Food & Drink



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 Readers' Choice

Burger
Penguin

Pizza
Brixx

Steakhouse
Morton’s

Vegetarian selection
Zada Jane’s

Comfort food
Dish

Breakfast
Original House of Pancakes

Brunch
Pewter Rose

Barbecue
Mac’s Speed Shop

Taco joint
Cabo Fish Taco

Coffee shop (non-chain)
Dilworth Coffee House

Late-night dining
Penguin

Hotel restaurant
Ember Grille

New restaurant
M5

Caribbean
Anntony’s

Indian
Copper

Italian
Mama Riccota’s

Japanese/Sushi
Nikko

Mexican
Cantina 1511

Seafood
Upstream

Southern/Soul
Mert’s

Thai
Thai Taste

Vietnamese
Lang Van

Burger
Baucom's Best Farms Ultimate Burger
Gallery Restaurant & Bar

It's hard to believe a hotel restaurant serves up the most delish burger in town, but, trust us, it's true. It's eight ounces of all-natural, grass-fed beef from local purveyor Baucom's Best Farms. Served on a slightly buttered and toasted Kaiser roll, it comes served with your choice of four cheeses (the Guinness-soaked Gruyère is a must), applewood-smoked bacon, sautéed onions, mushrooms, or, our choice, the works. And with sumptuous yet filling sides like hush puppies, sweet potato fries, crisp Carolina slaw, homemade French fries, or onion rings, you might consider cutting your burger in half and saving some savory goodness for dinner.
Ballantyne Resort, 10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy., 704-248-4100

Biscuits
The Flying Biscuit Café

The biscuits here go well with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but they could almost be a meal by themselves. They rise up in a mighty dome, fluffy and faintly sweet, and are presented piping hot on the edge of your plate. The Flying Biscuit began in Atlanta, but its food and eclectic vibe—and most importantly, its biscuit recipe—have made it to Charlotte intact. The whole wheat version is just as tasty.
Stonecrest, 7930 Rea Rd., 704-295-4440

Wine list
Noble's Restaurant

There are some impressive, almost intimidating, wine lists at many of Charlotte's upscale restaurants. Most are one-dimensional, weighing heavy on expensive California wines. A good wine list should be easy to read and eclectic. It should be current on new wines, and also stock the old classics. The list at Noble's Restaurant is just that,  and it's the best in town. Featuring wines from all over the world—California, Oregon, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, South America, and Australia—it also offers an extensive portfolio of Eric Solomon and Robert Kacher, two of the most talented importers in the business. Buy by the glass, half bottle, bottle, or magnum.
6801 Morrison Blvd., 704-367-9463

Downtown outdoor dining
Ri Ra

What sets this establishment apart from the rest of the patios and sidewalk seating downtown is quite simple: altitude. The second-story rooftop terrace overlooking the Hearst Plaza offers a first-rate view. In addition to the satisfaction of enjoying your lunch, you get to look down on all those harried city folk on the street below, and wonder what all the rush is about.
208 N. Tryon St., 704-333-5554

Restaurant experience
Del Frisco's

The Del Frisco's experience is simply stunning. Even for just a drink. Big, thirty-foot glass windows, a two-level dining room framed by a large, ornate staircase, dark woods, and a 20,000-bottle wine cellar blasted out of pure bedrock complete the visual aesthetic. Prime aged steaks and chops complete the gustatory experience. It's worth it if you can afford it.
4725 Piedmont Row Dr., 704-552-5502

New York-style pizza
Hawthorne's New York Pizza & Bar

When you come across a pizza place in Charlotte that serves pie in squares as well as in the round, you know it's a good sign. Hawthorne's may be known for its outdoor seating and ample selection of draft beers, but the pizza here more than holds its own. Like any self-respecting New York pizza, the emphasis is not so much on fancy toppings as on the cheese—and lots of it.
1701 E. Seventh St., 704-358-9339

Restaurant service
Dolce Ristorante

Simply put, owner Luisa (as she is simply known) and her staff cradle you in their arms from the minute you walk in the door. The staff knows the menu so well that they make recommendations based on your tastes, not theirs. Imagine that. The timing is impeccable, and they know if you're in a hurry or if you want to linger, without asking. And they never get flustered, even in the wake of late-arriving diners or split checks. It's truly inspiring service rooted in the details.
1710 Kenilworth Ave., 704-332-7525

Intimate dining
Copper

Ease into a tight corner of a room in the renovated Meyer House and revel in the glow of vanilla candlelight, good wine, and thee. Adding to the intimacy is the delightful, sensual, and fun interpretations of authentic Indian comfort food. After all, curries, tandoori, and the like are meant to be shared, aren't they? So go ahead, have a glass of champagne, and remember—what happens at Copper stays at Copper.
311 East Blvd., 704-333-0063

Hard-to-find-but-well-worth-it restaurant
Intermezzo

Inside this innocuous little building, you will find the most ambitious restaurant concept in Charlotte—a Serbian/Italian pizzeria. In addition to fresh baked pizza pies, which are delicious, as are the panoply of breads, rolls, and crusts available here, you will also find traditional Serbian delights like sarma (stuffed cabbage rolls) and pljeskavica (ground beef and lamb sandwich). Good brews and views of the city abound as well.
1427 E. Tenth St., 704-347-2626

Restaurant for Yankees
New South Kitchen and Bar
There are probably more refined examples of classic Southern cuisine in Charlotte, but a more accessible invitation for a boorish Buffalo Bills fan you will not find than the New South Kitchen and Bar in the Arboretum. Imagine your chicken wing-soaked palate waking up to shrimp and grits, fried oysters, and, of all things, collard greens. A revelation, to say the least. Go there now, O ye from north of the Mason-Dixon. It's wicked good.
Arboretum Shopping Center, 8140 Providence Road, 704-541-9990

Overall menu
Rooster's Wood-Fired Kitchen
If loads of options entice you, a better menu than Roosters is tough to find. Sixteen sections of the copious à la carte menu deliver meal possibilities like beef tartare, speck and cheese “hand pizzas,” hanger steak, king trumpet mushrooms, and fire-roasted beets. Magical! And please sit at the seats around the open kitchen. It's Charlotte's culinary version of Broadway. After all, “All the world's a stage, and we are merely diners.”
6601 Morrison Blvd., 704-366-8688

Place for a power lunch
The Capital Grille
Nothing says power lunch like the front table at The Capital Grille. Imagine this: nursing your first martini at 2 p.m. on Friday while waiting for your fat shrimp cocktail followed by your lobster and crab burger. Ah yes, you've finally made it. Smell the success in the air? Well, that's you and your fantastic striped suit and crisp white shirt. You look and feel great. Wait—is that cocktail sauce on your tie?
201 N. Tryon St., 704-348-1400

Assortment of condiments on a table
The Roasting Company

When it comes to sauce and savor, it's hard to compete with a place that makes its own. On every table you will find a bottle of the Roasting Company's Costa Rican-style Tico Sauce—sweet, smoky, and an excellent accompaniment to rotisserie chicken, rice, beans, or greens. Kick it up another notch with the Savage Habanero hot sauce. Be warned: these are habit forming.
1601 Montford Dr., 704-521-8188


Milkshake
Pike's Old Fashioned Soda Shop

Okay, so it's not the fastest milkshake in town. Sometimes your food will arrive before the server brings it out to you in a tall, cold glass. But it's well worth the wait. That's because Pike's makes it from scratch and doesn't skimp on the ice cream. All the flavors are good, but you can't go wrong with black raspberry.
1930 Camden Rd., 704-372-0092

Ribs
The Chicken Box Café
 
Many different establishments were sampled—chains, revered Charlotte institutions, dives, and upscale joints. Most were good, but only one was great. The Chicken Box Café, a dive joint known mostly for its fried chicken and soul food, has such moist and succulent ribs you'll gnaw on the bones looking for the last piece of sweet meat. The pork ribs have generous portions of moist meat drenched in a tomato-mustard sauce with paprika and a hint of cumin. There's something hidden in here that makes these ribs taste like grandma's secret recipe.
3726 N. Tryon St., 704-566-6000

Cup of coffee
Java Passage

Earlier this year, the folks at Starbucks closed all of its shops for a couple hours to retrain its baristas on how to make good coffee. Meanwhile, true caffeine fiends know that Debra DeLano at South End's Java Passage continues to pour the absolute best cup of coffee in the city. She can expound at length about crema (the fine foam atop an espresso) and the best types of beans while she blends you the perfect latte, or you can grab a cuppa and go.
101 W. Worthington Ave.
704-277-6558

Little-known restaurant
Foskoskies

Located on the edge of Plaza Midwood, Foskoskies is an unpretentious neighborhood restaurant that serves great food at decent prices. It's a lot like a Paris or New York bistro, a small place long and narrow with a back patio deck. If you sit at the bar you can watch the chefs work the stove—or the owner prep desserts. The crab cakes are generous on crab meat and come with a great sauce. The duck breast is cooked to perfection and served with pan-seared zucchini. Families and small groups of people from the neighborhood relax and enjoy great food, excellent service, and great atmosphere.
2121 Shamrock Dr., 704-535-2220

Gourmet food shop
Gourmet Enhancements

Crème brûlée almonds? Artichoke bruschetta? Pomegranate pepper jelly? Gourmet Enhancements gives you a reason to host a fancy, palate-pleasing cocktail party at home sans the prep work. Owners Sol Haberman and Marc Lipson stocked the store's shelves full of foodie items like Oogie's popcorn, grilled French onion dip by Elki, and Private Harvest's simmering sauces (great for slow cooker recipes).
Toringdon Circle, 12206 Copper Way
704-543-0033

Place to buy produce
Providence Produce Market

With three locations, it's easy to pick up your week's worth of leafy greens and bright and flavorful fruits for less than fifteen bucks. Open from April through October (the Stallings location opens beginning of March and runs through November), you can sort through the slew of recipes PPM has collected over the years (think eggplant Parm). Plus, in the fall find the best deals on pumpkins and various gourds—a steal compared to the supermarket prices.
3116 Old Monroe Rd., Stallings, 704-821-6069; Ballantyne Village, 14825 John J Delaney Dr.; Providence Road at Ballantyne Commons Parkway

Place to buy pre-made meals
Something Classic

Jill Marcus and Karen Teed may have started small, but their creative catering and café business has quickly taken off in Charlotte with locations in uptown, Plaza Midwood, Myers Park, and Pineville. Their homegrown menu is innovative and scrumptious—so good you'll want to serve guests their eats as if you cooked them up yourself.
1323 Central Ave., 704-377-4202           


Place to by Italian ingredients
Pasta & Provisions
Pasta & Provisions is a market that makes its customers look forward to writing a grocery list. More than a dozen varieties of fresh pasta and sauces, fine cheeses, Italian meats, a tasty array of olive oils, and delectable desserts are just the beginning of what this Charlotte staple has to offer.
1528 Providence Rd., 704-364-2622

Place to buy seafood 
Inner Harbor

When you're in the mood for something a little more adventurous than tuna in a can or the tilapia advertised on your grocer's windows, it's time for a trip to Inner Harbor. It provides the freshest bushels of oysters around, along with mussels, lobsters, and perhaps a few live options. It's an Asian market so you'll also see more exotic choices like eel. If you're squeamish about the prep, they'll take care of it for you.
3019 Central Ave., 704-567-0283

Place to buy organic goods
Home Economist Market

What we love about the Home Economist Market is its holistic approach to healthful living by offering produce, snacks, vitamins, wines, and pre-made meals to fit an active lifestyle. If it can be organic, the shop offers it (granola bars, anyone?). Check out its Web site for innovative recipes to get the best use out of your purchase.
Various locations, www.hemarket.com

Place to buy pre-made desserts    
Tizzerts

When you take a bite of Tiz Faison Benson's gorgeous confections, it's love at first bite. Cakes, such as her Sour Cream Coconut Cloud, are made to order from her Web site or for pickup at Reid's and Dean & DeLuca. Her expertise on smaller desserts such as Peanut Butter Brownies is showcased at several eateries around town: Lola's, Phat Burrito, Sandwich Club, and Wolfman Pizza.  
1415 S. Church St., 704-375-7400, www.tizzerts.com
    
Place to buy discount produce  
Compare Foods

We admit, the floors and grocery carts are a bit dated here, but what Compare Food lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in price. Jalapeno peppers for 9 cents! Beautiful bunches of basil for less than $2! Limes for pennies! With produce prices through the roof, Compare Foods offers an affordable way to feed your family an assortment of fresh and healthful fruits and vegetables without breaking the bank.
5610 E. Independence Blvd., 704-716-1280

Place to buy bread
Nova's Bakery

As one of Charlotte's only authentic European bakeries, Nova's puts the art in artisan breads. They do all the staples right—French baguettes, focaccia, sourdough, and more. But what makes them stand out is the rustic perfection of the Franchese and the sweet texture of the brioche. Get there early to pick up a deal on the day-old rack, and grab a freshly brewed coffee, too.
1511 Central Ave., 704-333-5566

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