Thursday, December 10, 2009

Remember Charlotte's "Best" 25 years ago?

The first "Best of Charlotte" book was being researched 25 years ago for the hotel chain Guest Quarters, and in Friday's CLT section, I take a look at three that are still around.

But I'm betting some readers remember rather a lot of the places that aren't, too, and so I'm sharing some highlights from the book (courtesy of reader Alex Coffin) here. Feel free to comment with your reminiscences, and I'm particularly interested in which ones you love that are still operating.

The 1985 book's dining-out section begins: "Charlotte's restaurants offer food from every continent (Antarctica excepted, of course) for every palate, pocketbook, mood, and time of day."

Well ... Casablanca counted as the sole African representative, with Egyptian mango juice getting special note. Others listed by cuisine were Rheinland Haus, Nakato's, Royal Palace, House of Hunan, Chez Daniel, Raga, Silver Cricket, La Paz, Nickleby's, Riccio's, Mangione's, Papa Gallo's, Giorgio's and La Tache, plus "American" winner The Diamond.
Subcategories included: Cheap all-you-can-eat: Fish Fare. Cajun: A.W. Shucks and Hotel Charlotte. Elegant seafood: The Fishmarket. Oysters: Calabash Cove. Soul food: Coffee Cup and Mildred's. Southern family-style: Laura's Rozzelle House. Cafeterias: McDonald's and Barclay's. Barbecue: Lexington No. 1, Smokey Joe's (both in Lexington) and Rogers and Spoons in Charlotte. Best imported barbecue: Papa Doc's Pig Palace and Old Original. Fish camps: Lineberger's, Mitchell's Fish House, Pat and Mick's Family Fish House (out of town) and Riverview Inn and Hide-A-Way Inn in the Charlotte area. Barbecue and fish camp: Gus Purcell's. Kosher deli: Leo's.

Then there are odder titles : "No-Surprises Steak House": Ranch House, and "Wholesome Fresh Fare": Pewter Rose (its first incarnation, at Spirit Square, not the current South Boulevard one).

"Mood" recommendations included: View: Slug's 30th Edition. Romantic hideaway: The LampLighter. Late-night people-watching: Knife and Fork. Gracious ladies' lunch spot: Eli's on East. Place to hang out with the old guard: The Townhouse. Place to see a newspaper person miss a deadline: D 'n 'P. Place to take a business client to lunch: Barley & Rye. Neighborhood jock hangout: Kenilworth Cafe. Old Charlotte dining spot: The Epicurean. "Far from the Madding Crowd" sanctum: The Chateau. Uptown downtown hangout: Jonathan's Uptown. Place to get cozy: Proposition XLV. Place to pretend you're a hillbilly: Po' Folks. European Cafe: Cafe Society. Songs with your supper: Zarrelli's.

And by-dish suggestions mention pizza at Carlo's, margaritas at Casa Gallardo, grits at San Remo, moussaka at Anderson's, lemonade at Wad's, fries at the Red Blazer. Thankfully, we still have several of those in particular: fried chicken at Price's, cooked vegetables at Gus' Sir Beef, hot dogs at Green's Lunch and onion rings at South 21.

What do you remember best, and which of the ones still around do you patronize?

(And for some terrific old photos, check out this.)


Stephen said...

Wow what a deep subject. Have you checked out
Not updated as often as it once was but has a great editorial and pictorial history of such bygone places.

I *really* miss Silver Cricket.

Lets see, these are the places that I know offhand are still open: Nakato, La Paz, Riccio's, The Diamond, Hotel Charlotte, Riverview, Leo's, Ranch House, Pewter Rose, Price's, Gus's, Green's, and South 21.

The first 3 are in different locations as is Pewter Rose (and arguably South 21 I suppose). I still eat at Riccio's, The Diamond, Hotel Charlotte, Ranch House, Pewter Rose, Price's, Green's, and South 21.

There are probably others I am forgetting. BBQ King is still open. Of course the Penguin, even if it is completely different it is the same name in the same location! Tanner's opened back up on South Blvd. The Greystone. Beef and Bottle. Carpe Diem in its 3rd location. Its late and my brain is tired, maybe I will chime in with others later.

Helen Schwab said...

Thanks, Stephen. I do know that blog -- fabulous photos; even menus! -- and was hoping to touch base with the author before posting a link, but haven't heard back. So I went ahead and added it; still hope to hear some details, and will share if they come in.

Clay said...

Grew up around the corner from Cotswold and loved when my parents took me to House of Hunan. Best Poo Poo Platter anywhere! The Ranch House is still the best place for a steak in Charlotte and their homemade coktail sauce is horseradish heaven! Hotel Charlotte is still good but only a glimmer of it's former self before the renovation. The original Nakato's down passed the old Old Coliseum (back when Independence was 2 lanes!) was fantastic. Barclay's Cafeteria in Belk's at Southpark was where my grandparents always took me to eat and I loved the piano player who was always playing outside the front entrance. Lastly, my favorite pizza in Charlotte was Godfather's in Park Road Shopping Center. Great pizza and they had a great arcade room!

Anonymous said...

My favorites are Hotel Charlotte, Pewter Rose and Al Mike's (from Observer article). I didn't live in Charlotte 25 years ago - but it's been sad to see some great restaurants leave over the last 10 years (Frankie's most recently). But, I am glad to see so many are doing well.

Definitely miss Anderson's - it would be a great anchor for the new & improved Elizabeth Avenue!

Anonymous said...

I got here by Googling "Papa Doc's Pig Palace." There is little trace of Papa Doc's on the Internet. When I was a kid, my dad tortured me with their napkins. If I remember correctly, the napkins were printed with the image of a man holding a pig, and the phrase, "Have Pig Will Travel." I think it all started when he included one of their napkins in my lunch bag, and I told him to please never do that again because it was embarrassing for me to have that napkin at school. So he started hiding these napkins around my room, in the pockets of my clothes, in my backpack... anywhere I might stumble upon them. I just moved back to Charlotte after 20 years and I was hoping they were still around so I could go get a napkin and send it to my dad.