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!
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.
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 Cheese; Tanks’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.
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