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Eat Your Greens 

From Southern sides to summer salads

When you mention greens in Charlotte, some folks might assume you're talking about the ones on golf courses. But when I think greens I think Southern cooking and the important role greens play in the indigenous cuisine. Not just collards or turnip greens, but also greens from the islands, or the fresh lettuces from the farmer's markets, or the cabbage in a Chinese dish, or the quintessential wedge. Eating greens is part of a Southern summer ritual.

To me, the best greens in town have always been at Anntony's. I forgo the jerk chicken just to have a double helping of these callaloo greens ($1.99), a piquant mix of turnips, onions, chopped tomatoes, garlic and island spices. Then I dash on some of Carolina's own Texas Pete and chow down. It's a cheap meal and I always feel better after eating.

Anntony's, 2001 E. 7th St., 704-342-0749.

James and Renee Brazzelle brought soul into the shadows of Charlotte's skyscrapers when they opened Mert's Heart and Soul on College Street. Besides, where else in town can you find an eatery named after a loyal customer? If that's not having heart, what is? When collards are on the list, have them. Even if you are a relo. Try them. There's a reason this place has long lines. These collards ($2) are not cooked with meat and are served with tomatoes and onions (but you can opt for just plain collards, if you want).

Mert's Heart and Soul, 214 N. College St., 704-342-4222.

The definitive Caesar is the perfect summer salad. Typically, I find too many Caesar salads broken under a heavy handed pantry chef. One of the best Caesars in town is found at Bentley's Restaurant on 27th ($7). Here, the taste of red wine vinegar, whole anchovies and Dijon mustard plays off the crisp romaine, Parmesan cheese and fresh croutons.

Bentley's Restaurant on 27th, 201 S. College St., 27th floor, 704-343-9201.

Chinese cuisine tends to include steamed greens. One outstanding green dish exists at 88 China Bistro. The stuffed cabbage leaves ($8), on the traditional Chinese menu, are beautifully presented with steamed baby bok choy surrounding a center of flavorful cabbage packages filled with chicken.

88 China Bistro, 1620A East Fourth St., 704-335-0288.

I've come close to perfecting the blue cheese dressing recipe at home, but having the wedge salad ($5.50) at Sullivan's Steak House is half the fun. This kitchen transforms a lowly iceberg into a crisp foil for grilled red meat with a mountainous wedge crowned with a cap of blue cheese buttermilk dressing and blue cheese crumbles. Sullivan's serves its famed salad on chilled plates with even colder forks.

Sullivan's Steakhouse, 1928 South Blvd., 704-335-8228.

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