The Best Restaurants in Charlotte Right Now
Charlotte is a vibrant and fast-growing city that’s coming into its own. This includes our culinary offerings and the identity of our dining scene. What are we known for? What makes Charlotte restaurants and chefs so different from other cities? These are the questions we’re still answering, but thanks to some new restaurants -- as well as tried and true favorites that consistently bring their A-game -- the Queen City is turning out some impressive, destination-worthy dining options.
The restaurants listed below offer a variety of cuisines at various price points, but all are helping Charlotte further establish itself as a formidable foodie city. First, you’ll see the best spots that opened in the past year. Keep scrolling and you’ll see our Best of the Best section, the stalwarts that helped build the restaurant scene and are working to keep it thriving.
The home of the $25 steak and bottomless truffle fries deal
When The Dunavant opened with their “fine dining, but without the hefty price tag” concept in early 2019, Charlotte was both intrigued and hesitant. Would the $25 steak and bottomless truffle fries, their signature dinner dish, be quality? The answer was a resounding yes. The steak is their most notable dinner option, but there are nightly specials and other dishes on the menu for all palates and preferences. They have started doing brunch as well, which includes a delicious chicken and funnel cake option.
To share or not to share… Charlotteans will endure a three-hour wait for tapas
When Barcelona Wine Bar, a Spanish tapas and wine bar (duh), announced its first location in the Carolinas would be heading to Charlotte, many locals rejoiced. This popular chain has earned a reputation for delicious food and an impressive wine list, which explains the three-hour wait that many endured the first month it was open. Now taking reservations, we recommend starting with shareable dishes such as the jamon and manchego croquetas, the grilled hanger steak, and the squash hummus.
Chapel Hill staple comes to Charlotte and Tar Heel fans go crazy
It was like sharks circling the water for a few months in 2018 as Charlotte anxiously awaited the opening of the Crunkleton. For many of us who are transplants and didn’t attend school in Chapel Hill, we had no idea why there was almost a frenzied excitement for a restaurant that had a $10 per year membership. When it finally opened at the end of 2018, the rest of us understood. With Prohibition-era inspired cocktails and a menu that ranges from their signature Crunkleton Burger to their enormous 36-ounce tomahawk ribeye for $110, you won’t mind paying a membership fee.
Come for the pork, but don’t leave without the banana pudding
Chef Lewis Donald’s Sweet Lew’s BBQ is a restaurant that focuses on simple, and delicious food that honors North Carolina’s long history with barbeque. All meat is cooked over hickory, pecan, and peach wood in a large smoker. Pork, ribs, chicken and brisket are on the menu along with sides such as boiled peanuts and collard greens. They have been known to sell out on most days, but even if that happens, you can still snag some banana pudding before you go.
Be amazed by the decor as well as the ribeye
Prior to opening, Peppervine was listed by Food & Wine magazine as being “one of the most anticipated spring restaurant openings.” That’s great, but the real question was could Peppervine live up to the hype? Well, it did. With a stunning interior that includes an art program with Shain Gallery, Peppervine is perfect for photo opps, but the real stand out is the food. Executive chef and owner, Bill Greene, created a menu consisting mostly of shareable plates with a few larger options available. For plates to pass around, we love the Sichuan pork belly and roasted beets. For the larger options, you can’t go wrong with the halibut, but the standout is definitely the ribeye.
No passport required for this authentic French brasserie where they bring on the butter
The anticipation for La Belle Helene’s opening was off the charts. The good thing is it lived up to the hype. For your first dinner, order the roasted chicken served with rosemary and garlic Yukon gold potatoes. This dish is meant to show off the rotisserie, which was custom-made in France. In addition to amazing food, the space at La Belle Helene, named for a French opera, is breathtaking and even boasts a bathroom created for patrons to take a memorable bathroom selfie... which may be the only thing basic about this spot.
A great date spot perfect for conversation and cocktails
Bardo made a big bang when it came on the culinary scene. With mixologist Amanda Britton behind the bar and chef Michael Noll in the kitchen, Bardo hits with a one-two punch. Chef Noll can be seen from the exposed kitchen preparing small plate dishes such as the tempura maitake (which will make you rethink mushrooms), and delectable desserts like the ginger carrot cake. Amanda creates cocktails meant to bring out the flavors of Noll’s dishes, such as the Cool Beans cocktail made with Fernet Branca, Mexican cinnamon, and cold brew from local purveyor Pure Intentions Coffee.
Reservations are a must at this intimate (small) and delicious restaurant
James Beard Award semifinalist chef Paul Verica left Charlotte wondering “what’s next,” after he abruptly shuttered his beloved restaurant, Heritage. He came back quickly with an answer -- The Stanley. Verica opened the seasonally driven, locally sourced Stanley earlier this summer. The menu changes frequently, which means you’ll have the opportunity to try something new each time you visit. And that’s a very good thing.
Southern-fried elegance in a historic hotel
In the historic Dunhill Hotel, The Asbury is a Southern restaurant, but with an upscale, modern twist that helps it stand out from the classics. The menu changes seasonally, but the Maw Maw’s Cast Iron Biscuits served with bacon jam are a staple and the best way to start dinner. Recently, Executive Chef Matthew Krenz passed the baton to Chef de Cuisine Mike Long. We can’t wait to see what Chef Long will bring to the table (figuratively and literally).
Where melted cheese goes great on everything
Although 7th Street Public Market is just that (a market), it’s one of the best-kept secrets for food in Charlotte. It features vendors from celebrated sushi, pizza, crepes, and coffee purveyors in the city -- easily making it a one-stop culinary destination. Recently, James Beard-nominated chef, Greg Collier, brought his popular breakfast spot, The Yolk, to 7th Street Public Market. Pro-tip: head to the market on a Thursday night for the Raclette Night where the purveyors at Orrman’s Cheese fire a wheel of semi-hard cheese under a broiler and scrape the cheese onto your plate of meat, bread and pickles.
Pork belly and tonkotsu are the clear winners here
When Chef Michael Shortino opened Futo Buta he started a ramen revolution in Charlotte. Utilizing fresh ingredients, Futo Buta offers patrons Japanese dishes that are not only made from scratch, but also stunning. Ramen, gyoza, and Japanese fried chicken are some of the standouts. It’s been around for a few years, so if you STILL haven’t gone, now’s the time.
Changing the way you view hot dogs and hot dog carts
Although not a traditional restaurant, you can’t talk about quintessential Charlotte establishments without mentioning the Chili Man. With some of the best reviews and ratings and featured in national media, Vic the Chili Man has created a hot dog empire. Around lunchtime, just follow the line at the corner of South Tryon and Fourth Streets and you’ll find Vic. With a big personality, Vic will serve you up the most delicious hot dog you’ve ever had. With vegetarian and vegan options, our favorite is still the Life Changer. You’ll get the name once you’ve had it.
The perfect place to pop the question… or just some bubbles
A well-curated wine selection, a seasonal menu, and a reputation for being one of the best date spots in Charlotte has made The Fig Tree one of the most quintessential romantic restaurants in our city. After you try some of the fresh seafood dishes (which you must do), order up some dessert -- specifically the dark chocolate torte.
Fried chicken, hushpuppies, charred okra… oh my!
Although fried chicken was always cool, Haberdish made it less fast food and more fine dining. Paying homage to the mill workers who lived and worked in NoDa years ago, Haberdish focuses on Southern comfort food. No frills, just good cuisine. Add crispy chicken skins to your mac and cheese and end your night with banana pudding or their homemade buttermilk ice cream. But if you leave without trying one of Colleen Hughes’ cocktails or mocktails, you’re not living your best life.
Lang Van VietnameseEst. 1990 | Shamrock/The Plaza
Vietnamnese comfort food served up in big bowls just for you
While this Vietnamese gem is located off the beaten path, it is worth the trek. Friendly staff, an attentive and enthusiastic owner, and (most importantly) delicious and traditional Vietnamese cuisine will greet you when you walk through the door. From bun and pho to life changing Vietnamese yellow pancakes, Lang Van continues to expand Charlotte’s horizons when it comes to culinary offerings.
Milk bread is BAE
Founded by power culinary couple, Joe and Katy Kindred, their award-winning, namesake restaurant is located in Davidson across the street from the college. But don’t be fooled, Kindred is so much more than a college town restaurant. For starters, it introduced us to squid ink pasta and milk bread, and we thank them for that. Even as the menu frequently changes, you can always count on the milk bread. Anyways, if you’re in the mood for a cocktail, order the “barkeep’s choice,” and let the bartenders surprise you with a cocktail based on your liquor preferences.
One of Charlotte’s culinary OGs for a reason
For over 30 years, Fenwick’s has been serving Charlotteans good food and great wine all in an intimate (small) setting. Known just as much for quality service and attentive servers as they are for their food, Fenwick’s continues to change their menu offerings while keeping their tried-and-true dishes. In addition to serving lunch and dinner, they serve a mean brunch on the weekends with such dishes as the cinnamon pecan coffee cake. The Fenwick’s signature burger is so popular that it is featured on all of their menus.
Fast-casual Mediterranean food
When the now beloved fast-casual Mediterranean-slash-Israeli restaurant, Yafo Kitchen, opened with an emphasis on healthy and international food, Charlotte went nuts. Now, with two locations and a third to open soon, Yafo is easily a Charlotte staple -- all in less than two years. Lamb, yogurt dressing, tahini and falafel have all become mainstays in a city known for Southern fried food and we couldn’t be happier about it.
Small bites to share… or hoard. Your call.
The sophomore effort of chef Bruce Moffett (he now has four concepts with another, Bao and Broth, scheduled to open in 2019), Good Food makes its big sister restaurant, Barrington’s, proud. Luckily, Moffett’s on-the-nose name paid off, as this joint serves up some damn good food. It’s a tapas-style restaurant where plates are meant to be shared. Check out the Prince Edward Island mussels and, here’s a little tip: ask your server for extra bread to sop up the green curry sauce.
It is possible to have the best cheeseburger for under $5
The Brooks twins, David and Scott, have been in the burger and hot dog business since 1973. For over 40 years, they have been slinging burgers and encouraging everyone to go “All the way” with their meals. All the way means mustard, onions, and their signature chili using their own family recipe. Get a burger, hotdog, or sandwich for under $5, but make sure to bring your cash (no cards accepted).
Pork belly and watermelon never sounded so good
As you ascend the wrought iron staircase to Soul Gastrolounge, you are met with intoxicating smells coming from the restaurant, as well as skyline views of Charlotte. Soul does not take reservations, so expect to wait for a table, but it’s worth it. Lamb lollipops with rosemary, pork belly tacos with watermelon salsa, fresh sushi, and fried Brussels sprouts are some of the enticing menu items at this tapas style restaurant. While waiting, try one of the seasonal cocktails created by Soul’s mixologist, Kel Minton.
A steakhouse with great food and zero pretension
You can’t talk about established Charlotte restaurants or a “Best of” list without including Beef ‘n Bottle. Located in a nondescript building, there is a strong chance that you’ve passed by it numerous times driving down South Boulevard not knowing the magic hidden behind the plain exterior. Steaks cooked to your specifications, a great wine list, and homemade dressing to go with your salads, this is where locals go for a no frills but guaranteed good meal. Pro tip: Don’t try to take photos of your food. The interior is comprised of dark paneling and low lighting, which makes it perfect for a date, but horrible for Instagram.
A neighborhood bar where everybody knows your name
For over 80 years, Providence Road Sundries has made some of the city’s best burgers and fries. Once a pharmacy and soda shop, it was the soda shop that stood the test of time with their menu expanding over the decades. With a renovation in 2017, the restaurant design has caught up with the times, but the quality of the food has never changed. Grab a beer and a burger, bring the kids if you’ve got them, and ask about some of the famous stories that have taken place here. You know a place that has a slogan of “If these walls could talk…” is as legit as they come.
Sign up here for our daily Charlotte email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the Queen City.