We are just two days away from the NCAA tournament coming to the Spectrum Center, and with that comes eight teams and their fan bases from all over the country. Each of these schools come from their own region with their own regional delicacies.
As these fans flock to Charlotte, there is a traditional regional food or drink for each team and where to find something equivalent here in the Queen City.
University of Virginia
If you’ve had a late night in Charlottesville, then more than likely you’ve gotten your hands on a famous Gus Burger. I’ve heard the closer it gets to 3 a.m., the better a Gus Burger actually tastes. This signature burger from The White Spot is a cheeseburger with a fried egg on top. I’ve experienced this late-night treat during a trip in Charlottesville in my early-20s, so yeah you could say I got the full experience and it definitely lived up to the hype.
Charlotte equivalent: Hangover Burger from Bang Bang Burgers
Just by looking at the name you can tell this is the type of burger you would enjoy the morning after eating a Gus Burger at 3 a.m. and passing out on your couch. It comes with cheddar cheese, potato bacon hash, a fried egg and Bang Sauce. While this burger comes close to the feel of the Gus Burger with the fried egg, it adds a little extra with that Bang Sauce and potato bacon hash.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Was there any other choice besides crab cakes when it comes to Baltimore? A little research from a few sources says that some of the best crab cakes in Baltimore are coming from Faidley’s Seafood. This place was founded in 1886 and is located in the “World Famous Lexington Market”. If you can’t make it to Baltimore, they will ship their handmade crab cakes anywhere in the continental U.S.
Charlotte equivalent: Lump crab cake from Dressler’s
What I love most about Dressler’s crab cake is that it’s more crab than cake. When you take a bite, you are getting that true crab flavor and not left wondering why you just ate a big ball of breading. This crab cake comes with a nice toasted pecan remoulade. To me, this is the closest you’re going to get to the Baltimore specialty in Charlotte.
For those that don’t know, Creighton is located in Omaha, Nebraska. That being said, I’m not doing a corn dish even though it’s Nebraska. It’s also dairy country, so we’re going with some ice cream from eCreamery Ice Cream and Gelato. This company was featured on “Shark Tank,” and while they didn’t get an offer, the publicity definitely helped them grow to a known spot in Omaha and the Midwest. It was recently voted Omaha’s best ice cream experience and best vanilla ice cream.
Charlotte equivalent: Two Scoops Creamery
Two Scoops has always been my preferred ice cream spot in Charlotte. This Central Avenue parlor offers up dozens of housemade ice cream flavors and some unique wall murals to enjoy while you eat. While they don’t offer all these at once, just look at the number of flavors they rotate throughout the year. My personal favorite is the Krazy Kake.
Kansas State University
Maple bacon bar doughnut
Fun fact: Kansas State is located in Manhattan, Kansas, also known as “The Little Apple”. If you’re a recent graduate, then you probably made a trip or two or 12 to Varsity Donuts. This place has been the spot for doughnuts, especially its maple bacon bar, in Manhattan since 2011. Plus, while you’re enjoying a doughnut there, you can play some ping pong or take a vintage tandem bike for a quick spin.
Charlotte equivalent: Maple bacon bar from Rise Biscuits and Donuts
If you’re looking for Charlotte’s own version of this salty and sweet pastry, you can find it every day at Rise Biscuits and Donuts in Ballantyne and Steele Creek. This doughnut is like a pancake breakfast with a side of bacon all rolled into one sugary treat.
Texas A&M University
All day breakfast, open 24 hours
In College Station, there is a true college student hotspot called Fuego Tortilla Grill. This place serves breakfast all day and is open 24 hours and six days a week. They’ve got everything from chicken and waffles to housemade tortillas stuffed with bacon, potatoes, carne guisada and eggs. If you’re not feeling breakfast, Fuego also offers huge tacos, must-try queso and infused margaritas.
Charlotte equivalent: Midnight Diner
While it doesn’t offer that Tex-Mex flavor, Midnight Diner does beat Fuego in that it’s open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, instead of just six. Like Fuego, you can get breakfast all day, including some of the best chicken and waffles in town. You go here after the bars close, and it can definitely take you back to some of your college days, just looking for something late night to eat to soak up some of the alcohol.
New York System hot wieners are a Rhode Island tradition, and it’s hard to find an authentic one outside of the state, even in New York. A hot wiener is a small frankfurter served on a steam bun. One of the best places to find them in Providence is Olneyville New York System. A true Rhode Islander will order it “all the way” with spiced meat sauce, celery salt, chopped onions and yellow mustard.
Charlotte equivalent: Hot dog with homemade chili from Green’s Lunch
While we just call them hot dogs in Charlotte, Green’s has been serving them up since 1926. You can get your own version of “all the way” by buying a hot dog and adding chopped onions, mustard and housemade chili, all on a steamed bun. The best part: one hot dog only costs $1.95.
This is one that many Charlotteans are probably pretty familiar with. The legendary 32 oz. cup from Chapel Hill’s He’s Not Here is a common sight in the hands of Tar Heel fans. While this bar is always packed, current UNC students flock there on Tuesdays for the $5 Blue Cup special. Keep in mind that a typical bottled beer is 12 oz., so you are definitely getting more than your money’s worth on this one. Many a Tar Heel probably has fond memories of UNC hoops while holding one of these cups. Feel free to share some of yours in the comments section!
Charlotte equivalent: Blue Cup from Moo & Brew
This is the easiest one on the list because this official Tar Heel bar serves up their own version of the Blue Cups from He’s Not Here. While they used to offer the exact He’s Not Here cup, the Moo & Brew version is pretty darn close.
Nashville hot chicken
Lipscomb is in Nashville, and when in the music city, you need to make sure to grab some hot chicken. The spot I prefer to go to when in Nashville is Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. For those that don’t know, hot chicken is fried chicken that is spiced to add that extra kick of heat. While the line can be intimidating, the chicken is worth the wait. There is a reason that a restaurant founded in 1945 still consistently has long lines. Prince’s calls itself the “original and the gold standard for hot chicken”.
Charlotte equivalent: Nashville hot chicken from 204 North
204 North Kitchen and Cocktails serves up its own take of Nashville hot chicken. Its version is free range chicken breasts topped with pickles, and served with your choice of potato salad, coleslaw or mac and cheese. On the lunch menu, you can also order some hot chicken sliders, served on sweet Hawaiian rolls.
Featured photo: Katie Coleman