Where to Eat in Charlotte's South End and Dilworth: 2019

PETER TAYLOR
Chef Michael Noll at Bardo.

These picks are based on our 2019 Best of the Best Awards, the 2019 25 Best New Restaurants and 2018 50 Best Restaurants lists, and rolling editorial decisions.


The Waterman Fish Bar

South End’s new oyster bar has all of the essentials: lobster rolls, fried fish sandwiches, and oysters four ways. Start with the Waterman’s Platter, which comes with crispy oysters, fried shrimp, crawdaddy dippers, fries, and a variety of dipping sauces such as tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, and aji verde. At sunset, head up to the rooftop terrace for a signature cocktail and views of uptown. 2729 South Blvd., 704-275-5558.


YUME

The flower-shaped Sakura sushi roll is the most beautiful dish on YUME’s menu, but the Sora box sushi—a square-shaped roll with tuna, eel, and avocado—packs the most flavor. And if ramen noodles are more to your liking, the vegan ramen’s spicy miso can be adjusted to suit your taste. The drink menu doesn’t offer standard domestic beers, so instead ask your server to recommend a Japanese lager or cocktail. 1508 Mint St., Ste. A, 980-858-5678.


Barcelona Wine Bar

This trendy wine and tapas bar has locations in Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta, and other cities, but local chef Nicolas Daniels (formerly of Loft & Cellar) spearheads the menu here in Charlotte. Nosh on Spanish and Mediterranean-inspired tapas, or customize a charcuterie board with meats and cheese from different regions in Europe. Choose from over 400 wines, and don’t miss the olive oil cake for dessert. 101. W. Worthington Ave., Ste. 110, 704-741-0300


The Queen & Glass

Dim lights, loud music, and lack of signage makes The Queen & Glass feel like a speakeasy. While there’s no membership required at the Dilworth lounge, it certainly feels exclusive. The sister restaurant to The People’s Market has dishes by chef Deacon Ovall, and Bob Peters oversees the seasonal cocktail list. If lamb is on the menu, order it. 1315 East Blvd., Ste. 115. 980-299-0816.


Dilworth Tasting Room

Both the dishes and the ambience here are noteworthy. On a warm summer night, savor a glass of chardonnay on Dilworth Tasting Room’s outdoor patio, a peaceful courtyard with a koi fish pond. A few of the favorites on the menu: the decadent truffled cheese melt, the roasted chicken breast, and the robust cheese and salumi lists. 300 E. Tremont Ave., 704-595-3337.


Bardo

Chef Michael Noll’s small plates, such as the Spanish octopus and dry-aged rib eye, reflect the skills he honed while working in some of Chicago’s most innovative kitchens. But Bardo is a risk for a city still crafting its food identity. Is Charlotte ready for Noll? We hope so. 1508 S. Mint St. Unit B. 980-585-2433.


Zeppelin

Ordering a cocktail can take some time at Zeppelin, but when a smoky old fashioned comes out on a platter, the hold-up makes sense. Don’t overlook the food, though. The fried green tomato caprese is an inventive take on the Southern starter, and Notorious P.I.G. puppies put a barbecued spin on hush puppies. The sweets change periodically, but don’t skip dessert if the Krispy Kreme and brioche bread pudding is on the menu. 235 Tremont Ave. 980-209-0008.


Let’s Meat KBBQ

Slices of bulgogi beef sizzle on the circular stove top while diners click their chopsticks together, waiting for the juicy meat to finish cooking. At Let’s Meat, proteins are served raw—with plentiful Korean sides including kimchi and a steamed egg soufflé—and diners do the rest. Well, sort of. Since first-timers won’t know how long to cook the meats, or even the names of most sides, a dining experience at this all-you-can-eat South End hangout relies on the helpful waiters. Or you can just mimic the Korean diners one table over. 1400 S. Church St., Ste. B, 910-299-4389.


Max & Lola Bodega Food Truck

Order a couple of tacos from inside this Gold District hangout, and the cashier will point you toward a tiny white trailer hitch sitting in the parking lot to pick them up. The bodega’s on-site food truck focuses on street food reminiscent of the owner’s Dominican heritage and childhood in the Bronx. The taco’s corn tortillas are loaded with carne asada, carnitas, or chicken—so much meat that every taco comes with a fork to scoop up the leftovers. 1501 S. Mint St., 980-237-7809.


Brewers at 4001 Yancey

This LoSo brewery has more than just beer. Chef Drew Ward’s menu adds Southern flair to shareable dishes like the fried pork rinds and fries topped with jalapeño gravy and bacon crumbles. The Victory pretzel and Ward’s pizzas are all made with Victory Helles beer dough. For an entrée on the lighter side, try the Power Ahead salad with your choice of kale or lentils. For something more substantial, get the 8 Days a Week fried chicken with bacon and scalloped potatoes. 4001-A Yancey Rd., 704-452-4001.


O-Ku

Sushi is all about the sourcing, and you can taste it’s done well at South End’s O-Ku. Michael Chanthavong is the executive chef at this Charleston import, and his enthusiasm radiates from the people behind the sushi bar to the front-of-house staff, who will help you navigate the sushi and sake selections. Don’t think that this spot is simply raw seafood, however—for the ocean-averse, dishes made with duck, pork belly, and wagyu beef are equally thoughtful. 2000 South Blvd., Ste. 510, 704-594-1922.


Futo Buta

Chef and owner Michael Shortino’s ramen restaurant caused a buzz when it first opened in 2015, with a constant wait for no-reservations tables. His noodle soups are both traditional and interpreted, while dishes such as the Crispy Rice are memorable and craveable. The ramen rush hasn’t slowed down since Futo Buta’s customers slurped up their first bowls, and neither has Shortino—he recently opened Lincoln’s Haberdashery, a grab-and-go market in South End. 222 E. Bland St., 704-376-8400.


Bonterra

Going to this restaurant, housed in a former church, has long been a pilgrimage for Charlotte epicureans. The wine list is one of the best in town, and chef Blake Hartwick’s menu celebrates Southern ingredients. 1829 Cleveland Ave., 704-333-9463.


Copper

Classic Indian dishes and creative specials are served in a homey dining room, with service that’s nearly always on point. 311 East Blvd., 704-333-0063.


Rai Lay 

This small South End spot serves delicious Thai noodle dishes in a warm environment, as well as sushi and Asian comfort food classics. Friendly service only adds to the homey experience. 1520 South Blvd., Ste. 130, 980-207-0991.


300 East 

There’s always a lively crowd in this old home-turned-restaurant, enjoying hearty American fare or a salad to save room for some of the city’s best desserts. 300 East Blvd., 704-332-6507.


Vivace 

Known for a killer brunch special, hearty pastas, and a convenient lunch, Vivace suits just about any occasion, even when it’s too cold to sit out on the restaurant’s BOB award-winning patio. 1100 Metropolitan Ave., Ste. 100, 704-370-7755.

Categories: Food + Drink, South End Topper