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A variety of eats for the cold season

Layering clothing signals the approach of colder weather and the upcoming eating season. In Charlotte, the season starts about Nov. 1 and ends in February when the first daffodil and flip-flops show up. Until then, more people will ask about eateries that will fill you up and not be concerned about filling out. The area has dozens of all-you-can-eat Asian buffets, but anyone who has spent any time perusing the Mecklenburg County Health Department's restaurant inspections knows that keeping chicken dishes at the appropriate temperature is a little tricky. But, here are some other spots known for gargantuan portions without the heat lamps.

A Churrascaria is one of those places. These Brazilian restaurants offer a South American Thanksgiving of sorts, and their all-you-can-eat dishes come in two forms. The first is the bountiful hot and cold salad bar which typically includes dozens of items including feijoada, rice, cole slaw, green salads and seafood salads. The second is the real show with rodizio service. Black attired gauchos parade through the dining room with skewers piled high with beef and pork sausages, smoked ham with pineapple, chicken drumsticks, chicken breasts wrapped in bacon, flank steak, lamb, pork loin, picanha and more.

Brazas Brazilian Grill, 4508 E. Independence Blvd., 704-566-1009

Rodeo Brazilian Steakhouse, 391 Town Centre Blvd., Pineville, 704-889-0000

If you think a fish camp is the place kids go during the summer, you're probably new to these parts. Fish camps are dedicated to fried foods -- primarily fish and seafood with hush puppies and fries. (Yes, you can get items not fried as well.) These spots are plain in appearance and the food is piled high with the usual suspects: fried flounder, shrimp, stuffed devil crab, catfish, scallops, oysters, grilled ribeye steaks, chicken and chopped barbecue. Casual, friendly service and lots of styrofoam take-home boxes shore up the universal appeal of fish camps.

Captain Steve's Family Fish Camp, 8517 Monroe Rd. 704-535-1400

Some of the best places to get a "home cooked" meal at low prices are the dozens of taquerias that have blossomed along the ethnically concentrated corridors of North Tryon Street, Central Avenue and South Boulevard. At Restaurant y Taqueria La Unica, it's almost a requirement to order a large platter of five or six tacos which will cost less than 10 bucks. La Unica is known for the al pastor taco, a taco filled with vertically grilled seasoned pork, sliced gyro-style. Speaking Spanish is helpful here.

Restaurant y Taqueria La Unica, 2801 Central Ave. 704-347-5115

Barbecue is one of those come together foods of the masses, and Tarheels take 'cue quite seriously. But barbecue beef brisket is a southwestern thing. One place to load up on Texas-sized portions of mouth-watering brisket is at Mac's which is more hip and fun than most barbecue joints.

Mac's Speed Shop & BBQ, 2511 South Blvd., 704-522-6227

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