Food and Drink

5 California tastes you can enjoy in Charlotte restaurants

Fresh, local ingredients presented in a health-conscious way often land on California tables and in their restaurants.

If you’re a California native longing for some Golden State cuisine, or if are you dreaming of traveling to California, you can get your fix in the form of delicious flavors in some of Charlotte’s restaurants.

Here are five West Coast specialties and where to find them in the Queen City.

(1) Cobb salad

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In 1937, the owner of Brown Derby restaurants in Los Angeles, Robert Cobb invented this salad. After a long day, Cobb mixed together leftovers he found in his restaurant’s kitchen. His midnight meal was put on the menu, and as they say, “The rest is history.”

A tasty place to get a classic Cobb salad is from one of the three Pasta & Provisions locations throughout the city. Their hearty version has chicken, bacon, avocado, tomatoes, gorgonzola and hard boiled eggs on a bed of arcadian greens topped with champagne vinaigrette.

Pasta and Provisions

1528 Providence Road


4700 Park Road


1600 S. Mint St.


[Related: Get a taste of the Northeast, in the form of 7 restaurants]

(2) French dip sandwich

French Dip sandwich courtesy of Char Bar No 7
Courtesy of Char Bar No. 7

Contrary to popular belief, the French dip is not French — it was invented in Los Angeles. Two L.A. restaurants claim to have created this classic sandwich – Cole’s and Philippe’s. In Charlotte, head over to Char Bar No. 7 for its version of a French dip. Thinly sliced prime rib is topped with melted provolone cheese, then placed on a horseradish sauce-covered hoagie roll. Of course, it comes with au jus for dipping.

Char Bar No. 7

6300 Carmel Road


(3) Southern California Mexican

South Bound food by Tom Bugosh
Photo by Tom Bugosh

Southern Californians tend to like healthier foods focusing on fresh and flavorful ingredients. In this part of the state, their version of Mexican food falls right in line with this style of cuisine. If you’re hankering for a healthier version of Mexican food, then check out SouthBound. Popular favorites are mix-and-match carne asada, chicken adobo, baja shrimp and fish, and their newest yellowfin tuna tacos.

“We do have a few regulars who come in that have been to California, but one couple sticks out in particular that have been back several times. They say they love Mexican food all over Charlotte, but they always come back to SouthBound because it is the closest thing they can get to being back in Southern California, which we feel is the best compliment we can receive,” general manager Tom Bugosh said.

South Bound uses fresh squeezed juices for their cocktails. “A couple favorites on the list are our Cantarito, made with Hornitos Plata Tequila, fresh grapefruit juice, and grapefruit soda, and our jalapeno margarita for those who like it a little spicy,” Bugosh said.


2433 South Blvd.


(4) Martini

Sydney’s Martinis by Sara Kendall
Photo by Sara Kendall

There’s an ongoing debate between two California cities over where this famous cocktail was invented — San Francisco or Martinez. This drink was listed in the 1887 manual of bartender Jerry Thomas of the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, so many believe it originated at the hotel’s bar. However, the city of Martinez claims this cocktail was created at a prominent bar in their town, where it was known as “Martinez Special.” This dispute has even reached California courts, but it’s safe to say it was created in California.

Today’s modern version of a martini is made by filling up a shaker with ice, adding gin and a splash of dry vermouth, stirring or shaking, and adding an olive or twist of lemon to the glass. Gin is versatile and can be paired with a variety of flavors, such as fruits, herbs and spices.

For your next cocktail hour, head uptown to Sydney’s Martini and Wine Bar for one of their 25 martinis. On Wednesday nights, listen to poetry readings. If you go on a Friday or Saturday night, you’re in for an extra treat: live music.

Sydney’s Martini and Wine Bar

401 N. Tryon St.

Suite 104


[Related: Missing the Midwest? Here are 6 dishes to enjoy in Charlotte restaurants]

(5) Sourdough bread

Sunflour Sourdough Bread by Sara Kendall
Photo by Sara Kendall

During the 1849 California Gold Rush, sourdough bread became an essential food for gold miners. This type of bread’s hard crust made it portable for their long treks searching for gold. Some miners carried their own sourdough starter to make bread while away from home.

Locally, swing by one of Sunflour Baking Company’s four locations throughout Charlotte to enjoy this bread. This family-owned bakery has perfected the art of baking – creating sourdough here is a three-day process. Their sourdough is made slowly and encourages yeast activity aiding in the natural development of the flavor.

“We bake everything from scratch every day. Quality is very important to us,” said Kelly Stegenga, manager of their Elizabeth location. “Gluten-free movement is on the rise, but people still love a sandwich on bread.”

In addition to its availability for sandwiches at all locations, take-home sourdough loaves are also available at the Elizabeth and Harrisburg locations.

Sunflour Baking Company


14021 Conlan Circle, #B-9



220 East Blvd.



2001 East 7th St.



5040 Hwy 49 S.