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Home cooking away from home awaits CIAA visitors in Charlotte

Looking for a place to eat? There’s plenty of food choices for soulful fans

Fans and partygoers will have no shortage of food choices when they descend upon the Queen City for 2017 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) tournament week, running through Sunday.

As the capital of the New South, Charlotte, North Carolina, is full of restaurants, bars and other eateries that you would find in a major city — Morton’s Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick’s, P.F. Chang’s and Cheesecake Factory.

Plus, for CIAA week, a plethora of food trucks will ring the area near the Charlotte Convention Center, some stretching two to three blocks to the Spectrum Center, where games began to be played Thursday. And though the games end Saturday, the parties and fans remain in Charlotte through early next week.

But what if you still clamor for a home-cooked meal? Or what if you want something that is quintessentially Charlotte, particularly on the days when it is time to get away from room-service fare?

Or maybe you have eaten just one too many arena-prepared burgers and hot dogs, chicken fingers, or deep-fried chicken or fish.

Here’s a quick and handy guide to places to eat while in Charlotte that will help you get your grub on.

La’Wan’s — Homestyle Cooking with Real Soul: Full menu of family favorites includes fried and barbecue chicken, fried and baked pork chops, fried whiting and croaker, barbecue turkey ribs, collard greens, mac and cheese. Of course, the fried food is thumb-licking good. You hungry yet? Sorry, the popular buffet will not be open during CIAA week. Location: 7520 S. Tryon St., Suite #19, (704) 665-7225. Website: lawans.com

Mert’s Heart & Soul: Mert’s was already famous when it was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. The Soul Roll — a hodgepodge of chicken, beans, rice and collards — is legendary. The corn bread melts in your mouth, and they do a mean shrimp and grits — part of the low-country influence. Owner James Bazzelle prefers a healthier alternative to typical soul food, so you won’t have grease dripping from the fried chicken, and you might be tempted to add more salt and pepper. Location: 214 N. College St., (704) 342-4222 Website: mertscharlotte.com

Nana’s Soul Food Kitchen: Cafeteria-style setup that lets you sample food items, except for desserts. Be ready for a variety of chicken, fish and pork dishes, including jerk style. Some 15 side items include collard greens, green beans, yams, rice and mac and cheese. Location: 2908 Oak Lake Blvd., Suite #106, (704) 357-3700. Website: nanassoulfoodkitchen.com/

Floyd’s Soul Food Restaurant: Baked and fried chicken, meat loaf, chicken wings, pork chops, chitterlings and pigs’ feet, smothered pork chops and cornish hens on Sundays. Variety of vegetables and desserts. Banana pudding, lemon pound cake and peach cobbler are among the dessert favorites. Locations: 7825 Nations Ford Rd., (704) 525-2105; 4122 N. Graham Street, (704) 597-5519. Website: Floydssoulfood.net

Price’s Chicken Coop: Not technically “soul food,’’ but still food good enough to soothe your hungry soul. There is no seating area, so the line snakes out the door for people waiting for the famous fried chicken, fried fish, french fries, cole slaw and other dishes. To be sure, you would not question the authenticity if someone brought this food in their own containers to the pot luck family reunion. Location: 1614 Camden Rd., (704) 333-9866. Website: Priceschickencoop.com

Just because it’s Charlotte … and it’s late

Midnight Diner (open 24 hours): This is a must-visit venue if you are staying uptown. (That’s what Charlotte folk call downtown). If you do not eat a thing, you would still enjoy the experience of the people. Yes, and you gotta love a place where you can still get good liver and onions and corn beef hash. Their wings are also good. And they do a serious shrimp and grits, plus everything from waffles to burgers and salads. And you can order breakfast food at 5 p.m. or 10 p.m., for that matter. Location: 115 E. Carson Blvd., (980) 207-3641. Website: www.midnightdinercharlotte.com

Skyland Family Restaurant (0pen 24 hours): If you’re camping out in South Charlotte and the lines are too long (likely) at IHOP or Waffle House, don’t despair. Skyland has better food, a wide variety, more seating and never closes its doors. And it’s conveniently located off South Boulevard, near Woodlawn, just a few minutes from uptown. It has been a local favorite for years for nocturnals and shift workers. Famous for their daily specials ($6.95) and daily breakfast specials ($3.95), the menu includes steaks, subs, burgers, wings, onion rings and much more. Location: 4544 South Blvd., (704) 522-6522. Website: skylandfamilyrestaurant.com

Just because it’s Sushi …

Ru San’s: This only qualifies as home-cooking if you are a sushi chef — or if one lives at your house. But who can resist all-you-can-eat sushi? The best time to dine here is 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for sushi battle royal, but you should arrive before 11 a.m. or after 1:30 p.m. to avoid the long lines. For $11.99, you get to stuff yourself with sushi and select from a hot food area that includes wings, tempura, noodles, spring rolls, soups and desserts. You better bring an appetite. Location: 2440 Park Rd., (704) 374-0008. Website: rusanscharlotte.com

David Squires is an educator and digital journalist who lives in the Charlotte area and teaches journalism at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro. He has covered HBCU sports for several decades, first with the St. Petersburg Times and later as editor-in-chief of the original BlackVoices.com and BVQ magazine. He has also worked in news and sports in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Fort Worth and Hampton Roads. His passion is college basketball, and he is a die-hard Tar Heel -- born and bred.