by Eric Ginsburg
What does it say when a publication’s second most popular food article of the year wasn’t penned by the food writer? I’d like to think it means we’re versatile and loaded with talent, that we’re more than a one-trick pony.
I made an effort this year to veer away from the straight-up restaurant review, to diversify what qualifies as food writing within Triad City Beat and to challenge ourselves to provide the content that would resonate with readers.
That’s how, I think, that none of our Top 5 food articles of 2015 appeared in the food section.
Yep, you read that correctly, and it’s the Top 6 to be exact.
A list I wrote of the seven best sandwiches in the Triad that “you’ve never tried, but must” blew up on our website, and until last week, it was the most popular thing I’d ever come up with for TCB. The list ranges from hot Jewish pastrami to Haitian barbecue chicken, and also covered the newly opened Melt Kitchen & Bar in Greensboro.
The announcement about Camel City BBQ Factory’s opening — a barcade of sorts with tasty pulled pork on the north side of downtown Winston-Salem — ranked second. It appeared in our news section, and Senior Editor Jordan Green broke the news. Green also helped us get the word out when Crafted: the Art of Street Food formally announced the restaurant’s theme, tweaking a pre-written post I’d saved on our website when I texted him details from the invite-only opening event. That web post is the third most popular food story we ran in 2015.
Next up, the scoop that Tim Thompson planned to open a restaurant called Essen on the former Mexico restaurant site on Battleground Avenue in Greensboro, just blocks from the new Crafted. A cover story I wrote midway through the year, Eats of Eden, ranked fifth, covering the most bizarre brunch options offered at the Triad’s eateries. It’s one of my favorite food pieces I’ve written.
A web post declaring that Hops Burger Bar in Greensboro intends to open a second location right by Geeksboro came next. Then the list finally opens up to more traditional restaurant reviews — the newborn May Way Dumplings and longstanding Sampan Chinese in Winston-Salem and Empanadas Borinquen, a Puerto Rican food truck in Greensboro, in that order. And then right back to breaking food news, including the opening of Freeman’s Grub & Pub in Greensboro.
Some of my favorite food experiences from 2015 didn’t make it into the Top 10 list. Maybe people already knew about the Korean trio running El Nuevo Mexican Grill and serving incredible bulgogi burritos in downtown Greensboro, or it could be that the timing of an article about a Winston-Salem farming couple’s bone broth around Thanksgiving stifled readership. But the two were both high on my personal highlights of the year, as were the launches of May Way, Empanadas Borinquen and Freeman’s.
Winston-Salem and Greensboro are pretty equally represented on the list of popular stories (sorry High Point) even further down the list, as are old favorites and new delights. This year proved that, breaking news aside, there is no one formula for what our readers are looking for when it comes to food other than deliciousness and experimentation.
In my efforts to shake up our food coverage, I interviewed the author of a Persian cookbook, profiled a former brewer who now runs the farm at Guilford College, offered a vegan dining guide, explored every authentic barbecue pit in the three cities and pursued ideas for fixing food insecurity.
I truly loved hanging out at the Carolina Meat Conference at the Millennium Center in Winston-Salem, checking out the old truck Brandon Swiderski is rehabbing for Framework Coffee in Greensboro and witnessing Elsewhere’s chocolate printing-press at SECCA.
I look back fondly on my food exploits of 2015, from a multi-course dessert dinner at Black Mountain Chocolate to hanging on the corner with Donnie Suggs as he made turkey barbecue. I’d never tried Dominican food until stopping by Mangu Bar & Gill, never been to a Competition Dining Series until this summer, and never ordered “choripollo” until trying the chicken/chorizo mix in a burrito at Blue Agave.
Excellent new restaurants opened in 2015 — I’m thinking of Noma and LaRue in particular (both in Greensboro). And I first experienced the glory of Uncle Desi’s Jamaican food, the Asian/Southern American fusion at the Honey Pot and the Screaming Radish food truck (all in Winston-Salem) this year.
Remember that time our interns did battle at an all-you-can-eat sushi meal at Mizumi and Sayaka throttled Anthony? Did you miss the moment when I finally shared the secret of Crazy Ribman, or when Anthony spurred a brief movement after freaking out when I introduced him to the Mediterranean food at Nazareth Bread? Did you have a chance to try the cuisine at 98 Asian Bistro in High Point, which I wrote about nearly a year ago, or the pho restaurant inside Super G Mart in Greensboro?
If you’re bored dining out in the Triad, you’re either not reading this paper regularly enough or you aren’t a very adventurous eater.
As far as my personal experience is concerned, 2015 has been the year of Korean food, though none of the three Greensboro restaurants I fell in love with are new. I start to lose control when I think about the bibimbap and ramen at Don Japanese on Tate Street, I pine for the bulgogi burrito at El Nuevo downtown and I practically explode when I look at the above picture of Korean steamed rolls with pork and chives at Da Sa Rang.
Here’s to hoping that you possess similar food memories from 2015 that elicit such a strong reaction, and to hoping I can help you create such experiences in the year to come.