takeout-only joint is a Charlotte landmark attracting locals, visiting NFL and NBA teams, and celebs like Jay Leno, all in search of the super-juicy, super-crispy flavor for which Price’s is known. Both the Food Network’s “Crave” and the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” brought their TV audiences here for the flavorful Southern fried chicken, second to none.
  • Prohibition: This classy Uptown club with the uber-fab patio packs in dancers nightly with a pounding beat and a see-and-be-seen vibe. The drinks and eats are pretty fabulous, too, as “Drinks Made Easy” found out when they sampled chocolate-covered strawberry shots and the American Pie martini.
  • Something Classic Café: Caterer and restaurateurs extraordinaire, the folks at Something Classic deliver European flair and Southern goodness all wrapped together into tasty sandwiches, salads and takeout TV dinners. The spot’s classic chicken pot pie was on the menu for Food Network’s “Food Finds,” who discovered this Uptown gem.
  • South 21 Drive-in: Retro, curbside dining is what it’s all about here where no fewer than three national food shows have visited. The Food Network’s “Feasting on Asphalt” and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” as well as the Travel Channel’s “Burger Land” each came to enjoy Super Boy burgers, milkshakes, fried chicken and just about everything else on the menu.
  • 10 Park Lanes: Retro-chic bowling alley and bar 10 Park Lanes made its TV debut on Food Network’s “Guilty Pleasures” when it served up its creative Que Jar—a mason jar filled with pulled pork, Southern slaw and baked beans—and the Lane Buster dessert—a chocolate-coated mason jar packed with brownies, ice cream and chocolate sauce.
  • The TIN Kitchen Food Truck: One of the most sought-after food trucks in the Queen City, the TIN Kitchen consistently wows fans at festivals and street gatherings with fusion tacos, sliders and burritos. TIN Kitchen’s Indian vegetable stew—chana masala—made Fieri, of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” a fan for life.
  • The MayobirdWhen the chicken salad mavens of The Mayobird competed on the Food Network’s “Food Court Wars,” it was one of the tightest battles ever. Charlotte won when the test sharpened the toolkit for these chicken salad warriors whose special versions include the Bluebird—blue cheese and walnuts—and the Vinnie—balsamic vinaigrette and Parmesan cheese. 
  • Papi Queso Food Truck, Orrman’s  Cheese Shop and Queen City Royale: Charlotte was featured in Sweden when TV3’s “World’s Best Burger Hunt” showed up at 7th Street Public Market to sample Queen City Royale’s outrageous pimento cheese and a smoky Campo de Montalban cheese from boutique fromage purveyor Orrman’s. The show next turned to Papi Queso for its special mushroom and gruyere burger and a signature macaroni and cheese pulled pork sandwich known as the Pig Mac.
  • VBGB Beer Hall & Garden: This hip, European-style beer hall and garden has a mile-long list of mostly local and regional craft brews, a huge patio and first-rate pub grub. Hearty fare is on the menu with Zweigle’s brats and hot dogs, favorites that complement the beers. “Drinking Made Easy” went with soft pretzels and beer cheese sauce alongside some cold ones.

Celebrity Eats – A few famous faces are the forces behind two of Charlotte’s newest in-demand diners. 

  • Nellie’s Southern Kitchen: Kevin Jonas, father of pop-stars the Jonas Brothers, pays homage to his grandmother, Nellie, in his new restaurant in Belmont. Classic Southern/American fare is on the menu here, with catfish, shrimp and grits, fried chicken, and biscuits and gravy taking the spotlight. Order a pitcher of gin cocktails, sit back and listen to live music (many of the servers will showcase their own musical talents on occasion) in this casual-chic hot spot.
  • Wahlburgers: This boutique burger outlet is making Charlotte one of its next stops later this year. Paul Wahlberg and his famous brother Donnie Wahlberg bring Smahlburgers for the kids and huge, half-pound OFD (Originally from Dorchestah) burgers for everyone else to the table. The latter is a giant sandwich made with Swiss cheese, mushrooms and homemade tomato jam. We can’t wait.
This article ran in the September 2016 issue of Charlotte Happenings.
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