Looking over the flights, I saw that American had a flight at about the same time that I was getting off work so I could really maximize my travels. I asked my friend Steve, who works for American if I could use one of his passes and he did, s a big thanks to him for allowing me to make the most of it. I arrived in Charlotte in early afternoon and after getting my car and hotel I headed out to start my adventures.
Although it was late afternoon I was able to get through Charlotte's notorious terrible traffic unscathed and arrived at my first stop which seemed to be in an upscale strip mall. The Improper Pig" features barbecue and southern specialties. There is a big bar overlooking the open kitchen and a nice seating area and was seated in a booth.
|The Improper Pig in Charlotte, NC|
|The Improper Pig's bar in the open kitchen area|
I chose the Pimento Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich, which was served on Sourdough bread and topped with Applewood Bacon. It was served with a side and I chose the Jalapeno Grits. That's a real Carolina meal, as both Pimento Cheese and Grits seem to be staples in the diet of many Carolinians. While I waited I met Gavin, the owner who signed my book as we visited about his place and some of the other places that were featured on Triple D that are were in the Charlotte area. The sandwich came and was delicious, the cheese was smooth and creamy. Many places make their Pimento Cheese more on the gritty side, but this was really god! The grits had the Jalapeno taste but not the heat and were thick and creamy, very good. I also tasted two of their house made barbecue sauces. Their version called Queen Bee was one of the best sauces I have tasted!
|My Improper Pig Pimento Cheese Grilled Cheese with Jalapeno Grits|
Before I left Gavin came back to thank me for stopping by and told me that if I was planning to go to a place called Fud and Salud that Jeff, the owner is there until 5p each day, so I knew that I needed to get there to meet him. I left and headed to my next stop about 20 minutes away in the town of Ballantyne. "J J's Red Hots" is located in what seemed to be a town center market area with shops and numerous eateries. I entered a very busy place and took a few minutes to look over their menu, which had a number of choices.
|JJ's Red Hots in Ballantyne, NC|
|JJ's signature dog|
They had a specially marked Triple D menu so I decided to choose the Triple D Hot Dog combo which included the Coney Dog, topped with Onions, Cheddar Cheese and Chili along with Onion Rings and a drink. JJ's has a special after 4p price on their food so the price was really low! The dog was loaded and really good, but the onion rings were phenomenal maybe the best I have ever had! They also had a pickle and pepper bar where they feature some really spicy pickles made in house and pickled peppers and jalapeno slices. I really liked JJ's and will visit again when in the area.
|JJ's Triple D menu board|
|My Triple D Hot Dog Combo, Coney Dog and Onion Rings|
I headed out for my last place for the night. It was a food truck called "Papi Queso Food Truck" but on many nights they take over the pop-up kitchen in the Sycamore Brewing beer hall. Papi Queso specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches and all the things that go with them.
|Sycamore Brewing evening home to the Papi Queso Food Truck|
|One of the grain holders at Sycamore Brewing Company|
I took a seat at the bar and looked over the menu and being a bit full I decided to go light and try the gourmet Tomato soup they featured. The soup was a light tomato base with Tarragon cream and topped with soft croutons. The soup was ok, I thought the tarragon cream gave it a spice that I wasn't all that crazy about. I also decided to try one of the many beers they have on tap and are made on site, there were are 15 on tap. I chose the Red Scotch style beer which was dark but one of the lighter beers they make and was pretty good. If you are beer aficionado you might want to try Sycamore Brewing on you next visit to the Charlotte area.
|Sycamore's On tap menu|
|Papi Queso's food menu at Sycamore Brewing|
|My Papi Queso Tomato soup|
|Washed down with a dark beer|
My first day in Charlotte was done and after a night's rest I headed out early in the morning for the drive to Columbia the capital city of South Carolina. After about a 2 hour drive from the Charlotte area I arrived in the town of Lexington about 15 miles southwest of Columbia. I arrived at "The Farmer's Shed" which is a real live farmer's market. I walked around and saw the restaurant area but it looked closed and then I saw the sign, "The Restaurant is closing on March 17, 2017. Thank you for 15 years of service". That was a disappointment! I decided to buy something fro the market and when I talked to lady working there as to why I was there she was very apologetic, she almost broke into tears but I was very appreciative of that. I decided I had to purchase something that was made on site and decided on a small tub of Honey Roasted Peanut Butter. They had a tasting area and it was really good. Unfortunately I was not able to bring it home as the TSA at the Charlotte airport would not allow me to bring it so they are enjoying honey roasted peanut butter from The Farmer's Shed in the break room of the TSA at the C concourse entry point!
|The Farmer's Shed country market in Lexington, SC|
|Cider frozen drinks but not yet ready|
I headed to my next stop in the historic and famous Five Points area of Columbia not too far from the University of South Carolina. I arrived a few minutes before "Pawley's Front Porch" opened so I waked around to see some of the sites.
|Sites of the Five Points area of Columbia, South Carolina|
Pawley's seems to be more of a night place but they were getting ready when I got there for a big office lunch group. They feature big burgers and southern food. Pawley's has indoor and outdoor seating with numerous TVs for sports viewing. It was a bit dark inside and I was seated at a booth and decided to try the Fried Crawfish appetizer. It came with a honey mustard sauce that was really tasty with the consistency of thick caramel. The crawfish reminded me of little bits of lobster and really good. The only disappointment was the staff seemed very indifferent, maybe if it had been busier then it would have been better.
|Pawley's Front Porch in the Five Points area of Columbia, SC|
|Odd shaped building|
|Entrance to Pawley's|
|Fried Crawfish with Honey Mustard|
I headed out to my last stop in Columbia to meet a high school friend for lunch. My friend has lived in the Columbia area for many years and we decided to meet at a Thai place, that's not a Triple D place but is near where she works. It was great to catch up on old times and new times with Colleen and I hope that we can visit again for a longer time in the near future. As many of you know I am not a real spicy eater so I was wary but the food at Basil Thai was really good and having great company to visit with made it even better!
|Me and my high school friend Colleen|
I left and started the 90 minute drive back to Charlotte. I was really lucky on this trip as the usual terrible Charlotte traffic had not really affected me! I arrived mid afternoon in the NoDa area of Charlotte. NoDa means North Davidson, which is an area of Charlotte where there are a number of eclectic restaurants and shops as well as older homes and newly built lofts. "Fud and Salud" is the pop-up restaurant that is attached to the Salud Beer Shop. The shop features hundreds of types of beers and spirts and the restaurant side features sandwiches using fresh made waffles as the base. I met Jeff, the restaurant owner and chef, whom Gavin at The Improper Pig had called the night before. Jeff welcomed me and we chatted a bit about my travels and the show. I knew what I wanted, it featured on Triple D , the Chicken and Waffles sandwich. Guy really liked it and was amazed that the Chicken Salad base is made with canned chicken! Chicken and Waffles not using Fried Chicken is unusual enough but canned chicken is as Guy would say "Off the hook!".
|Inside the Beer Shop|
I took a seat at the bar and waited for my sandwich. Salud not only sell hundreds of cans and bottles of beers, both cold and not, but they have about 20 beers on tap and do a strong business selling growlers of tap beer.
|Fud and Salud's bar area|
|Fud and Salud's Kitchen and dining area|
My sandwich came and I was really impressed, if I hadn't seen it made on Triple D I would have sworn that the chicken was not canned! I ate one half as a sandwich and the cold chicken salad with the maple glazed bacon along with the maple flavor in the waffle gave it a great taste. The second half I ate the chicken salad separately and it was really tasty. The waffle in it's own was awesome, with a maple flavor, as a stand alone meal it would need no syrup, now that's a good waffle!
|Fud and Salud's Chicken and Waffle sandwich|
|First half eaten as a sandwich|
|Chicken Salad, Maple glazed bacon with the waffle eaten separately|
I had Jeff sign my book and headed out for the walk to my next NoDa stop. "Heist Brewery" is in a brick building near some newly built luxury lofts. I walked into the building and took a seat at the big bar. The bar has at least a hundred bottles of different spirits at the bar and they also have 10 of their own brewed beers on tap. The place is huge, but because the place is broken into smaller rooms it doesn't seem as large as it actually is.
|Heist Brewery in NoDa, Charlotte, NC|
|Heist Brewery's huge bar and huge selection of spirits|
Heist features flat breads and specialty dips as well as sandwiches. I decided to try the Crab Dip. The hot dip is prepared in a cast iron crock. Lump crap mixed with vegetable cream cheese and artichokes topped with cheese presented with assorted bread and pretzel sticks, served very hot in temperature. I have got to say that I was a bit disappointed because the artichokes and vegetable cheese over powered the crab taste, and I am a huge fan of crab meat. The pretzel sticks and assorted breads were excellent.
|Heist Brewery Crab Dip and Breads|
|Pretzel diving into the dip|
I headed out for my last stop on this short Charlotte tour. "Bang Bang Burger" is in a neighborhood on the east side of the city. This place is all things burgers! I ordered the Cowboy Burger and took a seat in the small dining room.
|Bang Bang Burger in Charlotte, NC|
|Dining Are of Bang Bang Burger|
My burger came with Cheddar Cheese, Applewood Bacon, and barbecue sauce on the side and a branded bun! Bang Bang uses fresh angus beef and puts a brand on their locally made artisan buns, very cool! The burger was excellent! Fresh beef really makes a difference and the bun was really good, too! I was disappointed that John, Bang Bang's owner was not there I would have liked to meet him.
|Bang Bang's Cowboy Burger|
|Bang Bang's very cool branded bun!|
All of a sudden my travels were over. I was able to get to a number of places, see and old friend from high school, meet some really cool people and eat some great food! I flew home the next morning with my Triple D count at 562!