Best Charlotte Restaurants — A Foodie Guide

Best Charlotte Restaurants -- A foodie guide to Charlotte

Charlotte is one part small town, one part big city.  The people here are friendly and the pace of life is slow, but don’t let us fool you.  Charlotte is booming.  Everywhere you look, new things are being built.  Apartments, hotels, breweries, parks, restaurants.  YES, lots and lots of restaurants.

Several times a week, an email from a stranger will pop up in my inbox asking for a list of the best Charlotte restaurants.  I’ve been here over four years now, and have dined at MANY of the restaurants in the city, so these types of emails usually result in a list of two dozen recommendations I’m hoping the stranger can cram into a two-day stay, accompanied by instructions to pack their eatin’ pants.

As part of the #DesignCharlotte campaign (details below!), and for the fun of list making, I went back through those old emails and compiled a list of the restaurants and dishes that I recommend time and time again.  A foodie’s guide to Charlotte, if you will.  I anticipate this list will continue to grow and expand with time.  Did I miss your favorite?  Leave a comment below!

Neighborhoods_hotspots


UPTOWN

Where:  “Uptown” is Charlotte’s downtown area.  It’s the hub of the city and the point of reference for all other neighborhoods.  Uptown is divided into four wards, the center of which is the intersection of Trade Street and Tryon Street.

What:  Lots of banks and bankers, plus the Epicentre, all the sports (Charlotte Panthers, Charlotte Knights, Charlotte Hornets), theaters, and Romare Bearden Park.

Things to Eat:

  • Burgers:  Cowbell.  “Artisanal burgers with a side of rock & roll.”  My picks:  Big Will’s Breakfast Burger with praline smoked bacon and over-easy egg; Umami Burger with roasted shitakes, caramelized onions, and chipotle spiced ketchup; The Jett black bean burger with goat cheese and roasted garlic aioli; TATER TOTS.
  • Dinner on a Rooftop:  Fahrenheit.  Fantastic view.  Great for date night.  My picks:  Scallops with cauliflower puree, caramelized cauliflower, pomegranate molasses (best scallops I’ve had in Charlotte, no joke); Chorizo-stuffed dates; Charlotte Potato Chip Nachos.
  • Crudo & Steak:  Evoke.  “Chic, new-age steakhouse.” Gnocchi with jumbo lump crab and smoked pancetta; Escolar Crudo; Peruvian Ceviche; Diver Scallop Crudo; beef tenderloin Bucatini; 21-day Dry-aged NY Strip.
  • Lots O’ Options:  7th St Public Market.  The market’s focus is on local and regional farmers, food artisans, and entrepreneurs.  Local Loaf (Chicken and the Egg, Ham and Brie); Pure Pizza (Slap Yo Mama Lasagna, Chorizo); Hazelnuts (ALL THE CREPES); Not Just Coffee; The Sorting Table (wine); Greeneman Farms (produce); Orrman’s CheeseTanks’s Tap (beer).
  • Small Plates:  Dandelion Market.  One of my favorite uptown spots to grab dinner with friends. My picks:  Buttered scallops with toasted macadamia; cherry-glazed lamb lollipops; sausage stuffed poblano pepper; market mac and cheese.
  • Modern Southern:  Mimosa Grill.  “Global cuisine with a unique southern twist.”  Consistently good food.  Pecan crusted chicken salad with sweet mustard dressing; Iron Skillet Roasted Salmon.
  • Southern-inspired:  Roosters.  “Relevant without being trendy.”  Awesome open kitchen.  Wood-fired grill.  My picks:  scallop salad with buttermilk lime dressing; mac and cheese; Vietnamese pork sandwich.
  • Italian:  Aria.  3-course express lunch; cheese plate; all the pasta.
  • Gyros:  Little Village Grill.  Hands down, best gyros.  They even put a couple of fries inside.
  • Swankiest night out:  Dinner at 5Church followed by drinks at the Punch Room.  

PLAZA MIDWOOD

What:  One of my favorite areas to hang out on a weekend night.  Super walkable.  Funky, gritty charm.

Where:  2 miles east of Uptown, north of Elizabeth.

Things to Eat:

  • For all of the things:  Common Market.  Lovably grungy.  Delicious breakfast sandwiches, large wine & beer selection, random quirky snacks and chotchkies, happening patio, drink there or take it to-go.
  • BBQ:  Midwood Smokehouse.  Mac and cheese with big, curly corkscrew noodles; PULLED PORK CUBAN; BBQ tacos; Back Porch Tea.
  • Vegetarian food with flair:  Fern.  OM Burger with crispy fingerling potatoes; cauliflower appetizer (flavors change often, all are awesome).
  • International Cuisine:  Bistro La Bon.   Great atmosphere; interesting multi-ethnic dinner menu; SWEDISH MEATBALLS; all-you-can-eat brunch buffet. COCONUT MACAROONS.
  • Breakfast:  Zada Janes.  BUNNY RANCHEROS.  You won’t be sorry.
  • Rooftop bars:  Peculiar Rabbit and Whisky Warehouse.   Grab an order of fries, and enjoy the view.
  • Health-focused grocery:  Healthy Home Market.  “Locally grown, locally owned.”   Juice bar, hot bar, bulk bins.  Plantain chips!
  • Serbian/Italian:  Intermezzo.  My picks:  all the pizzas; house-made ravioli; steak & goat cheese sandwich on incredible house-made bread.
  • Swanky small plates:  Soul Gastrolounge.   “Innovative sushi, global tapas, and handcrafted cocktails.” Asian-glazed pork belly tacos; all the sushi; braised veal cheek ramen in a garlic cream sauce.
  • Comfort food:  Dish and The Diamond.
  • Tacos:  Krazy Fish.  “Seafood Fusion.”  CRAZY tacos; crazy décor; Szechuan salmon tacos are legit.
  • Coffee:  Central Coffee


ELIZABETH

What:  Tree-lined streets, historical houses.  Don’t feel like driving?  Take Charlotte’s Streetcar from Uptown into Elizabeth!

Where:  1.5 miles southeast of Uptown

Things to Eat:

  • Incredible Fast Casual:  Viva Chicken – my favorite spot to grab a fast & healthy & delicious meal.  Love their Viva chicken salad, quinoa-stuffed avocado, and steak sandwich.  Whatever you order, make sure to get a side of mild sauce AND medium sauce.  And yucca fries.
  • Farm to fork:  Passion8.  Chef Luca is sourcing everything he can from the local Farmer’s Markets.
  • Small Plates:  CustomShop.  Locally sourced, unique preparation.  BBQ Octopus with Romesco & fingerling potatoes; fried oysters; smoked hanger steak; HOUSE BREAD.  Sit at the bar and get 20% off your food.
  • Made-to-Order Sandwiches:  Laurel Market.  Anything you could ever want in a sandwich, including bolillo bread.  Plus a small grocery and wine section.  Mercado for the win.
  • New Orleans Cuisine:  Cajun Queen.  NOLA BBQ Shrimp; Crawfish Etouffe; blackened pork tenderloin with plantains and black bean mash.  Live jazz every darn night.
  • Coffee & Baked Yums:  Sunflour café.  Breakfast & lunch sandwiches, great coffee, sweets.  French press.  Awesome sourdough.  COOKIES.  TAB (turkey, bacon, avocado plus basil mayo).
  • Urban Provisions:  Earl’s Grocery.  “Food truck, prepared foods, and snack extravaganza wrapped into one package.”  Gourmet cheese selection, wine, CHOCOLATE.  Lemongrass banh mi is on point.
  • Fancy Pants Dinner:  The Fig Tree.  Don’t miss the escargot with gorgonzola cream sauce.

MIDTOWN

What:  Home to Target, Trader Joe’s, and BJ’s, plus Little Sugar Creek Greenway and Midtown Park.

Where:  A little hunk of land, just south of Uptown, in between Elizabeth and Dilworth.

Things to Eat:

  • Family-style Italian:  Mama Ricotta’s.  Really can’t go wrong with anything here, but the goat cheese & mascarpone dip appetizer is RIDICULOUS.  Pork and broccolini sandwich.  Pizza.
  • Swanky Italian:  Vivace.  The food here is great (I hope they bring back the skate wing), but what I love most is the patio with the view of the uptown skyline.  Brunch Special: 2 courses plus unlimited mimosas or Bloody Mary’s for only $25!  WHAT!  My picks:  BRUNCH, Brussels sprouts, carbonara, meatballs, quiche.
  • Sushi:  Pisces.   $10 all-you-can eat lunch buffet Mon-Sat!
  • Ethiopian:  Meskerem Restaurant.  Ok, full disclosure.  I haven’t eaten here yet (it’s the only restaurant on this list I haven’t tried).  And there’s really no excuse for that.  I will be going SOON.

DILWORTH

What:  Bungalows!  Freedom Park, the largest park in the Charlotte area, which connects to the Little Sugar Creek Greenway.

Where:  A few miles south of Uptown.

Things to Eat:

  • Eclectic:  300 East.  “American-Eclectic cuisine in a fun and quirky setting.”   Baked goat cheese; sweet potato ravioli with Gorgonzola cream; Fall Salad; brunch; hanger steak with onion marmalade!
  • Small Plates:  The Summit Room.  “Southern inspired plates and diverse cocktails.” Awesome cocktails; BBQ shrimp corn pudding.
  • Breakfast:  Toast Café.  Southwest scramble.  Peanut butter banana stuffed French toast.  Enough said.
  • Italian:  Dolce.  BURRATA.  Shrimp Sorrento pasta; all the salads; Tuesday-night gnocchi.
  • Mediterranean:  Kabob Grill.   Kafta, fattoush, hummus, grape leaves, potatoes, falafel, kabobs.  All of it, awesome.
  • Modern Indian:  Copper.  Lamb meatballs, masala-chili cauliflower, goan prawn curry.

 


SOUTH END

What:  Lots of young professionals, condos, and apartments.  Charlotte’s Light Rail connects South End to Uptown.

Where:  Just southwest of Uptown.

Things to Eat:

  • Vegan:  Luna’s Living Kitchen.  “Specializing in the art of living foods.”  Totally vegetarian/vegan menu, fresh juices, great salads.  Living burrito, Pad Thai, veggie burgers.  Next to Atherton Market.
  • Gastrofare:  The Liberty Gastropub.  Irish pub(ish) /American food.  Great burgers, constantly changing menu.  Devils on horseback & angry mussels!  SALTED CARAMEL BUDINO.  Menu changes often, but if they have pulled pork stuffed hushpuppies, GET THEM.
  • All things southern:  Tupelo Honey.  People LOVE this place.  Southern comfort food, biscuits, Appalachian egg rolls, fried chicken… you get the picture.
  •  All of the things:  Common Market South End.  See Plaza Midwood Location above.
  • Farmer’s Market & Local Artisans:  Atherton Mill & Market.  Best time to go = Saturday morning.  Lots of local vendors.  Meat, cheese, produce, seafood, baked goods, Not Just Coffee, Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen (locally sourced cooking classes).  There’s also Vin Master Wine Shop and Savory Spice Shop in the same complex.
  • Food Truck Grub:  Food Truck Friday:  “held every Friday, rain or shine, at the corner of Camden and Park Avenue from 5-9pm.”  Papi Queso, Tin Kitchen, what’s up.
  • Sushi:  Nikko.  Super swanky, super delicious.

NODA

What:  Charlotte’s “Artsy” district.  Feels a lot like Plaza Midwood, but smaller.

Where:  A few miles northeast of Uptown

Things to Eat:

  • Tacos:  Cabo Fish taco.  “coastal Mexican cuisine with a unique healthy California feel.”   Local favorite.  Get all the tacos.  I like the tavarua tuna & carne asada.
  • Coffee, Sweets, and Petite Sandwiches:  Amelie’s.  Everyone loves the funky/eclectic décor.    Open 24 hours!  Salted Caramel Brownie is legendary.
  • Sandwiches:  NoDA Bodega.  Boars Head meats, daily sandwich specials, CHIPOTLE PIMENTO CHEESE.
  • More coffee:  Daily Press (craft coffee by day, Evening Muse by night) & Smelly Cat (roasting in -house).

 


MYERS PARK

What:  Where the rich folk who don’t live in Dilworth live.  Home to Reid’s, Charlotte’s original hometown specialty food store.

Where:  A few miles south of Uptown.

Things to Eat:

  • Seafood & Small Plates:  Napa on Providence.  Sit at the bar.  Order the mussels, meatballs, burrata, and oysters.  Eat copious amounts of the house bread.
  • Tacos al fresco:  RuRu’s Tacos.  Incredible patio.
  • Farm to Table:  Block and Grinder.  Premium beef, wild game.  Retail butcher shop right in the dining room.
  • Beats and Breakfast:  Little Spoon.  Potato/Baked/Torn/Fried with house-made ketchup; shashuska; delightful coffees served in bowl-sized mugs.
  • Bagels:  Poppy’s Bagels.  GIANT FRESH BAGELS.  Breakfast sandwiches.  Omelets.  EVERYTHING BAGELS ARE MY EVERYTHING.
  • Pizza:  MELLOW MUSHROOM and Selwyn Avenue Pub and Stagioni.
  • French cuisine:  Lumiere.  Located in a strip mall, decor is lacking, but the food & bread are fantastic.

 


MONTFORD DRIVE

What:  A stretch of restaurants and bars that run along Montford Drive.  Great for a bar-hopping night out.  Plus karaoke 7 days a week at Jeff’s Bucket Shop, if that’s your thing.

Where:  South of Myers Park

Things to Eat:

  • Small Plates:  Good Food on Montford.  James Beard semi-finalist in 2010 for best new restaurant.  One of my favorite restaurants in Charlotte.  Awesome ambiance, great energy.  Green curry coconut curry mussels = AMAZING.  Korean beef with scallion kimchi.
  • Bowling, BBQ, & Moonshine:  10 Park Lanes.  I adore the stacked mason jars.  My fav combo:  pulled pork + mac and cheese + coleslaw.  You’re welcome.
  • Oysters:  Rocksalt.  “Sustainable seafood and craft cocktails.”
  • Tacos:  Maverick Rock Taco.  Tacos!  Mexican Street Corn!  White Sangria!

SOUTH PARK

What:  Big shopping area, home to South Park Mall, Whole Foods, and Earth Fare.

Where:  South of Myers Park, about 15 minutes from uptown.

Things to Eat:

  • Burgushi:  Cowfish.  “The first and only Sushi Burger Bar.”  I’ve never ordered something here that I didn’t love it.  Can’t make up your mind?  Try the bento box — you get sushi plus a mini burger plus a couple of sides.
  • French Cuisine:  George’s Brasserie.  The fiery mussels are my FAVORITE–they have sausage, peppers, and onions in a delicious broth, and unlimited FRENCH BREAD.  THIS IS THE STUFF DREAMS ARE MADE OF.

 


OFF THE BEATEN PATH

  • Ethnic Eats:  East Charlotte “Taste of the World” Restaurant Guide. (I’m still working my way through these)
  • Eats in Davidson:  Kindred.  “Ever-changing chef-driven menu.”  DUCK FAT POTATOES.
  • Banh Mi:  Le’s.  Located in the Asian Corner Mall.  Looks like a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie, but the #6 makes it worth the trek.
  • Freshly foraged fair:  Heirloom.  Chef Clark Barlowe is taking “locally sourced” up a notch and doing the foraging HIMSELF, plus they have beehives on top the building.  12-course tasting menu available, perfect to split between two people.  Do it.
  • Vietnamese:  Lang Van & Ben Thanh.
  • Korean BBQ:  PePeRo.  Spicy pork bulgogi.  Kimchi.  Attached grocery store.
  • Bosnian:  Euro Grill & Cafe.  Beef cevaps on lepinja (incredible, buttery, homemade Bosnian flatbread).
  • Take out Mexican:  Las Lupitas.  Carnitas, barbacoa, and fresh tortillas sold by the pound.

#DESIGNCHARLOTTE

For the next couple of months, I’ll be posting pics on social media using the #DesignCharlotte hashtag.  Have you checked it out?  It’s a sweet campaign through the Marriott Charlotte City hotel,  encouraging people to show off their favorite things in Charlotte.  The Marriott Charlotte City hotel is currently undergoing a major transformation, which will include a mosaic wall featuring photos and videos tagged with #DesignCharlotte on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.  How cool is that?  Plus, using the hashtag enters you into a contest to win a Grand Prize Getaway.  I’m down for that.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of #DesignCharlotte. The opinions and text are all mine.

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4 Comments

  1. This is a wonderful guide! As a native Charlottean, there are a few really delicious restaurants in the South Park area: Barrington’s, Bricktops, Upstream, and Zebra.

  2. Thank you for this post!! The exact thing I was looking for (in Charlotte and looking for a place for tonight). Looking forward to following 🙂