100 Best Dishes

Clear your schedule. Make reservations. These are the dishes you must eat now
Chris Edwards

We asked chefs. We asked you. And we ate (a lot). Steakhouses and sushi bars. Appetizers and desserts. Popular new restaurants and old favorites. From the fried chicken at Price’s Chicken Coop to the sashimi tuna tacos at Soul Gastrolounge, we’ve found the best dishes at 100 Charlotte restaurants. The list covers the entire range of the city’s culinary scene. These are the dishes diners love and the favorites that chefs wouldn’t think of taking off their menus. As soon as you’ve tried one, chances are you’ll want to eat it again and again. But don’t do that — after all, there are ninety-nine more delicious options on the list

By Sarah Crosland,  Mary Georger, Jenn Grabenstetter, Blake Miller, Annie Monjar, Erin Rankin

Photographs by Chris Edwards and Kim Hummel

Key Lime Cupcake
Polka Dot Bakeshop ($2.50)
Tart but not too tart. Sweet but not too sweet. Sprinkled with just the right amount of graham cracker crumbs. Goodbye, pie; hello to our new favorite way to indulge in Key lime flavor. 1730 E. Woodlawn Rd., 704-523-5001

Red Velvet Waffles
Terrace Café ($10)
Imagine this: thick red velvet batter poured into a hot waffle skillet. Said waffle then drizzled with sweet cream cheese icing. It’s exactly what it sounds like: to die for.
4625 Piedmont Row Dr., 704-554-6177

Pesto and Brie Fries
Crêpe Cellar Kitchen & Pub ($6.50)
Every illusion you’ve ever had of cheese fries being boring bar food is shattered the second you dig into this cozy NoDa pub’s appetizer. Creamy brie and fresh pesto coat hand-cut fries that are perfect for sharing. Our only request: please don’t tarnish these with ketchup. 3116 N. Davidson St., 704-910-6543

Basil Thai

Crispy Red Curry Duck (Pictured)
Basil Thai ($22.95)
You can order your pad thai and spring rolls at any Thai restaurant. But an evening out at this sleek uptown spot is your chance to try this signature dish featuring a deep-fried half duck in a red curry sauce. But be warned: this isn’t for the faint of taste bud. There’s a spicy bite to this tasty dish. 210 N. Church St., 704-332-7212

Sashimi Tuna Tacos
Soul Gastrolounge ($8)
Fried wontons in the shape of tiny taco shells. Tender chunks of perfect, pink tuna. Dollops of guacamole. A spicy drizzle of creamy siracha mayo sauce. They come three to a plate, but we don’t recommend sharing. Seriously, hands off. 1500-B Central Ave., 704-348-1848

Bread Pudding
Customshop ($9)
Some say it’s best to meter out small spoonfuls of caramel ice cream so you can get a little bit with every bite of
brioche. Others say it’s best just to eat the ice cream first, while it’s still cold so you are free to savor the flavors of apple and walnuts that are buried in the spicy warmth below. We say, "You guys can talk all you want. Pass us the spoon." 1601 Elizabeth Ave., 704-333-3396

Pan-Fried Corn
Rooster’s Kitchen ($6)
It’s fresh. It’s local. It’s hot, savory kernels with a hint of pepper and salt. Craving corn yet? 6601 Morrison Blvd., 704-366-8688

Cabo Fish Tacos
Cabo Fish Taco ($7.95)
Sure, you could try to be healthful and order the blackened mahi mahi version or the lemon grilled tuna version. But, if you don’t order the original beer-battered white fish taco stuffed into flour tortillas brimming with cabbage, tomato, avocado, and cheese and drizzled with a white cilantro sauce, you’re going to regret it. 3201 N. Davidson St., 704-332-8868

Goat Cheese and Black Olive Quesadilla
Press Wine & Food ($7.50)
The star at Press is the wine, but this quesadilla is trying its best to steal the show. For maximum enjoyment order the flour-tortilla-wrapped warm goat cheese, salty olives, and roasted red peppers with a glass (or two) of vino. 333 W. Trade St., 704-370-3006

Caramelized Gnocchi
Aria ($11)
It’s impossible to isolate the best flavor in this dish. Is it the heady edible aroma of the truffle oil? The creamy tang of Gorgonzola? The mellow bites of pear? The savory saltiness of the prosciutto di Parma? All that’s certain is that the one thing they have in common is how perfectly they pair with the slightly seared and delightfully chewy house-made gnocchi—tiny caramelized pillows of potato perfection. 100 N. Tryon St., 704-376-8880

007 Roll
Enso Asian Bistro | Sushi Bar ($13)
There’s no shortage of specialty rolls at this sleek, uptown sushi bar, but you won’t find any as daring and dashing as the 007. Cucumber, spicy tuna, and shrimp tempura are wrapped up and topped with crab, avocado, and spicy mayo, making a roll so delicious it should come with a license to thrill. 210 E. Trade St., 704-716-3676

Prosciutto Crostini at Dandelion MarketProsciutto Crostini (Pictured)
Dandelion Market ($8)
Goat cheese? Check. Prosciutto? Fig preserves? Check. Check. Caramelized onions? Check. Yep. Looks like someone turned our culinary fantasy into a crostini reality. 118 W. Fifth St., 704-333-7989
Steamed Bun Five-Spice Rubbed Pork Belly Good Food on Montford ($10) There are very few creations by Chef Kerry Moffett
that you won’t want to eat. Luckily, a menu packed with small plates means the chance to try more than one. Just make sure this variation of a Chinese steamed bun complete with semisweet hoisin sauce and pickled vegetables makes your list. 1701 Montford Dr., 704-525-0881

Lobster Bisque
Zebra ($9)
People will tell you that holding a soup bowl up to your face to slurp down the last bit is inappropriate. They will tell you it’s especially uncouth in a restaurant as sophisticated as Zebra. So
do it quickly when no one is looking, because if you don’t savor every last rich and creamy drop of this bisque with chunks of fresh lobster, you’ll be sorry. 4521 Sharon Rd., 704-442-9525

BLT Steak (complimentary with meal)
These oversize crusty rolls put every other table bread
to shame. Chewy and coated with nutty-flavored Gruyère cheese, they’re meant to be broken and coated in a layer of the swanky steakhouse’s sweet butter and then sprinkled with sea salt. You’ll forget they’re not actually supposed to be the meal’s main focus. 110 N. College St., 704-972-4380

Kobe Meatballs
Kalu Asian Kitchen ($15)
There’s a reason Chef Bryan Emperor’s new uptown restaurant was one of Esquire’s top-twenty new restaurants in the country this year, and it’s quite possible that it’s the Kobe Meatballs. Tender beef is wrapped around foie gras centers and heated to perfection in this entrée. They’re just as delectable — and decadent — as they sound. 505 E. Sixth St., 704-910-4877

Spinach Pie
Nolen Kitchen ($14.99)
Flaky, buttery phyllo crust, tangy melted feta, sweet leeks, and a glorious depth of spinach come together to create a slice of Mediterranean-inspired heaven at this Myers Park eatery. 2839 Selwyn Ave., 704-372-1424

Cantina 1511 Tableside GuacamoleTableside Guacamole (Pictured)
Cantina 1511 ($9)
These days it’s hard to find a local Mexican restaurant not offering guac tableside, but Cantina paved the way. Like your green stuff with a little extra cilantro? Prefer to go light on the heat? Want big chunks of avocado in the mix? This is all about how you want it — and make no mistake, you do want it. 1511 East Blvd., 704-331-9222

Penne a la Vodka
Mama Ricotta’s ($11.49)
This indulgent dish features penne pasta drenched in a spicy, creamy tomato sauce with bites of sautéed pan-
cetta. Pair it with wine and sop up the sauce with one of the restaurant’s famed garlic rolls. You only live once. 601 S. Kings Dr., 704-343-0148

Sweet Potato Ravioli
300 East ($11)
These oh-so-tender pillows of pasta brimming with smooth potato, coated in a heady Gorgonzola cream sauce, and sprinkled with toasted walnuts are sophisticated fare meets good oldfashioned comfort food. 300 East Blvd., 704-332-6507

Pork Chop
Fig Tree ($34)
Sit next to the fire in this historic Elizabeth bungalow. Choose from its extensive wine list. Order the spinachand-brie-stuffed pork chop in a maple-smoked bacon cream sauce. This is Charlotte’s coziest dining experience
for the cold months. 1601 E. Seventh St., 704-332-3322

Texas Chili
Lupie’s Café ($5.25)
You could order the Cincinnati chili with its sweet and hot spices. Or you could go with the chunky vegetarian chili topped in cheese and onions. But if you’re going to do Lupie’s right, order a steaming bowl of the Texas chili. It’s been simmering in spices and beer sauce for hours, has no tomatoes, and is so hot your sweet tea will need more than one refill. 2718 Monroe Rd., 704-374-1232

Goat Cheese Salad
Carpe Diem ($9)
Near-melting mounds of tangy goat cheese inside a crispy hazelnut crust are perched atop tender greens sprinkled with wine-poached red onions and drizzled in an apricot jalepeño vinaigrette. This seems way too good to call it a salad. 1535 Elizabeth Ave., 704-377-7976

Pulled Pork Tacos
Jim ‘n’ Nicks Bar-B-Q ($2.49)
Tender smoked pork between two toasted buns— what could be better than that? Oh, this: tender smoked pork in a soft tortilla with crunchy slaw, fresh cilantro, and spicy habanero-spiked barbecue sauce. 13840 Steele Creek Rd., 704-930-2290

Country Benedict at LuluCountry Benedict (Pictured)
Lulu ($14)
Poached eggs, local sausage, sweet jalapeño relish, and fried green tomatoes, all piled on country bread and drenched in hollandaise sauce. Traditional eggs Benedict just got boring. 1911 Central Ave., 704-376-2242

Chicken and Apricot Tagine
Blue Restaurant & Bar ($22.95)
It may be served in a ritzy modern restaurant on the ground floor of an uptown skyscraper, but this spicy dish, featuring slowly roasted chicken simmering in a medley of seasonings with apricots and dates, tastes like it came straight from a Marrakesh market. Fifth and College sts., in the Hearst Tower, 704-927-2583

Big Pig BBQ Sandwich
Mac’s ($9)
There are three reasons to visit Mac’s: beer, bikes, and barbecue. So bring your bike and order a cold brew with the famed hand-pulled pork Big Pig sandwich. Multiple locations, macspeedshop.com

Booker T’s East Side Hasher
Zada Jane’s Corner Café ($7.95)
If you’re waiting in line for brunch on a Saturday morning (which you probably will be), it’s likely you’ll see plenty of this dish on its way out of the kitchen. A frittata with two eggs and sausage served over sweet-potato hash browns and covered in hot, melted cheese and green onions, this dish’s popularity needs little explanation. 1601 Central Ave., 704-332-3663

Farmhouse Butternut Squash Soup
Amelie’s French Bakery ($3.99 a cup)
This cozy soup comes sprinkled with chopped pecans and caraway seeds. More importantly, though, it comes with the perfect dipping accessory — a fresh-baked, crusty French baguette. 2424 N. Davidson St., 704-376-1781

Pan-Fried Chicken
The King’s Kitchen ($13)
This uptown restaurant claims it has the best panfried chicken in town. Believe it. 129 W. Trade St., 704-375-1990

Sweet Potato Fries
Big Daddy’s Burger Bar ($4)
We could wax poetic for several paragraphs about the burgers at this popular restaurant. We could write sonnets to the creamy milkshakes. But, for now, we’ll just tell you that the basket full of crispy sweet potato fries served with an orangeflavored honey mustard for dipping is absolutely-under-no-circumstances meant for sharing. 1626 East Blvd., 704-714-4888; 15105-A John J. Delaney Dr., 704-919-2700


Pappardelle alla Bolognese
Vivace ($10)
Step one: eat the fresh pappardelle pasta tossed in creamy goat cheese and a savory tomato meat sauce. Step two: kiss your fingertips and then toss your fingers in the air as you say, "Eccellente!" 1100 Metropolitan Ave., 704-370-7755

Grandma Pizza
Villa Francesca ($17.99)
This sixteen-by-sixteen inch thin-crust pizza features twelve slices covered in the salty-sweet secret "Grandma" sauce and topped in fresh mozzarella. Let’s just say that Grandma knows what she’s doing on this one. 321 N. Caldwell St., 704-333-7447

Devils on Horseback
The Liberty ($7)
It’s possible these little suckers might have been misnamed, because grilled dates stuffed with bleu cheese and almonds and wrapped in smoky bacon taste pretty darn heavenly. 1812 South Blvd., 703-332-8830

Banana Pudding
Savor Café & Catering ($5)
As if the pillowy sweet creme anglaise and marshmallow weren’t enough, Lori Pearson, the pastry chef
at this cozy spot, includes homemade vanilla wafers in the dish. Order it to-go so no one can see you when you’re licking the plate. 1404 W. Morehead St., 704-334-0098

Smoked Ham and Cheese Crêpe
Café Monte ($10)
This SouthPark restaurant meets Parisian bistro offers a variety of extravagant French fare and creative crêpes (think: crab and lobster). But it’s the simplicity of savory smoked ham layered with four cheese bechamel sauce that make this light crêpe the perfect choice. 6700 Fairview Rd., 704-552-1116

Greek Isles handmade BaklavaHandmade Baklava (Pictured)
Greek Isles ($4.25)
This gooey, four-inch-thick Greek favorite is sure to cure any sweet tooth. Golden layers of phyllo dough sit atop the sticky inside that’s packed with tiny pieces of walnuts, brown sugar, and, of course, that notable cinnamon kick. 200 E. Bland St., 704-444-9000

Chicken and Dumplings
Dish ($7.95)
They’re hearty, homemade, and served with a hot biscuit. This is Southern nostalgia on a plate. 1220 Thomas Ave., 704-344-0343

Chicken Parmigiana
The Open Kitchen ($11.50)
It’s been open since 1952 — and claims to be the first Charlotte restaurant to offer pizza. So there’s no question that when it comes to this classic baked Italian dish, the Open Kitchen has it down pat. 1318 W. Morehead St., 704-375-7449

Loco Lime ($9.95)
Maybe it’s the unexpected sweetness of the plantains and roasted corn. Or maybe it’s the fresh portobello mushrooms and grilled zucchini. Or maybe it’s just the fact that the kitchen stuffs a 12-inch burrito with veggies and cheese, fries it, and drenches it in queso. Whatever the case, you’ll want to eat this sooner rather than later. 1101 Central Ave., 704-333-7837

Shrimp Pad Thai
Deejai Thai Restaurant ($12.99)
Pad thai may be sold from street carts in Thailand, but in Charlotte there’s no better place than the intimate patio at this Myers Park restaurant to indulge in these delicate rice noodles curled around tender shrimp and fluffy eggs in a sweet and tangy sauce. 613 Providence Rd., 704-333-7884

White Shrimp and Avocado Ceviche
Upstream ($9)
You know how you wanted to take a trip to a small Central American beach? OK, this isn’t that, but the citrusy tastes that collide with the blend of textures in this light dish is about as close as you can get in our landlocked city. 6902 Phillips Place Ct., 704-556-7730

Parmesan Gnocchi
Barrington’s ($19)
Chef Bruce Moffett is magic. That’s the only explanation we can come up with for how he creates so many mindblowing dishes every night in his inviting SouthPark restaurant. His masterpiece though is the gnocchi. The light dumplings are tossed with tender and savory braised veal and Italian Porcini mushrooms. One bite and you’ll be enchanted. 7822 Fairview Rd., 704-364-5755

Fried Lobster Tail
Bonterra Dining and Wine Room ($45)
It’s lobster. It’s fried. It’s served with a sweet and sour aioli. Do you really need to know more? 1829 Cleveland Ave., 704-333-9463

A la Carte Pizza
Luisa’s Brick Oven Pizza (starting at $11.50)
Thin crackly crust with crispy edges topped with fresh tomato sauce and simple mozzarella. With this base, whatever you pick from the thirty-plus toppings to pile on, it’s going to be good. 1730 Abbey Pl., 704-522-8782

Proffitt Farms Sirloin
Passion8 Bistro ($33)
Grass-fed organic beef from a Kings Mountain farm prepared by Chef Luca Annuziata and served in a variety of ways depending on the season, makes for farm-to-fork dining at its best. (Menu changes daily.) 3415 Hwy. 51, Fort Mill, 803-802-7455

Blueberry Acai Frozen Yogurt
Tasty-Yo ($4.25)
We think it’s fair to say that Charlotte went a bit fro-yo crazy in 2010. It took us months to pump, top, and taste all the dairy derivations that are cropping up around the city in various sleek, colorful storefronts. In the end, there’s no way we’d rather get our probiotic fix than with this purpley-pink flavor that’s jam packed with antioxidants. 3116 N. Davidson St., 704-333-4551; 8440 Rea Rd., 704-544-4545

Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza
Brixx Wood Fired Pizza ($9.95)
The blend of gooey mozzarella and Gorgonzola on the signature thin crust is just the beginning of this blissful pie. There’s also sweet caramelized onions, a light crunch of walnuts, and thin slices of pear to make you swoon. Multiple locations, brixxpizza.com

Coco Osteria ($9.95)
It’s hard to find a better replica of an Italian sidewalk café in Charlotte. This popular uptown restaurant features floor-to-ceiling windows with views of North Tryon, a sidewalk patio, and a wait staff with Italian accents. But you’ll find its most authentic touches on the menu with dishes like this one, featuring ribbons of spinach fettuccini tossed with porcini mushrooms, prosciutto, and onions in a Parmesan cream sauce. 214 N. Tryon St., 704-344-8878

Encrusted Baked Brie
Maestro’s Bar & Bistro ($10.95)
Pungent brie pairs perfectly with sweet almonds and honey in this warm appetizer. And speaking of pairings, this dish is best paired with a glass of wine by the fire in this inviting restaurant in a historic home. 207 Johnston Dr., Pineville, 704-889-2110

Giacomo’s Sage Sausage Reuben
Flatiron Kitchen & Taphouse ($9)
Every hour is happy at a place where you can pair North Carolina craft brews with this stacked sandwich bursting with pickled cabbage, cheddar, and a liberal slather of Thousand Island dressing. 215 S. Main St., 704-237-3246

Tomato Bisque
15 North Roadside Kitchen ($6)
Chef Brett McKee has made it his mission to re-create dishes that come straight out of his customers’ most cherished memories. Well, we don’t need to bother submitting ours because it’s already on the menu: piping-hot, creamy tomato soup with mini toasty grilled cheese sandwiches ready for dippin’. We half expect each bowl to be served with
a hug from Mom. 1513 Montford Dr., 704-919-0003

Del Frisco's Filet MignonLamb Chops
Copper ($27)
Not all Indian food served in America is chicken tikka masala and samosas. The chic Copper proves that with these delicate lamb chops in a piquant mustard ginger marinade and pomegranate curry sauce. 311 East Blvd., 704-333-0063

Filet Mignon (Pictured)
Del Frisco’s ($32.95 for eight ounces, $38.95 for twelve ounces)
Steakhouses are to Charlotte as coffeehouses are to Seattle. Well, almost. We love our steak, and the city’s favorite red meat doesn’t get any better than the tender filets at Del Frisco’s. 4725 Piedmont Row Dr., 704-552-5502

Mueller’s Neighborhood Grill ($8.50)
This no-frills Myers Park grill serves up burgers that you’ll need two hands—and plenty of napkins—to eat. 119 Huntley Pl., 704-940-6880

Harper’s ($14)
Be prepared to awaken your senses with this flavorful BBQ Angus beef brisket, which boasts a mouthwatering smoked taste that begs to be paired with the restaurant’s house-made pimento mac and cheese or squash casserole. And put your knife down: this Texas beef brisket is so tender and moist you can cut it with a fork. 6518 Fairview Rd., 704-366-6688; 11059 Carolina Place Pkwy., Pineville, 704-541-5255

Maude's Meatloaf at Lebowski's Grill & PubMaude’s Meatloaf (Pictured)
Lebowski’s Grill & Pub ($11.95)
Small slices of homemade ‘loaf are served over buttery mashed potatoes and draped in gravy. The dish comes with a side of crispy onion rings and pita wedges, perfect for soaking up every last bit of that tasty gravy. 1524 East Blvd., 704-370-1177

Crab Cake Salad
131 Main ($15)
Usually for us, salad is an opening act — the warm-up before the big show. But this tasty little production of tender crab meat (perfectly spiced and lightly crusted) atop a bed of crispy greens and fresh corn and accompanied by whole-grain mustard has made us rethink the idea of salad as a main event. 1315 East Blvd., 704-343-0131; 9886 Rea Rd., 704-544-0131

Veggie Plate
Mert’s Heart and Soul ($6.29)
Choose from thirteen Southern staple sides, including generous servings of okra and tomatoes, collard greens, and green beans. And lest you fear this dish would be short on the carbs, every plate comes with hot and buttery mini corn bread loaves. 214 N. College St., 704-342-4222


Grilled Fig and Prosciutto Flatbread
Mimosa’s Grill ($12)
We’re so happy Charlotte has taken to flatbreads. More specifically, we’re so happy Mimosa’s menu features this one: caramelized onions, sweet fig jam, and salty duck prosciutto working in perfect harmony to make our taste buds rejoice. 327 S. Tryon St., 704-343-0700

Slice of Almond Pound Cake
Edible Art ($4)
Fork into this almond-flavored, three-inch-thick piece of heaven. But beware—it’s addictive! While deliciously dense and extra moist, each bite tastes even better with the rich butter cream frosting that’s piped into fluffy rows atop the generous serving. Trust us, you won’t be able to put the fork down. 2900 Selwyn Ave., 704-342-2253

Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
Elizabeth Creamery ($3.15 for a six-ounce cup)
It may be just our imagination, but we swear that time slows down when you indulge in this rich dark chocolate treat. The homemade ice cream resembles a frozen hot chocolate, except creamier. Our tIp: try pairing a serving with a scoop of cappuccino ice cream for a dark mocha delight. 1601 Elizabeth Ave., 704-332-7776

Bi Cuon
Lang Van Restaurant ($4.25)
Crunchy rice paper gives way to fresh, thinly sliced fresh cabbage and carrots in three rolls so flavorful that you can skip the dipping sauce. 3019 Shamrock Dr., 704-531-9525

Apple Butterscotch Pound Cake
Foskoskies ($5.45)
Owner/chef Walter O’Leary creates everything on this Plaza Midwood spot’s menu from scratch, including every dessert. It’s best to opt for the house specialty: a megaslice of the apple butterscotch pound cake featuring moist apple cake with a cinnamon and sugar crust. Butterscotch drizzle and whipped cream, though, are what send you into a sweet food coma. 2121 Shamrock Dr., 704-535-2220

Dolce Ristorante ($7)
Layers of ladyfingers and mascarpone custard are bathed in espresso and sprinkled with cocoa, adding gourmet refinement to a traditional Italian treat. One bite of this fluffy bliss will have you convinced that you’re living la dolce vita. 1710 Kenilworth Ave., 704-332-7525

Paella Valenciana
Miro Spanish Grill ($17)
This classic tossed mélange of scallops, shrimp, clams, calamari, mussels, and chicken is served in castiron salvers and brought to the table piping hot. It’s as Spanish as it comes this side of the Atlantic. 7804 Rea Rd., 704-540-7374

Curried Chicken
Situl Indian Restaurant ($11.95)
It may look like an unassuming restaurant, but with dishes like this, featuring generous portions of tender chicken swimming in a spicy curry sauce, you’ll be too focused on tasting to worry about seeing much of anything. 540 Brandywine Rd., 704-523-0037

Caramelized Vidalia Onion Soup
Gallery Restaurant ($8)
You know how on cold winter nights you wish for a bowl of steaming fragrant soup topped in croutons and bubbling cheese? Here you go. 10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy., 704-248-4100

Seven Course Meal
The McNinch House ($89 per person, wine not included)
Make reservations. Choose a wine. Choose an entrée (like the roasted maple leaf farms duck breast with pulled duck confit). Everything else is taken care of, which leaves you with plenty of time to savor every last bite at this elegant, award-winning restaurant. 511 N. Church St., 704-332-6159

Pio Pio ($3.25)
Sliced green plantains are deep fried to a golden brown, salted, and served with a garlic dip. Yep. That pretty much covers everything we’ve ever dreamed of in one South American dish. 1408 East Blvd., 704-379-1911

Hot Crab Dip
Village Tavern ($9.25)
If life were fair, every meal would begin with buttery slices of garlic bread topped in this silky concoction of crab and spices. 4201 Congress St., 704-552-9983

Butterscotch Scones
Pewter Rose Bistro (complimentary with brunch)
Every time we eat brunch at Pewter Rose, we promise ourselves we’ll pass on the scones and leave more room for mashed potato omelets, slices of quiche, and bowls of shrimp and grits. But then they bring around that basket. The smell of melted bits of butterscotch wafts gently to our noses and directly into the pleasure centers of our brain. It’s a lost cause, and we’re fine with that. 1820 South Blvd., 704-332-8149

Avocado Salad
Meskerem ($6.25)
Don’t like the idea of eating with your hands? Fine. That means there’s more of this traditional Ethiopian-style fresh tossed salad of avocado, peppers, tomatoes, and onions for us. 601 S. Kings Dr., 704-335-1197

Tuna Seared to Perfection
Dressler’s Restaurant ($24)
The name of the dish says it all. 86301A Lindholm Dr., 704-987-1779; 1100 Metropolitan Ave., 704-909-6295

Osso Buco
Terra Restaurant ($32)
You won’t find this on the regular menu, and if you want Chef Gil McKnight to prepare this traditional French delicacy of braised veal shanks in a red wine broth, he’ll need two days’ notice. So call now.
545 Providence Rd., 704-332-1886

Sticky Rice and Mango
Mai Thai ($4.95)
This Concord restaurant knows what it’s doing when it comes to this traditional Thai dessert. A warm mound of extra-sticky sweet rice with generous slices of cool, fresh mango scattered on top is drizzled in coconut milk. 3775 Concord Pkwy., 704-788-6288

Fran's Filling Station Bacon-Wrapped Tater TotsBBQ Chicken Burrito
Phat Burrito ($7.10)
Because when you’re at a place with burrito in the name, you should order a burrito. And it should be stuffed with semisweet BBQ chicken, beans, rice, and veggies and then wrapped in a massive soft flour tortilla. 1537 Camden Rd., 704-332-7428

Green’s Lunch ($1.50)
Our favorite way to spend a buck fifty is on a fully loaded dog at this casual order-at-the-counter uptown joint, which has been around since 1926. 309 W. Fourth St., 704-332-1786

Bacon-Wrapped Tater Tots (Pictured)
Fran’s Filling Station ($6.75)
Salty hot bacon coated in a glaze of maple, black pepper, and rosemary gives way to crispy tots and their creamy potato centers in this ridiculously-naughty-but-so-amazing appetizer. 2410 Park Rd., 704-372-2009

Bacon & Egg Pizza at Frankies 710 TrattoriaBacon & Egg Pizza (Pictured)
Frankies 710 Trattoria ($13)
It’s a gourmet cheesy pizza topped with bacon, fresh arugula, and free-range eggs. When it’s brought to your table, the waiter slices open the eggs so that the creamy yolks cover the pie. Remind us again why you’re not there ordering it right now? 710 W. Trade St., 704-379-7555

Kobe Beef Sliders with Gruyère and Bacon
Sonoma ($7)
You know how sliders are mini-burgers? Yeah, well we’d like for these to be regular sized and we’d still like all three, please. 100 N. Tryon St., 704-332-1132

Colorado Chicken Salad
Firebirds ($10.95)
Not to overstate the matter, but ordering this salad featuring grilled chicken atop mixed greens and paired with bleu cheese crumbles, sugar roasted pecans, dried cranberries, and green apples lightly doused with a raspberry chipotle vinaigrette may be the best decision we’ve made. Multiple locations, firebirdsrestaurants.com

Capellini with Diver Scallops
lios Noche ($14)
Buttery-smooth scallops tossed in homemade pasta coated in a luscious garlic, lemon, and white wine sauce. Perfection. 11508 Providence Rd., 704-814-9882

Deviled Eggs with Pimento Cheese Celery
Jake’s Good Eats ($6)
An unassuming plate of four deviled eggs garnished with crispy bacon coupled with pimento-cheese-stuffed
celery is about as Southern comfort as you can get. Everything at this spot off Albemarle Road is made from scratch, including the semi-spicy pimento cheese, which is spooned into cool, crisp pieces of celery. 12721 Albemarle Rd., 704-545-4741

Kabob Grill ($7.50)
Soft and luxurious, it’s served with warm pita bread and crunchy veggies for dipping. But this is so good you’ll be tempted just to use your spoon. 1235 East Blvd., 704371-8984; 7828 Rea Rd., 704543-1234

Spin Class
Kickstand ($8.50)
You can make any of the amusingly named burgers at this new Plaza Midwood restaurant into a veggie version, but this is the original. Piled high with pepper jack cheese, guacamole, chipotle ranch, lettuce, red onion, and tomato, it’s much more pleasurable than any spin class we’ve ever taken. 1101 Central Ave., 704-332-1010

Beer Belly Mussels and Frites
Andrew Blair’s ($14)
Go ahead and savor these succulent mussels swimming in a vaporized PBR, crispy pork belly, and cheddar fondue.
Just make sure you ask for extra bread, because you’re going to want to sop up every last bit of this dish. 1600 Montford Dr., 704-525-8282

Big View Diner Deluxe BurgerThe Diner Deluxe Burger (Pictured)
Big View Diner ($7.99)
A burger and fries should be mandatory when you’re in a place where the waitresses call you "hon" and retro stools line the dining counter. Something else that should be mandatory? One of the homemade milkshakes to finish up the meal. 16637 Lancaster Hwy., 704-544-0313

Paco’s Tacos
Paco’s Tacos & Tequila ($7)
These slow-roasted beef brisket tacos topped with caramelized onions and crumbled white cheese should come with a warning. They’re just that addictive. 6401 Morrison Blvd., 704-716-8226

Quarter Dark
The Roasting Company ($6.40)
The Roasting Company was doing rotisserie chicken before rotisserie chicken was hot, and it’s still the best in town. Go for flavor with the drumstick-thigh-wing combo, and pair it with your two favorite vegetables (we suggest the collard greens and mashed sweet potatoes). 1521 Montford Dr., 704-521-8188

Categories: Feature, Food + Drink, Restaurants & Food, The Buzz