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DNC puts spotlight on Charlotte food scene

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CHARLOTTE -- When thousands of visitors get their first taste of the Queen City next week, restaurant owners hope to make a good impression. The Democratic National Convention puts Charlotte's restaurant scene in the spotlight. Wednesday, The New York Times joined the chorus of national media offering insights about dining in Charlotte.

The city's food scene is anchored by old standbys like Price's Chicken Coop, a Charlotte icon serving customers for the last 50 years.

"We still do it the way my daddy and my uncles taught us to do it," said co-owner Andrew Price.

He hopes convention visitors stop in for classic southern comfort food. Price's offers fare, like fried chicken livers, that might be a little foreign to some visitors.

"I hope they take away some of our Southern culture," Price said.

But Charlotte is more than fried chicken.

"We've got a great food scene,” said Mark Allison, dean of culinary education at Johnson and Wales University's Charlotte campus. “We've got some great up and coming chefs."

For decades, many serious foodies thought the city's cuisine was bland and unremarkable, but that started to change about a decade ago.

Many national media reviews of Charlotte's food scene say the city is at a crossroads of traditional Southern comfort food and upscale “New South” cooking.

“The food scene in Charlotte is going to explode in the next 10, 15 years," Allison said.

At the Harvest Moon Grille uptown, chef and owner Cassie Parsons sources all of her ingredients within 100 miles of Charlotte.

"We really let the foods speak for themselves," she said.

She hopes that approach will break some stereotypes about southern food.

"You don't have to have everything fried," said Parsons. "You don't have to have everything smothered and covered."

Parsons wants the Obama family to stop in for a meal sometime next week.

"If they get to be a part of that, I'm telling you, it will be a win,” she said. “It will be a win for everybody."

Even though the convention means new mouths to feed, the Prices aren't too worried about what the rest of the world thinks about what's on Charlotte's plate.

"I've been doing it all my life,” Price said. “It's what we do. It's beyond me what the big hubbub is."

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