These buzz-worthy spots are making waves with new openings, expansions, menu additions and consistent crowds.
Merchant and Trade – 303 S. Church Street – The 19th floor rooftop bar and restaurant located atop the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel features floor to ceiling windows, an astroturf lawn with a retractable roof for all-weather enjoyment and killer views of Uptown.
There’s a full kitchen but the space is designed more for hanging out while eating than for a formal sit-down meal experience. Expect mostly lounge-style and bar seating and a menu of shareable small plates.
South End / Gold District
Seoul Food Meat Company – 1400 S. Church Street – The southern BBQ restaurant with a heavy Korean influence has been consistently packed since it opened in 2016.
Their unique food and drink creations — like ramen mac & cheese and soju cocktails served in pineapples — are the main draw here, but the inclusion of engaging activity spaces doesn’t hurt either. Out back is an “adult playground” with a dog park and lawn games like human-sized billiards, and inside they’ve got four private karaoke rooms you can rent for a night of humiliating performances among friends.
Haberdish – 3106 N. Davidson Street – The sleek southern restaurant reigned supreme in 2017 and the allure isn’t wearing off. Haberdish embodies the best of new Charlotte by embracing a lot of what the city too often overlooks in its growth — history and a sense of place.
It’s located in a renovated old general store and serves up polished but unfussy classic southern dishes like fried chicken and mac and cheese.
A thoughtful, eye-catching and always changing cocktail program plus the addition of a new brunch menu keeps people coming back for more.
Legion Brewing Company – 1906 Commonwealth Avenue – A brewery is rarely a full-blown restaurant (unless you’re Heist), but a brewery that just rolled out a new brunch menu featuring grit bowls, breakfast sliders, waffles and parfaits at least gets a nod here — especially one as popular as Legion.
Legion has grown into its small in-house kitchen strategically, leading first with beer only and slowly rolling out expanding food options like bratwurst, sliders and assorted bar bites.
They’re hitting the accelerator this year with a $2 million investment in a second, more food-forward location in SouthPark. It’ll be interesting to see if plans for the shiny new restaurant-style SouthPark taproom will drive even more food focus in the original Plaza Midwood location.
Bang Bang Burgers – 2001 E. 7th Street – The unassuming little strip mall burger bar appeals to everyone from hungover partygoers to families with kids, and, according to Ted, is running the best burger game in town.
Bang Bang Burgers are made with La Frieda’s Black Angus beef and local Duke’s brioche buns, and owner Joseph Huang is always coming up with inventive weekly specials like this week’s fried brie burger.
Positive change is coming to this corner with The Crunkleton (a Chapel Hill-based craft cocktail bar with a cult following) and The Stanley (Paul Verica’s newest venture after closing Heritage in Waxhaw) gearing up for openings this year.
I’d expect Bang Bang to hold down the casual eats on the block while generating new opening buzz of its own with its expansion into South End with a new slider-focused restaurant called Bang Bang Bites.
Yafo Kitchen – 720 Governor Morrison Street – Powerhouse restaurateur Frank Scibelli’s fast-casual Mediterranean concept never seems to slow down — and neither does executive chef Shai Fargian, who’s constantly cranking out new specials and features.
You can expect to face a line to get up to the counter where you can order off the menu or build your own bowl, wrap or salad with things like like falafel, tahini, tabbouleh, shawarma and schug.
The concept definitely looks to be built and branded to scale and they’ll be opening their second location in Plaza Midwood later this year.
littleSpoon / Comida – 2820 Selwyn Avenue – The trendy breakfast and brunch spot is closed now for renovations to make way for a dual-concept set-up with its sister restaurant Comida, which shut down its Plaza Midwood location in December ahead of the move.
With littleSpoon open daytime hours and Comida a dinner-only operation, they’ll be able to run two drastically different restaurants under one roof. We’re talking chicken biscuits for breakfast and tacos for dinner. It’ll be a really interesting offering and I’m excited to see the roll out.
Header photo of Merchant and Trade via Instagram