One of the most common queries I have from readers is from those looking for a Middle Eastern restaurant offering mezza — not a Middle Eastern fast casual emporium. Charlotte has had a storied history with outcroppings of Middle Eastern cuisine. Decades ago, Casablanca (in Elizabeth) offered excellent Egyptian dishes, and not one, but two, Middle Eastern bakeries offered hot pita bread daily. More recently, Sofram Contemporary Turkish Cuisine fashioned stellar renditions of Turkish cuisine when it first opened, as well as offering Turkish wines. In Matthews, Aladdin's Eatery, a Lebanese fast casual chain, was brought upscale with the addition of a delightful list of Lebanese wines and Almaza, a Lebanese beer. (I miss their loubie b'zeit, a flat bean dish.) The upscale M5 Modern Mediterranean opened in SouthPark, offering some outstanding Middle Eastern dishes. All these places closed.
If you consider Greek Middle Eastern, then Charlotte has the delicious dishes from Ilios Noche (11508 Providence Road) in south Charlotte. But if you don't, what's left are a few fast casual places. The best of these are Metropolitan Café, a Turkish spot in Latta Arcade offering outrageous döners, and the Dilworth location of the Kabob Grill (1235 East Blvd.) with its well-crafted shish tawook (chicken wrap). Also in this roundup are the grape leaves at Sultan Kabob House (9640 S. Tryon St.) and the Moroccan chicken bastille at Casablanca Café (9609 N. Tryon St.).
Charlotte has had great Middle Eastern restaurants. They did not survive. Meanwhile, Raleigh has Sitti Lebanese Restaurant, owned by the folks who also own Neomonde, a Middle Eastern bakery which distributes products throughout North Carolina.
Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the Q.C.? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-522-8334, extension 136.