Monday, June 11, 2012

Thousands Throng Uptown for Taste of Charlotte

By Graham Moore
Charlotte Area News Reporter
Restaurants know the advantages of being featured at Taste of
Charlotte. With crowds exceeding 100,000, the exposure is undeniable.
Both new and old restaurants were featured at the festival June 8-10,
but it was obvious that it is an exciting opportunity to be one of the
few that are featured Uptown during the annual food festival that is
growing in popularity every year.

The three-day food festival took place on South Tryon Street between
Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Sixth Street. With 30 restaurants
featuring a variety of food, local wine and beers as well as sponsors,
live music, and street performers, this year's festival offered
something for everyone. The medium of exchange at the festival is
coins, which could be purchased at a few convenient places. The best
deal was to get the big basket of 15 coins for $20. Most food items
were one to three coins while beverages were priced at two to four

Mert's Heart and Soul knows the advantages of the exposure. While
featuring three menu favorites, the Soul Roll (similar to a spring
roll with chicken, black eyed peas, and collard greens) with spicy
honey mustard, Three Cheese Mac, and banana pudding, they were sure to
get some new customers. It is the goal of all the restaurants to have
new people fall in love with their food. Tia, a representative from
Mert's, said that they "always get someone who will try and sample,
then turn around and walk to Mert's to get a full meal." This is why
Mert's will keep coming back after already being a staple at the event
for over six years. It doesn't hurt that the banana pudding won best
dessert this year either.

E2, Emeril Lagasse's new uptown restaurant, was making its first
appearance and was excited to be a part of the event. Jeff from E2
said, "Just about a week ago a spot opened up and we were thrilled to
be able to take the spot" and be a part of the festival. As a new
restaurant, this was a great opportunity for new people to try some
food at a place they might not have known existed yet. They featured a
shrimp etoufee over rice, muffaletta sliders, and almond Cheerwine
pudding. The shrimp and muffaletta sliders were both big hits, Jeff

A third local restaurant that really enjoyed the Taste of Charlotte
experience and saw benefits from their presence at the festival was Ri
Ra's Irish Pub. They offered a Freuben (deep fried Reuben), Irish
potato cakes, and chicken wings with a Guinness sauce. All three are
popular items on the menu, and the wings were so popular this weekend
that they ran out Saturday afternoon.

There were nationally known restaurants there such as Hooters and Tony
Roma's as well as local chains such as Fuel Pizza and Hickory Tavern.
But it's the unique, locally owned restaurants which make the annual
festival so special and which makes people come back every year for
another taste.