Deep-fried squid with a side of marinara may give you flashbacks to 1990s chain restaurants, but don’t dismiss this traditional Mediterranean dish yet.
Recently, Charlotte chefs have been serving up succulent and skillfully created calamari dishes. We’ve found three great local spots where you can dig into the squid—no red sauce allowed.
Calamari Tempura ($16)
While the menu is changing at this uptown Asian-fusion restaurant after the departure of chef Bryan Emperor, this boldly flavored calamari dish is staying put. Lightly fried and served over seaweed salad, the tender calamari is topped with a savory yet sweet Japanese cream reduction.
505 E. Sixth St., 704-910-4877
Thai Crispy Calamari ($11)
For this popular dish, chef Scott Hollingsworth fries thick and delicate strips of calamari before coating them in a semisweet Thai peanut glaze. Drizzled in a mild wasabi aioli, this appetizer comes with almost a dozen strips—but you won’t want to share.
1100-E Metropolitan Ave., 704-909-6295
Calamari with Fried Olives and Peppadew Peppers ($9.95)
Borrowing inspiration from the rustic flavors of Northern Africa, chef Gene Briggs uses chickpea flour to fry plump rings of calamari alongside green olives and peppers. The resulting dish is hearty, with plenty of crunch—and perfect for dipping in its accompanying creamy lemon-harissa sauce.
206 N. College St., 704-927-2583