Another Charlotte Restaurant Week — a glorious celebration of the cuisine Crown Town has to offer, has come and gone. But, our tastebuds are still dancing from the amazing treats we tried and we’re looking forward to many meals to come.
There were a lot of new restaurants featured this year, but some incredible, long-standing Charlotte spots, too. While we love the “new new,” we have a soft spot for restaurants that are “O.G. CLT.”
We picked four participating restaurants that have been in business in Charlotte for over 15 years and sent a few of the #CLTAvengers — Charlotte’s mightiest Instagrammers — to join in all of the food fun. Let’s be honest … a restaurant that’s been open for over 15 years in Charlotte is practically a QC historic landmark. But, they can be easily forgotten in the wake of so many openings.
As you put your thinking caps on to figure out where to dine this weekend, our Avengers suggest bumping one of these long-standing CLT faves to the top. You may not be able to get the Queen’s Feast special menu items described below, but that was just a small taste of what’s on the menu today.
CHARLOTTE GUICE’S PICK: CAJUN QUEEN
1800 E 7th St, Charlotte, NC 28204
Follow Charlotte Guice on Instagram at @charlotteguicedesigns
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“So a Cajun walks in to Cajun Queen…”
It was almost like a first date. I definitely have some expectations, but am excited for the experience. Will I like them? Will they notice my old t-shirt from Baton Rouge? Will we do this again?
Truth be told, I usually avoid Cajun restaurants anywhere outside of my native state of Louisiana. My family and I cook. A LOT. So, it can be hard to go out for a cuisine that’s a family specialty and regular fare at home. With all that said, I was quite excited to experience this long standing restaurant.
Cajun Queen resides in an old brick house on E. 7th street and has been around since 1985. Anyone who has been in Charlotte for even 5 months should know a 34-year old restaurant is no feat to be taken lightly. Restaurant week provided a perfect opportunity to easily get a taste of their offering.
From the Queen’s Feast menu, I chose:
First Course: Cup of Gumbo – I can’t sugarcoat this one… it wasn’t a winner for me. But, to be fair, they do a tomato-based Creole version, which I wasn’t expecting. When it comes to gumbo, a dark roux version (no tomatoes) is my ride or die. The controversy between tomatoes in gumbo is analogous to Eastern vs Western BBQ in NC.
Entrée: Shrimp and Crawfish Etouffee – That thick roux that I was missing in the gumbo? They made up for it here. The etouffee was dark and actually had some heat, which was a pleasant surprise. This was closer to what I know and love.
Dessert: Bourbon Bread Pudding – It’s french bread soaked in cream and the nectar of the gods. You always have me at bread and bourbon. Add peaches, golden raisins, cinnamon… and caramel and whipped cream on top… what can go wrong? I ate every bit. No regrets.
The ambiance was the best, and most important, part of Cajun Queen. The cozy, old house with live jazz humming away. The mardi gras beads hanging from the tree outside the front porch…
Being born in New Orleans, you come out with this next-level love for food. It’s hard to understand how people can talk about bread for an hour, but we do it all the time. The food is important, but the true greatness is what’s happening underneath that – the conversations and life shared together.
For that reason, my family always has dinner together at the table and a couch in the kitchen… and I felt like I could’ve put a couch in Cajun Queen. This little landmark gem in our community nails this sentiment of it being more than just good food – it’s the time shared.
So, Cajun Queen – let me know if a loveseat or sectional would be a better fit in the kitchen.” – Charlotte Guice
JAVIER MORALES’ PICK: 300 EAST
300 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203
Follow Javier Morales on Instagram at @qc_javi
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“Where to begin with the awesome experience at one of the long-standing restaurants in the city. 300 East is located in the Dilworth area obviously on East Blvd. And, the facade is an older Victorian home that got flipped upside down to become one of the oldest restaurants in Charlotte by serving delicious meals for over 32 years.
Let’s get to the food.
Visiting this amazing restaurant for the first time during Queen’s Feast, I had no idea of what to expect. This seems like a restaurant you would go to for a special occasion. But, after arriving and seeing the cozy environment and décor of a home, I truly felt like there was nothing to be afraid of.
For the first course, I ordered the hummus, as a safe appetizer with pita wedges to start getting in the mood to eat. Nothing too crazy really.
The second course I ordered the Grilled Hanger Steak, which came with a delicious onion marmalade, horseradish sauce, over a good old mountain of mashed potatoes. The marmalade and sauce gave the steak a very unique taste and something I had not tried before. It was a perfect combination of something sweet and something a little bit bitter in order to complete the combination of flavors with the tender piece of steak. I devoured every piece of the steak and anything it came with. Not only because I was hungry from not eating lunch at work to have space for dinner, but because it was an electrifying experience to my taste buds.
Dessert is probably my favorite part of any meal. I think it’s very necessary to enjoy something sweet after every meal to finish off the beautiful moment of eating. In this occasion, it wasn’t a secret that one of the main reasons I picked 300 East was because after looking at the menu I saw they had a “Café con Tres Leches Cake” and my Latino blood spoke to me saying that I needed to judge how good this Coffee Tres Leches Cake had to be. Coffee milk crumb, mango ribbon and guava jam were all a part of this treat. I was not disappointed by what I expected to be a superb piece of Tres Leches, and it was. Talking about it makes me want to return in time just so I can enjoy that delicious cake one more time.
My experience at 300 East from the beginning was spectacular. I was able to talk to one of the managers as I was waiting for my guest, and they were telling me a little bit about the story of when Mrs. Coulter purchased the location in 1986 and she decided to turn it into the beautiful dining location it is today.
One of the decorations that caught my attention as soon as I entered were these hanging origami decorations by the host stand. I was told had been there since the restaurant opened back in the day. They were made by an old pastry chef that loved building origami shapes and they just stayed forever.
Overall, this restaurant is a gem in Charlotte. I am glad I took the chance to experience it for Queen’s feast. I would totally recommend it to anyone that wants to have a casual dining experience with a pleasant and cozy vibe. Service was excellent through visit and I enjoyed every moment spent there.” – Javier Morales
ROMAN PERRYMAN’S PICK: CARPE DIEM
1535 Elizabeth Ave, Charlotte, NC 28204
Follow Roman Perryman on Instagram at @romantheempire
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“I really enjoyed my experience at Carpe Diem. They have an awesome space with bar and restaurant seating. The service was wonderful, everyone was very polite and the food did not disappoint.
The Grilled Grape Salad was an easy choice for me. Grapes, arugula and the pleasant surprise of pistachios was perfect warm up to the entree.
I ordered the Fried Chicken Breast with mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. I’m was not a sautéed spinach person until I tried theirs. They blew the fried chicken away … and the use of Yukon potatoes was a touch that tied it together. I can see why this place has been open for 16 years!
Last course of the meal was Tres Leche Cake, one of my favorites. It was delicious although it could have been more moist. Still was a great end to the meal.
The people, the space, the food, and the scene were all very satisfying. If you are looking for a place to grab a glass of wine, great food, with a welcoming and open environment, give Carpe Diem a shot!” – Roman Perryman
ANGIE PATTERSON’S PICK: RED ROCKS
4223 Providence Rd #8, Charlotte, NC 28211
Follow Angie Patterson on Instagram at @ang_EP
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“The Biscuit asked me and fellow #CLTAvengers to take part in the Queen’s Feast eating festivities and I went with an OG: Red Rocks.
I was seated outside and was greeted within a minute or so, where the waiter took my order. I had already scoped out the offerings for restaurant week, so I was ready with my order of the chopped salad, filet medallions (with smashed potatoes and steamed broccoli) and strawberry cake.
Within five minutes, my salad arrived. Who doesn’t love a fresh salad? This one was unique, with slivered almonds and Craisins. It added that extra something! Maybe about 10 minutes later, my main entree arrived. Oooooh, I love looking at my plate of food and knowing with confidence it will be amazing. Red Rocks did not disappoint.
The filet was tender and the mushroom demi-glaze was delicious on the steak, as well as the smashed potatoes. While the broccoli pieces were a bit big for my liking, they were steamed just right. I did eat the majority of them. My mom would be proud!
Next up … the strawberry cake. It wasn’t what I expected, but how cute! I was expecting a normal slice of cake, but this was actually a small layered cake. The icing was a bit too sweet, but the strawberry taste was definitely there. The cake was soft and not dry.
Overall, I had a nice meal at Red Rocks.” – Angie Patterson
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