Poke bowls and matcha stormed the Charlotte food scene in 2018. Here’s what we expect to see gain traction next year.
Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, is a potent extract from the cannabis plant that’s popping up in everything from cookies to cocktails. Unlike its cousin THC, CBD is non-psychoactive and legal in all 50 states, which means it won’t get you high. But it may still make you feel good.
Charlotte CBD, a well-stocked dispensary and bud bar selling CBD edibles, oils, topical creams, pet treats and more, opened this year on Central Avenue. We’re also seeing CBD find its way onto progressive menus around town, from Haberdish’s “The Apothecary” CBD cocktail to Lincoln’s Haberdashery’s “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” CBD latte.
Next year, expect to see on-trend Charlotte eateries try their hand at more inventive CBD menu integrations. In New York City, vegan restaurant darling by Chloe recently debuted a line of CBD-infused baked goods, including cookies, cupcakes, brownies and pies.
Related Agenda story: Where to buy CBD oil in Charlotte
Everyone from Bon Appetit to Thrillist is waxing poetic lately about this humble Japanese convenience store snack. In fact, Thrillist calls the panko-breaded, deep-fried pork or chicken cutlet served on crustless white bread the avocado toast of 2018.
While katsu hasn’t hit that level of wall-to-wall food hype just yet in Charlotte, we were painfully late to the avocado toast game too so surely it’s on the way.
Fermented foods and probiotics
Gut health is hot right now giving traditionally un-sexy foods (sorry, sauerkraut) a moment to really shine. Food rich in probiotics due to natural fermentation — like kimchi, kefir, kombucha, tempeh and, yes, sauerkraut — may help improve digestive health by strengthening your gut microbiome.
That’s not to say eating kimchi cancels out the all-you-can-eat parade of meat it’s paired with at Let’s Meat KBBQ, but you get the idea.
Several fermented foods are staples in different international cuisines — like Korean kimchi and Japanese natto — but we’re seeing them show up in unexpected fusions too. Pinky’s Westside Grill, for example, tops a hot dog with cream cheese and kimchi and Tin Kitchen features it on their pork belly tacos.
On the health food front, Living Kitchen has a line of flavored non-dairy probiotic milks, including mocha, matcha and chocolate chaga.
Gone are the days of sipping on soda or a syrupy virgin daiquiri when you choose not to partake in alcohol. Whether you’re pregnant or a recovering alcoholic or simply not interested in partaking, your drink options are improving.
A number of bars and breweries already have non-alcoholic options like kombucha or nitro cold brew on tap. Unknown and Heist even brew their own ginger ale and Red Clay has sparkling cider and apple cider available.
But what about in a full-service bar where everyone else is drinking a $14 craft cocktail? Things are getting better there, too.
Seedlip, a non-alcoholic spirit from England made with botanical distillates and extracts, is showing up on bar and restaurant menus in bigger metros like NYC and Chicago. Around here, you can get your own fancy ingredient-driven non-alcoholic mocktails by request at places like Dot Dot Dot, The Punch Room, Haberdish and Sea Level.
Look for more “health” cocktails with fresh-pressed juices, drinking vinegars, adaptogenic powders and (of course) CBD oil.
Middle Eastern cuisine
Charlotte loves Middle Eastern food, evidenced at least in part by local fast-casual concept Yafo’s expansion from SouthPark to Plaza Midwood with a third Dilworth location on the way. And then of course there are long-time favorites like La Shish Kabob and Kabab-Je.
But Middle Eastern flavor influence will continue to extend beyond categorically Middle Eastern restaurants. Expect subtle exploration into the cuisines of places like Lebanon, Syria and Turkey with ingredients like tahini, za’atar and harissa showing up anywhere from cocktails to desserts.
Eco-conscious packaging and practices
2018 was the beginning of the end for plastic straws after Starbucks announced it would eliminate them in all stores by 2020. A number of Charlotte establishments followed suit or were already on top of the ball. Mac’s Speed Shop swapped plastic straws for a more expensive biodegradable version at all eight of its locations and SouthBound (under the same ownership) has always only served paper straws. Queen City Grounds uses paper straws, as does The Lights Juicery & Cafe down in Ballantyne.
But eco-friendly restaurant operations don’t end (or begin) with straws. The city also rolled out a new Green Seal program this year that awards 1, 2 or 3 crown ratings to establishments implementing environmentally sustainable practices. The first 3-crown seal went to Heirloom.
The application awards points for using recyclable packaging and eliminating styrofoam containers, among other practices. Expect to see many more local restaurants carry the Green Seal in 2019.