Jun 26, 2015 - Food and Drink

7 delectables native Charlotteans past and present eat in the summer



Charlotte doesn’t have a lot of traditions. We tend to tear down the old and build something bigger and better, and that’s ok. For the few Charlotte natives left, we still have our memories of how it once was, and no skyscraper or apartment building can take that away from us.

Some of our fondest memories center around food, especially in the summer when meals turn into events and we all try to mask the heat with whatever tastes good.

So what are the foods we ate back in the day? I put together this little to do list for you.

(1) Blackberries. Ok, blackberries are not unique to Charlotte or the south. But with rural areas just 10 miles from downtown, picking blackberries is uniquely rural and urban at the same time. I won’t tell you where my killer blackberry patch is located–you’ll have to find your own. Just wear long sleeves when picking. Trust me.


Try this at home: Toss your blackberries with sugar and pour over a day-old biscuit. It’s heaven.


(2) Real tomatoes. When I see someone buying hot house tomatoes in a grocery store in mid July, I feel sorry for them. That’s because for just a few precious months in the summer, homegrown tomatoes are widely available if you know where to look. My wife, who is from New York, had a mind blowing experience when she first tried a tomato picked ripe from the vine. If you drive a few miles out into the country, there are gardeners with little stands on the side of the road who will sell you perfect tomatoes for a dollar a pound. You should also try to befriend a known gardener at work. They love to share, and you won’t have to eat pink flavorless approximations of the tomato.

Try this at home: Get a big, ripe tomato, slice it thick, put it between two pieces of white bread slathered with Duke’s mayonnaise and add some salt and pepper. It’s the quintessential southern summer sandwich.

(3) RC and peanuts. Back in the day, a lot of people would pour a pack of Lance peanuts into their RC Cola, and drink and eat at the same time. My dad first showed me the delicacy while we were loitering around Squires Grocery, a dilapidated country store in Stallings. It’s unknown how the tradition started, and it seems to be a dying delicacy, but if you want to eat like a real Charlottean, give it a try.


A photo posted by Martin Kratzer (@mkratz777) on

Try this at home: If you really want to be fancy, substitute RC for Coke.

(4) Cold fried chicken. Fried chicken is good anywhere, but in the summer it makes for great picnic food. Don’t go to the park, tho. Drive about an hour and a half west on Highway 74 to the Broad River, locate one of the many picnic tables and make a day of it. The river is rocky, so you’ll need to wear flip flops or old sneakers. But there’s nothing like sitting in the middle of the river facing the current, and letting the cool water rush over you. Especially knowing that chicken and potato salad are waiting for you on the bank.

Try this at home: Pan fry your own fried chicken and put it in the fridge overnight. It gets even tastier.

(5) Fried frog legs. Frog gigging, as it’s called, is a southern tradition that’s slowly dying, for sure. Here’s what you do: Find a pond, go out at night under a full moon and walk around the edge. When you see a frog, stun them with the beam from a flashlight, then shoot them with a BB gun. Once you collect enough, go back to the house, skin them, then fry just the legs. (My friend Brian, who went frog gigging as a kid, swears it really does taste like chicken.)

Try this at home: If you’re adventurous enough to actually to this, be sure to get a gaming license from the state first, and keep in mind that 25 frogs is the daily limit. No kidding.

(6) Homemade ice cream. When I was little growing up in Union County, we got our first electric ice cream maker when I was about 8 years old. It takes a long, long time to make ice cream in the old wooden, electric churns — at least it seemed so to a kid. You play for a while, then check to see if it’s ready, then play some more. The anticipation was agonizing. Pretty soon, you’re willing to eat it without letting it fully freeze. Oh well.

#homemadeicecream #summer #yum A photo posted by Sharyl Williams (@lilbrownhouse) on

Try this at home: Get a modern ice cream maker and make it in your kitchen. It won’t be as memorable as doing it on the back porch, but it’s still a fun thing to do on a weekend.

(7) Drive-in food. There’s Sonic, yes. But if you want to live like we did years ago in Charlotte, go to South 21 on Independence Boulevard (since 1955) or the Bar-B-Q King on Wilkinson Boulevard (1959). You won’t get the best food in the world no matter how many times Food Network has visited, but you will get a taste of the real Charlotte. On weekend nights in the summer, there was no better place in the world.

Eating southern style tonight at this 1959 drive in! 😍 Easy Killer #bbq #barbqking #neonsign #drivein #charlotte #queencity

A photo posted by Amy Flowe (@litteredgirl) on

Try this at home: Find a friend with a pickup truck, order some chicken at Bar-B-Q King, and eat in the back of the truck on a Friday night. It’s what we Charlotteans have been doing for years.


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