Food & Drink

50 Things You Need to Eat in Charlotte Before You Die

Published On 12/02/2015 Published On 12/02/2015
Bacon egg and cheese
Courtesy of The Plaid Penguin/ Lunahzon Photography

1. BEC 

littleSpoon

Address and Info

Myers Park 

When eating the BEC at littleSpoon, the yolk shines just a little more golden and runs down the side of the bun like your favorite slow jam. There’s white cheddar and bacon on backup. 

2. Quarter chicken plate

Price’s Chicken Coop

Address and Info

South End

You can’t call yourself a Charlottean until you’ve eaten Price’s Chicken Coop. This Southern fried take-out-only institution dishes out crispy, well-seasoned boxes of fried chicken with cole slaw, hush puppies, and a pillow-soft roll. The line moves fast, but you better have cash.

Courtesy of Michael Hernandez/Capture Happy

3. Chicken liver mousse 

Block and Grinder

Address and Info

Myers Park 

The ingredients are that of the classic recipe: chicken livers, shallots, garlic, brandy, and cultured butter. Somehow Chef Ben Philpott manages to finesse offal into a creamy, whipped delicacy that surpasses all others in town.

4. Salmon cakes 

Mert’s Heart and Soul

Address and Info

Uptown

Mert’s is famous for its soul food, and at the heart of the restaurant are the salmon cakes. Two salmon patties blended with Cajun trinity and spices, then grilled on the flat top. Nab an order of cornbread and a sweet tea, and you just might pass for a local.

Courtesy of Poprock Photography

5. White Trash burger

Pinky’s

Address and Info

Westside

I don’t always eat ranch dressing, but when I do, it’s on the White Trash burger at Pinky’s Westside -- a burger crowned with provolone cheese, fried pickles, and onion rings. Fun fact: these are the fried pickles of Penguin Drive-In legend, and the man who created them is now the chef here.

6. Infamous calamari

Passion8

Address and Info

Elizabeth

The infamous calamari is tradition at Passion8 because the customers demand it so. Perfectly crisp calamari rings are tossed in a jalapeño and honey citrus butter for a sweet, irresistible heat.

Courtesy of Poprock Photography

7. Pho

Doan’s

Madison Park

Consider this the consummate hangover helper courtesy of the Doan family. Serving a Southern Vietnamese-style pho, Doan’s uses fresh ingredients and a long-simmered beef broth scented with herbs, warming spices with tissue-paper thin slices of steak.

8. Beef burek

Intermezzo

Address and Info

Plaza Midwood

Brothers Branko and Djordje Avramovic honor their Serbian heritage and use their grandmother’s recipes to delight and comfort their customers. Go for the beef burek, ground beef, and onions wrapped inside house-made filo dough.

9. Torta Cubano

Tacos El Nevado

Address and Info

Central Avenue

The torta Cubano will give you the finest food baby of your life. Ham, carne asada, and hot dogs grilled a la plancha get dressed with pickled jalapeños, lettuce, avocado, tomato, and crema, and the bread is slathered with refried beans on one end and crimson chorizo on the other.

Courtesy of The Fig Tree

11. Elk chop

The Fig Tree

Address and Info

Elizabeth

The showstopper on the menu at the Fig Tree is the elk chop -- 14oz of a double-cut elk chop with horseradish spaetzle, braised red cabbage with smoky bacon, and a classic Boursin-Dijon sauce. 

12. Arepa

Sabor Latin Grill

Address and Info

Elizabeth

The arepa at Sabor is the most ample hand-held meal you can get for five dollars. A warm, griddled maize cake is split open and stuffed silly with shredded chicken, tomato, onion, cheese, and their tangy-sweet rosada sauce. 

13. Cheeseburger “All the Way”

Brooks' Sandwich House & Chili

Address and Info

NoDa

The Brooks twins have been doing things the same way their daddy did since this tiny grease-hut opened over 40 years ago. Three dollars and 50 cents will take you “all the way” -- one beef burger smashed on the flat top, with cheese, Brooks’ chili (a family recipe), yellow mustard, and diced onions.

Courtesy of Stefanie Haviv

14. Napoleon

Amélie's French Bakery & Cafe

Address and Info

NoDa

Some might go for the salted caramel brownie here, but the decadence lies between flaky layers of puff pastry stacked high with alternating layers of thick pastry cream.

15. Sandwich #6

Le’s Sandwiches & Cafe

Address and Info

North Tryon

Brave the dismal parking lot and emerge triumphant with Le’s #6. It’s all about the French baguette with the perfect chew, dolled up with grilled pork, pickled carrots, and daikon, cilantro, and mouth numbing jalapeños.

Courtesy of Kyo Nam

16. Fried oysters 

Kindred Restaurant

Address and Info

Davidson

Though Kindred’s menu is a rotating carousel of seasonal delights, the fried oysters have stuck in the short time since they opened. Lightly battered and fried crispy, the tender oyster is paired with dill yogurt and droplets of Calabrian chili oil.

17. Pickled fried okra

The Workman’s Friend

Address and Info

Plaza Midwood

Cozy up with a pint inside this comfortable Irish-style pub and order the cornmeal dusted bites of pickled okra, fried crispy and served with a cooling buttermilk-chive dressing.

Courtesy of David Stuck

19. Spit-roasted chicken with mac & cheese

Rooster’s Uptown

Address and Info

Uptown

What’s more comforting than a perfectly seasoned, tender chicken, spit-roasted and flame-kissed? Juicy spit-fire roasted chicken with a side of soul soothing mac and cheese.

20. Masala chili cauliflower

Blue Taj

Address and Info

Matthews 

Part of what makes this dish a palate-awakening flavor bomb is the two-fold treatment of the cauliflower. Florets of cauliflower are first spiced with cinnamon, coriander, cumin, clove, and fresh green pepper before being fried crispy and tossed with a clingy garlic scallion glaze with hints of soy and chili.

Courtesy of Remy Thurston

21. Fire & Ice Ramen

Futo Buta Ramen

Address and Info

South End

A welcome diversion from the tonkatsu darling of the ramen world, Futo Buta concocts a not-too-spicy kimchi broth with smoked salmon and livens it up with fresh mint, cabbage, carrot, and black sesame. House-made alkaline noodles for the win.

23. Guru roll 

Sushi Guru

Address and Info

South Park 

Fried garlic and shallots add an extra element to this flash-baked sushi roll filled with tuna, avocado, and lump crab, dotted with a fiery aioli.

Courtesy of Lunahzon Photography

24. Korean beef with kimchi and crispy rice

Good Food on Montford

Address and Info

Park Road

It’s tough to pick just one small plate here, but the standout is the Korean beef, medium rare and tender atop toothy rice with scallion kimchi. Go ahead and order three of them to start.

25. Salted caramel bacon cupcake

FuManChu Cupcakes

Address and Info

Plaza Midwood

The only thing more curious than how good this cupcake tastes is the man who makes it. Andy Jackson, the man with the fu manchu, and a penchant for sweets fills a cupcake with homemade caramel and frosts it with salted caramel icing sprinkled with salty bits of bacon.

26. Carnitas

Lupitas Carniceria & Tortilleria

Address and Info

North End

Stand in line (have cash) and wait your turn to grab a styrofoam container filled with savory pork carnitas and a pound of warm, handmade tortillas.

Keia Mastrianni/Thrillist

27. Maw Maw’s cast iron biscuits with bacon jam

The Asbury

Address and Info

Uptown

Chef Chris Coleman replicates his Maw Maw’s recipe with aplomb. Buttermilk laden biscuits are baked inside a cast-iron skillet and served with Benton’s bacon jam -- the smoky, savory, sweet and tangy condiment that’s good enough to drink.

28. Yellow pancake

Saigon Palace

Address and Info

South End

Also called bánh xèo, the Vietnamese yellow pancake, is a savory crepe made of rice flour and turmeric, which is the reason for its signature yellow hue. Saigon Palace serves a fluffy and imposing masterpiece with traditional sides -- bean sprouts, lettuce, nuoc mam cham, and the Vietnamese herb trinity (cilantro, basil, mint). Eat it with your hands.

29. Bun dac biet

Viet Thai

Address and Info

Pineville

The technical term here is the #28. Vermicelli noodles are piled senseless with grilled shrimp, pork belly, beef, chicken, and onions topped with a bouquet of herbs and the all-important nuoc cham which coerces the noodles into slurping territory.

Courtesy of Peter Taylor

30. Charlotte “nachos”

Fahrenheit Charlotte

Address and Info

Uptown

Chef Rocco Whalen and team may be perched twenty-one floors above Uptown Charlotte, but that doesn’t mean he’s above dishing out a plate of cheesy “nachos” to the cosmopolitan crowd. A ribbon of house-made potato chips, a la county fair,  arrive covered in pimento cheese fondue (made with Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s ‘Copper’ brew) and applewood bacon. 

31. Gnocchi w/ veal 

Barrington’s Restaurant

Address and Info

South Park 

Airy clouds of parmesan gnocchi swim with braised veal in most comforting, well-loved red wine and veal sauce. A winter cure that feels as if it were made by a beloved nonna.

32. Cavatelli 

Stagioni

Address and Info

Providence Road

Little canoe-shaped shells of hand-rolled ricotta cavatelli are the perfect vessel to catch the synchronized flavors of red pepper, fennel sausage, onions, fennel, and tomato-laced brodo. 

Keia Mastrianni/Thrillist

33. Brownie à la mode

300 East

Address and Info

Dilworth

The brownie à la mode is the stuff of childhood summers, and it’s been served at 300 East since it first opened in 1986. The brownie is equal parts cake and fudge, served warm with salted caramel, honey chocolate sauce, and vanilla bean ice cream.

34. Chicken mole

Three Amigos

Address and Info

Plaza Midwood

Hand-shredded chicken comes covered in a thick, warmly spiced mole with notes of cinnamon, chocolate, and ancho chile. Put those fresh tortillas to good use and leave not a drop.

35. Burnt ends

Midwood Smokehouse

Address and Info

Plaza Midwood

This isn’t as much dinner as it is meat candy. Fat cubes of caramelized brisket ends are tossed in a house-made Fat Tire BBQ sauce. Smoky, sweet mother of God.

Keia Mastrianni/Thrillist

36. Scallop crudo

Customshop

Address and Info

Elizabeth

Raw, sweet diver scallops arrive thinly sliced with blood oranges and pops of pomegranate seeds on this highly appealing appetizer. The whole thing is doused in good olive oil and sprinkled with flaked salt. 

37. Rawco taco salad

Luna’s Living Kitchen

Address and Info

South End

A generous heap of organic lettuce is topped with avocado, pico de gallo, tomatoes, cashew sour cream, and a walnut-almond crumble that’ll make you forget that it’s not taco meat. Double up on Luna’s homemade hot sauce.

38. Smoked eggplant

Kabab-Je

Address and Info

Matthews

Eggplant is smoked over charcoals and then blended with tahini and lemon juice and served with Kabab-Je’s fresh pita -- airy, light, and baked in their impressive wood-fired oven. 

Keia Mastrianni/Thrillist

39. The #6

Earl’s Grocery

Address and Info

Elizabeth

Earl’s upped the lunchtime game when they introduce the #6 to the people. Succulent duck confit goes into a caramelized beet hash with seven spice, tangy slaw, and then gets blessed with two farm eggs and an aioli drizzle -- all in one big mountainous bowl for your pleasure.

40. Duck l’orange

Lumière

Address and Info

Myers Park

Moulard duck prepared two ways: a slow-poached breast pan roasted to order accompanies duck leg confit wrapped in feuille de brick finished with a sophisticated l’orange sauce and the prettiest baby vegetables you ever did see.

41. Red bean paste bun 

Super G Mart

Address and Info

Independence Boulevard 

If you have $2 to spare, head to the food court inside the Super G International Food Mart and pay a visit to the Honey Bun for a sweet, pillow-soft red bean paste bun (dou sha bao). Handmade and served warm, the trip down Independence Blvd is a small price to pay. 

Courtesy of Bonnie Warford

42. Crispy buttermilk chicken 

Carpe Diem

Address and Info

Elizabeth

A dish as classic as the restaurant itself, which has been open for 22 years. Buttermilk-fried chicken breast anointed with black pepper shallot gravy, served yukon gold mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. 

43. Barbecue shrimp

Cajun Queen

Address and Info

Elizabeth

Beer and butter are responsible for the glorious cajun shrimp dish and its tasty sauce. The only thing you’re responsible for is having enough bread to sop it all up.

44. Big ass slice of pizza

Benny Pennello’s

Address and Info

NoDa

Late night eats don’t get any better than a slice of pizza bigger than your head. Seriously, this is a two-plate slice that you have to see to believe.

Keia Mastrianni/Thrillist

45. Everything bagel with smoked salmon

Poppy’s Bagels & More

Address and Info

Myers Park

This is the place to get a New York-style bagel in Charlotte. Specifically, the everything bagel with lox and cream cheese and all of the things -- capers, red onions, and tomatoes.  

46. Pork belly tacos

Soul Gastrolounge

Address and Info

Plaza Midwood

Lacquered pork belly and a ruby cube of watermelon arrive on a palm-sized tortilla ready for two-bite consumption. Swanky cocktail and fashionable beats to finish.

47. Croissant

Sunflour Bakery

Address and Info

Elizabeth

The croissant at Sunflour Bakery is an homage to the magical persuasions of butter and flour. A shatteringly flaky outside gives way to the soft tender insides of this gigantic and perfect pastry. 

Courtesy of Poprock Photography

48. Grilled veal chop

Vivace

Address and Info

Midtown

Vivace’s signature dish is a rich creation of a thick cut wood-grilled pork chop served atop mascarpone polenta with swiss chard, lobster, and spinach ravioli, rosemary, and vincotto. Bring your appetite.

49. Chicken tikka masala

Copper

Address and Info

Dilworth

Copper’s version of traditional comfort is a sunset-hued blend of hand-ground masala spice, ginger, tomatoes, and onion into what some refer to as “the love sauce” and paired with marinated chicken tikka fired in a tandoor oven. Feather light pockets of naan are a must.

50. Smoked mozzarella, prosciutto, roasted tomato grilled cheese

Orrman’s Cheese Shop

Address and Info

Uptown

Grilled cheese at its savory best. Orrman’s uses thick slices of focaccia and stacks it with locally made smoked mozzarella, translucent slices of salty prosciutto, and marinated tomatoes, which is then panini-pressed into blessed union.