Within the constant construction and ever-changing storefronts of Charlotte are 45 new restaurants to be introduced, this year alone; many of which are pursuing the exceeding popularity of fast-casual dining. Though our Southern ties to Chick-fil-a endure, Charlotte contemporaries are beginning to crave a more elevated style of cuisine, without the sacrifice of simplicity.
Fast-casual concepts combine simultaneous desires for nutritious food, reasonable price points, and immediacy – a compromise between the fast and the slow-food movements – developing quality food into a trend that most anyone can have access to. Whether they’re local classics, new neighbors, or awaiting introduction, here are 10 Charlotte restaurants bringing fame to the fast-casual fad.
Undoubtedly popular and arguably the catalyst for the Charlotte fast-casual takeover, Chopt is a reliable source of flavorful, healthy, yet satiating salads and grain bowls. As one of the first wildly successful refurbishments of Park Road Shopping Center, Chopt set a new standard for fresh-and-fast food, forcing fellow restaurants to take notice and generating a following that persists.
With fresh, complex, gourmet flavors, this Mediterranean-inspired fare instantly became a staple of Southpark. Constantly drawing a crowd, we excitedly await its expansion with new locations coming to Plaza Midwood, slated to open this summer, and Dilworth, opening this fall.
Continuing the Mediterranean trend comes Cava – a popular Washington D.C.-based chain new to the UNC-Charlotte area and soon to Park Road Shopping Center. The two-story space that once was Fuel Pizza will now become a hub for homemade pita and spicy lamb meatballs.
I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you that Park Road Shopping Center has been christened with the famously hip, cult-followed burger joint. Shake Shack serves up gourmet tastes of childhood nostalgia by way of crinkle-cut fries and frozen custard, using premium ingredients and an ethos of community – notably through partnerships with local favorites like Suarez Bakery and Lenny Boy Brewing Company. With Shake Shack’s blessing, Charlotte has gained an unofficial stamp-of-approval as a trend-worthy foodie destination.
Among more recent developments, Hi-Tide opened its doors in December, bringing a love of poké to the Dilworth neighborhood. Joining forces with the space’s former occupant, Meat & Fish Co., Hi-Tide uses quality, sustainably sourced ingredients to offer a variety of bright, exotic, and customizable flavors from the sea.
Tandur Indian Kitchen
Yafo’s new Indian-inspired neighbor, Tandur, is expected to match their booming success. With their house-roasted and ground spices and their humble values, Tandur combines authentic Indian flavors to create signature dishes that satisfy. Between a slew of creative starters, entrees, wraps, salads, and kebabs, Tandur brings Charlotte a unique taste of India and yet another fun, non-guilt-inducing way to enjoy fine food on-the-go.
Sabor Latin Street Grill
First opened in 2013, Sabor’s 8 and soon-to-be 9 locations continue to bring bold, authentic latin street food to the streets of Charlotte. Sabor’s popular margaritas, arepas, and $1 Taco Tuesdays are all it takes to keep us craving their quality cuisine from south of the border.
Inizio Pizza Napoletana
The first of the trendy, new developments in the recently contemporized Dilworth Crossing Shopping Center, Inizio Pizza Napoletana delivers authentic, Neapolitan-style pizza pies from quality, fresh ingredients. Enjoy a handcrafted pizza, glass of wine, and gelato beneath the trees on their gorgeous, outdoor patio for a decadent food experience without the hassle.
O-Ku, Charlotte’s beloved sushi hotspot, is joining in on the fad, introducing their own fast-casual, grab-and-go concept “Sukoshi” to Uptown Charlotte. One of the most highly-anticipated openings of the year, Sukoshi will offer little bites with bold flavors for fun, immediate, elevated eats. Liberating the desk lunches of innumerable Uptown workers, O-Ku’s “fine-casual” experience is already slated to thrive.
Maple Street Biscuit Company
Adding to Southpark’s fast-casual success is Maple Street Biscuit Company. Serving up modern twists on all the southern favorites, Maple Street gives biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, mac and cheese and collard greens its long-awaited, rightly-deserved place in the fast-casual industry.