This past weekend, we had my husband’s cousins visiting and were lucky to stumble across a food tour that is hosted every few weeks in Charlotte. Perusing the website, it seemed to offer something for every kind of taste, and there are several different options for various neighborhoods in the city. I was initially leaning toward the NoDa food tour (which runs through the funky and eclectic part of North Davidson), but the Uptown tour felt better suited for guests who would be visiting the city for the first time. Not only that, the walking proximity to our apartment was a big selling point.
The tour began at the 7th Street Public Market, a nicely sized indoor market that we had accidentally stumbled upon a few months ago when I was in search of a post-night shift coffee. It reminds me of Reading Terminal Market in Philly, but on a much smaller scale. Despite its fewer vendors, it still offers just about anything one would like to find in a market. Locally sourced cheese, wine, honey, coffee, tea, beer, produce, and meats are spread out over one half of the market. The other half hosts multiple vendors that make pizzas, desserts, raw juices, locally brewed coffee, sushi, soft pretzels, and the like. They also have a stand selling novelty soaps and hand-made jewelry. One of my favorite treats at the market is the Italian soda — perfectly refreshing on a hot summer day!
We began the tour seated at a long table with the rest of the group. Despite the rain clouds, there was still a great turnout. Our first dish was a pesto pizza from the market’s Pure Pizza. Made with all organic ingredients, this was one of the best slices of pizza I’ve had in a while! The thin crust, perfect proportion of cheese and toppings, and nut-free pesto mingled in harmony with every bite. We were treated with a small amount of locally farmed honey to dip the crust in; normally I like to dip pizza crusts into marinara or ranch dressing, but the honey offered a new and pleasant taste.
Our second stop was a short walk over to Viva Raw, a raw juice bar that I had been wanting to try. They let us sample several delicious and healthy juice concoctions and provided some informative details on the benefits of juicing. I felt healthier already!
We then left the market to walk to our next stop. Along the way, our fantastic tour guide James offered information on several old churches and buildings that I had never taken the time to really learn about. Being a newly revamped city, the modernity of Charlotte is juxtaposed against the centuries-old buildings that are still scattered about. We walked a bit further to our third stop (and I think my favorite!), The Wooden Vine. I had heard of this place from a colleague, but we had not made it in inside until the tour brought us here. The first thing that struck me about the restaurant was the warm decor and the stunning wooden tables which we learned were all hand-hewn by the original owner. One day this owner decided to sell the place and leave everything behind, including these grand tables! New management took over, a kitchen was added, and the restaurant opened up a few years ago. Certified Sommelier David Soper was that new manager, and we were thrilled to have him give us an intriguing wine tasting of one coffee-esque red wine (the Cappuccino Pinotage), and another bubbly white wine. We were then greeted by Chef Nicolas Daniels who presented a yummy tempeh curry with noodles. The Wooden Vine also offers weekly events such as Classic Cocktail Tuesdays and Wine Tasting Wednesdays. This is a place that I would love to return to, especially after hearing about their “Seven Deadly Sins” dinner, a seven-course meal sometime near Halloween. Count me in!
Next on our tour was Mimosa Grill. We had been here before and I absolutely love their lobster mac n’ cheese! They offer fine Southern dining, bringing in some of my favorites from Cajun cuisine as well. We enjoyed a simple yet flavorful dish of corn and shrimp there, and I learned that they offer a Sunday brunch. The ambiance is relaxing despite its more formal dining experience.
After our quick bite at Mimosa Grill, we skipped right across the street to Amelie’s Petite. Living exactly one block from this very cute coffee shop, I have spent numerous afternoons here reading and sipping some of their lavender or jasmine iced tea. Occasionally I’d enjoy a cup of their delicious potato leek soup as well. We indulged in several of their decadent pastries, including their amazing caramel sea salt brownies. They have a much larger cafe in NoDa, and a third location in Rock Hill, SC. The NoDa location operates 24-hours and has more space to eat, meet, read, and work. I’d recommend this place to anyone looking for a sweet treat, a healthy meal, and a cool coffee shop vibe.
Pen-ultimate on our tour was Vida Vida, the more casual little sibling of Vida Mexican Kitchen y Cantina in the EpiCentre. We always passed this restaurant on the way to the EpiCentre’s movie theater, and we were pleasantly surprised by their use of fresh and local ingredients as well. Their tortillas are handmade daily by a local vendor, and the proof is in the taco, so to speak! Their fun twists on traditional tacos and burritos leave you smiling and satisfied. I normally shy away from Mexican food due to the overwhelming use of melted cheese that tends to take over the entire dish, but the food at Vida Vida was fresh and complex. Of course, with any good Mexican place, the tequila has to be good too! Vida offers nearly 100 different brands, and their margaritas are never made from a pre-mixed bottle. I held back from a margarita that day, but I’d definitely love to try one soon!
Our final stop was at Rooster’s. There is another location in Charleston, SC. Again, everything in the restaurant is sourced from local vendors, including the decor and bar itself. We ended our tour with a nicely laid out charcuterie board with three types of salami that were cured in-house, along with some great cheeses and olives. The interior of Rooster’s was another cozy atmosphere on a rainy day. It was another great find that we otherwise would not have discovered if not for the food tour.
All in all, the tour spanned about three hours and two miles of walking. We had a fantastic experience and got to know our city even better. We especially valued the tour’s loyalty to local artisans and farmers in a show of support for the people of this great city and state. It was an excellent way to show our guests a new city and its surprisingly humming food scene. Not only that, but a number of restaurants we visited are also featured on Charlotte’s Restaurant Week (aka the Queen’s Feast) this week.
I would recommend the Tour de Food to anyone visiting Charlotte! As mentioned, they also offer food tours of NoDa and Metropolitan Avenue (both in Charlotte), along with Davidson, Greensboro and Winston-Salem. The price is very reasonable and well worth the experience! Finally, a special thanks to our great tour guide James. He was very knowledgeable and willing to find answers if he didn’t know them already.
For more information on Tour De Food, a listing of all participating restaurants, and to purchase tickets, click here. For photograph sources, please click on each photo. Bon apetit!