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Editor's Note: This story is unlocked for everyone to read courtesy of the CRVA, our partner in nourishing culinary exploration for residents and visitors of the Queen City.

April 4, 2022

Charlotte StrEATs Festival preview

Come celebrate (and taste) some of the city’s most iconic chefs and neighborhoods

When Charlotte Center City Partners approached Unpretentious Palate’s Kristen Wile about the possibility of presenting a culinary festival, she knew she could handle the food and drink part; the logistics and marketing involved with such a large-scale event, however, were dizzying. Then, she remembered how Casey Wilson of Carben Events + Marketing had helped her breathe life into a vision for the first ever UPPY Awards. Together, the two former Charlotte magazine colleagues — who had worked together on past successful food events as food editor and marketing director, respectively — could make this happen.

Happening it is: Friday, April 15 and Saturday, April 16. Rain or shine.

Wilson is most excited about the resurgence of in-person events so that people can once again come together in celebration. Charlotte’s culinary scene is certainly worthy of that. “Charlotte is a relationship town,” Wile says. “This city’s chefs are not consumed with attention seeking because they (and we) know they’re special.” She adds that Charlotte is able to enjoy a long growing season, allowing the city’s restaurants to shine in the area of locally-focused food.

The Charlotte StrEATs Festival presents a taste of Charlotte’s food and beverage scene in a few main ways.

For Foodie Families:
Friday, April 15 from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m. at Gateway Village (900 W. Trade St.)
It’s hard to find quality, affordable family fun, but Charlotte StrEATs Festival Family Night makes it possible. Several vendors will be on site conducting mini workshops, facilitating crafts, and engaging young people to help them connect the dots between food, cooking, STEAM, farms, and the city where they reside. What a memorable (no admission cost) way to conclude CMS Spring Break! Here is just some of what to expect:

For True Foodies:
Saturday, April 16 from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Gateway Village (900 W. Trade St.)
We see you. You want the inside scoop, the early entry, the taste-it-all tasting experience, the noshing and joshing with local chefs, and special event access. That’s why StrEATs Festival is offering two types of leveled-up paid admission. Tasting tickets at both levels allow you to sample your way through Charlotte’s signature neighborhoods and the restaurants that best represent them. View the full list of participating restaurants and food trucks here.

  • VIP Tasting Ticket – Early entry begins at 11:00 a.m. with a mimosa. Enjoy a private event space dedicated to all tasting ticket holders plus access to an all-inclusive bar to optimize the full tasting experience. Top-shelf ticket holders will also leave with the official event cookbook, complete with festival food and drink recipes.
  • General Admission Tasting Ticket – Those who purchase Tasting Tickets also have access to the private event space and full tasting experience. Tasting ticket holders will receive two beverage tickets redeemable at the private bar, featuring mimosas, cocktails from sponsors Woodford Reserve, Finlandia, and El Jimador and beverages from NoDa Brewing and Summit Seltzer.

For everyone in between:
Saturday, April 16 from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Gateway Village (900 W. Trade St.)
No tasting ticket? No problem. There is no cost for general festival access, but registration for a free ticket is recommended to help organizers plan the best experience. Food trucks and drink vendors will be available to enjoy, as well as a non-stop lineup of entertainment to help all in attendance feel plenty festive and well-fed.

  • Shop small. Several small businesses will be selling their wares so that you can support local. Products available range from specialty foods like scratch-made pimiento cheese and hot sauces to home goods like candles and one-of-a-kind art. Bring that reusable shopping bag.
  • Live music will pair nicely with the vibe you’ll be feeling from so.much.good.food.
  • Food Network Celebrity Chef Amanda Freitag takes the main stage at 2:00 p.m. for a demo and Q&A. Freitag is a judge on Food Network’s Chopped, and has appeared on Iron Chef America, Next Iron ChefBeat Bobby Flay, and Guy Fieri’s Tournament of Champions.
  • A neighborhood cook-off will challenge each chef to craft a dish best representing their home turfs.
  • Main Stage highlights include multiple cooking demonstrations, such as ones led by Bruce Moffett and JF Chocolat’s executive chocolatier and owner, Justin Fry.
  • A few of Charlotte’s most creative mixologists like PARA’s Yashira “Yoshi” Mejia will be sharing tips for concocting interesting, delicious drinks from the Cocktail Stage, with samples for the 21+ crowd.

Be sure to also put Dine SHOUT! on your radar as part of the festivities; From April 1 through April 16, you can enjoy special tasting menus priced at $40 or less at certain South End and Uptown restaurants. Before you head out to dine out, view the full list of participants here.

The Charlotte StrEATs Festival will offer memorable dishes, conversations, learning opportunities, and energy, but it is a paradigm shift that will truly make this event unique. Traditionally, those in the food and beverage industry are called upon to donate their already-limited time, resources, and services to gain some exposure. Charlotte StrEATs organizers are turning this around by adjusting the focus.

“This is a celebration of the diverse neighborhoods of the city and what each contributes,” Wilson says. Wile agrees. “Often, the restaurants support the cause of a festival, but this cause is the restaurants. It’s really about them and how they help form the neighborhoods’ personalities.”

VIP tasting, general tasting, and FREE general admission registration is available online now. Visit cltstreatsfestival.com for tickets and schedule. Follow @cltstreatsfestival on Instagram for updates and news.

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