There was a time when moving to Charlotte meant saying good-bye to your adventurous palate. No lemon grass, no braciole, no craft beers, no cult wines. Even lamb was a rarity, and "crusty bread" just meant the biscuits were stale.
That was a long time ago. These days, Charlotte has got so many great places to shop for food, we can't list them all. To give you a taste, here are 10 specialty food stores, from Italian to Asian to gourmet.
1. Pasta & Provisions, 1528 Providence Road, 704-364-2622, www.pastaprovisions.com. Squeaking through the screen door and clomping around the wooden floors always makes us smile. But the real reason to go is to stock up on fresh pastas and sauces, frozen Italian entrees, sliced deli meats and olive oils. Open daily, and stays open until 8 p.m. on weekdays, so you can pick up something for lunch or dinner.
2. Ferrucci's Old Tyme Italian Market, Shops on the Green, 20910 Torrence Chapel Road, Cornelius, 704-896-3190, www.ferruccis.com. Owner Tony Stafford grew up around the meat business in New York, and the store he started with his late wife, Maria Randise, was one of the first in this area to carry things like braciole and lamb shanks, along with Italian entrees and salads. If youre from the Northeast, you will feel at home. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
3. What's Your Beef Butcher, 14021 Conlan Circle, Ballantyne area, 704-843-5244, www.whatsyourbeefbutcher.com. Owner Vic Giroux is from Jersey, but his meat is local: The beef, pork and chicken are all raised on a farm in Union County. In addition to dry-aged beef and custom cuts, Giroux also carries Italian and German specialties, from braciole to rouladen.
4. Enzo's Italian Market, 4420 Potters Road, Stallings, 704-684-0478, www.facebook.com/enzothebutcher. A family-owned market with meats and deli items, it also has a great selection of Italian-style desserts and cookies. Closed Sundays.
5. Derado's Italian Gourmet Market, 8301 Magnolia Estates Dr., Cornelius, 704-237-3382, www.derados.com. Owner John DeSieno Jr. bases his dishes on old family recipes and uses his Italian connections to get many products you usually don't find outside the Northeast, including candies and cookies. Don't miss the deep-fried pizza. Yes, that's a whole pizza, deep-fried. Closed Mondays.
6. Grand Asia Market, 4400 Potters Road, Stallings, 704-821-0899, www.grandasiamarket.com. Owner Alice Chang wants Asian and non-Asian customers alike to feel comfortable. So if you need a translator or advice, ask at the front desk. It's well-stocked, from the live-fish tanks to the bakery and cafe, and carries products from China, Japan, Indonesia, Korean, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
7. Super G Mart, 7323 E. Independence Blvd., 980-321-4048. The "g" stands for global, and it certainly is. It covers Asian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern foods, including fresh meat and seafood departments.
8. Reid's Fine Foods, 2823 Selwyn Ave., 704-377-1312, www.reids.com. With a history as a neighborhood grocery that dates to 1928, Reid's and Charlotte grew up together. Today, its a gourmet market with a wine bar, deli and a wide selection of locally made products, including dips, salsas and biscuits. Behind the meat case, butchers Bucky Frick and Mac McDonald have a following all their own.
9. Compare Foods, multiple locations (3600 N. Sharon Amity Road, 4300 N. Tryon St., 3112 Milton Road, 818 E. Arrowood Road, 5610 E. Independence Blvd.) Small supermarkets with a Latin American flavor, the chain draws a lot of fans for the selection and prices on produce and meat.
10. Brawley's Beverage, 4620 Park Road, 704-521-1300, www.brawleysbeverage.com. Since North Carolina raised the alcohol limit on beer, craft and microbrews have taken off, and Mike Brawley is a great source of beers, from local to international. The wine selection is equally quirky and satisfying.
Kathleen Purvis is the Observer's food editor.