Thankfully Charlotte isn’t a town where you need to sacrifice your firstborn to score a seat at brunch. But that doesn’t mean there aren't brunches worth going the extra mile for. There’s plenty of patio seating, boozy juices, and all-you-can-eat options to satisfy the never-ending quandary that occurs when you sit on the border of breakfast and lunch. And here are the best of ‘em.
Every brunch should be accompanied by large mugs of coffee and good music. At littleSpoon in Myers Park, you get all that and more. This neighborhood spot flaunts tasty creations like the #BEC, a golden runny-egg sandwich loaded with bacon and Cheddar, and Cinnamon Toast Brulee, a French toast-like creation that is way better than the cereal of your childhood.
It’s quite possible that you spent Saturday evening clinking glasses and toasting the beautiful people inside the swanky bar at 5Church and, come Sunday, you’re operating at half-speed. Not to worry. Put on your aviators and head back for brunch, where you can sip a glass of bubbly and devour a croque madame or the famed lamb burger. Nothing cures a big night out more than a little hair of the dog and mornay sauce with French fries.
The family-owned restaurant on East Blvd lives inside a house that was built in 1900 and has a regular crowd that feels like it's been there just as long. One of the biggest draws is the inviting patio, which fills up fast. Come early to avoid a wait and spring for the Crab Cake Benedict with citrus hollandaise and potato pancake.
The atmosphere at The Asbury gives the feeling of Uptown elegance inside its light gray walls, while its brunch menu screams of down-home comfort. Start your meal with an order of Maw Maw’s cast-iron biscuits served with a side of savory bacon jam. The menu changes seasonally, so be sure to check their website for the latest offerings.
Step into this SouthPark stalwart with the upper crust of Charlotte and get your money’s worth. This upscale seafood restaurant does brunch right with an endless supply of sushi, oysters on the half shell, shrimp, clams, and mussels along with a luxurious selection of small plates like French toast topped with fruit and cashew crusted trout, all included in the $27.95 price tag.
Bistro La Bon is situated on the lively Central Avenue thoroughfare in Plaza Midwood and offers two types of brunch experiences: a reservations-only affair on Saturdays and the Sunday Brunch Smorgasbord (which is where the action is). The internationally inspired restaurant offers a buffet that’s overflowing with European specialties, and $22 pays your admission to party.
Head north of the city into the charming college town of Davidson where Fork! sits just on its outskirts in a most welcoming old house. Dig into the mother load of Benedict selections (there are three on the menu) or try the Cheddar Herb Biscuits & Gravy. Pro tip: snag a table on the wraparound porch; it makes everything taste better.
Though the drive to Waxhaw is always worth it, a Sunday drive to visit Chef Paul Verica inside his hyperlocal restaurant is that much more pleasurable. The big deal at brunch is the house-made doughnuts, which change weekly and the 'Hangover' Helper, a headache-fighting, belly-fortifying combination of bread, pimento cheese, bacon, pulled pork, a fried egg, and crispy onions.
For a Parisian escape, get lost in the menu at this adorable bakery and bistro on a weekend when you have nowhere to be. Be sure to order the signature Benedict Monte with smoked ham, two eggs, tomato, asparagus, and hollandaise served on a flaky croissant.
With two locations -- both offering brunch -- Reid’s is a SouthPark standout with an impressive patio and an even more impressive brunch buffet. Served every Sunday from 10:30am-2pm, it offers all the favorites: farmers pie, French toast, an omelet station, eggs Benedict, and more. You’ll want to save room for seconds.
With views of the Uptown skyline, Vivace is a perfect destination for cocktails and a brunch-induced coma. Get a two-course brunch and bottomless mimosas for just $25, or snag something special from the Bloody Mary bar. You can also order a la carte, but the prix-fixe deal is too good to pass up.
You’re probably thinking, “Seriously? Another buffet?” Bear with us. This $25 French-inspired buffet on Sundays will net you ever changing buffet options, including oysters, omelets, and crepes... or you can order a la carte. Whatever you choose, you should ask for the $12 bottomless mimosas to complement your meal... and start your Sunday off right.
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Erin Maddrey believes in the trifecta of awesomeness that is brunch, stretchy pants, and naps on the weekends. Follow her and her Charlotte adventures on Twitter and Instagram @ErinMaddrey.
If you are a beer person, and you are married, and you didn’t have your bachelor party in Asheville, you made a serious miscalculation that might reverberate through the rest of your life.
In my 24 hours in this glorious mountain town, I felt like 80% of the people I saw either worked in breweries, were casually wearing brewery gear, or just had foam in their thick beards from recently taking sips of a piney, hoppy IPA. Even if you don’t like beer, Asheville is a glorious food town, and the burgers proved it. Each of the six burgers (recommended to me by local chefs and food writers) I consumed here were solid. There wasn’t a single bad burger in the bunch.
In case you’re new to my rankings, here are some guidelines: If the restaurant had multiple burgers, I tried to order its signature burger, or if that was too outlandish and stunt-y, the closest to a classic cheeseburger. If it came with options, I always picked American cheese and grilled onions. If you think I missed a place, please find someone to love for the rest of your life, ask them to marry you, plan an Asheville bachelor party, invite me to said bachelor party, and then stand up at the dinner on Friday night and give a toast that ridicules me for not including your pick. But until then, here are the six best burgers in Asheville:
How African-American Chefs Embrace Soul Food as Fine Dining
I wrote something about soul food becoming financially fancy a couple years ago, after an experience at a popular “southern” restaurant in the Atlanta area that cost much more than what seemed reasonable. Since that story, much has stayed the same, but there have certainly been changes in Atlanta’s soul food dining scene that can only be seen positively. Chefs who truly know soul food are being recognized for their commitments to the cultural importance of the food, and for finding inventive ways to represent and reimagine the recipes so many Americans know and love.
Their work has not gone unrewarded. Soul food just keeps getting hotter, and not just because of the additional dashes of pepper vinegar or Tabasco sauce that are so often applied to it (although those are always welcome). The traditionally southern style of cooking, and its African-American roots, are enjoying a sustained popularity boom, thanks in part to soul food chefs who elevate the food into a higher class of culinary art.
Atlanta has always been a city with deep soul food history, but its landscape has changed of late with a revival of the cuisine’s true nature and a forward-thinking outlook towards its future -- both thanks to a few key players. Some, like Busy Bee Cafe owner Tracy Gates, have veteran-status after spending three decades in the city’s restaurant business. Others, like Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin’ BBQ, have arrived more recently but made a big, saucy splash on the city’s dining scene. As it is, soul food is becoming increasingly freed from any singular definition.
Food & Drink
The Best Burgers in Charlotte, According to Our National Burger Critic
harlotte surprised me. I’ve been to Charlotte several times before, and I must admit I didn’t love it much in the past. Most of what I’d seen was new and sponsored by Bank of America -- the whole Downtown scene felt contrived and shaped out of some conventional vision of what a Downtown city should look like. And so I figured this would translate into some uninteresting cookie cutter burger joints. But man, I was very, very wrong.
In my 24 hours eating my way through Charlotte’s burger scene, I was able to see a huge range of classic places with long histories in beautiful areas I’d never ventured into. And that doesn’t even count my side trip to Davidson. After talking with chefs and food writers, I pared down a list to seven essential burgers.
In case you’re new to my rankings, here are some guidelines: If the restaurant had multiple burgers, I tried to order its signature burger, or if that was too outlandish and stunt-y, the closest to a classic cheeseburger. If it came with options, I always picked American cheese and grilled onions. If you think I missed a place, please hold up a poster detailing the names of the places at the next Charlotte Hornets game, and attempt to hand deliver it to center Frank Kaminsky afterwards. He knows where to find me. In the meantime, here are the seven best burgers in Charlotte:
You see the term “all the way” thrown around a lot in North Carolina burger joints, but as you’ll see later, it doesn’t always mean the same thing. Diamond, a sort of retro-refreshed diner that originally opened in 1945 and has been through three different ownership groups in the past 70 years, uses the term to mean “lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo, and pickles” on the burger.
My Small Block burger was good. The hand-formed, irregularly shaped patty had solid crust from the griddle and a pleasingly loose grind, but was overcooked and slightly under-salted. The composition of the toppings was balanced, but it lacked any sort oomph factor to move it higher. Still, if you’re starting with this burger at the bottom, you’re in pretty good shape.
6. Single beef burger w/ American, caramelized onion, and roasted garlic mayo on white bun
Poor Kickstand. There was construction right in front of the building when I drove up, and it took me two passes to figure out how to actually get into the restaurant. All of the signature burgers here were too stunty, so I opted to create my own. The flavor of the beef in the patty was good, the meat was cooked to a perfect, pink medium, and the roasted garlic mayo blended in with the American cheese. The meat gave the burger a solid balance, but there were a few issues: the bun, though well toasted, was too big and bulky for the size of the patty; and the caramelized onions were slightly underdone. Much like Diamond, the burger was good, but lacked an “it” factor to push it even higher.
Man, I loved coming to this spot. As you drive up, you see a giant sign that says “serving Charlotte since 1955” in big red block letters. The billboards in the back of the restaurant alone are a reason to visit. Many of them hype the “Super Boy” burger, which is two patties, mustard, onions, lettuce, and tomato, but when I pushed the button to order, I opted for the Super Boy with cheese, which is sadly called the Jumbo Cheeseburger.
Post ordering, in one of the more meta moments of the trip I said, aloud to myself, “I missed my opportunity to say Super Boy aloud!”
As for the Super Boy with cheese, it is a very solid diner burger. The thin patties have great char, but not a ton of meat flavor. The main components you really taste are the mustard and onions, and that acid and tang could sometimes overwhelm the meat, but if you caught it just right, you’d get a delicious, salty, meaty balance, and feel pretty damn good about yourself. I am going to write Super Boy one more time just because it’s so enjoyable. Super Boy.
If you asked me to envision the most aesthetically pleasing neighborhood restaurant, it might not beat Davidson’s gloriously handsome Kindred. Long a darling of the national media, Kindred has all the instantly Instagrammable touches: beautiful leather on its bar chairs, a perfectly scuffed brick back wall, white tiles on the floor, and the sort of blue door you’d find in Bermuda.
I’d been here once before for dinner and knew the burger was only available on the lunch menu, so I made a point to stop into Davidson for lunch as I drove from Charlotte to Asheville. The Skillet Burger is a double burger, and though the two patties aren’t wide in diameter, they’re of a sort of middle width between a steakhouse burger and the diner version. The meat itself was victual glory -- salty, perfectly cooked, and buttery with a loose grind. The cheddar had some age and nuttiness to it as well, but there were a few small quibbles -- the aioli lacked a lot of flavor (it served more as a lubricant for the bun), and the “quick pickles” were too damn quick to provide suitable acid to combat that rich beef and cheese flavor. I think some slower pickles would go a long way here.
I didn’t want to like Bang Bang. For one, it was in a strip mall that seemed designed to make it impossible to find parking. Second, its Black Angus beef is from NYC’s Pat LaFrieda, and that made me feel like it was a carpetbagger of sort (“Find some Carolina meat, dammit!” I shouted internally while looking at the menu, absentmindedly waving my fist).
But dammit if the burger wasn’t pretty damn delicious. The bun was perfectly griddled, toasted on the inside and soft on the outside, and the homemade pickle and “Bangburger” sauce had just the right amount of acid to balance the meat. I’ll be honest here, folks. There’s a reason LaFrieda is the most famous butcher and meat purveyor in the US: He knows what the hell he’s doing. That patty was seared up to a perfect medium, and the grind was spectacularly loose and salty and the beef flavor came through cleanly. Just a really, really solid burger. I just suggest you maybe walk there or something.
Zack’s was the first place I went after getting off the plane from Charleston. I got there by 11:30am, and there was already a line snaking around the back of the restaurant, filled in equal measure with office workers and construction guys in neon vests. I sighed audibly and thought that this would mess with my finely tuned schedule, but somehow, after about 10 minutes of waiting in line, I got my Zack’s Special burger exactly seven minutes after ordering.
I sat under the red and white umbrellas outside and inhaled this burger, which tasted almost exactly like the homemade version of a Big Mac. Great grind on the patties, a well-toasted sesame seed bun that stayed the hell out of the way, shredded lettuce blending in with the sauce, hamburger dill pickles providing acid. Zack’s is a legend for a reason: It makes one of the truly great diner-style burgers in all of North Carolina.
Have you been to Brooks’ Sandwich House, friends? Have you pulled up to a dusty red shack behind an overpass across from trendy developments on a patch of dirt and shrouded by trees, and looked at this little house with black bars on the windows and wondered just what sort of culinary witchcraft was happening inside? Did you see 20 people of every stripe -- hipsters and office workers and auto mechanics still in their jumpsuits -- all standing outside, patiently waiting for a specific number? Did you go inside and order the burger with cheese “all the way” and realize belatedly that this meant something different than you’d originally thought?
When you finally heard your number called, did you let out a cry of glee and retreat to the standing tables outside? Did you make weird audible groans of ecstasy as you bit into a burger with some of the best char you’ve ever seen mixed with the rich meaty flavor of a thick, subtly smoky chili, the crisp tang of diced white onions, and the acid from yellow mustard? Did you raise your hands in victory after you finished the burger and proclaim to yourself in your rental car that this was definitely the best burger in Carolina, and maybe one of the best in country?
Well then, it seems we shared similar experiences at Brooks’.
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