• Jen McGivney

3 Restaurants to Eat Locally This Spring

The farmer and the chef: Could there be a better combination? As farmers harvest their spring produce, some of our area chefs are cooking up dishes with these fresh, local ingredients. The partnership between restaurants and farms comes at mutual economic benefit, but perhaps no one benefits as much as those of us in the restaurants wielding the fork.

We talked with three restaurants in Gaston County—in Gastonia, Belmont, and Mount Holly—that source local produce and meats, about the impact of local food on a menu and tips about what’s to order in their restaurants right now.

Southern Kitchen

1015 W. Catawba Avenue, Mount Holly

Southern Kitchen, Mount Holly NC local food
Southern Kitchen and Burton Farms partner to create down-home cooking with close-to-home produce. Photo Courtesy: Southern Kitchen

You won’t hear the phrases “front of house” or “back of house” at Southern Kitchen. Instead, you’ll hear “dining room” and “kitchen.” The restaurant strives to feel personal, as if customers weren’t going out for a meal but coming home to one.

Everything about Southern Kitchen is rooted in the idea of home and community. The restaurant creates relationships with local businesses: The popcorn they give to children is made locally; they partner with a local bakery for desserts. And for their menu, they work with Burton Farms and Grocery in Newton, NC to source local ingredients in some of their signature dishes, including their squash casserole, honey chicken, and Uncle John’s plantation green beans. We talked with owner Kristen Robeson about her community approach to her restaurant.

How does local sourcing impact the quality and taste of your food? “For one, the food is fresh, and it just tastes better. And two, we’re supporting other businesses in the community, and that’s so important to me: to drive business to as many local people as we can.”

What dish with local ingredients should visitors order here this spring? 

“I suggest our homemade chicken pot pies, which have lots of produce from Burton Farms. And a portion of proceeds from those go to local cancer organizations.”

The String Bean

106 N. Main Street, Belmont

String Bean, Belmont NC Food
The String Bean has been a long-time favorite Belmont spot for fresh food and good wine. Photo credit: String Bean, Facebook

The String Bean has been a favorite in downtown Belmont for 12 years. The atmosphere is casual, but the food is high quality and the wine selection is among the best in the area: It’s earned, for six years running, a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

If you eat at The String Bean or shop at its market, chances are that the ingredients in your dinner haven’t traveled far. The restaurant receives overnight seafood deliveries from Charleston, S.C. Their meats come from a producer in Greensboro, N.C, and it receives regular deliveries of fresh, seasonal produce from a local farmer. We talked with manager Ryan Ledford about how these deliveries impact the customer experience.

How does local sourcing impact the quality and taste of your food?

“People come here for the quality. If you just want a regular steak, you can go to Food Lion or Harris Teeter to get that. But if you want a prime cut of meat, you can come here to get it.”

What dish with local ingredients should visitors order here this spring? 

“Anything from the fish and meat case, including filets, rib eyes, strips, and North Carolina trout.”

Webb Custom Kitchen

182 S. South Street, Gastonia

Webb Custom Kitchen, Gastonia food
The interior design of Webb Custom Kitchen pays homage to its past as Gastonia's theatre of the 1920s. Photo Credit: Webb Custom Kitchen, Facebook

In 1927, this space opened as the Webb Theater, the grand theater of Gastonia. Today it houses an elegant restaurant with a similar name—Webb Custom Kitchen—which has preserved the art deco beauty of the building’s former life.

The greens served in Webb Street Kitchen are grown in Gastonia’s Webb Street School, which serves students with intellectual and physical disabilities and offers them training that can translate into post-graduation careers. The students grow organic Salanova lettuce, mixed greens, kale, rainbow chard, and collard greens. Owner Jim Morasso shares why this local sourcing matters.

How does local sourcing impact the quality and taste of your food?

“I’m so proud to serve that product. It’s from my community. Every salad I look at and every salad I touch – I know where it came from. I know that Mike has picked the greens, and that Sue has planted the seeds … It makes me proud of this process.”

What dish with local ingredients should visitors order here this spring? 

"The Webb Street School Mixed Green Salad. This salad is made with mixed greens harvested from the school’s hydroponic gardens, along with vine-ripened tomatoes, hothouse cucumbers, zested carrots, and onions."

Do you know of any other locally sourced restaurants in Gaston County? Let us know at gastonoutside@gmail.com.