Food & Drink

The Best Spots for Eating and Drinking Along Charlotte's Blue Line Light Rail

Published On 05/03/2016 Published On 05/03/2016
charlotte light rail map
Jennifer Bui/Thrillist
Courtesy of Remy Thurston

Futo Buta

Blue Line stop: Bland station
Long smeared as cheap and unhealthy because of that Top Ramen brand we all ate in college, this Japanese noodle is finally getting the respect it deserves, which has made Futo Buta the new wunderkind of South End in Charlotte. An intimate group-style dining experience with long communal tables gives the illusion of a Tokyo neighborhood sushi bar, and each giant ramen bowl (perfect for sharing) wonderfully balances sweet & sour, spicy & umami.

Saigon Palace

Blue Line stop: Tyvola station
Vietnamese food is a mixed bag of flavors from Southeast Asia coupled with the expertise of French cooking techniques. It’s a rare union of ingredients and skill, one best exemplified in bún thịt nướng, aka vermicelli noodle bowls. (Don’t even try to act like you knew that.) In Charlotte, Saigon Palace does it best. This bowl of rice noodles sits atop a bed of sprouts, basil, and mint, and is topped with grilled pork, spring rolls, pickled carrots, and chopped peanuts. Don’t forget to add in the small bowl of sweet & sour fish sauce that comes with it. Otherwise, what's the point?

Copper

Blue Line stop: East/West station
Copper isn’t your standard Indian restaurant. This place has an elegant dining room ornamented with tasteful modern artwork, a top-notch wine list, and some great twists on classic cocktails (like adding some crushed cardamom to gin & tonics, or a thick crust of curry powder along the rim of a paloma). It’ll easily bury any preconceived notions you may have about Indian restaurants right under a pile of delicious entrees that blend the traditional with the avant-garde. If you’re traveling a long way on the light rail to get here, just let the thought of the lamb mango-ginger “Tawa Roast” -- filled with lamb morsels, mushrooms, potatoes, coriander, and mango masala -- feed your brain until you get the real thing.

Courtesy of Triple C Brewing Company & Justin Engel

Triple C Brewing Co.

Blue Line stop: New Bern station
You could throw a rock from the speeding light rail and more than likely hit a newly opened craft brewery. So where is the best place for a thirsty Blue Line rider to go? Triple C Brewing. The Greenway IPA takes a subtle approach to what is now craft brewing’s darling: the IPA. It has a bright citrus note that goes down smooth and still gives you a good buzz. If you like your IPAs to really hit you hard, go for the Baby Maker, which comes in at a whopping 8.5% ABV.

Taqueria Mexico

Blue Line stop: Arrowood station
If you want the best authentic street tacos in Charlotte, look no further. Taqueria is a favorite within the city's Mexican-American community, the type of place where knowing Spanish is a definite plus, but English works just fine. So hop off the Blue Line at Arrowood, stop by Taqueria, and challenge some friends to a taco-eating contest. Then wash it all down with a guanabana aqua fresca, one of the most unique (but refreshing) fruit juices you’ll probably ever find.

Courtesy of Taps & Snaps

The Cellar at Duckworth's

Blue Line stop: 7th St station
This is probably one of the most exciting dining experiences in Charlotte. Once you get beyond the hostess and walk through the thick, something-secret-is-behind-this-door door, you'll immediately be tossed back in time to a speakeasy reminiscent of the Prohibition era. After gawking at the decor, relax and order a cocktail: the Sazerac is a New Orleans original, and a sneaky wallop to your sobriety. Next comes the food: let the waiter guide you through the menu on your first visit. It's a tapas-style joint, which allows you to enjoy a huge swath of different flavors, textures, and ingredients.

Bar Cocoa

Bar Cocoa

Blue Line stop: CTC station
If you’re looking to skip the cheap drinks at the Epicentre, head to Bar Cocoa in the Ritz Carlton and grab some macarons and a gelato. It's right by the CTC station, and will probably give you some brownie points if you're on a date (seriously, it's the Ritz). Right next door is the hotel lobby bar & lounge, which is always good for a well-crafted cocktail or glass of wine. So ditch the Epicentre for one night; keep it classy and end your evening in real style.

Zack's Hamburgers

Blue Line stop: Scaleybark
Eating at Zack’s is like taking a trip back in time to the days when McDonald’s was just getting started and had a menu that didn’t include things like "all white meat" chicken nuggets and whatever the hell a McRib is. Zack’s has a simple menu that focuses on delivering the quintessential cheeseburger: a sesame seed bun with charbroiled meat patties, American cheese singles, mustard, mayo, onion, and pickles. It's traditional. It's easy. It's delicious.

Lola's

Blue Line stop: 3rd St/Convention Center
This place is easy to spot after you step off the light rail platform. It's the restaurant with the line wrapped around the building. Seriously, people pile into Lola's every day around lunchtime, mostly in search of one thing: soul food. (Though we can't say enough about the fried catfish and jalapeño bread.) Whether you're sitting in or getting it to go, be prepared to wait. But like most good things in life, it'll be worth the wait.

Courtesy of New World Media, LLC (edited)

Big Ben

Blue Line stop: East/West Blvd station
This is an Arsenal Football Club bar, and it gets about as rowdy as a mid-morning bar can get. The full English breakfast (poached eggs, English-style bacon, sausage, baked beans, toast, roasted mushrooms, and tomatoes) is the perfect accompaniment to the special draught deals on Guinness and other British Isle brews. It's also the perfect pairing for those Saturday morning English Premier League soccer games.

The Mad Greek Cafe

Blue Line stop: Woodlawn station
Charlotte natives may remember a place called Hugo’s Diner that started serving Greek favorites back in 1991. Hugo's closed in 2008, but in its place we have the even better Mad Greek. This gem has a gyro platter that can do no wrong: huge chunks of finely shaved, well-seasoned lamb, a warm pita, fresh tzatziki sauce, and a great Greek salad with extra pepperoncini and Kalamata olives. (No need to Google the menu; chances are you now know what you're having when you decide to go.)

Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth

Blue Line stop: Stonewall
Halcyon's commitment to locally sourced meats, vegetables, wines, and spirits is steadfast. It's an upscale, modern dining room just next to the entrance of the Mint Museum, with an ever-changing menu created to flow with the seasons. Among all the favorites on the cocktail menu, the Frambuesa en Fuego -- a chili-infused altos tequila with raspberries, Cointreau, lime, and Chambord -- may be what keeps you coming back, especially if you take advantage of the outdoor patio.

Light Rail Family Restaurant

Blue Line stop: Sharon Rd West
If you find yourself getting off at the Sharon Rd West station on the Blue Line, there's only one beacon of hope: Light Rail Family Restaurant. Breakfast is a sure bet, with its biscuits & gravy, and you definitely can't go wrong with the meatloaf, pot pie, and country fried steak later on in the day. Basically, just keep it simple and you’ll be delighted.

Courtesy of Bill Spoon’s BBQ

Bill Spoon's BBQ

Blue Line stop: Tyvola station
Bill Spoon’s is a Charlotte culinary landmark. This place has been serving up whole-hog BBQ (yep, that’s right, whole hog) since 1963. While the area around it has changed drastically in the years since it opened, this BBQ paradise is pretty much exactly the same: big portions of Eastern NC-style pulled pork with sides of collards and mac & cheese served on a paper plate.

Owen's Bagels

Blue Line stop: East/West Blvd station
At Owen's, it's all about crafting a bagel sandwich for every taste and preference under the sun. Chances are, the weirder it sounds, the better it is. Example: the Booty Bagel (peanut butter, banana, and honey on a raisin bagel) and Mary's Grubby Bubby (egg, muenster, smoked cheddar, tomato, and avocado on a bialy). If you’re into pimento cheese, try out the toasted everything bagel with butter, bacon, eggs, and pimento. Who says there are no good bagels in Charlotte?

Midnight Diner

Blue Line stop: Carson
Up all night and in need of some comfort food? Look no further than the bright lights of the Midnight Diner on Carson Blvd, just a block from the Blue Line stop. One of the few legitimate diners in Charlotte, Midnight serves some of the best Southern staples around town. It's the go-to spot for real shrimp & grits, chicken & waffles, and chili cheese fries.

The Burrito Factory

Blue Line stop: Archdale
That E. coli outbreak at Chipotle is a great excuse to see how a real burrito is done. For that, step off the light rail at the Archdale stop and hit up this new Tex-Mex joint on South Blvd. There are plenty of options to choose from, but you can’t go wrong with the burrito al pastor: pork, beans, rice, cheese, and guacamole. Then again, it's a decent-sized menu, so take your pick.

Sign up here for our daily Charlotte email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the Queen City.

Travis Mullis is currently wearing Spanx and doing the Beyonce cleanse to recover from this article. You can follow him on Twitter: @trex_mullis and on Instagram: trexmullis.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. futo buta 222 E Bland St, Charlotte, NC 28203 (South End)

Futo Buta, located in the South End of Charlotte, serves authentic house-made ramen noodles steeped in broths glistening with golden droplets of fat, plus vegetarian options, as well. The restaurant offers an intimate group-style dining experience with long communal tables and a chic, minimalist look. On the menu, you'll also find other traditional Japanese cuisine options and an extensive selection of sakes and locally brewed beers.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. Saigon Palace 5215 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28217 (South End)

Saigon Palace is a casual Vietnamese restaurant with a mixed bag of flavors from Southeast Asia coupled with the expertise of French cooking techniques. It’s a rare union of ingredients and skill, one best exemplified in bún thịt nướng, also known as vermicelli noodle bowls. This bowl of rice noodles sits atop a bed of sprouts, basil, and mint, and is topped with grilled pork, spring rolls, pickled carrots, and chopped peanuts. Saigon Palace is mostly known for their signature Pho bowls, however, and their buffet of Chinese dishes at lunch. For quick, tasty, authentic Asian food in Charlotte, this is the place.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. Copper 311 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203 (South End)

Copper is an elegant Indian restaurant with a dining room ornamented with tasteful, modern artwork, a top-notch wine list, and some great twists on classic cocktails. The delicious entrees blend traditional flavors and creatively adapt ancient recipes. If you’re traveling a long way on the light rail to get here, just let the thought of the lamb mango-ginger “Tawa Roast” -- filled with lamb morsels, mushrooms, potatoes, coriander, and mango masala -- feed your brain until you get the real thing.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Triple C Brewery 2900 Griffith St, Charlotte, NC 28203

Triple C offers a laid-back beer-drinking experience in the middle of the South End, welcoming locals, visitors, and their furry friends alike on the pooch-loving patio. The cozy and industrial space offers a potent double-IPA all year around called the Baby Maker, which comes in at a whopping 8.5% alcohol by volume. They also offer seasonal brews along with the year round options.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Taqueria Mexico 7001 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28217 (South End)

If you want the best authentic street tacos in Charlotte, look no further. Right off the Blue Line at Arrowood, Taqueria is a favorite among the city's Mexican-American community. After you've had all the tacos you can eat, wash it down with a guanabana aqua fresca, one of the most unique and refreshing fruit juices on the market.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. The Cellar 330 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202

The Cellar at Duckworth's is one of the most exciting dining experiences in Charlotte. Once you get beyond the hostess and walk through the thick door, you'll immediately be tossed back in time to a speakeasy reminiscent of the Prohibition era. After taking in the vintage decor, relax and order a cocktail: the Sazerac is a New Orleans original, and a sneaky wallop to your sobriety. As for the food, let the waiter guide you through the menu. It's a tapas-style joint, encouraging you to enjoy a swath of different flavors, textures, and ingredients.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. Bar Cocoa at The Ritz-Carlton 201 E Trade St, Charlotte, NC 28202 (Uptown)

Bar Cocoa, right by the CTC station in the Ritz-Carlton, is a dessert boutique perfect for grabbing some macarons and a gelato. They offer premier desserts, a five-course chocolate and champagne all-dessert dinner, chocolate centered afternoon tea, and cooking classes in its very own Cocoa Lab. Chocolate aficionados can learn cooking techniques and how to prepare menu items featuring chocolate alongside Bar Cocoa's award winning chefs.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
8. Zack's Hamburgers 4009 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28209

Zack's is an old-school family-owned fast-food spot, and eating there is like taking a trip back in time to the days when McDonald’s was just getting started. Zack’s has a simple menu that focuses on delivering the quintessential cheeseburger: a sesame seed bun with charbroiled meat patties, American cheese singles, mustard, mayonnaise, onions, and pickles.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
9. Lola's 300 S Brevard St, Charlotte, NC 28202

This place is easy to spot after you step off the light rail platform because there will likely be a line wrapped around the building. People pile into Lola's every day around lunchtime, mostly in search of one thing: soul food. Whether you're sitting in the urban cafeteria or getting your fried catfish and jalapeño bread to go, the wait will be worth it.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Big Ben British Pub & Restaurant 2000 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203

Big Ben's is an Arsenal Football Club bar, and it gets about as rowdy as a mid-morning bar can get. The full English breakfast (poached eggs, English-style bacon, sausage, baked beans, toast, roasted mushrooms, and tomatoes) is the perfect accompaniment to the special draught deals on Guinness and other British Isle brews. The lofty tavern is also the perfect pairing for and English Premier League soccer game.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
11. The Mad Greek 5011 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28217

The Mad Greek restaurant is a casual diner that serves both Greek cuisine favorite and classic American food. This gem has a gyro platter with huge chunks of finely shaved, well-seasoned lamb, warm pita bread, fresh tzatziki sauce, and a great Greek salad with extra pepperoncini and Kalamata olives. This spot also has a great outdoor patio area, if you prefer to fine outside.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
12. Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth 500 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202 (Uptown)

Halcyon's is known for its commitment to locally sourced meats, vegetables, wines, and spirits. It's an upscale, modern dining room just next to the entrance of the Mint Museum, with an ever-changing seasonal menu, and a charming outdoor patio. Among all the favorites on the cocktail menu, the Frambuesa en Fuego stands out with a chili-infused altos tequila with raspberries, Cointreau, lime, and Chambord.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
13. Light Rail Family Restaurant 8045 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28273 (South End)

Light Rail Family Restaurant, off the Sharon Road West station on the Blue Line, serves all-American classics in a banquet-like dining room. Breakfast, which is served all day, is a sure bet with its biscuits and gravy. However, you definitely can't go wrong with the meatloaf, pot pie, or country fried steak later on in the day.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
14. Bill Spoon's Barbecue 5524 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28217

Bill Spoon’s is a Charlotte culinary landmark, serving up whole-hog BBQ since 1963. This award winning casual BBQ paradise is known for big portions of Eastern North Carolina style pulled pork with sides of collards and mac & cheese served on a paper plate. Its secret: homemade vinegar based barbecue sauce and mustard based coleslaw.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
15. Owen's Bagel and Deli Shop Inc 2041 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203 (South End)

At Owen's, home to Charlotte's steamed bagel sandwich, it's all about crafting a bagel sandwich for every taste and preference under the sun. The walls here are decorated with funky graffiti and offers a huge selection of bagel combinations like the Booty Bagel (peanut butter, banana, and honey on a raisin bagel) and Mary's Grubby Bubby (egg, muenster, smoked cheddar, tomato, and avocado on a bialy).

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
16. Midnight Diner 115 E Carson Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203

The bright lights of the Midnight Diner on Carson Blvd, just a block from the Blue Line stop, is one of the few legitimate diners in Charlotte. Housed in a classic railroad car-style space, this spot is open 24/7 serving some of the best Southern staples around town like shrimp & grits, chicken & waffles, and chili cheese fries.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
17. The Burrito Factory 5920 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28217

Rich off the light rail at the Archdale stop on South Blvd lies the Burrito Factory, one stop shopping Tex-Mex. There are plenty of options to choose from at this casual eatery, but you can’t go wrong with the burrito al pastor which includes pork, beans, rice, cheese, and guacamole.

Clickbait

close

Learn More