Yes, this is exactly when you want to go out to explore Charlotte’s newest food stores: On the Tuesday before Christmas, when everything between Park Road Shopping Center and SouthPark slows to a crawl.
Still, as a dedicated food shopper and an adviser for cooks looking for everything from non-spiral-sliced hams to the most nut-packed fruitcake, it is my duty to stay informed. So I weaved through the rainy streets for a look at four recent developments that involve longtime players in Charlotte’s food scene. First up:
The new Reid’s at SouthPark. The detail you need first? Where it is. Just saying “SouthPark” covers a mighty big swath, so it helps to know things like “which side/which door/inside or out.” In this case: Outside, on the Barclay Downs side, in the row alongside Container Store and McCormick & Schmick’s. That’s worth knowing because you really need to check this one out. An expansion of the Selwyn Avenue location, it is an expansion in every way. Bigger meat case, bigger wine selection, new winebar/cafe with much more seating, and a heated space for outdoor seating.
Popular butcher Bucky Frick is dividing his time between the new and old stores (yes, the Selwyn store will stay open). He’s so pleased with the new space – much longer meat case, with a second shelf so they can stock even more, a small seafood case, a bigger deli operation – that he even got over his camera-shyness and let me take his picture. If you know Bucky, you know that means he’s happy.
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The new Wine Shop Dilworth: We share a birthday -- the old Wine Shop on Park Road opened the year I moved here, in 1985, and owner Frank Redd steered me through my first lessons in wine savvy when I was a food-writing pup. The new shop, 911 E. Morehead St., is much closer to uptown, in the strip of shops at McDowell (facing on Morehead, next to Dilworth Neighborhood Grille).
It’s also much bigger. Manager Brian Dubose says the first floor alone is 2/3rds the size of the entire old shop. Downstairs: Commercial wine storage, where you can rent space to store anything from 12 cases to thousands of bottles. If you work uptown, you may pass it on the way home (bummer that it’s on the other side of the street for outbound traffic), so it’s good to know they have a WineServe tasting station that holds 12 bottles, changed regularly. Tastes range from 38 cents for a small taste up to $18 for a 4-ounce pour of the most expensive. Staff “wine goddess” Leslie Hamilton runs the tasting station. In January, she’ll go back to offering classes on Tuesdays, and the free Friday night tastings from 5-7 p.m. (on your way home, remember?) will return in late January or early February, after Hamilton gets back from her honeymoon, delayed since October while they moved.
Meat & Fish Co.: At the same corner as the Wine Shop, the new food shop from longtime meat and seafood seller Michael LaVecchia is still under construction but getting closer. LaVecchia says he’ll move his wholesale operation into the building by Jan. 8, and plans to have a soft opening of the store Jan. 25. Stay tuned and we’ll update you when that gets closer. You can walk from The Wine Shop to Meat & Fish easily, so expect that corner to become a big food-shopping stop.
Pasta & Provisions: The new shop, at 4700 Park Road in the old Mike’s Discount Beverage building, is so close to ready that it almost opened before Christmas. But manager Dylan George, son of founder Tommy George, said they’re so busy with holiday shoppers at the original location, 1528 Providence Road, that they decided to hold off until the first week in January to make it easier on the staff. “It’s ready to rock,” he told me. “We are just insanely slammed at the Providence store right now.”