Certain areas of Charlotte experienced a mass migration of rural Appalachian and Carolina Piedmont populations, as well as formerly enslaved people, at the turn of the 20th century when industry was booming. Small "mini" cities popped up around massive textile mills in parts of what is now metro Charlotte, which produced gingham and other fabrics that were exported across the country and world. These old textile mills survive today, flanking Uptown Charlotte and since converted to housing, restaurants, food halls, and shopping centers.
A couple of Davidson grads wished to capture this era in a new restaurant, devoted to the cuisine and ingredients of the Carolina Piedmont and bedecked with artifacts from those mill town days. Housed in the super-hip NoDa district, which formerly sprouted a mill town, Haberdish is one of the buzziest restaurants in Charlotte. When a friend from Chicago and her friend (and now my new friend!) were visiting Charlotte, they invited me to join them for dinner at Haberdish. Having not really done much exploring of the food scene in my fair city, I was happy to try somewhere new, especially somewhere so widely lauded!
And busy it was! I'd driven the NoDa strip before, but never seen it on a Friday night, and it was lively. Lots of people, and the weather was perfect, so restaurants and bars had their windows and doors open to let in the night air. Haberdish is huge and was absolutely packed with people, including a substantial queue outside waiting to get squeezed in. Fortunately, my Chicago buddies had made a reservation for the three of us and another mutual friend, so we were quickly ushered to our table next to one of the open sliding doors. Al fresco-ish!
Haberdish is as known for their cocktails as they are their fried chicken, each with a fun name. My first was "If the Suze fits," a cocktail made with Suze, an herbal, bitter liqueur, mezcal, sherry, and grenadine. Nicely balanced and super tasty. I also enjoyed a "Fancy Pants," made with a stellar North Carolina gin called Conniption infused with chamomile, roasted peach syrup, lemon, a rosemary-chamomile syrup, and a sprig of torched rosemary. Last but not least, I enjoyed a "Poole Party," complete with a tiny bathing mermaid, and consisting of Makers 46 washed in coconut, strawberry "osmosis" syrup, and lemon. All of them were stellar.
Our server brought out some squares of their house-made cornbread gratis to start, served with their addicting sweet tea butter. That same butter also complemented their hushpuppies, which was merely the appetizer in the parade of delicious fried things we would enjoy that evening. The butter melted easily into the warm, soft fritters––utter comfort food with the sweet butter and the allium essence of green onion.
The fried chicken is the big draw at Haberdish––some have called it the best in the Carolinas, which is a hefty claim. Since there were four of us, we ordered a (very reasonably priced) whole chicken, brined and split into wings, breast, thighs, and drumsticks and served with an Alabama white BBQ sauce. The chicken was tender and gloriously moist, with a perfect fry, but we definitely didn't end up needing a whole one––I took home about two-thirds of it for my air fryer!
Of course, the southern sides at Haberdish are also worthy of attention. We rounded out the chicken dinner with a white cheddar mac and cheese, incredibly crispy tater tots, and sweet potato "dumplings," resembling little gnocchi with sage and cheese. I can feel my arteries hardening all over again just writing about them!
I was happy to visit a new place in Charlotte, in a new-ish neighborhood to me. In fact, my next several writeups are going to focus on awesome spots in the Queen City, giving me a reason to get out and go exploring! Hope both of my loyal readers will enjoy getting a look into the budding food scene in this up-and-coming metropolis. Stay tuned!