Charlotte’s culinary world absolutely exploded in 2018. So we asked local food lovers to tell us the best thing they ate last year. Let these dishes inspire you on where to dine and what to eat as we kick off 2019.

Yvonne & Jason Ackerman, Scallionpancake

maitake

Tempura Maitake. Photo via Scallionpancake

Dish: Tempura Maitake
Description: Fermented black bean, brown butter, mushroom sponge
Restaurant: Bardo
Why: “Charlotte’s dining scene in 2018 was all about one word for us: Bardo. We still can’t believe that we are lucky enough to have this level of culinary greatness in our town, and their Tempura Maitake was a top bite of the entire year. This dish is savory, crispy, and the hint of sweetness in the sponge puts it over the top. Divine!”

 

Lorri Lofton, Prosocialites

lobster mashed potatoes

Butter Poached Lobster Mashed Potatoes. Photo via Lorri Lofton

Dish: Butter Poached Lobster Mashed Potatoes
Description: n/a
Restaurant: Eddie V’s
Why: “These are a must-try as they are seasoned to perfection with chunks of fresh steamed lobster throughout.”

 

Chrissie Rotko, Off the Eaten Path

blondie

Ashley Boyd’s Blondie

Dishes: (1) Ashley Boyd’s Blondie from Farm to Fork in The Garden 2018 (2) Haberdish’s Cinnamon Roll
Descriptions: (1) Wild Hope Farm butternut squash blondie with goat yogurt, maple, vanilla, and toasted grains (2) Fresh baked, cinnamon, sugar, served with milk caramel
Restaurants: (1) Ashley Boyd of 300 East (2) Haberdish
Why: “I’m actually surprised the two things I picked this year are both sweets (because I usually lean savory!) Farm to Fork in the Garden was an incredible event showcasing Charlotte’s local food, farmers and community and is the best foodie event I went to all year. Everything I ate there was delicious, but Ashley Boyd from 300 East always has standout dishes, and I loved her use of the local ingredients and making the squash into a sweet! Haberdish also had to make the cut for me because it’s one of my favorite restaurants in Charlotte. While I love everything coming out of their NoDa kitchen, I literally dream about their homemade cinnamon rolls and that milk caramel sauce.”

 

Caroline Brown, FEAST Food Tours

duck

Duck and various dishes from Stoke Charlotte. Photo via Caroline Brown

Dish: Duck (seasonal dish)
Description: “The duck comes from Harmony Ridge Farms in Tobacoville, NC. We age it in house for 5 days to let the skin dry out a bit, and then it is pan-roasted to medium and glazed with brown butter, maple syrup, and Chinese five spice. It is served over an heirloom polenta from Farm & Sparrow, a bakery/mill out of Asheville. The dish is finished with roasted mushrooms from Urban Gourmet Farms, pomegranate seeds, and micro mustards from Fair Share Farm.” – Chef Chris Coleman
Restaurant:  Stoke Charlotte
Why: “Overall, Chef Coleman & the team is doing a great job thinking creatively about local Southern fare and updating those traditional flavors to make them unique and innovative in Charlotte’s modern culinary scene. This dish really highlights that, with a variety of carefully-sourced ingredients pulled together with thoughtful cooking techniques and interesting flavor combinations. The story about Farm & Sparrow’s grains is fascinating for anyone looking to geek out a little on single-origin heirloom grains (pro-tip: Chef also uses their product in the hushpuppies).”

 

Nikki Wolfe, Yelp Charlotte

oysters

Oysters. Photo via Nikki Wolfe

Dish: “The Treatment”
Description: Let your server and chef take you on a tour of the F&F menu…
Restaurant: Fin & Fino
Why: “My best meal of 2018 was at Fin & Fino. I did The Treatment, which in my opinion is the only way to experience Fin & Fino. It was an incredible, top-notch experience all the way around from the food to the cocktails and thoughtful wine pairings and amazing service. The lobster and truffles was the stand out dish that I keep thinking about. It’s the one dish my boyfriend and I both fought over to finish. The lobster stock, house-made basil shells, celery root brandade – it’s one of those dishes that you can taste just how much love, care and attention went into it.”

 

Tamu Curtis, Liberate Your Palate

crab claws

FL Blue Crab Claws. Photo via Tamu Curtis

Dish: FL Blue Crab Claws
Description: Crunchy chili oil, green coriander
Restaurant: Hello, Sailor
Why: “The best thing I ate all year was easily the FL Blue Crab Claws appetizer at Hello, Sailor. I drove up that I-77 numerous times this summer just for that dish. First of all, I love anything crab, but there’s something really delicious about that chili oil and green coriander sauce. The finishing salt is the perfect crunch for a self-diagnosed saltoholic like me. This dish is my ultimate umami bomb.”

 

Mark Ashcraft, CLT Motion

la belle helene

Various dishes from La Belle Helene. Photo via Mark Ashcraft

Dishes: Beef Tartare, Roasted Chicken, Vegetarian Salad
Descriptions:
Hand Chopped Beef Tartare – with pomme frites
Poulet Rôti – with yukon gold potatoes with rosemary and garlic
Salade Végétarienne – Anson Mills farro and seasonal fruit and cheese
Restaurant: La Belle Helene
Why: “The Beef Tartare was excellent and the Poulet Rôti, (aka Roasted Chicken in English), melts in your mouth all the while each meaty bite retains the same flavor. The Salade Végétarienne has such a distinctive taste that it had me thinking, ‘Which genius thought to combine heirloom tomatoes and watermelon to create such a fantastic taste?!’ La Belle Helene is a perfect date night spot if you want to leave a lasting impression while also doubling as a great place to entertain important business partners for lunch or after hours drinks. (Basically, if you just started a new job, take your boss here).”

 

Jessica Hodnett, The Sweet Seoul

ribeye

Aged Ribeye. Photo via Jessica Hodnett

Dish: Aged Ribeye
Description: Kimchi butter, Carolina gold rice, wakame
Restaurant: Bardo
Why: “This is hands-down the best thing I ate in 2018 not only because of the gorgeous presentation, but the fact that Mike Knoll added a special touch to this dish: it has kimchi butter. The ribeye was cooked perfectly and paired well wit the Carolina gold rice.”

 

Chef David Quintana, Dot Dot Dot

chicken sandwich

Cock, Block and Roll. Photo via Streamline Kitchen

Dish: Cock, Block and Roll
Description: Smoked chicken thigh, pickled green tomato, greens, Penny’s Pimento Cheese, Duke’s Bread brioche bun
Restaurant: Streamline Kitchen Food Truck
Why: “I just love ‘good , simple, food, done well.’ I like food that is thought out, and this is hits every note. Anything that is fried chicken in a sandwich or in a biscuit has my heart if all the components are right, and that’s why the best thing I had was Streamline Food Truck’s ‘Cock, Block and Roll.’

Here is the breakdown:

They use chicken thigh which is superior to white meat in a fried chicken sandwich of any sort because of the texture. The chicken is cold smoked (the menu just says smoked, but I know it’s cold smoked, very similar to our methods at dotdotdot) then it’s dredged in buttermilk and then seasoned flour…. getting the seasoning right here is HUGE. And they nailed it.

Next the pickled green tomato: sure, they are not really in season, but they transformed this into a perfect pickle. I want to say they were shaved on a slicer to bring uniformity and to make sure that you don’t get too much pickled tomato vs. chicken to bread ratio. Smart move. Just the right amount.

Pimento Cheese: I’m never a fan of sliced cheeses melted over fried chicken, but pimento cheese is smart here because it’s kind of like that mayo that you want AND it’s cheese. It’s tangy. It makes sense!

Lastly: Duke’s Bread brioche bun. I’ve been eating Duke’s Bread for at least six or so years. They are the most consistent. The bun to meat to pickles to cheese ratio is spot on.

The first time I had it, they suggested I try with an egg or add bacon. However, I always want to try things as they were intended before I mix and match someone’s creation. I loved it and next time I’ll try with an egg because why not!”

 

Jessica Bentley, Slice of Jess

watermelon

Watermelon. Photo via Jessica Bentley

Dish: Watermelon
Description: Watermelon, goat cheese, crushed peanuts, benne seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, chili flakes
Restaurant: Stoke Charlotte
Why: “Without a doubt, the best (and most creative) thing I’ve had in Charlotte this past year is the Watermelon from Stoke Charlotte. The fruit is soaked in simple syrup, then slathered with goat cheese and finished with a coating of crushed peanuts, benne seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds and chili flakes. Talk about a mouthful of deliciousness!”

 

Sarah Chatham, Charlotte Food Scene

ham biscuit

Sticky Biscuit. Photo via Sarah Chatham

Dish: Sticky Biscuit
Description: Rosemary cheddar biscuit, Hickory Nut Gap ham, wildflower honey butter
Restaurant: Lincoln’s Haberdashery
Why: “2018 was a delicious year for Charlotte Food Scene, but there’s one menu item that stuck out to me – this rosemary cheddar biscuit, topped with Hickory Nut Gap ham and smothered in honey butter. Enough said. I could eat one (or two) of these every single day!”

  

 

What’s the best thing YOU ate in 2018? Tell us in the comments below.