Pure Pizza
Food & Drink

The Best Pizza Joints in Charlotte

Updated On 10/13/2017 at 07:10PM EST
C harlotte’s got some serious pizza game. Whether you’re trying to find a quick takeout spot that’s worth a damn, or a neighborhood restaurant perfect for slices and beers, you’ll have no problem locating a great pie in the Queen City. We’ve got those divey joints with plenty of red and white checkered kitsch, and even a couple newer establishments with fresh, local spins. So take a look at, and grab a bite from, some of the best pizza places in town.
Libretto's Pizzeria Charlotte

Libretto's Street Pizza

Uptown

NY-style pizza in a cozy setting
Libretto's Pizzeria has several brick-and-mortar locations, including one inside the EpiCentre in Uptown Charlotte. Instead of heading there, hit up the street pizza truck (nicknamed Lucille), which can be found roaming around town. The food truck is where you’ll find out-of-the-box specials like the Pinkman Special, named after a security guard at a local music venue. It comes topped with ricotta, ground beef, mushrooms, roasted garlic, and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Pure Pizza

Pure Pizza

Multiple locations

Pizza made with ancient grain crust and farm-fresh toppings
Pure Pizza got its name from its holistic pizza philosophy, which involves a revolutionary sprouted ancient grain crust and farm-fresh ingredients. With an original location at 7th Street Public Market, Pure Pizza opened its second location in Plaza Midwood, complete with an urban greenhouse to produce its very own homegrown toppings. Try the margherita, which revels in its simplicity, or the Chorizo pizza, topped with shaved radishes, tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, chorizo, and a squeeze of lime. The side of spicy honey it serves for dunking pizza crust is spot-on as well.

Benny Pennello's

NoDa

Large, late-night slices and a bunch of beers
Finally! A late-night, by-the-slice spot amid the NoDa neighborhood bar scene (and a delicious one at that). The home of the “Virginia Slice” -- named after where the business began -- has now moved over to North Carolina to provide Charlotteans the chance to get their hands on that whopping 28-inch round pie that made Benny's famous... though if we’re being honest, seeing as one slice takes up TWO plates, you might not need the whole pie. (But hey, why not give it a shot?) If you’re looking for something to help get that pizza down, Benny’s has more than 25 brews on hand, so you’ll never go thirsty.

Luisa's Brick Oven Pizzeria

Madison Park

Hidden gem, $9 pizza buffet
Luisa’s is a hidden gem near the Park Road Shopping Center that has been serving authentic Italian pizzas for over 20 years from its mammoth wood-fired oven. The Luisa, a crowd favorite, is topped with pesto, sliced tomatoes, fresh garlic, ricotta, and mozzarella cheese. Bust a gut on a tasting tour of Luisa’s pizza selection at the weekday lunch buffet where you can sample at least 10 different pizzas.

Hawthornes NY Pizza & Bar

Hawthorne's New York Pizza Bar

Elizabeth

New York-style pizza with a variety of toppings
Hawthorne’s on 7th Street is serving up New York-style pizzas with a heaping side of patio. Enjoy the view on the busy corner of 7th and Hawthorne while digging into the Crew Pizza, a thin-crust pizza topped with meatballs, Italian sausage, banana peppers, and red onion. The patio is nice, but so is the adjacent takeout window that makes for easy pie access.

Due Amici Pizza

Highland Creek

The most authentic New York-style pizza in Charlotte
If it’s one heck of a New York-style slice you’re after, Due Amici should be your next pit stop. The glorified favorites -- the chicken Parm or caprese pies -- will have you coming back to this casual, counter-service establishment time and time again, but the more adventurous ones will keep you talking. Try out a famous stuffed pie, filled with either meat or vegetables, for just $24. And be sure to get a side of the garlic knots, as the smell alone will probably have you drooling.

COURTESY OF RÉMY THURSTON

Pizzeria Omaggio

Midtown

Boasts incredibly unique pizza of the month options
This place is great for a number of reasons, one of which is that you can build your own personal pie, or take your pick of one of the 19 specialty creations. It also offers some unique pizza-of-the-month options, such as shrimp scampi, pear gorgonzola, and fior di zucchine, just to name a few. The chef packs his menu with ingredients straight from the neighboring farmers market, so you can be sure you’re getting the freshest of the fresh at Pizzeria Omaggio when it comes to your pizza pie accoutrements.

Portofino's

Midwood (& other locations)

Italian-style pizza in a date-friendly location
Portofino’s is where you go to get takeout on a lazy Friday night or any other night you want to eat an entire pizza in guilty isolation. Located in a sparsely populated shopping plaza, the family-owned business serves up a proper Italian pie. The Arrabbiata is a salty, savory dream layered with spicy marinara, prosciutto, mushrooms, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and mozzarella cheese.

Tonya Russ Price/Poprock Photography

Pizza Peel

Midwood (& other locations)

New York-style pizza. Great for the family. Lawn games.
In the former lot of a run-down gas station, Pizza Peel opened in Plaza Midwood and created a new gathering space for the neighborhood. Grab a local beer on tap, and order the Updyke, a pizza covered in mozzarella, goat cheese, Italian sausage, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and topped with fresh arugula. After that, grab another beer and hit the lively front lawn for a game of cornhole.

Inizio Pizza

Inizio Pizza Napoletana

Dilworth (& other locations)

The most authentic Neapolitan-style pizza in Charlotte.
Using a wood-fired oven shipped from Italy that cooks a pizza within 90 seconds, Inizio is as close to authentic Neapolitan-style pizza as Charlotteans will get without hopping on a plane. You can’t go wrong with any of the pizzas here, but you should order Inizio’s top seller, the pistachio pizza, made with rosemary, sea salt, ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, and a house-made pistachio-pesto sauce.

Blaze Pizza

Blaze Pizza

South End

Build-your-own pie joint with tons of options
Blaze Pizza is a create-your-own pizza mecca. With some signature pizzas, the real standout at Blaze is the BYO (Build Your Own) option for pizzas. Have you always wanted zucchini on your pizza? You got it. Want BBQ sauce instead of tomato? Done! Once you’ve selected your toppings or signature pizza, the pizza is flash fired for about 180 seconds. Fresh, fast, and delicious.

Aliño Pizzeria

Mooresville

Large, Neapolitan pies that give you a great reason to leave Charlotte
Aliño Pizzeria is located about 30 miles north of Charlotte in Mooresville, and believe us, it’s worth the trek for Charlotteans. Come hungry or prepared to share as there is only one pie size (16 inches) available. Get a bottle of wine and order the Toscana with sausage, San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, and fresh garlic.

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The Best Burgers in Charlotte, According to Our National Burger Critic

Published On 05/03/2017
C 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:
Small Block Burger with Cheese "all the way" | Laura Sumrak/Thrillist

7. Small Block Burger w/ Cheese “all the way”

Diamond Restaurant

Address and Info

Plaza Midwood

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.

Single Beef Burger | Laura Sumrak/Thrillist

6. Single beef burger w/ American, caramelized onion, and roasted garlic mayo on white bun

Kickstand Charlotte Burger Bar

Address and Info

Plaza Midwood

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.

jumbo cheeseburger | Laura Sumrak/Thrillist

5. Jumbo Cheeseburger

South 21 Drive-In

Address and Info

Elizabeth

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.

4. Skillet Burger

Kindred

Address and Info

Davidson

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.

The Bang Bang Burger, single | Laura Sumrak/Thrillist

3. The Bang Bang Burger, single

Bang Bang Burgers

Address and Info

Elizabeth

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.

the zack's special | Laura Sumrak/Thrillist

2. The Zack’s Special

Zack’s Hamburgers

Address and Info

South End

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.

Burger with cheese "all the way" | Laura Sumrak/Thrillist

1. Burger with cheese “all the way”

Brooks’ Sandwich House

Address and Info

NoDa

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’.