Don’t worry, this article isn’t about pizza and bagels. Even I’m sick of hearing Northerners complain about these. Instead, this article is about Northern foods that I not only miss, but that I also feel Charlotte eateries could easily improve upon.
Charlotte Agenda has touched on a few places that serve up Northern staples, but let’s be real, Charlotte still has some work to do. (Also, a cheesesteak without whiz? Go home JackBeagles, you’re drunk.)
Here are five foods where Charlotte (and the South in general) need to step up their game:
1. Crab cakes
My main Charlotte crab cake complaints are as follows:
- Using too much breading
- Putting crab cakes in the fryer (why?)
- Adding in unnecessary ingredients like celery, red pepper flakes or scallions
I’ve had one truly great crab cake in Charlotte, and this was from Baltimore Crab Cake Company food truck parked outside of Lenny Boy. Here’s a helpful hint: Crab cakes should taste like crab! Crazy, I know!
2. Salt water taffy
No one expects Charlotte to be good at salt water taffy, but you would expect that a state with such a large coast would at least understand the concept.
The best salt water taffy comes from its birthplace: Atlantic City. This is where I learned as a young child that the proper shape of taffy should be long like a cigarette, not fat like a bon-bon. I also learned that taffy should be soft and easy to chew, not the stale crap you get in OBX. By the way, salt water taffy has no salt water in it and therefore doesn’t have to just be a “beach” treat. This is why I believe Charlotte confectioners should have no problem mastering the art of fresh-made taffy.
3. Deli meat
The deli scene in Charlotte is dismal. Let’s get one thing straight: Boar’s Head is not high-quality lunch meat, at least not when you’ve witnessed a Mennonite deli owner slice the freshest, local hunk of ham right in front of your face. Visit any Northern deli and you’ll realize that not only is quality important… but so is quantity. Where do you get off putting three measly slices of salami on my deli sandwich? Up north they aren’t afraid to give you a pound of meat on one sandwich and throw in a pickle on the side.
Don’t get me wrong, Portofino’s makes a fine meatball, but I don’t expect even them to master the perfect combination of melt-in-your-mouth meatball and thick, flavorful red sauce. My biggest issue with the Southern meatball is density. Meatballs should be large yet tender, easily cut with a spoon.
5. Soft pretzels
One important thing Southern soft pretzel makers seem to forget? BUTTER. Slather it on like an ear of corn. The Liberty used to make a nice buttery pretzel, but now they are gone. Maybe one of the 10,000 breweries we have in this city could take a trip to Pennsylvania and learn the tricks of the doughy, buttery soft pretzel trade?
Don’t agree with my list? Then prove me wrong.
Show me that Charlotte has Lebanon bologna worth my time. Show me a crab cake that hasn’t been stuffed with random vegetables. Show me a doughy soft pretzel dripping with butter. Because as of now, I haven’t found it.