Street Blues PDF Print E-mail
Written by Luke Jankovic   
Thursday, 25 February 2010 10:28
Review of Downtown Donny's in Charlotte, North Carolina

The best "road food" is like the blues. From the smoke and the sweat and the fire comes a song. Three chords arranged differently, stressed just right, and somehow you can taste the soul of a place. These songs are played in venues across the country, off back roads, on big highways, some of them shiny and clean, most of them not. Sometimes they are played by musicians on the street, and in downtown Charlotte, Donny has been playing his for twenty years.

One of Donny's standards, his "My Baby Left Me," is a chili dog. A jumbo all-beef dog in a natural casing snaps and pops while grilled--licked by the flames, riffed by the smoke. The casing gives it more sound and sizzle, more bite than other dogs. Charred to perfection, it is sliced in half, laid in a bun, then topped with Donny's own chili, poured in between the flamed halves. More heat, no beans, just beef and spice, a  good Texas chili transplanted in Charlotte. Then on top of the char and the heat comes this unexpected and unthought-of breeze. A humid southern summer day, broken by a fresh storm. Donny's coleslaw: match-sticked carrots and cabbage mixed with a cool sweet dressing. The bright colors of the slaw and the crisp flavor cut through the heat. It all ties together, the song and sweat and soul of a southern city. I am a northern boy myself, so this would never have come to me. I just don't have the chops for it. But, that doesn't mean I can't sing along. In fact, I suggest that if you can't make it to Donny's, that you try playing this yourself. You know the chords--there are just three--and this one is worth pretending. It is an instance where a little bit of posing is just fine. Just make sure you grill the dog.

If you can make it to downtown Charlotte, which I hope you do, you will find Donny at the corner of E. 3rd and Tryon, across from the Wachovia building. I might not have all the details right, I don't think there's even a sign with his name on it (my cabby led me to it). What I do know is that I keep hearing that song. It stuck.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 25 February 2010 10:41