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.Read More
18 Essential Restaurants in Charlotte, North Carolina
From barbecue to banh xeo
1. 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.
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.
3. Leah & Louise
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.
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4. Amélie's French Bakery & Café
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.
5. 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.
6. 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
7. 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.
8. 5Church Charlotte
Chef-owner and Top Chef seasons 14 and 17 alum chef Jamie Lynch is the mastermind behind 5Church restaurants in Charlotte and Charleston. After a 10-month closure, service is in session with new chef Sherief Shawky. Tried-and-true favorites include the lamb burger, 60-second NY strip, and the yellowfin sushi tuna tots. New favorites like the Moroccan turkey meatballs, ricotta potato gnocchi and chilled seafood tower of oysters, shrimp, lobster, king crab, crab louie, and seafood salad are sure to impress.
9. Sweet Lew’s BBQ
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.
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.
11. Mert's Heart And Soul
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.
12. Fin & Fino
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.
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13. Fahrenheit Charlotte
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.
14. Midwood Smokehouse
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.
15. 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.
16. Cajun Queen
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.
17. The Suffolk Punch
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.
18. Crispy Banh Mi
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.