What Dish Would You Serve the Obamas?

Local restaurant holds DNC-inspired contest. Plus, the politics of barbecue
Credit: facebook.com/harvestmoongrillecharlotte
Craig Spitzer, general manager of the Dunhill Hotel, chomps on a meal at Harvest Moon Grille.

Charlotte’s thriving dining scene is one of the main industries that will be on display when the Democratic National Convention comes to town next year. Delegates and national media might be just as inclined to dine at one of our lavish steakhouses as they will be to try one of the popular takeout joints. One uptown restaurant, which is sort of a combination of both, is getting a head start on the action.

Harvest Moon Grille was serving uptown diners tasty lunches from its popular orange food cart before it opened the chic restaurant inside the Dunhill Hotel last year (and continues to operate the food cart). Well, the farm-to-table restaurant has kicked off a contest to determine the “Signature Dish of Charlotte,” to help the city’s culinary identity for the DNC. They want you to create a dish that expresses “the Queen City, who we are, what we are known for, and what Charlotte is all about. Put it all on the plate. All ingredients must be local.”

You can submit entries until March 15. Describe your entry (plus a photo, if possible), include the recipe, list your contact information, and email it to signaturedishofcharlotte@gmail.com. You can also mail your entry to Harvest Moon Grille, Attn: Signature Dish of Charlotte, 235 N. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC 28202.

Judges will choose three finalists, and announce the winner in May. The grand prize winner will receive a free night stay at the Dunhill Hotel along with dinner that night and breakfast the next morning at Harvest Moon Grille. Plus, the winning dish will be added to the Moon’s menu. The second-place winner will get dinner for two; third place will receive a weekend brunch for two. For more details, visit harvestmoongrillecharlotte.com.

I think back to that cold February day when First Lady Michelle Obama announced Charlotte had been selected to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention. She sent a letter that touted how much she and President Obama loved North Carolina and what made this city such an excellent choice. “Charlotte is a city marked by its southern charm, warm hospitality, and an ‘up by the bootstraps’ mentality that has propelled the city forward as one of the fastest-growing in the South. Vibrant, diverse, and full of opportunity, the Queen City is home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds,” she said.

But then her next sentence was: “And of course, great barbecue.”

Little did the First Lady know, she’d poured gas onto North Carolina’s never-ending, fiery debate over what constitutes good barbecue. Is it vinegar-based or mustard-based sauce? Eastern or Western North Carolina barbecue? I’m not even going to try to explain the significance of all of that. But I do know that many serious barbecue chefs around the state scoff at the notion that Charlotte serves great barbecue. Personally, I've enjoyed the barbecue offerings here.

And on that ’cue, as you probably were aware—and may have even visited—the annual Mallard Creek Barbecue took place yesterday at the old Mallard Creek Community House. This all-day ritual of thousands of locals coming out to buy those famous barbecue plates and sandwiches, always takes place on the fourth Thursday of October, and yesterday marked the 82nd year.

As is usually the case with this popular, homegrown community event, several local political candidates came out to show love, including Mayor Anthony Foxx and his opponent, Republican mayoral candidate Scott Stone. Influential business leaders were in attendance as well, such as the billionaire boys club’s C.D. “Dick” Spangler (construction magnate and large shareholder of Bank of America stock) and Bruton Smith (owner of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., which includes Charlotte Motor Speedway). According to WBTV’s Steve Crump, "Mallard Creek Barbeque brings DNC subplot," and in the news clips he talks to those aformentioned folks about the prospects for next year's convention.

In the months ahead, look for more restaurants to begin crafting special menu items in anticipation of the DNC. I think I might lend my expertise on how to make sweet tea at the perfect level of sweetness.

Categories: The DNC In The CLT