25 Best New Restaurants in Charlotte: 2019
An unranked rundown of the city's notable, recently opened spots
Read the 2020 50 Best Restaurants list here.
NOT THAT LONG AGO, finding a restaurant in Charlotte that served sashimi pizza or triggerfish with escargots would have been nearly impossible. But today, the city’s dining culture is evolving with more diverse flavors and global influences. Charlotteans have more adventurous palettes, and our culinary scene reflects that. We’re on our way to becoming a food destination in the Southeast, a city where a Cuban BBQ sandwich or a bowl of lamb Bolognese isn’t just easy to come by—it’s a matter of choosing where to go for the best one.
Throughout the year, we look at the most buzzed-about openings, the most talented chefs, and the most interesting food trends. Our visits are anonymous, and each restaurant is locally owned (so no national chains). This list is based on quality, creativity, ambience, and service, and it’s in no particular order. How can we compare a taco from Max & Lola Bodega’s food truck to foie gras from Le Cochon d’Or? Below, you’ll find 25 restaurants that opened between November 1, 2017 and November 1, 2018. Each one offers something memorable or unexpected and makes us want to return. But we’ve had our share. Now it’s your turn to dine and see if you agree.
For a printable checklist version of this list, click here.
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.
NOW CLOSED: HI Tide
The build-your-own bowls at HI Tide Poke & Raw Bar are great for a first-timer, but if you want more flavors, don’t miss the poke nachos. This mash-up of crispy wontons, ahi tuna, avocado, and a medley of sweet and savory sauces is a masterpiece. Other favorites include the lobster roll and its rotating selection of oysters. 919 S. McDowell St., 980-585-2122.
The sun reflects off Lake Norman and fills Hello, Sailor with natural light—which is ideal for the dozens of Instagram shots diners take inside this chic fish-fry restaurant. Joe and Katy Kindred’s second restaurant is nothing like Kindred or The Rusty Rudder, which once occupied this space. But while you’re eating calabash shrimp in a mid-century modern dining room with a view of the lake’s ripples, you wouldn’t want Hello, Sailor to be anything else. 20210 Henderson Rd., Cornelius, 704-997-5365.
Fin & Fino
At any given time, Fin & Fino’s raw bar serves no less than 12 types of oysters. The dinner menu features uncomplicated dishes like North Carolina trout, Faroe Island salmon, and P.E.I. mussels. But as a “social seafood house,” its sweet spot is the shareable plates. Try the grilled banh mi shrimp drizzled with sriracha aioli and the scallops and latke, which punches up a classic potato pancake with crème fraiche and caviar. 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts, 704-800-5680.
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
In addition to the sushi rolls at its SouthPark location, Sushi Guru’s new two-story restaurant in Plaza Midwood serves ramen, poke bowls, and other creative food mash-ups such as the donut sushi, a supersized specialty roll which can be customized with your preferred “filling,” and the sashimi pizza, a toasted pita pie topped with edamame, hummus, slices of fresh salmon or tuna, and drizzled with wasabi aioli and eel sauce. There’s also a cocktail bar on the second floor. 1217 The Plaza, 980-256-4220.
Meant to Be Shared
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.
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.
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.
Not Your Mama’s Pasta
The pappardelle Bolognese and cioppino at Angeline’s are both excellent, but if you’re feeling adventurous, order a few of chef Robert Hoffman’s appetizers. The whipped ricotta with sourdough, lavender honey, and pistachio is an unexpected sweet-and-salty combo, and the lamb and pork meatballs are great for sharing. Ride the elevator to the 19th floor of the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel for a nightcap from its sister cocktail bar, Merchant & Trade. 303 S. Church St., 704-445-2540.
The Red House Cafe
For no-frills Italian dishes, this is the place to go. Hearty portions of spaghetti and meatballs, chicken Parmesan, and lasagna all come with side salads and warm bread. Owners Jimi Zuk and Joani Schulman hail from New Jersey; Zuk is the man behind the main dishes, and Schulman is responsible for keeping the dessert case brimming with slices of apple pie and cheesecake as big as your head. 3046 N. Davidson St., 980-225-7605.
The smell of fresh bread baking in the wood-fired oven hits you as soon as you walk into Flour Shop. From the counter, you can watch as handmade pasta is prepared in the open kitchen. Chef Trey Wilson’s shared plates are great for a larger group, but if you don’t want to share, try the lamb Bolognese. 530 Brandywine Rd., 980-299-3754.
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.
Toucan Louie’s Café and Roastery
Toucan Louie’s label as a roastery is twofold: The café roasts its own coffee beans and the North Carolina-raised meats in its lineup of sandwiches. From outside, the west Charlotte building looks like a 1960s diner. Inside, barstools line curved windows where you can sit with a can of craft beer, a Cuban BBQ sandwich, and a friend while you watch the cars speed past. They don’t know what they’re missing. The Caribbean-leaning café also has a satellite, grab-and-go location on Central Avenue. 2753 Rozzelles Ferry Rd., 980-209-9791.
Foraged isn’t a word that chef William Dissen uses lightly on the menu at Haymaker; he actually combs through North Carolina for the best fungi for his foraged mushroom toast dish. Such details make Dissen’s restaurants (including The Market Place in Asheville and Billy D’s Fried Chicken at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro) a success, even as the new guy in town. For the main course, try the roasted pork shoulder with flowering cauliflower and cider jus. 225 S. Poplar St., 704-626-6116.
NOW CLOSED: Siggy’s Good Food
This little jewel box in the Belmont neighborhood serves organic sandwiches, salads, smoothies, and juices with Mediterranean flavors. You won’t find butter, cream, or meat stock in anything they serve, but the portions are hearty enough for vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores to all leave satisfied. Owner Siggy Sollitto, a native of Israel, opened the first Siggy’s in Brooklyn more than 20 years ago, but now she’s an official Charlottean. 1001 Belmont Ave., 704-817-7175.
Davidson Ice House
With large portions and filling, healthy ingredients, this build-your-own-bowl joint makes the drive to Davidson worthwhile. Choose from grains, rice, or greens and then load your bowl with 33 options of toppings, spreads, and sauces. If you can’t decide, choose from the chef’s creations—we recommend The Davidsonian. 416 S. Main St., Davidson, 704-895-5555.
When chef and owner Paul Verica closed Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw in 2017, construction had already begun on The Stanley in Elizabeth, so diners didn’t have to wait long for Verica’s ingredient-driven, ever-rotating dishes to return. The new dining room, with berry-colored booths and gold pendant lamps, is regal and cozy—and no matter how full it is, service feels individualized. 1961 E. 7th St., 980-299-2741.
Le Cochon d’Or
“And I think to myself, what a wonderful world,” sings Eddy Glaudin as he glides his fingers along a keyboard in the Waxhaw dining room. The French restaurant, opened by Patrick Garrivier (whose Aix en Provence restaurant was on our list of Best New Restaurants in 2017), took over the intimate space after chef Paul Verica closed Heritage. Garrivier’s menu takes diners to the regions of Burgundy, Lyon, and Alsace with seasonal dishes such as Boudin Blanc, foie gras, and triggerfish with escargots. A wonderful world, indeed. 201 W. South Main St., Waxhaw, 704-256-5382.
La Belle Helene
French food had a moment this year, especially if the crowds at uptown’s La Belle Helene tell us anything. There’s a lot to take in at LBH: the massive, bull’s-eye chandeliers hanging above, the rotisserie chickens twirling gently on a spit, the bartenders pouring the gin-based South Side cocktail. But there’s even more to eat; try a mix of pour commencer and plats from its Parisian menu, piloted by chef Michael Rouleau. 300 S. Tryon St., Ste. 100, 704-969-2550.
Ever seen that red sign that reads, “World Famous Open Kitchen” on Morehead Road? The pizza place with red-checked tablecloths and a ceiling draped in posters? Estia’s is nothing like the FreeMoreWest joint where Gus Georgoulias got his start in the kitchen. Gus and his wife Vicki created a clean and modern restaurant, counter to Open Kitchen’s showy interior, and the food is fresher, too. Grab a gyro pita for lunch and smother each bite with tzatziki. 609 N. Main St., Belmont, 704-825-7005.
Jyoti’s World Cuisine
I had doubts when I saw more than 114 dishes on Jyoti’s menu, representing flavors from India, Ethiopia, Korea, Greece, Italy, and Buffalo—all vegan-friendly. I even asked the server if they could really prepare all these dishes for lunch; she assured me they could. So I ordered enough food for seven people and, dang it if every bite of the dosa, bonda, vegetable curry, and more wasn’t delicious. The east Charlotte restaurant was imagined by Jyoti and Marc Friedland, the owners of the city’s first natural food market, Talley’s Green Grocery, which closed in 2008. 7128-A Albemarle Rd., 704-569-9193.
Raising the Bar
Nuvole Rooftop TwentyTwo
This sleek rooftop lounge on the 22nd floor of the AC Hotel & Residence Inn in uptown is a gorgeous spot to sip a cocktail and take in sweeping views of uptown. Go with a group and order shareable plates such as the lobster club sliders and the bison tartare. For a refreshing gin and tonic, try the Nuvole GT, which comes garnished with strawberries, lime, and rosemary. 22 E. Trade St., Ste. 2200, 980-960-9800.
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.