Charlotte's 25 Best Restaurants

From French fare to Southern comfort, steaks to Thai, inventive to classic, these are Charlotte's best restaurants


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Lulu dine | wine

1911 Central Ave.
704-376-2242
luludinewine.com

The best seats at this stylishly relaxed Plaza Midwood bungalow are on the shady patio, where on a sunny afternoon you’ll find the same relaxed pace as a Parisian sidewalk cafe. On cooler evenings, cozy up next to the fireplace and indulge in the bistro’s lavish French fare.

Don’t miss: The pomme frites are fresh cut daily and served hot and crispy alongside pungent dips like garlic lemon or goat cheese aioli. What to get: Served with crusty bread for soaking, the tender and plump mussels are drenched in savory sauces.

When to go: Sure, this is a great spot for an intimate date night, but Lulu bustles during its weekend brunch when families and friends pile in for dishes like crème brûlée French toast or eggs Florentine alongside fresh mimosas.


The McNinch House

511 N. Church St.
704-332-6159
mcninchhouserestaurant.com

You’re unlikely to find a more romantic spot in town than this historic Victorian-style home in Fourth Ward. Multicourse dinners are served in hushed candle-lit rooms as classical music softly plays and servers present dishes on fine china. In a place where women are presented with single-stem red roses as parting gifts, this is a dining experience from another era. When it comes to romantic occasions—and carefully constructed meals—it continues to reign as the city’s best.

Did you know: For years the only menu here was seven courses. Recently though the restaurant began offering four different menu variations on price-fixed menus—and the chance for those not wishing for a financial hangover the next morning the chance to indulge.

Inside tip: When you call for your reservation (which is mandatory), you’ll have the opportunity to share any food allergies or preferences to prepare the restaurant for your arrival.

Time your visit: For a night when the roasted Maple Leaf Farms duck breast with duck confit ragout is on the menu. Topped in a cider-rosemary reduction and served with white cheddar grits, this cool-weather comfort food is executed perfectly.

What to get: While it’s expensive, the Chef’s Tasting ($109) features ten to twelve expertly chosen—and certain to be memorable—courses by Chef Chris Coleman.


Passion8 Bistro

3415 Hwy. 51, Fort Mill
803-802-7455
passion8bistro.com

You can be forgiven if you’ve yet to navigate the industrial area of Fort Mill that hides this four-year-old welcoming restaurant, run by Luca and Jessica Annunziata—but not for long. Jessica runs the front with friendly fervor, and Luca’s the chef. He works with more than fifteen local farms to source his menu, which he changes every day.

Expect the unexpected: Farmers will call Luca with what they have, and he’ll incorporate it into a dish. The result is often produce you won’t find at any other local restaurant.

Don’t miss: The menu changes so frequently, it’s hard to recommend a single dish. But this fall, Chef Luca has come up with a luscious butternut squash gnocchi that’s offset deliciously by crispy pancetta, local chestnuts, and a wild mushroom crema.

Don’t trust the GPS: Call ahead for directions.

Customer always wins: The one dish they can’t remove or alter is the calamari, served with a sweet jalapeño butter. They tried once and regulars howled.

Look around: Passion8 is located in an old house, and the décor is, um, eclectic. Aim to sit in the front room if you can. Bring a DD: The bar serves up tasty—and stiff—artisanal cocktails. —R. T.


Roosters Wood-Fired Kitchen

6601 Morrison Blvd.
704-366-8688
roosterskitchen.com

Chef Jim Noble may have garnered most of his attention this year from his new nonprofit venture uptown, the Kings Kitchen, but this rustic SouthPark restaurant, with its a la carte offerings and boisterous open kitchen, remains his best in town.

Whom to bring: Someone who doesn’t mind sharing. Vegetables come family style and you’ll want to order house favorites like the fragrant pan fried corn or bright green garden peas.

Don’t miss: The BBQ chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender, and Noble’s passion for barbecue is reflected in the tangy house-made sauce.

Inside tip: Sign up for Roosters’ email newsletter, which frequently gives details on the restaurant’s impressive wine dinners and seasonal offerings.


Savor Café

1404 W. Morehead St.
704-334-0098, 704-334-0098
savoronmorehead.com

Despite the fact that this cozy spot on West Morehead is packed most days for lunch and most nights for dinner, it still feels like a well-kept secret. But this restaurant, run by Johnson & Wales grads, is responsible for some of Charlotte’s tastiest food.

Don’t be fooled: Menu items are written simply, but that belies the amount of flavor in standout Southern-inspired dishes like the grits with shrimp and sausage gravy and the Beef Short Ribs.

Don’t miss: Sweet Tea Brined Grilled Pork Tenderloin, topped with peach chutney and served with Cheesy Grits and Drunken Collards. It’s Southern and it’s fantastic.

If you're in the mood for a burger: You won’t be disappointed. Both the eight-ounce ground sirloin burger and the delightful hot mess that is the Adam Bomb (Cajun-rubbed with grilled tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, and roasted red pepper and caramelized onion aioli) are among the city’s best.

End with: Savor is perhaps best known for its desserts, with the silky banana pudding and the cobbler (flavor changes but pray for blackberry) as standouts. —R. T.


Soul Gastrolounge

1500-B Central Ave.
704-348-1848
soulgastrolounge.com

With its pulsing nightclub vibe, DJ spinning into the late hours, and always-packed bar, this might not be where you’d expect to find some of the city’s best dishes. But Chef Jason Pound’s small plates outshine most of those at the city’s swankiest spots.

Don’t plan: On this being a quick bite. Soul doesn’t take reservations, and seating is hard to find—especially considering that most patrons prefer to linger over multiple tapas courses.

Drink this: Absinthe—it’s legal stateside now—is served in the classic Czech method, with a liquor-drenched sugar cube set on fire until it melts into the drink. The emerald-green drink offers a robust taste, but it’s the presentation that makes it worth the order.

What to get: The sushi comes in fiery jalapeño-spiked varieties like the Soul Roll and features delectable slivers of the fresh fish.

Inside tip: Order the pork belly tacos as soon as you arrive. Made with tender chunks of pork in a sweet Asian glaze and topped with cool watermelon salsa, these tacos are so tasty they often sell out early in the dinner hour.


Zebra

4521 Sharon Rd.
704-442-9525
zebrarestaurant.net

Chef and owner Jim Alexander’s French restaurant only continues to get better with age. With a nightly tasting menu, a wine list featuring more than 900 bottles, and savvy servers whose warmth tempts you to invite them to pull up a seat, it seems unlikely to slow down any time soon. Here you’ll find contemporary seafood dishes with bright, fresh flavors alongside traditional French fare.

Inside tip: Despite its upscale nature, Zebra is open for breakfast, which means you can enjoy the kitchen’s skills and elegant ambience with lower priced-items like omelets and waffles.

Don’t skip: The foie gras. It shows up in various dishes throughout the menu and Alexander has its preparation down to a luscious art form.

What to get: The signature angel hair basket features beef tenderloin, lobster, shrimp, and scallops all nestled in a crisp golden tangle of angel hair pasta. While it tends to be messy, it’s a creative—and delectable—take on surf-and-turf.

Freebie we’d pay for: Zebra subs the usual after-dinner mints with the check for a small taste of the day’s dessert, for example miniature slices from a moist pistachio cake.

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