Around Town

5 restaurants to explore for Black History Month

Charlotte today holds a rich array of African-rooted food traditions. February is Black History Month, a fine time to explore. Here are five different tastes that suggest the many strands in Charlotte’s black experience.

(1) House of Prayer cafeteria

Start close to home with church food at a United House of Prayer for All People. The denomination’s Charlotte history runs back to a summer-long 1926 tent revival by founder Charles Manuel “Daddy” Grace. The UHOP cafeteria, near Panthers Stadium, offers grilled or fried chicken, country steak in gravy, pinto beans; coconut pie for dessert. No need to wait til Sunday. It’s open to everyone seven days a week.

UHOP chicken & pintos (2)

United House of Prayer cafeteria. 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. 1019 S. Mint St., Charlotte. 704-377-1835.

(2) Mert’s Heart & Soul

James Bazelle cooks signature dishes of the coastal South (from South Carolina to Louisiana). Majority-black historically, the region is known for strong African American influence on cuisine. Order Mert’s red beans and rice, shrimp creole or fried chicken. Don’t miss the collard greens, nor especially the buttery cornbread – some of the best you’ll ever taste.

Mert’s sign (1)

Mert’s Heart & Soul. 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday. 214 N. College St. 704-342-4222.

(3) Mama’s Caribbean Grill & Bar

Owner Vinroy Reid, and his mother Hazelyn Mills back in the kitchen, bring authentic flavors from their native Jamaica. Whether you get spicy jerk chicken in rich brown sauce or a milder curry or stew, you’ll see rice and beans on the side. Historians believe that combo originated in Gambia on Africa’s “Rice Coast.”


Mama’s Caribbean Grill & Bar. Noon-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, noon-11 p.m. Friday, noon-midnight Saturday, 1-8 p.m. Sunday. 1504 Central Ave. 704-375-8414.

(4) Cooking Pot African Kitchen

Discover cuisine straight from Mother Africa at this handsomely appointed Independence Boulevard spot. Nigerian-born Esther Ikuru cooks up jolof rice, oxtail, fufu, moi moi and more. New to these tastes? Try one of her flavorful stews over coconut rice.

Cooking Pot
Nigerian-born Esther Ikuru recently opened Cooking Pot African Kitchen on Independence Boulevard.

The Cooking Pot African Kitchen. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-7 p.m. Sunday. Independence Shopping Center (5622 E. Independence Blvd., Suite 129). 704-909-4000.

(5) Jamile’s International Cuisine

Vast Africa holds so many food cultures. Jamile Sheikh and her family hail from Somalia near the northeast corner of the continent. The mainstay of their menu is suqar (also spelled sukhaar): grilled chicken or beef stewed with onions and Somali spices. Scoop it up with griddle-made bread called canjera (also spelled canjaaro).


Jamile’s International Cuisine. noon-8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. 4808-G Central Ave. 704-531-1180.

Photos: Tom Hanchett