Friday, March 25, 2016

Rediscovering Charlotte’s favorite forgotten foods

Charlotte has never been a culinary oasis, but there once were dishes in that were hometown favorites  (Photo: andrew taylor)
CHARLOTTEDid you ever try think about what you wanted for dinner and just could not come up with anything exciting or different? You know, one of those nights when nothing sounds good.

Longtime Charlotteans will know exactly what I am talking about when I say we should bring back some of our classic favorites that have, like so much of the city’s history, disappeared from the fabric of the Charlotte we once knew.

About a half a century ago, a group of young professional businessman began eating breakfast at Salem Suber’s Town House Restaurant. Some of the locals claimed “The Town House had the worst food and the best clientele in town.”
The Coffee Cup was an institution  (Photo: andrew taylor)

Actually the food was very good, but the phrase always got a chuckle. The Town House was located at the corner of Providence Road and Providence Road which automatically made it a Charlotte institution because no other city would dare have an intersection like that.

Today a gigantic Harris Teeter occupies the space, but old timers still long for Suber and his cigar stubs and the friendly atmosphere of the Town House.

Many of those up and coming businessmen are still around, even today. Still having breakfast every day of the week including Sundays and holidays. Still solving the world’s problems and telling lies.
South 21 is a local legacy (Photo: andrew taylor)

They call themselves the ROMEOs now, which stand for “Really Old Men Eating Out.” Over the years they have shut down the Town House, Rogers Barbecue, the Athens and John’s Country Kitchen before settling on their most recent hangout at Showmar’s on East 7th Street.

Though some of the original members remain, the group has morphed over the decades, losing some and gaining others, the fellowship remains a cross section of Charlotte history. The ROMEOs know everything and they are not afraid to tell anyone who will listen.

One morning during a lull in the usual lively political/sports/religion debate, the guys began reminiscing about things they used to love to eat in Charlotte that are no longer available.

Athens was one of a few all night eateries where breakfast in the wee hours was like the barroom scene in Star Wars  (Photo: andrew taylor)
After much discussion, they decided to create a menu featuring nothing but items that were once treasured Charlotte “delicacies.” Mind you, that does not necessarily mean “fine dining.” What it does mean is that we miss many of the things we can no longer get when we have a hankering for something that is pure Charlotte.

With that in mind, here is the ROMEOs’ list of Charlotte cuisine that has disappeared from our palates.

Charlotte’s Landmark Cuisine


Dolamades (Epicurean) – Delicious stuffed grape leaves filled with lamb, beef or cheese that came to the table before every meal. Dolamades may still be around Charlotte somewhere, but they cannot rival the Epicurean.

Shrimp Cocktail (Ranch House) – It had nothing to do with the shrimp. It was all about that horseradish sauce that would bring tears to your eyes and make you beg for more.

Fried Pickles (Penguin) – Yeah, you can still get fried pickles in Charlotte, but NOT like the ones they had at the Penguin.

Onion Rings (Herlocker’s/John Country Kitchen)


Lobster Bisque (The Chateau) – The Chateau occupied two different locations on Morehead Street, but the menu was great in either place, and the lobster soup was a specialty.

Andersons was home to the Hot Dorsey Sandwich -- a Charlotte favorite that has disappeared  (Photo: andrew taylor)

Hot Dorsey Sandwich (Anderson’s) – It wasn’t even a sandwich, though it did have a piece of bread at the bottom of the casserole dish. Served piping hot and full of chicken, cheese, bacon, mushrooms and Anderson’s “special sauce” the Hot Dorsey was unique and delicious.

The Gambler (Town House) – Before there was Harris Teeter, an A&P occupied space next door to the Town House. Salem Suber would purchase inexpensive, but tasty, steaks there and serve them in his restaurant. Now and then they could be a little “chewy”, hence the name, but more often than not it was a lot of bang for your steak-loving buck.

Roast Pork Egg Foo Yung (Ho Toy)

Broasted Chicken (The Venus) – Looked fried, tasted better.

Prime Rib (Slug’s Rib)

Great smoke barbecue  (Photo: andrew taylor)

Barbecue (Camp Greene/Old Hickory House) – Smoked beef and pork with flavor unlike any other in town.

Chateauburger (The Chateau) – Quite simply the best and juiciest hamburger you will ever eat.

Country Ham (Laura’s Rozelle House) – You could spend a lifetime just talking about the family style chicken, Salisbury steak and home-cooked veggies at Laura’s but the country ham was so good that it stands alone.

Double Dipped Wings (Press Box) – The crunchiest most flavorful wings ever.

Deep Dish Pizza (La Strada) – There’s pizza and there is pizza. THIS was PIZZA!

Pancakes (John’s Country Kitchen) – If you never tried one of Jimmy Margiotis’ pancakes you never had a real pancake.

Leo’s Special (Leo’s Delicatessen) – A combination of salami, pastrami, corned beef, bologna and Swiss cheese, piled high and served on your choice of bread with chips and a pickle for $5.50. Best deli sandwich anywhere until you got to New York.


Pecan Pie (Andersons) – They said it was the “world’s best” and it might have been. We’ll never know.

Almond Cookies (Ming Tree)

Homemade Ice Cream (Spoon’s)

Mississippi Mud Pie (Dikadee’s)
Coldest beer in town (Photo: andrew taylor)


Peanuts (Tanner’s) – Bowls of big fat salted peanuts with the skins still on them were all you needed for a between meal treat.


Orange & Grape Drinks (Tanner’s) – They were served so cold they made your teeth hurt, but they were a marvelous way to wash down those peanuts.

Beer (Penguin) – Today we have lots of superb micro-breweries and favorite watering holes, but nobody in Charlotte served a colder brew.
Prices lives on as part of a dying past  (Photo: andrew taylor)
There you have it. Nobody said it was a healthy menu, and it certainly isn’t overwhelming in size, but the ROMEOs will just bet that those old time flavors are coming back to your taste buds now. 

For more photographs of Charlotte’s lost history click on:  CharlotteLandmarks

If you think of any more, let us know. Our menu is flexible, adaptable and waiting for more of Charlotte’s dining treasures of the past.