In the Charlotte area, we love good food. Are we a metro of foodies, a product of Johnson & Wales, something else?
All of the above, probably.
One of the great things about covering the local food scene is that we will never run out of good restaurants to cover. Whether a restaurant has been here for decades or for 5 minutes, it’s got a story to tell, a place in our culinary landscape.
All year, our CharlotteFive Readers’ Choice awards have been celebrating your favorites in the area’s food story. At the end of the year, let’s reflect on all of the best 2022 had to offer.
Here are some details about all the winners you chose for the 2022 CharlotteFive Readers’ Choice contests:
Best coffee shop
Bitty & Beau’s first opened in Wilmington and is known nationwide for its inclusion and employment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “This is just an incredible honor. From the moment we opened it’s just been nothing but support,” said Bitty & Beau’s Amy Wright. “Eighty percent of people with disabilities are unemployed in this country and so for a lot of these people, this is their first job.
“The fact that so many people voted for us and supported us since we opened sends a message to our employees that their jobs matter and their lives matter,” Wright said. “It shows the world what you can do when you give people opportunities. Our guest experience is what makes us unique and the coffee is awesome. We hope everyone in Charlotte will give us a try.”
To learn more about Bitty & Beau’s, check out this story from the CharlotteFive archives.
Best chicken wings
Can’t decide which wing sauce to order at Wing King Cafe? Get the King Sampler, where you can get five sets of five (your choice) with three dressings.
“We’ve been here a long time. We’re a little hole in the wall but once you find us, you’re going to come back,” said Wing King Cafe’s McKenna Murr, who has worked there for 10 years.
“Their sauces and their spices are so much different than what anybody else has. It’s just the place to be,” customer Rick Norris told CharlotteFive.
Yummm Donut opened in Gastonia in December 2021. You’ll find its fluffy, yeast doughnuts topped with your favorite childhood flavors, such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Oreos and M&Ms. Classic sprinkles and s’mores topped varieties are on the menu, along with fresh apple fritters.
“We’ve gotten a lot of love from local people,” said co-owner Charlie Sun, whose family moved to Gastonia from Houston, where his parents owned a doughnut shop. “We feel very blessed, and we’re very surprised we got entered into this competition.”
He said the secret to the success of the shop he co-owns with his wife, Janice Zhou, is the time they spend making the doughnuts by hand. “We make them the traditional way — no shortcuts,” he told CharlotteFive. The team starts making doughnuts at midnight — each batch takes 4-5 hours — and spends 17-18 hours a day in the shop. This ensures that customers always have a large selection of fresh doughnuts to choose from.
Location: 500 S Main St, Mooresville, NC 28115
The Barcelona Burger & Beer Garden has received national attention for its take on the classic staple. Its burger — made from certified Angus beef — has been ranked the best in all of North Carolina.
Barcelona’s burgers are made with fresh prime Angus beef with no additives and then are seasoned with a blend of sea salt and all natural spices.
Why that name, Barcelona? “Barcelona is my favorite city — full of life, happiness and good food,” Michal Bay told CharlotteFive. “I chose Barcelona because of all the good memories. You wouldn’t necessarily associate the city with great burgers, but I’ve had many there with friends.”
Best ice cream
Since 2016, Artisen Gelato in Matthews has been offering allergy-free gelato, meaning the shop caters to multiple allergens: including nut free, soy free and dairy free desserts. Artisen’s latest creations include classic flavors like Rum and Raisin, Brownie and Cookie Dough. Seasonal flavors include Peppermint Bark, Passion Cheesecake and S’mores.
If owner Manolo Betancur looks familiar, it may be from your last visit to Manolo’s Bakery on Central Avenue. Betancur, who owns both places, was named the Tiptree World Bread Awards winner of the US Bread Hero competition back in November. He was also recently featured in CharlotteFive for his love of baking quinceañera cakes for Charlotte’s Latin American community.
“We believe that this is the future, that this is the closest to perfection,” Betancur told CharlotteFive on Friday afternoon, referring to the shop’s allergy-friendly selection of gelato. He said his wife and her team run the shop, creating “the best gelato that you can have in the nation.”
Location: 52 Ervin St, Belmont, NC 28012
Ray Steimal said that before his team started Primal Brewery, making beer was a hobby for his team as well. “We thought, what better way to be involved with the people and the beer than to make the beer and serve the beer to the people.” The people are the best part, he said.
Ray told CharlotteFive that being part of this contest was a pleasant surprise. “Seeing the support from our customers and team members and friends and family across the state has been really gratifying.”
You have two choices when planning your Primal Brewery visit: There are locations in Belmont and Huntersville. “It’s a great experience to be able to sit, chat, tip a pint and just really get to know people.”
This story was originally published December 22, 2022 6:00 AM.