Yafo, Viva Chicken and Sabor 101: A beginner’s guide to 3 crazy popular homegrown Charlotte fast-casual restaurants

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Sure, Charlotte loves its chains, but we’ve got hometown fast-casual pride, too. Look no further than the winding lines and packed dining rooms at these three growing Charlotte-based restaurants.

Viva Chicken

# locations: 8 restaurants in North Carolina and Utah; see all

Cuisine: Peruvian rotisserie; menu

Popular menu item: Peruvian rotisserie chicken (pollo a la brasa) is the main attraction here. It’s marinated for 24 hours, cooked over charcoal and served by the quarter, half or whole bird plus sides. You can get it with sides like cilantro rice, plantains or fries. If you’re looking for everything together, order Viva’s Tacu Bowl – pulled rotisserie chicken on top of cilantro infused or jasmine rice, canary beans, salsa with lime marinated onions and tomatoes, avocado and green onions ($9.40).

Must-order appetizer: Quinoa-stuffed avocado – organic quinoa, avocado, red pepper, rocoto mayo, balsamic vinaigrette ($8.25).

Underrated menu item: Arroz Chafu (peruvian fried rice) – jasmine rice, red peppers, green onions, red onions, egg, soy sauce and ginger ($6.95, add chicken for $2.45 more)

Average entree price: <$10

Special sauces: Aji amarillo (mild yellow sauce), huacatay (medium green sauce) and roasted rocoto (spicy red sauce).

Unique drinks: Three signature juices are made in house daily — herbal limeade (with basil, rosemary and mint), maracuya (passionfruit) and chicha morada (purple corn, cinnamon, clove and pineapple, apple, lime). You can also buy these by the 1/2 gallon for excellent at-home cocktail mixers.

Online ordering available? Yes; order online here

Pro tip: Don’t forget dessert. They’ve got classic treats like alfajores (shortbread cookies stuffed with dulce de leche) and caramel-stuffed churros.


# locations: 8 locations throughout greater Charlotte (with one in Uptown on the way); see all

Cuisine: Latin street food; menu

Popular menu items: Everybody starts with the nachos — a generous mountain of tortilla chips piled high with beans, queso, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole and your choice of protein — and burritos are the most popular entree. But be sure to explore the street food menu with items like arepas, empanadas and gorditas.

Average entree price: <$8

Underrated menu item: Quinoa avocado bowl – quinoa & brown rice with avocado, grilled vegetables & cilantro lime yogurt sauce ($7.95).

Special sauces: Salsa bar with about a half dozen different salsas for you to choose from.

Unique drinks: They’ve got budget-friendly cocktails, including a house margarita, paloma (grapefruit soda + tequila) and Cuban mojito all for just $5.95.

Online ordering available? Yes; order online here

Pro tip: Stop by on Tuesdays for $1 tacos, Wednesday for kids eat free or Fridays for $5 margaritas.

Yafo Kitchen

# locations: 1 (with 2 more on the way in Plaza Midwood and Dilworth)

Cuisine: Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare; menu

Popular menu items: Build your own grain bowl, hummus bowl, salad or wrap with your choice of spreads, toppings, protein and sauce. Don’t want to make decisions? Order one of their seven signature bowls, including the popular Yafo Shawarma – Shawarma chicken, tzatziki cucumber and tomato salad, tahini, sumac onion and schug with rice or hummus served in a bowl, salad or wrap.

Average entree price: <$12

Special sauces: Schug (cilantro jalapeno sauce), spicy red schug, toum (garlic sauce), lemon tahini, cilantro yogurt, lemon herb vinaigrette, mint vinaigrette, granch (greek yogurt ranch) and harissa yogurt

Family meal options: One Rotisserie chicken with 3 family-sizes sides ($27.99), one and half with 4 sides ($40.99), two with 5 sides ($54.99).

Online ordering available? Yes; order online here

Pro tip: Can’t decide on a side? Get a mezze plate to sample 2, 3 or 4 items — like Greek yogurt mac & cheese, falafel and roasted cauliflower — served with freshly baked laffah.

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