Our favorite restaurants: Charlotte NC has some of the best food in the state to offer
When it comes to Charlotte’s burgeoning culinary scene, 2019 was a continuation of 2018, characterized by a strong surge of visionaries with different interpretations of various cuisines, and a city of foodies ready to eat well. From seafood to comfort food, classic American steaks to modern Asian street food, new chefs and old, these are 16 of Charlotte’s new restaurants that we hope you’ll clear time in your dining schedule to try.
Barcelona Restaurant and Wine Bar
Barcelona Restaurant and Wine Bar has locations from Colorado to Georgia and, now, this sliver of Spain has nestled in South End, dishing out tapas and offering a selection of hundreds of wines from all over the world. Come for the wine, but stay for the cosmopolitan combination of Mediterranean food flavors.
At Bardo, Head Chef Michael Noll is turning heads with a compelling selection of eclectic small plates. Paired with an original cocktail and a decadent dessert, Bardo entrees engender an unforgettable gastronomic experience. Take it from us – you’ll want to share this with a fellow foodie. Bump this to the top of your list of Charlotte’s new restaurants to try.
One of the largest of Charlotte’s new restaurants, Bar Marcel occupies nearly 4,000-square-feet in SouthPark and offers a courtyard patio. The menu focuses on European dishes, with the majority of the influence coming from Italian, Spanish, and French cuisine. The menu rotates seasonally, but it always includes four made-in-house pastas and a collection of desserts.
The Crunkleton, a cocktail bar and restaurant in the Elizabeth neighborhood of Charlotte, effuses the same skill and passion that come from the decades of tradition that began at the Chapel Hill institution. The bar, designed like a mixology library, tells a story of traditional drinks with a contemporary twist. Order the Jungle Bird or the Bourbon Bramble, and pair it with the charred wings or the crispy calabash.
The Dunavant is one of the latest culinary gifts to Charlotte’s South End neighborhood, brought to us by head chef and owner Travis Hearne. Hearne has perfected the “prix-fixe steak-frites” restaurant. Moreover, this exceptional steak joint is casual enough for an after-work dinner and fancy enough for a date. Bonus points if you can beat their record for bottomless truffle fries consumed in one go.
Walking into South End’s Hawkers is like being transported to the streets of Southeast Asia: The restaurant is a scratch kitchen where all of the plates are conceptualized and prepared like you would find them at a hawker center. Not only are there numerous small plates, noodle, skewer, and salad dishes to try, Hawkers has a cocktail and sake menu to explore as well, placing this establishment firmly on our list of Charlotte’s new restaurants that you need to try.
Idlewild, located in NoDa, is a stylish member’s only bar (with a $1 entry fee) that comes stocked with generously-sized shareable plates (like charcuterie and avocado toast) and with a full, diversely curated bar. However, what they don’t have is a cocktail menu—rather, you tell the bartender each time what you’re in the mood for, from the type of liquor, to the flavor profile, to how boozy you’re going for. There are, of course, classic cocktails available, like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned. So if you already know what you want, they have you covered, too.
La Belle Helene
Transport your taste buds to France without leaving the Queen City by visiting La Belle Helene, which serves up authentic brasserie-style, hearty fare in a space that powerfully conjures the City of Lights from the heart of uptown.
Pack up the family or rally your friends for a trip to The Manchester, where gastropub grub dishes out in an English-style pub setting. Save space for a brew, selected from The Manchester’s wide selection of craft ales.
NC Red, a “New England-New South” restaurant in Plaza Midwood, is helmed by Chef Bruce Moffett and executive chef Drew Dodd. This is a casual take on seafood staples and comfort food classics—the perfect mix of north meets south. For instance, chow on anything from a Nashville hot chicken to fresh fried fish. Dive into a lobster roll and clam chowder, plus a raw bar stocked with sustainably farmed oysters, mussels, and clams.
Chef Jim Noble’s long-anticipated barbecue joint, located in an old bus storage facility off Freedom Drive, is the culmination of Jim’s long-time love (and years of deep research) of Carolina cooking traditions. As an NC native himself, Noble has long been one of the preeminent leaders of barbecuing traditions across his restaurants. Now, he will have a brick-and-mortar spot dedicated to just that. There will be full table service inside but a grab-and-go walk-up window out front. The sides will be traditional, but Noble will also include healthier options like roasted beets and kale salad. Expect to see a wine program (another of Noble’s passions), taps of craft beer, and high-end bourbon at the bar.
Impress your date with an evening at Peppervine, which earned a spot on Food and Wine magazine’s list of “The Most Anticipated Spring Restaurant Openings.” Nestled in Charlotte’s luxe South Park neighborhood, Peppervine delivers outstanding gourmet food and offers over 3,000 bottles of wine to choose from in an elegant setting, where world-class art rotates on exhibit.
NoDa’s new taproom and nanobrewery, Protagonist, flung their doors open earlier this year, just in time for summer. They embraced the timing with arms wide open. Cater to the season with a selection of beverages that will cool your body and mellow your mind. Grab a bite, a beer cocktail, or your favorite on-tap selection, and pass a casual weekend by.
Queen & Glass
Mixologist Bob Peters teamed up with Cory Duran, the owner of the beloved People’s Market, to open The Queen & Glass last year. The bar, serving inventive small plates and craft cocktails, is a small, tucked-in space on the side of People’s Market. Look closely or you’ll miss it. Also get there early, because Queen & Glass only sits 50.
On your next special occasion, treat yourself to an evening at The Stanley, where James Beard-nominated chef Paul Verica dishes out farm-to-table deliciousness, from small plates like steam buns and surf & turf to mains like duck breast and rib eye. You can walk next door and grab a cocktail after at the iconic Crunkleton, an import from Chapel Hill.
Steve Palmer, Kimball Brienza, and Head Chef Michael Chanthavong, the same team that brought Charlotteans O-Ku in 2016, have delivered a lunch break boon to the uptown workforce with Sukoshi. Within a brightly-lit, hip interior, Sukoshi is becoming Uptown’s go-to, fast-service destination. Certainly stop here for a fresh and flavorful take on creative sushi.
Many of Charlotte’s new restaurants are concentrated in South End, duking it out for Charlotteans’ lunch and dinner business. Do yourself a favor and put Superica at the top of your to-visit list for a tex-mex experience characterized by fresh ingredients and tantalizing tastes.
Comfort food meets low country at Paul Manley’s new neighborhood seafood joint, The Waterman. Perfect for post-work happy hour with coworkers or a sunny Sunday with friends, The Waterman dishes out the same comfort classics you’d find at your favorite weathered beachside haunt like po’ boys, steamed mussels, and fish camp platters.
Chef Greg Collier is the force behind Uptown’s newest breakfast spot. Culinarily and geographically, he and Subrina Collier made the move to 7th Street Public Market in Uptown Charlotte with purpose. As always, the two are committed to make The Yolk a special community spot, focused on local food resources with a touch of contemporary flare. Stop by for breakfast or lunch. And, when you do, try anything from their vegan burger to an egg sandwich.
by Sunny Hubler and Eleanor Merrell