Sophisticated restaurant atop the grand staircase at The Mint Museum with floor-to-ceiling windows and a gorgeous view of the courtyard below
Go for: A fancy date night.
Design element we love: Earthy touches like the twig chandeliers and gorgeous raw edge wooden tables
Don’t forget: If it’s a Wednesday, you can visit The Mint Museum for free 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Money: $$$. Dinner entrees are in the $34 – $44 range.
Location and hours: The Mint Museum Uptown. 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Tuesday to Saturday and 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sunday, closed Monday.
Casual little light rail-adjacent ramen shop where most of the indoor seats are at a counter or communal table — cozy on up
Go for: A solo meal. You can do it. Grab a seat at the bar and slurp your noodles in blissful solitude. It’s good for you, and you might make some friends.
Design element we love: Almost floor-to-ceiling wood paneling that warms the whole place up
Don’t forget: The house-made soft serve ice cream is insane and a mandatory end to every meal.
Money: $$. Steamed buns are $10, small rice bowls are $8 and ramen bowls are between $12-$18.
Location and hours: South End at the Bland Street light rail station. Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sunday: noon to 10 p.m.
The OG of Charlotte small-plate restaurants.
Go for: A hot date or a hangout with close friends so you can share a ton of small plates. You’ll probably need 2-4 small plates per person. It ends up being an expensive dinner, but worth it. Oh, and the cocktails are underrated.
Design element we love: Modern design using several different materials.
Don’t forget: Good Food doesn’t do reservations; it’s first come, first served. But they do use the Nowait app if you’re looking to shorten your wait time.
Money: $$$. Small plates range from $6 – $14.
Location and hours: Montford. 1701 Montford Drive. Monday – Saturday: 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Closed Sunday.
Sleek, modern 21st-floor restaurant with stunning unobstructed views of the Uptown skyline
Go for: A chance to show off the city to your out-of-town friends (or parents)
Design element we love: The long, rectangular fire pit on the patio just sets the whole scene off
Don’t forget: To charge your phone. There are photo opps galore on the patio and you’ll be kicking yourself if your battery’s in the red.
Money: $$$. Dinner entrees are in the $34 – $55 range.
Location and hours: Uptown on the 21st floor of the Skye Condos. 222 S. Caldwell Street. Monday – Thursday: 4 p.m. – 11 p.m. Friday: 4 p.m. – 2 a.m. Sunday brunch: 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Sunday dinner: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Unexpected dark, cozy speakeasy-style gastropub in the basement of a sports bar
Go for: Late-night underground craft cocktails and small plates
Design element we love: The big, U-shaped tufted leather booth that feels so Godfather-y
Don’t forget: There is literally a cellar to the back left of the space. They’ve got all sorts of fancy beers there, ask your server about it.
Money: $$$. Dinner entrees are in the $19 – $68 range.
Location and hours: Uptown in the basement under Duckworth’s. 330 N. Tryon Street. Monday – Wednesday: 5 p.m. – midnight. Thursday: 5 p.m. – 1 am. Friday – Saturday: 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. Sunday: 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.
O-Ku has the best sushi in Charlotte in a trendy urban setting that’ll make you feel like you’re in NYC.
Go for: Sushi date night. Must-order rolls: Spicy rainbow roll (seafood wrapper filled with snow crab, cucumber, avocado, masago, shiso dust, lime zest rainbow tobiko, spicy aioli, eel sauce, togarashi for $15) and the potato roll (tempura shrimp, avocado, wrapped with fried shoe-string potatoes, eel sauce, sweet chili for $13).
Design element we love: High ceilings and just the right amount of light and volume of music. If you’re into sushi-watching, sit at one of the ten seats in the back right bar to view preparation.
Don’t forget: If you’re not into sushi, go for their Tsukamen dipping noodles — ramen, hardboiled egg, condensed pork broth, braised pork belly ($16). You can also replace the pork belly with Wagyu ($40).
Money: $$$. Most rolls are $11-$15.
Location and hours: South End. 2000 South Boulevard. Monday – Wednesday: 5 p.m. – 10:30 pm. Thursday – Saturday 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Sunday: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
New chef-driven upscale restaurant and lounge in South End
Go for: Group dinner with buddies who don’t mind spending money on tasty small plates and unique cocktails. I didn’t think they’d be able to pull off a “Soul Gastrolounge for South End” — but that’s exactly the track that Zeppelin’s on as of right now.
Don’t forget: The Edison, Zeppelin’s take on an Old Fashioned, is dramatically served in a smoke-filled glass dome that you’ve probably seen on Instagram.
Money: $$. Sharable small plates range from $11-$23.
Agenda guide: 5 things to know about Zeppelin
Location and hours: Tuesday – Thursday 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. and Friday & Saturday: 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. Sunday brunch as well.
Seasonally-driven, locally-sourced restaurant by James Beard Award Semifinalist chef Paul Verica, formerly of Heritage in Waxhaw
Go for: Date night with a foodie.
Design element we love: Intimate dining area with natural light. Grab a reservation in advance as there are only 63 total seats, including a private dining room in the back that can accommodate 28 and an 11-seat bar in the main dining room. Bar seats are first come, first served and I’d ask for the front dining room if they’ll let you choose.
Don’t forget: Yes, the menu really does change and you can actually view the version number on the top right-hand corner of the menu. In the first month, they changed the menu about 25 times.
Agenda Guide: 6 quick things to know before your first dinner date at The Stanley
Money: $$. Small plates range from $10-$18 and entrees are about $30.
Location and hours: 1961 E 7th St. Tuesday – Thursday 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday Brunch 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Upscale speakeasy with killer craft cocktails in an adult setting
Go for: Grown up cocktail with a buddy, date or friends when you want deep conversation without any distractions.
Design elements we love: Bookshelf above the round, leather red booths in the back right of the speakeasy give it that Ivy League library vibe. Oh, and the copper ceilings.
Don’t forget: You need to be a member ($10, it’s easy). They don’t take reservations, but if there aren’t any seats available just add your name and grab a drink at the Midwood Smokehouse bar which is about 50 yards away.
Money: $$. Small plates are about $10-$15. Cocktails aren’t cheap either, but they’re strong and made by arguably the most well respected bartenders in the city.
Location and hours: 4237 Park Road Unit B in the Backlot of Park Road Shopping Center. Tuesday – Sunday:5 p.m. to 2 a.m., closed on Monday.
Trendy Uptown restaurant with an active nightlife scene
Go for: Dinner and drinks in a spot where you just might run into an athlete or celeb
Design element we love: The entire text of The Art of War handwritten on the ceiling
Don’t forget: Their desserts are insane. Save room.
Money: $$$. Entrees are $26 – $46.
Location and hours: Uptown. 127 N. Tryon Street. Lunch: Monday-Friday 11 a.m. – 3 pm. Dinner: Daily 5 p.m. – till. Brunch: Saturday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Italian restaurant that’s right at home in a historic Tuscan-inspired villa built as a private residence in 1920
Go for: Date night; it’s cozy and romantic
Design element we love: A bookcase with a secret door that the former owner Ms. Blanche Reynolds used to hide her liquor during Prohibition
Don’t forget: The pizzas are served with giant scissors for cutting, which is just oddly delightful and satisfying.
Money: $$. Apps and small plates run about $10, pizzas about $15 and both pastas and entrees are around $30.
Location and hours: Myers Park. 715 Providence Road. Monday – Thursday: 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Closed on Sundays.
Intimate 66-seat restaurant with a central show kitchen in the middle of the dining room owned an operated by Trey Wilson, the well-respected chef behind Custom Shop in Elizabeth.
Go for: Date night. The simple menu consists of fresh pasta and breads along with roasted and grilled meats, seafood and vegetables. Go with the coal-roasted acorn squash appetizer ($12 and their best seller) and any pasta.
Design element we love: Flour Shop’s kitchen is literally in the center of the restaurant surrounded by a 22-seat, tiled bar. It’s the best seat in the house. In addition to the bar, there are tables that can seat up to another 44 guests. It’s not a big restaurant.
Don’t forget: They don’t do reservations. There’s typically no wait on the weekdays, but expect a wait on peak times during the weekend. Go early and then walk across the street to Dot Dot Dot after dinner for a cocktail.
Money: $$$. Most small plates are $14 and pastas range from $24-$28.
Agenda Guide: 7 takeaways from dining at Flour Shop — the hot new 66-seat restaurant by Trey Wilson
Location and hours: Backlot at Park Road Shopping Center, 530 Brandywine Unit A. Monday – Saturday 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Trendy Atlanta-based Tex-Mex restaurant from chef Ford Frye
Go for: Group dinner date with other fun couples. If you’re drinking go with the Matador (El Jimador Blanco, pineapple, lime, cilantro, served up for $10) or the Red Headed Stranger (Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka, Campari, fresh grapefruit for $11).
Design element we love: Exposed brick, huge windows and an awesome (albeit currently underutilized) patio
Don’t forget: For an appetizer, skip the guacamole and go with the queso fundido – broiled Monterey Jack and Chihuahua cheeses, warm tortillas and salsa cremosa ($10). Watch: Ted & Katie’s cheese pull challenge.
Money: $$. Unless you do the $11.99 lunch special, Superica is pricey. Most entrees range from $18-$38, fajitas $20-$28, enchiladas $13-$15 and tacos $13-$16. You get it, it’s not a cheap Mexican spot.
Agenda Guide: 10 quick takeaways from my first trip to Superica
Location and hours: 101 W. Worthington Aveneue #100. Dinner Monday – Thursday 5 p.m. 10 p.m., Friday 5 p.m. – 11 p.m., Saturday 3 p.m. – 11 p.m. and Sunday 3 – 10 p.m. Lunch Monday – Friday 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. And brunch Saturday and SUnday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Bar area at 6:15 p.m. on a Friday evening.
Joe and Katy Kindred’s new Palm Springs-inspired, mid-century modern lakeside restaurant features Sputnik chandeliers, stacked stone walls and slate and terrazzo flooring
Go for: Refined lakeside dining in a casual atmosphere
Design element we love: A small seating area with a bright yellow retro fireplace
Don’t forget: They’ve got dedicated boat slips and a tiki bar on the back deck that will open when the weather is right. Until then, pretend it’s summer by sipping a frozen negroni, one of their signature drinks.
Money: $$. Sandwiches run about $10 and most plates/platters range from $14 to $20.
Location & Hours: Lake Norman. 20210 Henderson Rd, Cornelius, NC. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday.
Stunning rooftop bar on the 19th floor of the Kimpton Hotel in Uptown overlooking Romare Bearden Park
Go for: Swanky rooftop cocktails and killer Uptown views
Design element we love: The use of rocking chairs in the lawn area gives it a real “back porch in the sky” kind of vibe. And the 10,000 programmable LED lights on the roof add new visual interest to the skyline as a whole.
Don’t forget: You can most likely expect a line to get on the elevator to the 19th floor. Also, there’s a strict dress code that bans flip flops, baseball hats, athletic shoes, sweatshirts and sports apparel, among other items.
Money: $$. Cocktails are $14. Small plates are $10 – $15.
Location and Hours: Uptown on the 19th floor of the Kimpton Hotel. 303 S. Church Street. Monday – Thursday 4:30 p.m. – midnight. Friday – Saturday: 4:30 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Farm-focused restaurant led by chef William Dissen of The Market Place in Asheville
Go for: Classy meal with a friend. As the sun sets, the horseshoe shaped bar has a beautiful glow. Plan on spending time there before or after your meal. Cocktails, including the Haymaker Punch, range from $10-$12.
Design elements we love: The roughly 4,000-square-foot restaurant features soaring floor-to-ceiling windows, mezzanine level seating and a cool 4-seat chef’s table overlooking the open kitchen.
Don’t forget: Most people will look at this as a dinner spot but it’s actually open all day — as early as 7 a.m. on weekdays — and serves breakfast fare like coffee, egg sandwiches and yogurt parfaits.
Money: $$$. Popular dishes include the NC shrimp a la plancha ($15), Brasstown beef burger ($15) for lunch, grilled NY strip ($32) and I loved the side of mac & cheese ($8).
Location and Hours: 225 S. Poplar St. Breakfast Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. coffee shop. Lunch 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Dinner 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Brunch Saturday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Quadruple threat coffee shop, brewery, restaurant and full bar in an airy, industrial space that’s dripping with plants and located just steps from the light rail
Go for: Anything — coffee on the way to work, lunch or dinner with friends, happy hour beers or late-night cocktails.
Design element we love: The sprawling light rail-adjacent patio has a practical retractable awning that makes it a more comfortable space on scorching sunny days
Don’t forget: It’s the sister concept to Hyde Brewing, which is brewed right there on site.
Money: $. Small plates are $5 – $12. Entrees are $10 – $19.
Location and Hours: South End at the New Bern light rail station. Monday – Thursday: 7:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday: 7:30 a.m. – midnight. Saturday: 9 a.m. – midnight. Sunday: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
The hottest new restaurant of 2017, famous for its Southern comfort food and jaw-dropping cocktails, is located in an old general store building in the heart of the early 19th-century north Charlotte mill town now known as the NoDa neighborhood
Go for: A huge Southern meal served on dishes that make it feel like you’re eating at home
Design element we love: Handcrafted tabletops made from wood from the rafters and bar taps made from repurposed mill spindles
Don’t forget: They serve weekday brunch Tuesday – Friday 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. and you deserve the kind of life that includes brunch in the middle of the work day.
Money: $$. Apps range from $5-$9, fried chicken is about $9.50 and sides range from $3.50 to $6. Cocktails are about $12.
Location and hours: NoDa. 3106 North Davidson Street. Tuesday – Thursday: 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Friday: 5 p.m. – 1 a.m. Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 1 a.m. Sunday: 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. Closed Monday.
New upscale French brasserie in the heart of Uptown
Go for: Date night in Uptown or fun business dinner when you’re tired of the steakhouses.
Design element we love: With super high ceilings and detailed interiors that include a mixture of pewter, antique wood and leather — it’s freaking gorgeous in this 166-seat restaurant.
Don’t forget: You’ve probably seen photos of LBH’s steak tartare on Instagram, but order the tuna tartare ($16) with sweet corn, confit lemon and a few pieces of popcorn on top was the best thing we ate.
Money: $$$. Small plates cost around $15 and entrees are about $35.
Agenda Guide: 6 quick takeaways from my first visit to La Belle Helene
Location and hours: 300 S Tryon St.
La Belle Helene’s bar is popping — and the vibe will make you want to dress up (I wish kind of felt like I needed pants and a blazer).
Exquisite award-winning small plate restaurant located in an old 1914 pharmacy in downtown Davidson
Go for: A celebratory dinner — birthdays, anniversaries, promotions etc.
Design element we love: Aside from everything, the bar is a centerpiece of the restaurant and a real work of art
Don’t forget: The answer to “Would you like bread?” should be a resounding “YES PLEASE” because their free milkbread is legendary. Also, you can order a “Barkeep’s Choice” and the bartender will surprise you with a cocktail matched to your flavor profile preferences.
Money: $$. The average small plate is about $12, and you should do at least two small plates per person.
Location and hours: Davidson. 131 N Main Street. Tuesday -Saturday: 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 5 – 10 p.m. They’re closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Kindred’s space is gorgeous. The two-story restaurant features a bar downstairs and dining on the main and second floor. It’s worth the drive to Davidson, and I recommend getting there early to walk to the super-cute downtown. Instagram.
Header photo of Haberdish by Dustin Peck.