Apartment Living BlogFood & Entertaining › 8 Southern Dishes Northerners Must Try in Charlotte

The scene was like that out of a sitcom. My wife and I were attempting to cook shrimp and grits for dinner. The shrimp was the easy part —like stir fry but with a roux. The grits, on the other hand, proved much more difficult. Our only association with grits was from the movie My Cousin Vinnie— something about them being slow cooked. After two hours of cooking, the consistency still wasn’t there, and we ended up tossing the whole lot of them and settled for what looked like shrimp soup.

As we continued to adapt to our new apartment in Charlotte, though, we continued to experiment with quintessential southern foods both in our home kitchen and in area restaurants. It was a fun food journey, and one that we highly recommend. Here are eight southern foods that all northerners must try.

Dinner Grits

Grits. They’re not just for breakfast anymore.

You may have heard of grits before. Perhaps you’ve even seen them offered on a hotel breakfast buffet. They probably looked like lifeless, flavorless porridge. Most likely, you skipped over them, and rightfully so. But I implore you to give grits another chance —in particularly, dinner grits. In the south, chefs and cooks bring grits to life for dinner. The most popular way is the aforementioned shrimp and grits, were the grits come studded with cheese and sometimes jalapeno peppers. I’ve also had maple syrup grits served with BBQ salmon and blueberry grits served alongside seared duck breast.

Pulled Pork

In many parts of the country, the debate rages on what is BBQ —ribs, beef, chicken, or pork. North Carolina has settled that debate with pulled pork. Here in Tar Heel state, pulled pork is served one of two ways —Lexington style or Eastern style. Eastern style is whole hog BBQ with a vinegar based sauce, and Lexington style is pork shoulder with some tomato in the mostly vinegar sauce. I recommend trying both to see which you prefer. Once you do, you can join an entirely different BBQ argument. Which is better —Lexington or Eastern? Obviously, it’s Eastern.


So, what do you wash down that heaping pulled pork sandwich with? I bet you thought I was going to say sweet tea. While sweet tea is the preferred choice for many BBQ joints, I suggest mixing it up with Cheerwine. Cheerwine —who just celebrated its 100th anniversary— is a quintessential North Carolina soda proudly produced in Salisbury. The drink is best described as a cola meets a cherry soda, and it pairs perfectly with BBQ.

Collard Greens

It seems like every culture has its go to green. In the south, it’s collard greens. The stiff and hearty green is normally slow cooked and served in a pork studded, spicy broth. It’s no surprise that it goes great with pulled pork.

Liver Mush

Liver what? Livermush is a compressed patty of pig liver, head parts, and cornmeal that’s spiced with black pepper and sage. It originated in Western North Carolina and can be found on breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus of greasy spoon diners throughout the state. The versatile meat goes great alongside runny eggs or as a substitute for hamburger.


Okra is a common vegetable in the south that is completely foreign to many other parts of the country. While the spindly vegetable is rather creepy looking, it’s worth trying. For newbies, I suggest ordering it fried with a side of Ranch dressing. Soon, you’ll be opting for grilled okra in its whole (still creepy looking) form. If you do attempt to cook okra at home, do so when it’s fresh from the farmers market to avoid the snot-like goo that the center turns into if allowed to sit for too long.


Frickles are battered and deep-fried pickles. While it has begun to creep onto sports bar menus in other parts of the country, the origins are southern fried. Frickles can be served in chip or spear form. If you’ve never had one in spear form, do try it this way. The spears hold more pickle juice goodness to gush into your mouth upon bite.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Another deep-fried wonder of southern culture. Fried green tomatoes are exactly as they sound – tomatoes picked from the vine while they’re still green that are then sliced, tossed in batter, and deep fried to a golden perfection. They’re great on a breakfast sandwich, an unhealthy upgrade to a BLT, or as an appetizer served with the ubiquitous Ranch dipping sauce.

Don’t just try these dished out, though. Try to replicate them in your own home. Here are some tips on how to turn your apartment kitchen into the an iron chef kitchen.

About :

Bryan M. Richards is a beer, food, and travel writer based in Charlotte. His work has appeared in Men’s Journal, Beer Advocate, and just about anything with the word Charlotte in it. Follow his food and drink adventures on Instagram.

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