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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.

February 22, 2024

Seafood dishes to order during Lent

For those observing the season, here is a list that honors both your penitence and palate

by TM Petaccia

Eating seafood is a delicious idea year-round, but the season of Lent brings it to the forefront. The practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays, holy days, and Lent was first decreed by Pope Nicholas I in the ninth century as a form of penance and self-denial in commemoration of the passion of Jesus Christ. The rules have been relaxed over the centuries, but many today still observe some form of it.

Whether you are honoring your faith or just looking for some excellent seafood, here’s a quick list of some of our favorites.

A selection of oysters from Rocksalt. TM Petaccia/UP

Oysters. Oysters. Oysters. A number of Charlotte-area restaurants offer raw oysters on their menus, including Rocksalt, Fin & Fino, Sea Level NC, and The Waterman. All of these host oyster happy hours during the week, some every day. Check out our daily food specials list for the details.

Eat fish with your hands: Taco edition. Head to either the Plaza Midwood or Colony Place Three Amigos locations for its grilled tacos de pescado. Pieces of tilapia are grilled and served with a cabbage slaw and creamy chipotle sauce on flour tortillas. Can also be ordered fried, but grilled is where it’s at.

Eat fish with your hands: Sandwich edition. There’s still time to head to The Market at 7th Street and Jimmy Pearls for its renowned Uncle Gene’s fish sandwich before it moves on to the next step in its James Beard nominated journey. Or head to either the South End or Cotwold’s Poppy’s Bagels location for its “The Works” lox and cream cheese bagel. Both will make you feel like you are sinfully eating even though you’re keeping the faith.

Get down in the mud. Speaking of James Beard nominees, two-time finalist Greg Collier continues to rock it at Leah & Louise at Camp North End, particularly with his Mud Island platter — blackened catfish, smoked catfish stew, rice grits, pickled field pea, and candied pepper. It’s UP writer Ebony Morman’s favorite dish and very easily can be yours too.

NC trout over SC rice at Haymaker. TM Petaccia/UP

Keepin’ it Carolina. Chris Coleman continues to double down on his pledge to improve Haymaker’s already excellent reputation for local sourcing. His NC mountain trout is sautéed to a textbook crispy skin and covering tender and moist flesh. The fish is covered with a dressing of Castelvetrano olives, lemon, Calabrian chiles, and olive oil for a touch of international flair, then dusted with heirloom benne seeds from Marsh Hen Mill in Edisto Island, SC. It all sits on top of buttery Carolina Gold rice, also from Marsh Hen.

Fish camp memories. If you are looking for a tastebuds flashback, order the fried flounder combo platter at Sweet Lew’s BBQ in Charlotte’s Belmont neighborhood. It’s a dish that reaches deep into your soul.

It’s okay to be a little crabby during Lent. The crab cakes with herb remoulade at Dilworth’s iconic 300 East can be ordered as a starter, sandwich, or main entrée. No matter the variation, the crab cakes are well-executed and delicious enough to keep you in the straight and narrow.

Various sashimi at Yama/LoSo. TM Petaccia/UP

Take a couple of fish flights. Prime Fish on the south side of Charlotte is a great destination for all things sushi, so just about its entire menu would apply here. In particular, check out both its salmon and tuna flights. Each offers three different cuts of the respective fish; Faroe Island salmon or bluefin tuna. You can specify nigiri (six pieces total) or sashimi (nine pieces total). The just-opened, Yama / LoSo also offers a wealth of pristine sushi and sashimi options – plus other dishes. Be sure to check out the Kushiyaki (grilled) tiger shrimp.

Best places to mussel in. UP writer Anita Skogland points out the mussels at Fin & Fino are very fresh, well cleaned, large and plump, in a delicious garlic-curry broth with fennel and lime, served warm, tasty garlic bread. Heading south, The One Tapas & Bar in Matthews serves up PEI mussels in a saffron, garlic, and white wine broth.

Eat fish at church. Supperland prepares a spatchcocked grilled branzino with lemon and herbs that is as toothsome as its presentation is impressive. Enjoying this pristine dish in a former church just seems pastorally right.

The blackened catfish at Cajun Queen in Elizabeth. TM Petaccia/UP

From the fiery depths. The blackened catfish at Elizabeth’s Cajun Queen has been a Charlotte staple since 1985. This spicy fish dish may heat up your palate a bit, but cools your soul in a way only a back of the bayou dish can.

Later, gator. Believe it or not, alligator counts (cold-blooded). Boudreaux’s in NoDa has been serving up its tasty gator bites since 1999. Served with a Cajun mayo and citrus pepper jelly, it’s a devilish way to eat right during Lent.

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