Burgers, Milkshakes, Sushi, Fried Chicken, Coffee, Pimento Cheese, and More
Mueller’s Neighborhood Grill
119 Huntley Pl., 704-940-6880, muellersgrill.com
In this brave new burger world of stuffed patties and confusing sauces, it’s reassuring to know there are still places like this tiny grill in Myers Park. Here, customers stand in line to call orders over the grill, and outdoor seating is in the parking lot. A hamburger ($8) is made fresh when you order it and served dripping with your choice of toppings. When it comes to the kind of burgers people get nostalgic over, these are the best in town.
3120 N. Davidson St., 704-910-6566, growlerspourhouse.com
NoDa’s Growler’s Pourhouse is beer’s answer to the wine bar. In place of wines you’ll find American craft brews. Instead of a swanky setting, soak in the casual booths and exposed brick walls. And instead of expensive cheese, pair a beer with well-made versions of your favorite foods, including house-made sausage dogs, cold boiled shrimp, raw oysters, hot pretzels, and even popcorn. Take a swig and dig in.
The Cowfish Sushi Burger
4310 Sharon Rd., 704-365-1922, thecowfish.com
When we heard about The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, we had a few — OK, a lot of — doubts. Asifarestaurantservingburgers and sushi weren’t strange enough, this place combines the two and serves something called a Burgushi (sushi rolls made using burger ingredients). Well call us converts, because not only has this SouthPark spot been wildly successful, but that crazily named Burgushi is seriously good.
Halcyon Flavors from the Earth
500 S. Tryon St. (in the Mint Museum), 704-910-0865, halcyonflavors.com
If you prefer your burgers served on paper products — or from a window — the Halcyon Burger may not be for you. This haute burger features juicy house-ground short rib and chuck, prepared any temperature you prefer (something often difficult to find in Charlotte), and topped with a creamy black-pepper aioli, green tomato chowchow, lettuce, and locally made cheddar cheese. In other words, it’s worth every cent of its $11 price at this sophisticated uptown restaurant.
1911 Central Ave., 704-376-2242, luludinewine.com
There’s no better place to start a weekend morning than this inviting Plaza Midwood bungalow turned Parisian bistro. Here, the convivial atmosphere of patrons enjoying favorites like the crème brûlée French toast is enhanced by owner Fabrice DiNonno, who warmly greets regulars. But while the atmosphere is alluring, dishes like decadent eggs Benedict are the reason there’s often a line out the door at this cozy cottage.
Crepe Cellar Kitchen and Pub
3116 N. Davidson St., 704-910-6543, crepecellar.com
Charlotte chefs have certainly mastered the French fry. Whether it’s spritzed with truffle oil or served with aioli, you can find them at almost every dining establishment in town. The best ones, though, are at Crêpe Cellar, and they’re simple, slightly salty, and packed with real potato flavor. They pair perfectly with the restaurant’s burger, but if you insist on the fancy stuff, try the appetizer version, in which they’re coated in pesto and Brie. Truffle oil just got boring.
Pasta & Provisions
1528 Providence Rd., 704-364-2622, pastaprovisions.com
For those who prefer a slaved- over-the-stove-all-day kind of dinner without the slaving, this Myers Park’s shop is the city’s best solution. Shoppers will find prepared Italian dishes such as the elegant grilled chicken Viennese, chicken piccata, and baked ziti. Served in ready-to-go microwavable dishes, these are perfect for an easy after-work pickup or your next planned party.
Bet for Restaurant Week
1601 Elizabeth Ave., 704-333-3396, customshopfood.com
It only comes twice a year, so you’ll want to make sure you’re taking full advantage of the week in which local restaurants offer three-course meals for just $30 a person. Making reservations here is a good start. The small spot offers some of its top menu items during the week, including kobe beef carpaccio, yellowfin tuna, and ricotta gnocchi. Of course, the real crowd pleaser is that the restaurant’s beloved apple walnut brioche bread pudding consistently makes the dessert offerings.
1710 Kenilworth Ave., 704-332-7525, dolceristorante.net
When it comes to Italian food, it’s easy for dishes to lose their flavor in a mass of heavy sauce and overly cooked meat. Not so at this cozy Dilworth spot, where seasonal ingredients mean dishes in which homemade pastas and grilled meats shine through. True lovers of this restaurant know to go on Tuesdays, the only day when the restaurant’s soft and airy gnocchi is available.
Bistro La Bon
1322 Central Ave., 704-333-4646, bistrolabon.com
This elegant restaurant has continued to improve since opening last summer — and considering chef Majid Amoorpour’s talents, it will likely only keep getting better. In this stylish spot you’ll find rich appetizers like grilled halloumi cheese with sweet figs on crispy brioche, luxurious mains like a tender braised beef short rib, and delicate desserts like a chocolate truffle cake. Sound good? Hurry and go soon, because the crowds haven’t discovered it yet.
Big Daddy’s Burger Bar
1626 East Blvd., 704-714-4888; 15105 John J. Delaney Dr., 704-919-2700, bigdaddysburgerbar.com
In a town where the popularity of burgers is ever increasing, it’s no surprise that the shakes that accompany them aren’t far behind. Here, thick shakes come in simple, old-fashioned flavors like peanut butter and banana, complete with chunks of the real stuff. But milkshakes also come in grown-up versions at this family-friendly burger bar. So next time, treat yourself to the Cookies & Cream, served with vodka, Kahlua, and Bailey’s, or the Orange Creamsicle, with Stoli O and Godiva White Chocolate.
Fran’s Filling Station
2410 Park Rd., 704-372-2009
Because there are times when you need a night out, but want it to feel like a night in, there are restaurants like Fran’s Filling Station. This cozy Dilworth spot, with its wood tables and simple art, is the soul- soothing kind of neighborhood joint that will make you feel instantly at ease. Indulge in dishes like tater tots wrapped in bacon or plump mussels in a steamy coconut-and-red- curry sauce. This is updated comfort food made for enjoying with a glass of wine and a long conversation.
4625 Piedmont Row Dr., 704-554-6177, terracecafecharlotte.com
Start the day with the famed red velvet waffles at the classic breakfast counter. Finish it with the fresh butternut squash ravioli coated in a velvety sage cream sauce in the elegant dining room. And in the middle? Enjoy any one of the gourmet salads and sandwiches. From sunup to sundown, you’ll find some of the city’s best meals—and the drinks to accompany them (hello, Bacon Bloody Marys)— at this casual SouthPark spot.
4223 Providence Rd., 704-365-6659; 7625 Pineville-Matthews Rd., 704-541-1882, thefreshmarket.com
At this long and varied meat counter, you’ll not only find high-quality cuts of the usual suspects, but those in search of a carnivorous fix can pick up specialty items like all-natural leg of lamb or free-range turkey breasts. However, what really makes this counter stand apart is its gourmet section, featuring prepared meat dishes like a portobello and Gouda beef burger, all made daily by the in-house chef.
129 W. Trade St., 704-375-1990, kingskitchen.org
In a town where fried chicken never goes out of style, picking a Southern food favorite has always been hard. That is, until Jim Noble opened the King’s Kitchen. With dishes like deviled eggs, fried catfish, and collard greens, there’s no menu in town that rivals its Southern slant. Aunt Beaut’s fried chicken is the star here, though, and one bite of the impossibly moist meat will show you why. Oh, and the fact that the restaurant’s profits go to help feeding those in need? Well, that’s just butter on the beans.
Smelly Cat Coffee House
514 E. Thirty-Sixth St., 704-374-9656, smellycatcoffee.com
Sometimes it’s nice to have a reminder of what life was like before the days when trenta described thirty-one ounces of caffeine. This cozy coffee house matches the funky NoDa neighborhood around it with local artwork and a cabinet brimming with board games. Smooth coffee, a variety of other drinks including caramel apple ciders, and a pastry case with offerings like fresh bagels make this coffee shop more of an experience than just a morning stop.
Clean Catch Fish Market
2820 Selwyn Ave., 704-333-1212, cleancatchfish.com
Fishmongers of yesteryear never could have predicted the technology used to get fresh Arctic char from Iceland’s coast to a Charlotte table. Here, customers can check the store’s website to see the fish in that day and find out exactly where it was caught. Then they can text their order to the shop and their fish will be waiting when they arrive. The selection includes seafood like sashimi-grade kajiki from Hawaii and oysters from British Columbia.
Pisces Sushi Bar and Lounge
1100 E. Metropolitan Ave., 704-334-0009, piscessushi.com
Eating sushi off a buffet has always sounded questionable, but eating unlimited sushi specially prepared for you? Well, that sounds wonderful. Enter Pisces’ weekday all-you- can-eat sushi lunch. From 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., diners can indulge in as much of the restaurant’s freshly prepared sushi as they can handle for $11.95. While you won’t find any of the restaurant’s specialty rolls on the lunch list, you will find plenty of favorites (spicy tuna, California rolls) sure to satiate even the hungriest sushi lover.
505 E. Sixth St., 704-910-4877, kalunc.com
Yes, he was just named Food & Wine magazine’s best new chef in the Southeast. And yes, he does have an impressive résumé highlighted winning international sushi-making competitions. But none of that is what makes Bryan Emperor, the chef at uptown’s new Kalu restaurant, our choice for best new chef. He wins that title because of the restaurant’s innovative Asian-fusion menu and his execution of each delicious dish with learned precision and natural talent.
210 N. Church St., 704-332-7212, eatatbasil.com
Historically, Charlotte’s best Thai food could be found in dimly lit restaurants tucked into suburban strip centers. Uptown’s Basil Thai changed that, though, with a sleek interior and hip bar scene with exotic cocktails. But this isn’t all show. Consider the light, fresh basil rolls, served cool with shrimp and rice noodles wrapped in delicate rice paper. All the menu items are delicious enough to make it worth dressing up a little for your next Thai dinner.
Aria Tuscan Grill
100 N. Tryon St., 704-376-8880, sonomarestaurants.net
There’s not a bad seat in the house at uptown’s Aria Tuscan Grill, but there is a best seat. It’s the one at the head of the chef’s table, where one can enjoy views of Chef Bill Schutz creating his classic Italian dishes while eating in the relative privacy of the tiny room tucked between the main dining area and bustling kitchen. The table, which seats eight, puts those with culinary interests front and center for the kitchen’s action.
Big View Diner
16637 Lancaster Hwy., 704-544-0313, bigviewdiner.com
Beware: you’re likely to gain a pound just looking at the pastry case at Big View Diner. But with seven varieties of luscious cheesecake, including red velvet and peanut butter brownie, as well as harder-to-find sweet- tooth cravings like flaky baklava, these treats are worth every calorie. Best of all? All the desserts are made in house (yes, that’s why the air smells like the famed warm honey fritters).
111 Matthews Station St., Matthews, 704-841-7873, puretaqueria.com
If the beachside feel of this new spot doesn’t persuade you to make frequent visits, the Pescado Tacos will. The tacos, which come in sets of three, are served with fried fish, poblano slaw, chipotle aioli, and cruda tomatillo salsa in a thin, warm tortilla. Order them with a prickly pear margarita,