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February 19, 2020

Are we overthinking our signature cuisine?

Charlotte natives may have found the city’s niche

The evening before the restaurant opened to the public, we hosted an Unpretentious Preview of The Goodyear House for paying Unpretentious Palate members. At each of our events, we provide name tags, but ask diners to write their answers to an ice breaker question on it instead of their names. That night’s question was this: What is Charlotte’s signature dish?

Many had difficulty answering that question, including myself. The most popular answers were pimiento cheese, shrimp and grits, fried chicken, and steakhouse fare. It was clear we haven’t yet come to define what our cuisine is.

After a night at The Goodyear House, however, I think we’re getting there. Executive chef Chris Coleman, a Charlotte native, has created a menu inspired by dishes he grew up eating here, improved upon with better ingredients and more flavor than the way his mom used to make them.

Dishes like guinea hen stew, a creamed greens grilled cheese, and grilled trout are throwbacks to a childhood in the Carolinas. Yet at The Goodyear House, they’re presented — and cooked — in a way that Charlotte can be proud to show off as our city’s cuisine. Clearly diners are responding to that, too — the restaurant has been so slammed, they sold more than 1,500 menu items in one night on the weekend they opened.

Coleman isn’t the only Charlotte native bringing the city’s cuisine back to their roots. When opening Haberdish, co-owner Jamie Brown spent months researching NoDa mill life. Joe and Katy Kindred’s Hello, Sailor is a reimagining of the fish camps Joe visited as a kid.

If the response to our event there is any indicator, The Goodyear House will quickly join Hello, Sailor and Haberdish as one of the city’s most popular restaurants. That leaves me wondering: Have we been trying too hard with modern Southern, when what our city really needs is to embrace its traditions? —Kristen Wile

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