Good food and good beer are two important aspects of Charlotte living. Breweries are expanding and specialty food trucks keep popping up. For culinary snobs and moustache-wielding beer aficionados alike, there's a lot of flavors to appreciate.
To celebrate, Creative Loafing debuts its Moo & Brew Fest this weekend. The festival features more than 40 local and national craft breweries offering up their best brews with a backdrop of performances by Langhorne Slim and local favorite Ancient Cities.
During the fest, there will also be a bovine battle royale as chefs put their blood, sweat and condiments into the best they can offer for the coveted title of "Best Burger." In preparation for the upcoming event, we sat down with five out of the eight competitors to see a little of the seasoning behind the spice. Although they all kept mum about what we'll see at the main event, we've exercised our sleuth skills to give you a taste of their in-house styles.
Joseph Huang of Bang Bang Burger
Huang is known for infusing a little of the East with the West. The Culinary Institute grad's regular menu features lots of spice and Korean-Cowboy references. He also features more foreign tastes like pork belly, kimchi, bacon jam and apples on your burger. Plus, what's more American than a deep-fried cheeseburger eggroll?
Nickname: Big Bang Boss
Star sign: Sagittarius
What flows through your veins?: "B ... ang Positive."
Cooking Style: "Shaolin Fun Moo Bang."
Secret Weapon: "Extremely sharp wit."
Personal Quote: "Eating burgers makes you sexy!"
To the Competition: "Best of luck to you and may the most Bangin' Burger win!"
Mario Flynn of Pint Central
Mario and his brother Carlos know how to meld flavors and pack a lot of punch into one bite. Their slap-it-together style is tailor-made for some interesting burger combos. They even make vegetarian snacks sound chock-full of more than just vitamins.
Nickname: Super Mario
Star sign: Scorpio
What flows through your veins?: AB
Cooking Style: "I have a Masters in B.S; I make it happen!"
Secret Weapon: "The right buzz."
Personal Quote: "The thrill of the grill!"
To the Competition: "Beware the two new kids in town ... and their grill."
Matt King of Mattie's Diner
Just perusing the extensive menu at Mattie's Diner can cause panic attacks and make you feel like a bad person for laughing at a blackened burger featuring bleu cheese called the Beatup Burger. King likes to play with his food — let's just hope it's nothing close to the colon-punishing burger named after Jackass stuntman Steve-O.
Star sign: Scorpio
What flows through your veins?: O negative
Cooking Style: "One-third Japanese samurai, one-third cowboy and one-third bull in a China Shop."
Secret Weapon: "99-year-old bronze spatula passed down through the generations."
Personal Quote: "You eat here because we let you!"
Ryan Vaccarino of Vinyl Pi
Like a true Chicagoan, Vaccarino is into food and music. This love is reflected in the restaurant's eclectic menu and song title entrée options — the most interesting being his marriage of pizza and burger in his Pizza the Burger featuring marinara sauce, provolone cheese and a meat lover's mixture of animals. Or if you never want to taste again, you can always try the Hot 'Lanta burger.
Nickname: Wet Bandit
Star sign: Virgo
What flows through your veins?: "Spaghetti Sauce."
Cooking Style: "Tiger style."
Secret Weapon: "Attempting to rob homes in suburban Chicago."
Personal Quote: "Keep It Simple Stupid."
To the Competition: "It's all 'wudder' under the bridge."
Stancil Stowe of Elwoods Barbecue & Burger Bar
You know you're at a Southern restaurant when you find collard greens, okra and fried green tomatoes all featured in the appetizers. Stowe takes Southern cooking and extends the range with a flair of uncommon flavors. As you would hope from a barbecue joint, they know how to accessorize with pulled pork, apple cilantro slaw and housemade barbecue sauce.
Nickname: Chef Bleu
Star sign: Scorpio
What flows through your veins?: "Barbecue sauce."
Cooking Style: "Faster than a speeding bullet."
Secret Weapon: "Spirit fingers."
Personal Quote: "Team work makes the dream work!"
To the Competition: "Bring the heat!"