I read a tweet this past week that said, “In my 29 years on this earth, I have never seen a Chinese restaurant commercial,” and as a profesh in the business of both communications and food, it made me think. I’ve never seen any advertisements for a Chinese restaurant, or any of my favorite international spots for that matter, and yet most of them have a cult following. It was then that I realized how much research, trial and error that I go through to find a trusted, authentic source for international cuisine.
Charlotte has a wealth of these sources but finding them takes some digging, and who has time for that? Me, obviously, because I’ve done it for you! Here are the top five places to find all of your international imported goods.
4520 N. Tryon St.
This small grocery store is popular for its large selection of Asian goods. The parking lot may be difficult to maneuver around, and it doesn’t seem like much upon first glance, but International Market is perfect for its selection of hard-to-get Asian fruits, vegetables, and fresh seafood. It’s also notoriously inexpensive!!
Yafa Halal Market
10703 Park Rd.
A TRUE goldmine for lovers of Middle Eastern cuisine. This market, which is the most organized store I’ve ever been in, is known for its variety of unique spices, juices, and specialty cafe sandwiches. While they’re celebrated for friendly service and having a large selection of imported goods, most shoppers are going to check out the butcher in the back, who offers what is said to be some of the freshest, cleanest lamb in Charlotte. It’s a bit on the higher end, price-wise, but worth it for the rare finds and fresh produce.
Supermercado El Rey
6300 South Blvd.
While this market may seem small (and it is) it not only caters to all of your Latin American recipes’ needs, but it also manages to fit a butchery serving fresh produce, as well as a small cafe serving up the most authentic tacos. Most shoppers at Supermercado El Rey are looking for their in-house chorizo or the crispy chicharrones. I personally go for the seasoned meat served in front of the butcher for an effortless Mexican dinner. Pro tip: I always grab a fresh passion fruit juice from the cafe to sip on while I shop.
ZYGMA European Groceries & Deli
212 N Polk St.
Talk about a rare find!! ZYGMA is amazingly popular amongst the German and Polish residents of Charlotte, as it offers tons of traditional goods like Polish butter, imported European brands, as well as smoked and pickled meats served fresh daily. They also make some of the best sandwiches, but don’t plan to get one in a hurry, it’s super fresh so they take their time with it. 100% worth the wait.
Super G Mart
7323 E. Independence Blvd.
Super G Mart is the largest international supermarket in North Carolina. You can find traditional goods like banana leaves, cactus leaves and yucca root. You’ll find tons of fresh produce and brands you have never even heard of for a really great price. These are all amazing reasons to shop at Super G but the most important, and the reason why this gem is at the top of my list, is that in the back of the store, you’ll find Honey Bun’s. No, not the childhood classic, but a cafeteria-style restaurant in the back serving classic Asian dishes like banh mi, steamed dumplings, and stuffed bao (Asian steamed buns stuffed with meat).
I love this list because, frankly, our international food scene is slept on and there’s so much more out there than we realize! We as Charlotteans get so understandably caught up in all of the amazing options of beer and tapas that we often overlook the city’s ability to cater to diverse palates. Check out these awesome grocers from across the world and, before judging, remind yourselves that while these stores may not have the resources of million dollar chains, they have the most heart and the best foodie finds.