It Just Might Work: Taking a cue from Charleston’s foodies

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Joanna Rutter headshotby Joanna Rutter

It may not be popular around these parts to claim that Charleston is the foodie capital of the South, but for a city that has a population only slightly higher than High Point, its status as one of the top food destinations in the country is impressive.

What if the next wave of newcomers to Greensboro’s restaurant industry could instill the kind of pride for history and dedication to local cuisine that so famously defines Charleston? Greensboro restaurants like the Iron Hen and Sticks & Stones use local ingredients in their cooking, and others pay tribute to historical figures like Nathanael Greene. How about taking both of those themes further to replicate Piedmont-specific dishes?

More top-shelf chefs punching in the same weight as the likes of Leigh Hesling of Print Works could be lured to Greensboro with challenges like paying homage to the Saura/Cheraw Native Americans who first inhabited the area with rich, gamey dishes featuring venison, corn and gourds, or putting a funky-yet-respectful spin on Lumbee tribal standbys like the collard sandwich or chicken bog (a gumbo type of dish with rice and sausage).

Charleston spots like the Obstinate Daughter and Prohibition hearken back to certain eras in the city’s history; it’d be a welcome respite from the repetitive burger joints to see the next restaurant in Greensboro honor our Underground Railroad and sit-in history through Southern food. Quaker dishes like mush cakes and bacon potato dumplings could be served alongside spiced-up local staples, all named after historic figures (Charlotte Hawkins hash browns… the menu writes itself). Names currently up for grabs include the Gate City Lunch Counter, Greensborough Larder, and Cone Bros. Ice Cream Co.

Nurturing Southern foodie culture in Greensboro could add vibrancy and variety to the local restaurant scene. And the same could be said for Winston-Salem, which is already distinguishing itself as a Southern food destination — look no further than the grits at Mary’s Gourmet Diner. All it’ll take are a handful of enterprising chefs, daring investors and a whole lot of taco-weaned locals willing to try something new.