Charlotte’s food scene has come a long way, witnessed this weekend when the first annual Charlotte StrEATs Festival gets underway.

The two-day festival, located at Gateway Village, kicks off Friday with events featuring cooking demonstrations from local culinary students, desserts and food trucks, vendors and kid-friendly activities.

On Saturday, Food Network star Amanda Freitag will make an appearance. Day 2 also will include chef demos, live music and food sampling from each of the 22 participating restaurants. 

Unpretentious Palate, a food and drink review guide in Charlotte, is partnering with Charlotte SHOUT! and Carben Event + Marketing to host this year’s CLT StrEATs Festival.

“We thought it would be a really cool way to show off Charlotte to come up with a food festival that basically just highlights the restaurants and how they are a large part of what makes each Charlotte neighborhood, and the city as a whole, special,”said Kristen Wile, editor of Unpretentious Palate.

Wile said that after seeing food festivals in the South Carolina towns of Charleston and Greenville, it was time for Charlotte to host something similar.

“We want to set a new standard of what food festivals should be,” she told QCity Metro.

Participating restaurants and food trucks will be paid for their labor and services, Wile said.

Restaurants at the festival will be grouped by neighborhood: Uptown, Plaza Midwood, East Charlotte, West Charlotte, Dilworth, South Park and South End.

There will also be a cooking competition featuring one chef from each neighborhood serving a dish that represents their side of town. A panel of judges will declare a winner.

“This is a celebration of how far the city’s culinary scene has come in the last couple of years,” Wile said.

Hot Box Next Level Kitchen, a food truck that specializes in international street food, will be featuring staple food items including hotbox beans and rice, cowboy beans and risotto fritters.

Hot Box Next Level Kitchen’s Risotto Fritters. Photo courtesy of Chef Michael Bowling

Michael Bowling, the head chef at Hot Box, said this festival provides recognition for his food truck and others.

“I believe food trucks have earned that level of respect to be named alongside the restaurants,” he said.

Bowling said he looks forward to sampling food from other restaurants participating this weekend, especially Jimmy Pearls.

“We’re in close proximity to them, which means I can go eat,” he said.

For Laney Parrish, a pastry chef at 300 East, the festival gives her an opportunity to interact with customers, compared to a normal day spent in the kitchen.

“It’s really rewarding to be able to talk to guests…and get feedback on a dish,” she said. “The key ingredient to doing these kinds of events is being able to get that immediate reaction.”

This weekend, she will be serving Duke’s Mayo caramel cake, a customer favorite at 300 East.

“We want to make sure that we’re putting out something that’s really delicious and tasty and something for people to get excited about,” she said.

Here is a list of the participating restaurants and food trucks:


Food Trucks (will also be selling food as well as offering samples)

If you go:

Date: Friday, April 15 and Saturday, April 16
Time: Friday 5 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. | Saturday 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Place: Gateway Village | 900 W. Trade St.
Tickets: Tasting tickets, ranging from $0 to $140, can be purchased via EventBrite .


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