The eastside showcased its diversity and community pride recently during two big events.
First up: the Taste of the World Restaurant Showcase on Oct. 9.
Often lost in all the news about mall redevelopment, road construction and crime is the eastside's strong, multi-ethnic communities. People from around the world – Greeks, Asians, Africans, Latinos, Eastern Europeans, to name a few – are tucked away neatly in pockets of communities, all living the American dream while still maintaining their cultural uniqueness. Their presence is represented heavily in restaurants serving authentic international cuisine, mostly located along Central Avenue, Albemarle Road and Independence Boulevard.
Nancy Plummer, who founded the tour in April 2005 along with Dr. Nini Bautista, said the goal is to highlight east Charlotte's diversity and “encourage neighborhood leaders to work together, and realize we have this little gem of an international community on the eastside and we needed to promote it. And you can't do that unless you bring people here.”
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During the Oct. 9 tour, dozens of residents from across the city gathered at the Charlotte Museum of History. After a wine reception they boarded buses that took them to at least three of 18 different restaurants that participated in the tour.
First stop for the bus I was on was Pizza and More. Its cuisine is not necessarily international (unless you count Buffalo wings and pizza as cultural dishes). But the eatery still shares qualities similar to the rest. It's family owned, reasonably priced and features a flavor of food you probably won't find any place else in Charlotte. In this case, New York-style pizza.
From there we savored an array of scrumptious Indian vegetarian dishes at Woodland's. The final leg of the tour was Brazas Brazilian Grill, where servers offer up a range of meats rodizio style, which basically means they show up every few minutes at your table with a big portion of chicken, pork or beef on a skewer.
On Oct. 11, the Saturday after the tour, it was time for eastsiders to step out in style at the 2nd Annual Black Tie Gala. Sponsored by the Charlotte East Community Partners, the gala was part fundraiser and part fellowship.
Charlotte East Community Partners was launched in 1996 to organize east Charlotteans and spur the area's economic growth. During the gala, held at the Charlotte Museum of History, local and state elected officials along with business and community leaders gathered. Some participated in a silent auction. Money raised helped fund the Alexander Youth Network that helps at-risk children.
Darrell Bonapart, president of Charlotte East Community Partners, who's helping lead the effort to promote east Charlotte, returned to the theme of diversity when discussing the area's strengths:
“We have a United Nations right here in east Charlotte. We are a symbol of how you can come together as nations within a community, live together and be prosperous. Diversity is really our strength.”