Kathleen Purvis

Charlotte food history ought to leave more marks

We have a shared history, you and I. The things we do and say, the battles we fight or honor, the votes we cast on a rainy election day.

People sometimes resist studying history. Too boring, too focused on memorizing dates and obscure names. The trouble with looking at history that way is that we don’t make history out of the things that matter to us.

The other day, someone asked me if I could put up a historical marker honoring food in Charlotte, where would I put it?

I gave it some thought, and came up with a few of the markers I think we should have – and a few more that we can’t mark yet, but might need to add later on.

13 S. Church St.: Charlotte’s first documented barbecue restaurant. According to a clip in an April 1899 Charlotte Daily Observer, Katie Nunn opened a grocery and barbecue stand, with meat cooked by her husband, Levi, in a pit behind the store. The address no longer exists, but it would have been on the east side of South Church Street just north of Fourth Street.

Marker needed: The last barbecue joint to charge less than $12 for a chopped plate.

300 West Blvd.: First Bojangles’ restaurant, started by former Hardee’s franchise owner Jack Fulk and his business partner Richard Thomas, with Fulk’s recipes for Cajun-spiced fried chicken and biscuits.

Marker needed: The last funeral where someone brought homemade fried chicken.

7824 Fairview Road: Location of Benedictine’s Restaurant, the site of the first mixed drink sold in North Carolina in 70 years. Hank Stoppelbin, 23, ordered a Bloody Mary at 8:04 a.m. on Nov. 21, 1978.

Marker needed: The last bar with less than 10 taps for locally produced craft beers.

1518 Central Ave.: Site of John’s Country Kitchen, where you could still get brains and eggs for breakfast before it closed last summer.

Marker needed: The last breakfast place that will let you order extra bacon without providing an emergency contact number.

West Trade and Graham streets: Site of the Star Lunch, one of the first Greek diners in Charlotte, owned by Constantine Kokenes, whose sons later started the Open Kitchen.

Marker needed: The last Mecklenburg County barbecue restaurant that still has baklava on the dessert menu and a picture of the Parthenon on the wall.

1515 Harding Place: Site of the Mecklenburg County Market, established in 1938, 71 years before “locavore” was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Marker needed: Location of the last restaurant to call itself “farm to table” without getting anything from a farm within 50 miles.

330 N. Tryon St.: Site of Jonathan’s Bar and Restaurant, the first place I used my very first credit card, to pay for a meal in 1985. Also the location of Jonathan’s Jazz Cellar, the dark place downstairs where I went to freak out over spending almost $40 on a single meal.

Marker needed: The last dinner I paid for that cost less than $40.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis

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