50 Best Restaurants in Charlotte: 2018
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No. 20: Heirloom
The Heirloom Fried Chicken is inspired by a family recipe.
8470 Bellhaven Blvd., 704-595-7710
Chef and partner Clark Barlowe overhauled his menu this year, doing away with the tasting-menu-only approach in favor of an a la carte menu with a chef’s selection offering. The menu is more approachable, with appearances from delectable family recipes such as Aunt Nancy’s onion pie. The menu may have changed, but the mission is still the same: show the versatility of North Carolina ingredients, and the staff here continues to show they believe in that mission.
No. 21: Dogwood Southern Table & Bar
4905 Ashley Park Ln., Ste. H, 704-910-4919
Each staff member here seems to have their own set of regulars, giving this SouthPark restaurant a friendliness and familiarity that’s hard to find. Part of Jon Dressler’s Rare Roots Hospitality Group (Dressler’s, The Porter’s House), Dogwood’s focus is on modernized Southern fare, such as duck and dumplings, trout, and pimento cheese served bubbling hot in cast iron. Whether you prefer to sit at a table or barside with ultra-talented mixologist Brian Lorusso, you’ll find a warm welcome.
No. 22: Loft & Cellar
305 W. 4th St., 704-817-9057
With its international menu, Loft & Cellar stands out in Charlotte. Globetrotter and chef/co-owner Nicolas Daniels uses his travels to inspire a menu full of fusion, with dishes combining flavors from separate continents on a single plate. Construction and permitting delays caused this place to open far behind schedule, but gave Daniels extra time to finesse the menu. Judged on food alone, this uptown spot would be higher on the list—the marriage of international flavors is innovative and delicious—but the service side needs a bit more attention before Loft & Cellar cracks the top 15.
No. 23: Customshop Handcrafted Food
1601 Elizabeth Ave., 704-333-3396
It’s difficult to categorize the cuisine at this Elizabeth Avenue fixture.
With bright and fresh crudos, fan favorites such as the barbecue octopus, and season-appropriate pastas, Customshop draws much inspiration from the Mediterranean, but Southern ingredients help give the restaurant a sense of place.
No. 24: RockSalt
512 Brandywine Rd., Ste. 500, 704-503-9945
Chef Shane Graybeal came to RockSalt in October, after former executive chef Jim Diecchio left to open a new restaurant by renowned chef Vivian Howard. Graybeal says he wants to add some “craveable” dishes to the menu; we’ll soon see if he succeeds.
> Read more about the spot's new executive chef here.
No. 25: The King’s Kitchen
129 W. Trade St., 704-375-1990
This uptown spot, popular for businesspeople to grab a bite for lunch or dinner, is also a nonprofit. Owned by Jim Noble (Rooster’s), King’s Kitchen employs adults transitioning from incarceration in hopes that experience in the restaurant industry will set them on a path to employment. The menu is Southern classic, with meat-and-three options and crunchy, delectable fried chicken. The breakfast options, baked at the nearby King’s Bakery, demand early-morning stops, too.
No. 26: Soul Gastrolounge
1500-B Central Ave., 704-348-1848
The servers are hip, the sound system is bumping, and the menu is all over the place, with sushi rolls, daily hummus features, and shared plates. You can’t find this vibe anywhere else, and the food is just as good as it ever was, while the cocktails may be even better.
No. 27: Bistro La Bon
Chef Kevin Samuel.
1322 Central Ave., 704-333-4646
Beloved chef and owner Majid Amoorpour left Bistro la Bon this spring, but several of his recipes remain on the menu. You can still find the lavender chicken and the Swedish meatballs, but some new items might begin to change your regular order.
> See our story about this year's changes at the Plaza Midwood spot here.
No. 28: Baku
Yang sources the fish for his sashimi daily.
4515 Sharon Rd., 704-817-7173
Chef Michael Shortino, now owner of Futo Buta, helped guide Baku to become one of the best Japanese restaurants in town when it opened back in 2013. Birdie Yang, of Yama and Yama Izakaya, purchased the restaurant in 2017. Yang gave the restaurant the refresh it needed to stay relevant in the city’s rapidly growing culinary scene by amping up the sake program and switching up the source of its seafood to the vendors from his existing locations.
No. 29: Corkbuzz
4905 Ashley Park Ln., Ste. J, 704-625-1328
In a city obsessed with craft beer, it’s refreshing to visit a place like this, where the menu is crafted with wine in mind. Master sommelier Laura Maniec opened this concept, sister to two New York City locations, because she has family in town, and her well-crafted wine list and education programs are fit for all levels of wine knowledge. The food only enhances that experience.