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Oxtail stew with dumplings in a white bowl.
Oxtail stew with dumplings at Leah & Louise.
Peter Taylor

18 Essential Restaurants in Charlotte, North Carolina

From oxtail stew to banh xeo

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Oxtail stew with dumplings at Leah & Louise.
| Peter Taylor

Everything old is new again in Charlotte. The wide, sprawling metropolis divided into four wards circling microcosms of neighborhoods redefining residents’ attitudes and injecting life with contemporary dreams and suburban wishes. North Carolina’s largest city captures the whims of diners looking for a range of cuisines encompassing everything from nouvelle regional classics to eclectic modern global trends. Beyond the wards, the tendrils of urban sprawl draw in tight-knit suburbs with little fanfare or flourish to announce they’ve stepped into another town, much less another county.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

River’s Edge

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With breathtaking views of the man-made whitewater river and the edges of the Catawba River in the distance, it isn’t hard to imagine the US National Whitewater Center as a place for destination dining. The on-site full-service restaurant is perfect for refueling after hitting the trail or kayaking through Olympic trial runs. The citrus salmon salad, Mediterranean bowl and strip loin sandwich are good bets for good eats. The extensive draft beer list and kombucha options are plenty to help refuel after a trail run or a bike ride in the woods. Outdoor dining available.

Haberdish

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Customers go for the highly-lauded brined, battered, and fried chicken but stay for everything else. Visitors get an education in Southern hospitality from this mill town era-inspired NoDa haunt with chicken skin topped mac and cheese, lard-layered snowflake biscuits, and other locally-inspired southern vegetable sides. Owners Jeff Tonidandel and his wife Jamie Brown furnished the dining room with reclaimed spindles, wood beams, and denim from mills of the past. Indoor dining, takeout and limited delivery are available.

Fried chicken at Haberdish
Fried chicken at Haberdish
Haberdish

Leah & Louise

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James Beard-nominated chef Greg Collier and his wife Subrina run this Camp North End modern juke joint. This cashless operation serves up modern interpretations of Southern classics inspired by the Mississippi Delta. River Chips (seasoned, fried crispy chicken skins), blackened catfish with rice grits sidle up next to a rotating PWYC (“pay what you can”) dish, so every patron can enjoy a meal regardless of financial status. Limited takeout menu and indoor dining available.

Plates at Leah & Louise
Plates at Leah & Louise
Peter Taylor

Amélie's French Bakery & Café

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This modern-day French patisserie, buzzes with eclectic decor like chandeliers made from kitchenware and kitschy, yet elegant, mixed-matched furniture. Each display case is full of French-inspired pastries, like macarons and croissants alongside the signature sheet-cake style salted caramel brownie. Creamy, towering savory quiche and daily soup offerings round out the menu. Delivery and takeout are available.

sticky buns on a plate
Sticky buns at Amélie’s French Bakery & Café
Amélie’s French Bakery & Café/Facebook

LuLu's Maryland Style Chicken & Seafood

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Husband-and-wife duo and former Marylanders Joseph and Miketa Davis run LuLu’s Maryland Style Chicken & Seafood in Wesley Heights. This takeout-only operation serves up Maryland-style crab cakes alongside fried and grilled fish, shrimp, fried chicken platters, and soul food fixin’s. Popular menu choices include crab fries, honey Old Bay wingettes, and a signature hibachi-style dish known as the Hookup. A second restaurant is under construction in Plaza Midwood and will open in 2021.

Lang Van

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The Vietnamese menu at Lang Van bursts with a dizzying 140 items but owner Dan Nguyen suggests, recommends and uncannily remembers customer preferences on subsequent visits. Try banh xeo, a classic curry-yellow pancake filled with shrimp, com chien thom – pineapple fried rice served in a hollowed-out pineapple half or the crispy quail, served with a little dish of salt and black pepper with lemon. Takeout and dine-in during lunch only

Alexander Michael's

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Nestled deep in the 4th Ward, family photos and historic snapshots of the previous incarnations of the pub are a contrast to the manicured exterior of the neighborhood. Inside, Al-Mike’s laid-back style continues with comforting Cajun-laced entrees like the spicy crab soup, What It Is (blackened chicken over fresh rotini in a Cajun cream sauce) and London broil. Indoor dining and takeout are available.

an old English tavern
Alexander Michael’s
Alexander Michael’s

Sweet Lew’s BBQ

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Housed in a decommissioned service station, this barbecue joint no-frills, roadside shack honors North Carolina’s long history with barbecue. Hickory, pecan, and peach woods flavor the pork, ribs, chicken, brisket — and boiled peanuts, a Southern delicacy. The menu includes Lexington-style chopped and pulled pork, dry-rubbed spare ribs, smoked chicken, and beef brisket. 

Jalapeno cheddar sausage and sweet potato casserole at Sweet Lew’s
Jalapeno cheddar sausage and sweet potato casserole at Sweet Lew’s
Sweet Lew’s Barbeque/Facebook

Haymaker

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Accented with brass fixtures and rich leather seating, the Instagrammable dining space is headed by chef William Dissen, known for his restaurant the Market Place in Asheville. Full-flavored Southern classics like jalapeño biscuits and grits to the Billy D’s Fried Chicken Sandwich and crispy pork belly drive the farm fresh menu. Open for indoor and outdoor seating and takeout. 

plates full of food on a table
Spread at Haymaker

Mert's Heart And Soul

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As seen on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, the traditional soul food and and Gullah-inspired dishes fall in step with the bright, jazzy hand-painted decor. The soul roll egg rolls kick with black-eyed peas, rice, collard greens, fried chicken which echo the rest of the menu. Indoor dining or takeout are available.

fried pork chop
Fried pork chop at Mert’s Heart And Soul
Mert’s Heart & Soul/Facebook

Fin & Fino

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Nestled between the Mint Museum and tail-end of Tryon Street, the tiki-inspired cocktails and impressive raw bar make Fin & Fino a seafood haven. Grilled octopus, seasonal campanelle pasta, and seafood boil paint the menu landscape. A noteworthy gustatory delight is the Treatment, a personalized tasting menu that includes a $5 charitable donation to an area nonprofit. Indoor dining and delivery options are available.

overhead shot of plates full of seafood
Plates at Fin & Fino
Fin & Fino/Facebook

Fahrenheit Charlotte

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Perched atop the 21st floor of Skye Condominiums and Hyatt Place hotel, the dining room opens up to reveal firepits, a wraparound bar, and unobstructed views of the Queen City’s high-rises. The lobster grilled cheese for brunch, an impressive 22 oz bone-in cowboy ribeye, and crispy tempura shrimp glazed with local Cloister honey color the aspirational menu. Outdoor seating, Delivery, Takeout, Indoor dining are available.

seafood platter
Seafood platter at Fahrenheit
Fahrenheit-Charlotte/Facebook

Midwood Smokehouse

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Boasting four locations in Ballentyne, Birkdale, Plaza-Midwood, and Park Road areas, Midwood nails regional barbecue, serving up Texas-style brisket, Carolina chopped pork, and smoked chicken dressed in South Carolina-style mustard sauce with its on-site smokehouse. The menu is full of smoked meats like the brisket on the Fatt Matt and 1930 cheesesteak sandwiches or the jalapeno cheddar sausages. Indoor, outdoor seating, delivery, and takeout are available.

Brisket sandwich with fries
The Fatt Matt at Midwood
Midwood Smokehouse/Facebook

Abugida Ethiopian Cafe & Restaurant

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Richly spiced stews, warm incense, and East African art make this Eastside spot feel like walking into a well-kempt home. Hands and rolls of the soft-as-lace flatbread injera are the utensils used to scoop and dip into dishes like stewed chicken doro wat, crispy bits of beef tibs, laced with spiced butter, onion, and whole boiled eggs. An Ethiopian coffee ceremony perfumes the air as fresh coffee beans are roasted and poured tableside as an after-dinner treat. Outdoor dining, delivery and takeout only.

Cajun Queen

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Spicy and mild Cajun cuisine with Creole undertones rule supreme inside this converted Victorian mansion-turned-restaurant in the Elizabeth neighborhood. Blackened catfish, shrimp, oysters, crawfish, chicken, steak and andouille sausage pepper the menu. With patio seating on two floors, delivery, takeout, and outdoor seating options, eats from this 40-year-old restaurant feel like Mardi Gras could be every day.

fried oysters
Fried oysters at Cajun Queen
Cajun Queen/Facebook

The Suffolk Punch

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This outfit serves as a one-stop shop for beer, coffee, and solid American-style fare. Tucked close to the New Bern Station stop on the light rail, the seating features heated and covered outdoor spaces and wide booths. Eclectic brews made on-site and scratch-made cocktails that pair with items, like thick-cut pork belly BLT, roasted beet hummus with toast points, thick chicken biscuits and gravy, and toasty flatbreads. 

Burgers, nachos, and beer at the Suffolk Punch
Burgers, nachos, and beer at the Suffolk Punch
The Suffolk Punch/Facebook

Easy Like Sunday

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Breezy restaurant Easy Like Sunday is a brunch lovers dream come true. Customers can enjoy ricotta-stuffed French toast with berry compote and bacon crumble or a fried chicken Benedict from the comfort of one of the sink-in-and-you-may-never-leave booths. Breakfast is always on the menu and the lavender lattes are regularly touted to be the best in town.

Crispy Banh Mi

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Consistent, approachable, fresh Vietnamese cuisine the fast-casual way highlight the original Shamrock Road location of this restaurant. Rice paper-wrapped rolls filled with shrimp, grilled chicken, planks of pork patties, and fresh, pickled vegetable-stuffed bahn mis are packed on fresh French-style baguettes. Takeout and delivery available.

River’s Edge

With breathtaking views of the man-made whitewater river and the edges of the Catawba River in the distance, it isn’t hard to imagine the US National Whitewater Center as a place for destination dining. The on-site full-service restaurant is perfect for refueling after hitting the trail or kayaking through Olympic trial runs. The citrus salmon salad, Mediterranean bowl and strip loin sandwich are good bets for good eats. The extensive draft beer list and kombucha options are plenty to help refuel after a trail run or a bike ride in the woods. Outdoor dining available.

Haberdish

Fried chicken at Haberdish
Fried chicken at Haberdish
Haberdish

Customers go for the highly-lauded brined, battered, and fried chicken but stay for everything else. Visitors get an education in Southern hospitality from this mill town era-inspired NoDa haunt with chicken skin topped mac and cheese, lard-layered snowflake biscuits, and other locally-inspired southern vegetable sides. Owners Jeff Tonidandel and his wife Jamie Brown furnished the dining room with reclaimed spindles, wood beams, and denim from mills of the past. Indoor dining, takeout and limited delivery are available.

Fried chicken at Haberdish
Fried chicken at Haberdish
Haberdish

Leah & Louise

Plates at Leah & Louise
Plates at Leah & Louise
Peter Taylor

James Beard-nominated chef Greg Collier and his wife Subrina run this Camp North End modern juke joint. This cashless operation serves up modern interpretations of Southern classics inspired by the Mississippi Delta. River Chips (seasoned, fried crispy chicken skins), blackened catfish with rice grits sidle up next to a rotating PWYC (“pay what you can”) dish, so every patron can enjoy a meal regardless of financial status. Limited takeout menu and indoor dining available.

Plates at Leah & Louise
Plates at Leah & Louise
Peter Taylor

Amélie's French Bakery & Café

sticky buns on a plate
Sticky buns at Amélie’s French Bakery & Café
Amélie’s French Bakery & Café/Facebook

This modern-day French patisserie, buzzes with eclectic decor like chandeliers made from kitchenware and kitschy, yet elegant, mixed-matched furniture. Each display case is full of French-inspired pastries, like macarons and croissants alongside the signature sheet-cake style salted caramel brownie. Creamy, towering savory quiche and daily soup offerings round out the menu. Delivery and takeout are available.

sticky buns on a plate
Sticky buns at Amélie’s French Bakery & Café
Amélie’s French Bakery & Café/Facebook

LuLu's Maryland Style Chicken & Seafood

Husband-and-wife duo and former Marylanders Joseph and Miketa Davis run LuLu’s Maryland Style Chicken & Seafood in Wesley Heights. This takeout-only operation serves up Maryland-style crab cakes alongside fried and grilled fish, shrimp, fried chicken platters, and soul food fixin’s. Popular menu choices include crab fries, honey Old Bay wingettes, and a signature hibachi-style dish known as the Hookup. A second restaurant is under construction in Plaza Midwood and will open in 2021.

Lang Van

The Vietnamese menu at Lang Van bursts with a dizzying 140 items but owner Dan Nguyen suggests, recommends and uncannily remembers customer preferences on subsequent visits. Try banh xeo, a classic curry-yellow pancake filled with shrimp, com chien thom – pineapple fried rice served in a hollowed-out pineapple half or the crispy quail, served with a little dish of salt and black pepper with lemon. Takeout and dine-in during lunch only

Alexander Michael's

an old English tavern
Alexander Michael’s
Alexander Michael’s

Nestled deep in the 4th Ward, family photos and historic snapshots of the previous incarnations of the pub are a contrast to the manicured exterior of the neighborhood. Inside, Al-Mike’s laid-back style continues with comforting Cajun-laced entrees like the spicy crab soup, What It Is (blackened chicken over fresh rotini in a Cajun cream sauce) and London broil. Indoor dining and takeout are available.

an old English tavern
Alexander Michael’s
Alexander Michael’s

Sweet Lew’s BBQ

Jalapeno cheddar sausage and sweet potato casserole at Sweet Lew’s
Jalapeno cheddar sausage and sweet potato casserole at Sweet Lew’s
Sweet Lew’s Barbeque/Facebook

Housed in a decommissioned service station, this barbecue joint no-frills, roadside shack honors North Carolina’s long history with barbecue. Hickory, pecan, and peach woods flavor the pork, ribs, chicken, brisket — and boiled peanuts, a Southern delicacy. The menu includes Lexington-style chopped and pulled pork, dry-rubbed spare ribs, smoked chicken, and beef brisket. 

Jalapeno cheddar sausage and sweet potato casserole at Sweet Lew’s
Jalapeno cheddar sausage and sweet potato casserole at Sweet Lew’s
Sweet Lew’s Barbeque/Facebook

Haymaker

plates full of food on a table
Spread at Haymaker

Accented with brass fixtures and rich leather seating, the Instagrammable dining space is headed by chef William Dissen, known for his restaurant the Market Place in Asheville. Full-flavored Southern classics like jalapeño biscuits and grits to the Billy D’s Fried Chicken Sandwich and crispy pork belly drive the farm fresh menu. Open for indoor and outdoor seating and takeout. 

plates full of food on a table
Spread at Haymaker

Mert's Heart And Soul

fried pork chop
Fried pork chop at Mert’s Heart And Soul
Mert’s Heart & Soul/Facebook

As seen on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, the traditional soul food and and Gullah-inspired dishes fall in step with the bright, jazzy hand-painted decor. The soul roll egg rolls kick with black-eyed peas, rice, collard greens, fried chicken which echo the rest of the menu. Indoor dining or takeout are available.

fried pork chop
Fried pork chop at Mert’s Heart And Soul
Mert’s Heart & Soul/Facebook

Fin & Fino

overhead shot of plates full of seafood
Plates at Fin & Fino
Fin & Fino/Facebook

Nestled between the Mint Museum and tail-end of Tryon Street, the tiki-inspired cocktails and impressive raw bar make Fin & Fino a seafood haven. Grilled octopus, seasonal campanelle pasta, and seafood boil paint the menu landscape. A noteworthy gustatory delight is the Treatment, a personalized tasting menu that includes a $5 charitable donation to an area nonprofit. Indoor dining and delivery options are available.

overhead shot of plates full of seafood
Plates at Fin & Fino
Fin & Fino/Facebook

Fahrenheit Charlotte

seafood platter
Seafood platter at Fahrenheit
Fahrenheit-Charlotte/Facebook

Perched atop the 21st floor of Skye Condominiums and Hyatt Place hotel, the dining room opens up to reveal firepits, a wraparound bar, and unobstructed views of the Queen City’s high-rises. The lobster grilled cheese for brunch, an impressive 22 oz bone-in cowboy ribeye, and crispy tempura shrimp glazed with local Cloister honey color the aspirational menu. Outdoor seating, Delivery, Takeout, Indoor dining are available.

seafood platter
Seafood platter at Fahrenheit
Fahrenheit-Charlotte/Facebook

Midwood Smokehouse

Brisket sandwich with fries
The Fatt Matt at Midwood
Midwood Smokehouse/Facebook

Boasting four locations in Ballentyne, Birkdale, Plaza-Midwood, and Park Road areas, Midwood nails regional barbecue, serving up Texas-style brisket, Carolina chopped pork, and smoked chicken dressed in South Carolina-style mustard sauce with its on-site smokehouse. The menu is full of smoked meats like the brisket on the Fatt Matt and 1930 cheesesteak sandwiches or the jalapeno cheddar sausages. Indoor, outdoor seating, delivery, and takeout are available.

Brisket sandwich with fries
The Fatt Matt at Midwood
Midwood Smokehouse/Facebook

Abugida Ethiopian Cafe & Restaurant

Richly spiced stews, warm incense, and East African art make this Eastside spot feel like walking into a well-kempt home. Hands and rolls of the soft-as-lace flatbread injera are the utensils used to scoop and dip into dishes like stewed chicken doro wat, crispy bits of beef tibs, laced with spiced butter, onion, and whole boiled eggs. An Ethiopian coffee ceremony perfumes the air as fresh coffee beans are roasted and poured tableside as an after-dinner treat. Outdoor dining, delivery and takeout only.

Cajun Queen

fried oysters
Fried oysters at Cajun Queen
Cajun Queen/Facebook

Spicy and mild Cajun cuisine with Creole undertones rule supreme inside this converted Victorian mansion-turned-restaurant in the Elizabeth neighborhood. Blackened catfish, shrimp, oysters, crawfish, chicken, steak and andouille sausage pepper the menu. With patio seating on two floors, delivery, takeout, and outdoor seating options, eats from this 40-year-old restaurant feel like Mardi Gras could be every day.

fried oysters
Fried oysters at Cajun Queen
Cajun Queen/Facebook

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