Life is all about L-I-V-I-N. In our world, that means seeking out as many unforgettable food adventures as possible. The Queen City has got you covered with everything from old-school classics to stick-to-your-ribs street food and elegant eats. Consider this your edible Charlotte bucket list.
littleSpoonAddress and Info
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 CoopAddress and Info
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.
3. Chicken liver mousse
Block and GrinderAddress and Info
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 SoulAddress and Info
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.
5. White Trash burger
Pinky’sAddress and Info
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
Passion8Address and Info
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.
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
IntermezzoAddress and Info
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 NevadoAddress and Info
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.
10. The Life Changer
Vic the Chili Man (address and info)
Corner of South Tryon and Fourth Streets (starting March through October)
Order the Life Changer, a steamed hot dog laid atop a bun married by the griddle with a slice of melted cheese. Spicy mustard, taco sauce, white onions, pickled jalapeños, and chili (duh!) finishes the dog, leaving you to contemplate the meaning of your life BHD (that is, before hot dog).
11. Elk chop
The Fig TreeAddress and Info
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.
Sabor Latin GrillAddress and Info
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 & ChiliAddress and Info
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.
Amélie's French Bakery & CafeAddress and Info
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 & CafeAddress and Info
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.
16. Fried oysters
Kindred RestaurantAddress and Info
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 FriendAddress and Info
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.
18. Buffalo cauliflower tacos
The TIN Kitchen (address and info)
Nutty, grilled cauliflower takes a bath in TIN Kitchen’s house-made Buffalo sauce, which turns this brassica into your next food craving. It comes wrapped in a corn tortilla with celery root slaw and a sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles, but can also be ordered alone, as a side.
19. Spit-roasted chicken with mac & cheese
Rooster’s UptownAddress and Info
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 TajAddress and Info
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.
21. Fire & Ice Ramen
Futo Buta RamenAddress and Info
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.
22. Pig mac
Papi Queso (address and info)
Childhood favorite meets backyard cookout. Pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, and savory bourbon onions get tucked into a gooey grilled cheese sandwich for this signature dish from one of Charlotte’s most popular food trucks.
23. Guru roll
Sushi GuruAddress and Info
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.
24. Korean beef with kimchi and crispy rice
Good Food on MontfordAddress and Info
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 CupcakesAddress and Info
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.
Lupitas Carniceria & TortilleriaAddress and Info
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.
27. Maw Maw’s cast iron biscuits with bacon jam
The AsburyAddress and Info
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 PalaceAddress and Info
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 ThaiAddress and Info
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.
30. Charlotte “nachos”
Fahrenheit CharlotteAddress and Info
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 RestaurantAddress and Info
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.
StagioniAddress and Info
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.
33. Brownie à la mode
300 EastAddress and Info
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 AmigosAddress and Info
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 SmokehouseAddress and Info
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.
36. Scallop crudo
CustomshopAddress and Info
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 KitchenAddress and Info
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-JeAddress and Info
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.
39. The #6
Earl’s GroceryAddress and Info
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
LumièreAddress and Info
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 MartAddress and Info
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.
42. Crispy buttermilk chicken
Carpe DiemAddress and Info
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 QueenAddress and Info
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’sAddress and Info
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.
45. Everything bagel with smoked salmon
Poppy’s Bagels & MoreAddress and Info
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 GastroloungeAddress and Info
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.
Sunflour BakeryAddress and Info
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.
48. Grilled veal chop
VivaceAddress and Info
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
CopperAddress and Info
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 ShopAddress and Info
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.
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1. Little Spoon2820 Selwyn Ave, Charlotte
2. Price's Chicken Coop1614 Camden Rd, Charlotte
3. Block & Grinder2935 Providence Rd, Charlotte
4. Mert's Heart and Soul214 N College St, Charlotte
5. Pinky's Westside Grill1600 W Morehead St, Charlotte
6. Passion81523 Elizabeth Ace, Charlotte
7. Intermezzo1427 E 10th St, Charlotte
8. Tacos El Nevado4715 Central Ave, Charlotte
9. The Fig Tree1601 E 7th St, Charlotte
10. Sabor Latin Street Grill415 Hawthorne Ln, Charlotte
11. Brooks' Sandwich House2710 N Brevard St, Charlotte
12. Amelie's French Bakery2424 N Davidson St, Charlotte
13. Le's Sandwiches and Cafe4520 N Tryon St, Charlotte
14. Kindred Restaurant131 Main Street, Davidson
15. The Workman's Friend1531 Central Ave, Charlotte
16. Rooster's Uptown150 N College St, Charlotte
17. The Blue Taj14815 Ballantyne Village Way Ste 170, Charlotte
18. futo buta222 E Bland St, Charlotte
19. Sushi Guru6601 Morrison Blvd, Charlotte
20. Good Food on Montford1701 Montford Dr, Charlotte
21. FuManChu Cup Cakes826 Lamar Ave, Charlotte
22. Las Lupitas5210 N Tryon St, Charlotte
23. The Asbury235 North Tryon St, Charlotte
24. Saigon Palace5215 South Blvd, Charlotte
25. Viet-Thai Noodle House8314 Pineville Matthews Rd, Charlotte
26. Fahrenheit222 S Caldwell St, Charlotte
27. Barrington's7822 Fairview Rd, Charlotte
28. Stagioni715 Providence Rd, Charlotte
29. 300 East300 East Blvd, Charlotte
30. Three Amigos Mexican Grill and Cantina2917 Central Ave, Charlotte
31. Midwood Smokehouse1401 Central Ave, Charlotte
32. Customshop1601 Elizabeth Ave, Charlotte
33. Luna's Living Kitchen2102 South Blvd, Charlotte
34. Kebab-Je Rotisserie & Grille2233 Matthews Township Pkwy, Matthews
35. Earl's Grocery1609 Elizabeth Ave, Charlotte
36. Lumiere1039 Providence Rd, Charlotte
37. Super G Mart7323 E Independence Blvd, Charlotte
38. Carpe Diem1535 Elizabeth Ave, Charlotte
39. Cajun Queen1800 E 7th St, Charlotte
40. Benny Pennello's2909 N Davidson St, Charlotte
41. Poppy's Bagels And More2921 Providence Rd Ste 102, Charlotte
42. Soul Gastrolounge1500 1/2 Central Ave, Charlotte
43. Sunflour Baking Company2001 E 7th St, Charlotte
44. Vivace Italian Restaurant1100 Metropolitan Ave Ste 100 Bldg E, Charlotte
45. Copper311 East Blvd, Charlotte
46. Orrman's Cheese Shop224 E 7th St, Charlotte
On the surface, Little Spoon might appear to be any old Southern brunch spot, but it's anything but. This Myers Park eatery's bare, industrial space hosts a constantly changing menu, always full of comfort-food favorites like chicken biscuits, sausage hash topped with fried eggs and house-made donuts and cronuts (all made with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Nursing a hangover, or just plain tired? Don't miss out on their bowl-sized cups of coffee, which is superiorly stronger than your average joe.
Grab a wad of cash and head to Charlotte’s one-and-only fried chicken institution where not much has changed over 50 years. The chicken is deep-fried, hot and crispy — order by the quarter, half or whole chicken and go nuts with a slew of Southern-staple sides like gizzards, hush puppies, slaw and potato salad. White collar, blue collar, no collar — this place attracts people of all types who find solidarity in the possession of Price’s coveted grease-stained takeout box.
Block & Grinder opened in Foxcroft in 2013 and brought a relaxed farm-to-table concept to Charlotte’s dining scene. Its modern twists on traditional favorites (like fried chicken confit) may be an atypical technique, but the results are just as coveted. Fresh ingredients add immense flavor to seasonal, Southern sides, and here, every meat you’ll find on the menu has been hand-cut by the staff. Look out for constantly rotating wild game burger offerings. An added bonus: you can purchase meats cut to order at the restaurant’s butcher counter to take home with you.
Mert's Heart and Soul is the absolute epitome of Southern comfort and hospitality. Located in Uptown Charlotte's Fourth Ward, this soul food spot serves all the staples at brunch and lunch: fried chicken and waffles, catfish, barbecue ribs and shrimp and grits. All these mains are mouthwatering, but don't look past the appetizers, especially the "soul rolls," house specialty egg rolls stuffed with black-eyed peas, seasoned rice, collard greens and chicken, served with spicy honey mustard. The staff will serve them to you as if you've known them your whole life.
Honey-cilantro slaw, crunchy peanut butter and spicy Sriracha piled together on a burger might sound weird, but once you've had a bite of Pinky's Ding Dong Style Burger in Charlotte's Ashley Park, you'll know you've just got to trust them. And that's only one item on its incredibly diverse menu (it's not every day you see ginger tuna salad and korean pork tacos sharing a menu with reuben hot dogs and greek-style pita sandwiches). No matter what corner of the globe your meal is inspired by, it'll go perfectly with a custom margarita or one of their many quirky house cocktails.
Passion8 brings some serious heat to the brunch game with its elegantly plated, locally sourced dishes, creative beignets in flavors like nutter butter and Irish car bomb, and live music. All of those elements make a strong case for languishing here nearly every Sunday -- and on date nights, too. The romantic atmosphere with golden accents and glass chandeliers act as a refined backdrop for gourmet three-course meals, all hand-crafted by executive chef Luca Annunziata and guaranteed to impress.
Emanating warmth and comfort from its brick facade, this Serbian-owned restaurant is just as much a pizza joint at it is a bistro. Go for some sarma — warm, fermented cabbage rolls stuffed with rice, ground beer, and spices — or spinach burek, the Serbian version of spanakopita. The staff here rarely changes, and customers feel more like good friends, which is why locals have been known to keep the martini bar inside Intermezzo well oiled.
The unassuming signage of this East Charlotte joint doesn't do this place justice — in fact, you might drive right past this hidden gem if you weren't already aware of its presence. Tucked in a tiny business plaza on Central, Tacos El Nevado serves up some of the best, cheapest (and certainly the most authentic) tacos in the city, all street-style and piled high with steaming-hot barbacoa, thick slices of avocado and queso blanco.
We think we've found your new Charlotte date spot: a refurbished 1913 Craftsmen style bungalow offering intimate ambience in spades. Elizabeth's The Fig Tree Restaurant serves upscale, French inspired seasonal fare worth forking over a few bucks for. You'll thank us after you've tasted their seasonal offerings like the appetite-whetting stuffed calamari, fois gras and crab cheesecake lamb along with filling mains like lamb, elk or veal chops.
Dominican-owned Sabor is bringing joy to those craving Latin street food in Charlotte with hand-held tacos on corn tortillas, arepas stuffed with hot, melty cheese and Dominican nachos (Yuca fries topped with shredded chicken, cabbage, and Sabor pink sauce, aka ketchup and mayo mixed together) — let's not forget the affordable specialty margaritas, too. Order at the counter and then pick your poison at the hot sauce bar before your meal hits the table.
Brooks' Sandwich House is a rundown red shack on the side of the railroad tracks, but the line of hungry customers trailing into the dirt parking lot should be enough confirmation that you're in the right place for a good burger. The “All the Way” version includes mustard, onions, and a homemade chili so thick it’s as meaty as the patty. The burger is the show-stealer here, but if you come before the lunch rush, you can get your hand on a highly underrated gooey egg sandwich for breakfast.
Amelie's is a gorgeous, Parisian cafe and bakery in NoDa, whose crafty sweet treats have just as much detail and refinement as its interior. You can stop by for breakfast, lunch or dinner to do as the French do (that is, load up on freshly baked pastries, bread and sweet treats). Ingredients are local and the menu is seasonal, but amidst its rotations, you can always expect to find croissant sandwiches, tartines and soups for the taking, along with an endless barrage of desserts like macarons, buns and cookies.
Located in the Asian Corner Mall, Mr. Le has the best bánh mì in town. Ask for the #6 — a thinly sliced, caramelized roast pork sandwich topped with freshly shredded pickled daikon, leafy cilantro, carrots, cucumber and mouth-tingling slices of jalapeño tucked into a slender French baguette — a perfect combination of sweet, savory and acidic flavors, like all the other offerings here. This pace also doubles as a boba-tea palace, so you can cool your taste buds off with a mild taro smoothie with chewy tapioca pearls.
Nestled in historic Davidson, this family-owned and chef-driven restaurant never disappoints with its modern takes on Southern cuisine. Like many new American-style restaurants, this chic eatery cooks with local ingredients, rotates their menus seasonally, sticks to small portions and stuns with elegant presentation. The home-made milk break, duck fat potatoes and crispy oysters are all must-haves at dinner — order one of each and share the wealth with your entire table, that's the best way to get a little bit of everything.
Named for a Flann O’Brien poem, this pub is an authentic Irish pocket in Charlotte, South Carolina. The warmly-lit local gathering place has 16 beers on tap (primarily Irish, of course), a solid selection of whiskey (also Irish), and a lengthy menu of traditional Irish fare -- think pork & beans or shepard's pie. But perhaps most importantly, the joint is staffed with chatty bartenders, all of whom have mastered the art of the Guinness pour (an Irish necessity). The place feels something like a public living room, with two fully-functional brick fire places -- one stationed beside the bar, and another tucked into the covered backyard patio area -- and there is more than enough Irish coffee to go around.
Mouthwatering simplicity is the essence of the Rooster's Uptown. The space rustic and refined, thanks to worn-wood tables, booths, and bars illuminated by candlelight, and its food follows suit with a wood-fired grill and a seasonal menu. Given its name, you won't be surprised to find this spot's specialty is chicken (doused in herbs, roasted), but a wide array of other mains like duck, pork chop and steak are there to match your side of buttery steamed spinach, succotash or fire roasted beets, too.
The Blue Taj is what happens when authentic Indian cuisine meets a sleek nightclub atmosphere in Ballantyne. A really popular spot for weekday lunch, this spot's dark eating space is lit mostly by blue and green neon and is adorned with long, sleek black tables, making it a prime destination for a change of scenery on lunch breaks. You can order something quick from the express lunch menu, but given your surroundings, you'll want to stay as long as you can to savor the lentil dish of the day, chicken tikka or Kerala-style curry.
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.
Served with four pieces of its famous Guru roll (tuna, lump crab, and avocado topped with spicy aioli, flash baked and sprinkled with fried garlic and shallots), the Sushi Guru bento box at this Japanese eatery is no joke. You’ll also get sashimi, a ginger-dressed salad, fruit, and tempura shrimp on rice. Or, you could always just opt for one of dozens of sashimi, roll, or nagiri options. Don't worry about reservations; this massive restaurant has ample seating in its low-lit dining space, accented by plants hanging from the ceiling and clean, white tile lining the walls.
The eclectic small plates menu at Good Food on Montford has helped earn Bruce Moffett previous James Beard nominations for best chef in the Southeast. Though the menu changes with the seasons, staples like the steamed bun stuffed with five spice rubbed pork belly, and the mussels in a green curry coconut broth remain undeniable favorites. If you’re looking for conviviality, this is your place, just look at the mishmash of patterned brick walls, colorful tile and sleek light fixtures.
At FuManChu Cupcakes, alcohol and baking go hand-in-hand, which means you won't find many young ones in this dessert shop — majority of the cakes sold here are sweet, boozy concoctions like blueberry moonshine, Irish car bomb, Tennessee apple pie and white Russian. The creatively iced and drizzled cakes are work of art all on their own, but if they aren't enough for you, check out the interior walls — they're always decked out with work from local artists.
This tiny little taqueria makes up for its complete lack of seating with some of the best Mexican food in the Charlotte area. This well-kept secret has homemade tortillas and meats by the pound, so you can customize your meal and still have plenty to take home for later. Make sure you bring cash to this hole-in-the-wall, and don't skip the selection of homemade sauces, either. They've got everything you need to assemble the tacos yourself, including cheeses, avocados, and pico de gallo ready to take away. And if you're feeling really adventurous, they also sell their raw meats (including pork belly and chorizo fresco) for you to cook yourself.
The Asbury is a modern southern restaurant, resting inside the historic Dunhill Hotel. Here, Executive Chef Chris Coleman gives Carolina favorites a modern twist, like his Cast Iron Biscuits served with bacon jam made using his grandmother’s recipe, or shrimp and grits with miso. The menu also features true southern staples like a fresh NC seafood boil and fried green tomatoes. The antique beauty of this restaurant is not to be understated, and you have the choice of either sitting inside or out on the stunning patio.
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.
This spacious Charlotte staple brings authentic Thai and Vietnamese food to Charlotte with style and speed, priding themselves on their quick, friendly service. Known around the neighborhood for their excellent, flavorful bowls of Pho, this restaurant also has a reputation for wafer thin vermicelli noodles and soups piled high with fresh seafood. The portion sizes here are huge—you're definitely going to have leftovers. It's a popular place, but it has plenty of seating and square footage to go around, so reservations are not necessary.
Located on the 21st floor of the Skye Condos, this cozy spot serves up New American food with a fusion twist. The outdoor portion of the space stunning city views, fire pits, and a seasonal herb garden the restaurant harvests for its own use. Small, sharable plates are ideal for lunch on the open terrace, and more substantial dishes, like the signature Kobe beef short ribs, anchor the dinner menu along with a range of classic, wood-fired pizzas. The atmosphere here is definitely breezy and classy, but not overly fussy. There's no dress code, but you might want to make a reservation at this popular venue, just in case.
A Charlotte staple, Barrington's is ideal for date night thanks to its elegant decor, approachable bistro menu, and exceptional global wine list. The menu changes seasonally, as the chefs and owners are committed to using the best of what's grown in and around Charlotte, so there's no guarantee what you'll get, but there's sure to be fresh seafood, handmade pastas, and local meats on the board. Like the fine wines it serves, the restaurant gets better (and more popular) with age, so a reservation is highly recommended.
This is an updated take on a classic Italian bistro, with European elegance and a restrained seasonal menu. Using all local produce and proteins, the chefs at Stagioni craft a list of small, sharable plates inspired by classic Italian flavors, along with wood-fired pizzas and handmade pastas. There's no guarantee what'll be there when you go, but definitely keep an eye out for the creamy housemade burrata and hand-rolled gnocci. There's definitely an upscale vibe within the space itself, but the atmosphere is relaxed an causal—no need to get dressed up. You will want to make a reservation, however, as this place gets rather busy. The upscale-yet-relaxed dining room features an Italian-inspired menu of surprising small plates and seasonal entrees along with wood-fired pizzas and handmade pastas.
This neighborhood restaurant has been charming locals and winning awards for over a quarter century, offering farm fresh ingredients and plenty of cozy atmosphere. Housed within an old Victorian and featuring a stunning (and private) backyard patio, the restaurant is as beautiful as the food is delicious. 300 East, owned and operated by the same family since the beginning, sources all their ingredients from local farms, including their meats. Their signature grass-fed burger uses beef and bacon from two different farms, topped with sautéed local mushrooms & leeks, and the rest of the menu features similar upscale American comfort food dishes like pizzas, sandwiches, steaks, and seafood. This inviting spot is rather popular, so make sure to make a reservation.
If you’re looking for authentic Mexican fare in Charlotte, look no further than Three Amigos. This homey cantina cranks out fresh street food that has locals raving about everything from its mole to its margaritas. A slew of daily drink and food specials keeps the spot packed, so anticipate a bonafide fiesta if you swing through for dinner.
With pit masters working 24 hours a day, an impressive selection of house-made BBQ sauces, and plenty of moonshine, Midwood Smokehouse is certainly worth the hype. The all-wood smoker is hand crafted with hickory logs, leaving the restaurant's hunks of fresh, local meat with a perfect, smoky finish. The slow-smoked barbecue favorites range from smoked wings to brisket and salmon steaks, all drenched in the famous house sauce, and all of which can be served atop salads or slices of thick-cut Texas toast. When you've mostly removed the rib-residue from your face, following your sizable carnivorous entrée, try a pickle-back shot of moonshine to perk you back up.
Customshop is a modern resto in Elizabeth committed to serving up the best handcrafted food. With their menu rotating weekly, you'll be tempted to stop by on the reg and try out these European inspired dishes. Chef Trey Wilson pulls influences from the cuisine of Italy, France, and Spain, and integrates them into New American fare. We recommend ordering the scallop crudo, which is as beautiful and colorful as it is tasty.
Enlightened folks, or those looking to recover from a few bad decisions, flock to this popular raw-foods cafe centered around plant-based creations. The best thing to order at Luna's Living Kitchen in the South End is the popular rawco taco salad, which includes a generous heap of organic lettuce is topped with avocado, pico de gallo, tomatoes, cashew sour cream, and a walnut-almond crumble that could very well be taco meat. No matter what you get, make sure to slather it with Luna’s homemade hot sauce.
Inspired by owner Yasser Sadek’s childhood in Lebanon, Kabab-Je is Charlotte’s answer to authentic Mediterranean comfort food. The ingredient-forward menu appeals to vegetarians and carnivores alike, as popular options include the personalized veggie plate -- a “pick four” platter of hummus, falafel, tabbouleh and grape leaves, amongst others -- and the impeccably seasoned chicken shawarma sandwich. It’s an open kitchen, which means you can drool over the wood-fired pita oven while you’re waiting, but the snug layout makes space scarce during peak dinner hours. Fortunately there’s ample patio seating, so head outdoors to get your fix.
This hip grocery is a place to be seen... at lunchtime, at least. Earl's has all sorts of amazing eats like hot bowls of ramen and steak tacos, plus daily features. The real winner, though, is the turkey sandwich. Yes, you heard that right, stacks of deli turkey with smoked Gouda, sun-dried tomato aioli, and avocado stuffed between two slices of lightly grilled wheat bread. It's simple perfection.
Lumiere in Myers Park is Charlotte's go-to for classic French dining with a modern twist. Of course you'll find dishes like duck l'Orange and Foie Gras on the menu, but here they've both been sourced from local farms and accompanied by seasonal vegetables. The atmosphere here is also classic French elegance: candlelight, low conversations, and an intimate space. The prices are distinctly more reasonable than most fine dining restaurants, which may be due to its location in a strip mall, but the prices only enhance the experience. A bevy of red, white, and sparkling wines are available to complement your meal, with a concentration on bold French reds. For a special occasion or a big date, this bistro is sure to impress.
It’s said that “variety is the spice of life,” and Super G Mart quite literally takes this to heart. The international grocery store prides itself on its vast collection of obscure spices and products from around the world that you probably won’t find anywhere else. If the traffic on Independence Boulevard makes you work up an appetite, there’s an independently operated food court featuring Hong Kong Bakery, Honey Buns, and a Korean restaurant.
A Charlotte staple for over 20 years, Carpe Diem marries fine New American cuisine with a turn of the century, Parisian aesthetic. The kitchen prides itself on its partnerships with local, organic farmers, serving up mouthwatering favorites such as buttermilk fried chicken breast with Yukon gold mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach, and shallot-black pepper gravy. Guests come for the food and stay for the art nouveau interior: a romantic combination of ornate, mahogany woodwork and naturalistic mood lighting.
Since 1985, this classic Cajun bistro has been serving up historic cuisine while housed inside of a hundred year old manse in the middle of the Elizabeth neighborhood. Two patios, one on the first floor and one on the rooftop, highlight the quirky house, which also has two distinct dining rooms. The Queen hosts live music 7 nights a week upstairs, while downstairs is reserved for a quieter, more intimate dining experience. Most known in the Charlotte area for their fresh seafood, they also offer classic dishes like Etouffée and Gumbo, often with your choice of protein. For a hot night out, both in terms of food and jazz, Cajun Queen is the place.
This Virginia-based pizza concept boasts 28-inch pies with slices that warrant not one but two plates to carry a single piece. Benny Pennello's, in the NoDa neighborhood, is a great casual late-night and pizza-by-the-slice spot amidst Charlotte's bar scene, and it has more than 25 brews on hand so you’ll never go thirsty. Every month the pizza specials change so be sure to check online before you go to see what the month's special is, unless you're going for a little pizza adventure.
This family-owned joint opened in 2010 aiming to bring New York-style bagels to Charlotte, and it succeeded. Every kind of bagel you can image is sold here, and they're all kettle boiled and baked fresh every day. You can buy one of them on its own with a flavored cream cheese, spring for a lox bagel (which are hard to come by in the South, let's be honest) or a breakfast sandwich, or if you feel so inclined, go all out and get a specialty sandwich like a reuben or an Uptown Charlotte (turkey, muenster, avocado, lettuce, tomato and honey mustard).
For regulars at Soul, Mondays are always a treat -- the evening's soundtrack is crafted purely of R&B and soul on vinyl, hand selected from the restaurant owner's very own collection. The small-plate lounge is notorious for tasty, inventive house cocktails and upscale snacks like Asian glazed pork belly tacos to match. The no reservations bar is small and fills quickly, so get here early if you're looking to eat, while there's plenty of standing room for drinkers. The constantly rotating cocktail menu features (potent) libations like a Celery Spritz made with gin, Cointreau, house-made celery-lemon seltzer, and olive oil, and each night of the week, Soul hosts a different DJ, so patrons at this dimly-lit craft-cocktail-haven never run out of reasons to keep coming back.
Run by chefs who were trained Ecole le Notre in Paris (translation: these guys are the real deal), this Elizabeth spot serves up the freshest baked goods and breakfast foods in the city. Everything here's made from scratch, every day, in small batches, and only with locally sourced ingredients that you can actually pronounce. Take a seat within its mellow light-green walls, drink a cup of coffee from New York-based Counter Culture Coffee and order one of the day's cakes, pastries, or sandwiches -- trust us, you won't regret it.
Go straight for the patio at this Midtown Charlotte joint — the stunning views of the city skyline serve as a backdrop for some of the most authentic Italian fare around. Come for a killer brunch of gourmet egg dishes, short rib hash and chicken & biscuits, or stop by for dinner to watch the sunset over a cripsy, thin crust pizza, traditional pasta dish or whatever seasonal fish is available (expect swordfish and salmon). You can also get cozy in the sleek lounge for a signature, seasonal or classic cocktail or a glass of wine from its decent-sized collection.
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.
What better place to get a grilled cheese than in an actual cheese shop, where cheeses from all over the city, state, country, and world are all held in one place? At Orrman's Cheese Shop, you can either take home a hunk of your favorite cheese, sample a selection with a prepared cheese tray, or indulge in a toasty sandwich with a delectable combination of cheeses, meats, and spreads, like gouda and plum chutney, raclette and rosemary ham, or the classic gouda and cheddar.