Fresh, local ingredients presented in a health-conscious way often land on California tables and in their restaurants — a vibe you can get in the Carolinas, as well.
If you’re a California native longing for some Golden State cuisine, or if you are 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.
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Cobb salad at Pasta and Provisions
Location: 4700 Park Road, Charlotte, NC 28209
Neighborhood: Madison Park
Location: 1600 S. Mint St., Charlotte, NC 28203
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 for lunch is at Pasta & Provisions. Its hearty version has chicken, bacon, avocado, tomatoes, gorgonzola and hard boiled eggs on a bed of arcadian greens topped with champagne vinaigrette. The salad is available during lunch at the Park Road and Mint Street locations. (Lunch is served weekdays at the Mint Street location from 11 am-3 pm.; and at the Park Road location from 11 am-3 pm Monday-Thursday and Saturday, as well as all day Friday and Sunday.)
French dip sandwich at Char Bar No. 7
Location: 6300 Carmel Road, Charlotte, NC 28226
Location: 3118 Fincher Farm Road, Matthews, NC 28105
Location: 7312 Town View Drive, Mint Hill, NC 28227
Neighborhood: Mint Hill
Contrary to popular belief, the French dip is not French — it was invented in Los Angeles. Two LA 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.
Southern California Mexican at SouthBound
Location: 2433 South Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28203
Southern Californians tend to like healthier foods focusing on fresh and flavorful ingredients. In that part of the state, their version of Mexican food falls right in line. 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 fish and blackened shrimp.
“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 in 2019.
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.
Martini at Crave Dessert Bar
Location: 500 West 5th Street, Suite 120,Charlotte, NC 28202
Neighborhood: Fourth Ward/Uptown
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 Crave Dessert Bar for a martini you can pair with a savory snack like Blue Crab Dip, or a sweet treat such as chocolate covered strawberries or creme brulee.
Sourdough bread at Sunflour Baking Company
Location: 4021 Conlan Circle, #B-9, Charlotte, NC 28277
Location: 220 East Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28203
Location: 2001 East 7th St., Charlotte, NC 28204
Location: 5040 Hwy 49 S., Harrisburg, NC 28075
During the 1849 California Gold Rush, sourdough bread became an essential food for gold minerals. 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. The source 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,” Kelly Stegenga, manager of the Elizabeth location, said in 2019. “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.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published June 16, 2019, and has been updated.