We’ve been tracking 50+ restaurant openings so far in 2018 and expect to see 100+ new spots hit the scene by the end of the year.
That’s a lot to keep up with — and it’s our job. For you, we imagine all the opening coverage is bleeding together so we’ve narrowed it down with a look back at the top 10 hottest new openings of the year so far.
Okay, here are the 11 best new restaurants in 2018 so far (in no specific order).
Trendy Atlanta-based Tex-Mex restaurant from chef Ford Frye
Neighborhood: South End, Design Center
Agenda Superlative: Most likely to be your favorite new casual date spot where you get sneaky drunk because the cocktails are tasty
Agenda Guide: 10 quick takeaways from my first trip to Superica
Superica Field Notes:
- 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.
- For cocktails, go with the Matador – El Jimador Blanco, pineapple, lime, cilantro, served up ($10) or the Red Headed Stranger – Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka, Campari, fresh grapefruit ($11).
- 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.
Seasonally-driven, locally-sourced restaurant by James Beard Award Semifinalist chef Paul Verica, formerly of Heritage in Waxhaw
Neighborhood: Elizabeth, 1961 East 7th Street
Agenda Superlative: Most likely to win a James Beard Award
Agenda Guide: 6 quick things to know before your first dinner date at The Stanley
The Stanley Field Notes:
- The focused menu typically has about a 12 small plates, 5 larger plates and 5 sides. My wife and I ordered four small plates and a dessert. It was the perfect amount of food. If the steamed bun and the surf and turf are on the menu, get them.
- 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.
- 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.
Upscale French brasserie
Location: Uptown, 300 South Tryon in Uptown
Agenda Superlative: Most beautiful
Agenda Recap: 6 quick takeaways from my first visit to La Belle Helene, the new upscale French brasserie in Uptown
La Belle Helene Field Notes:
- La Belle Helene’s space is like nothing you’ve experienced in Charlotte — it’s truly beautiful. 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.
- Order an appetizer — and if you’re only doing one, make it the tuna tartare ($16) with sweet corn, confit lemon and a few pieces of popcorn on top was the best thing we ate. It’s a must-order.
- La Belle Helene’s restrooms are amazing and the selfie wall is a super savvy touch. The baba au rhum dessert is literally cut near the table from a long log and then your server will pour rum on top.
Hip, fast-casual burger chain with a cult following and premium burgers, fries and shakes
Location: Park Road Shopping Center
Agenda Superlative: Most likely to get incorrect hot takes like “Overhyped! Tastes like Five Guys/Wendy’s”
Agenda Recap: Shake Shack served 7,000 guests opening weekend — 4 things the burgermania taught Charlotte about itself
Shake Shack Field Notes:
- If you’re a first timer, the most popular items to order are the ShackBurger®, chocolate milkshake and crinkle cut fries. Roughly 1,500 single ShackBurgers were sold on opening weekend alone.
- The vegetarian option is a ‘Shroom Burger, a crispy fried portobello mushroom cap stuffed with cheese.
- Expect a line, but it moves fast.
Two-story sushi restaurant, poke bar and cocktail lounge
Neighborhood: Plaza Midwood,
Agenda Award: Most likely to be your “under-the-radar” favorite cocktail and sushi spot
Agenda Guide: 5 details to know about Sushi Guru’s new two-story Plaza Midwood location
Sushi Guru Field Notes:
- In addition to sushi, the 11-page menu features ramen, skewers, meats and poke bowls.
- Cocktails will impress. A few months ago, Sushi Guru hired a world-class bartender from the Philippines named Michael Tubiera.
- The two-story restaurant features dining on each level, plus two large glass garage doors and a spacious outdoor patio. The poke is on the first floor and the sushi bar is on the second floor.
- The parking lot is tiny (I think I saw about 15 spaces), so they’ve installed 7 car lifts. Yes, car lifts.
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
Neighborhood: Backlot of Park Road Shopping Center
Agenda Award: Most likely to make you think you can make pasta at home because Chef Trey and his team make it look so effortless
Agenda Guide: 7 takeaways from dining at Flour Shop — the hot new 66-seat restaurant by Trey Wilson
Flour Shop Field Notes:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Farm-focused restaurant led by chef William Dissen of The Market Place in Asheville
Neighborhood: Uptown, on the ground floor of the Ascent apartment building next to Romare Bearden Park
Agenda Award: Most beautiful bar
Haymaker Field Notes:
- 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. It seats around 150 people — 34 in the bar and lounge, 40 in the main dining room, 45 upstairs on the mezzanine and another 30 or so outside on the patio.
- 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.
- 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.
- There is a mezzanine level dining space that can also be rented out for private events.
- Popular dishes include theNC Shrimp a la Plancha ($15), Brasstown Beef Burger ($15) for lunch, Grilled NY Strip ($32) and I loved the side of Mac & Cheese ($8).
Small plate restaurant and cocktail lounge
Neighborhood: South End, 235 W. Tremont Ave
Agenda Award: Most likely to compete with Soul Gastrolounge for best small plate cocktail lounge
Agenda Guide: 5 things to know about Zeppelin, the new upscale restaurant and lounge in South End
Zeppelin Field Notes:
- The most popular cocktail, by far, is The Uncle Eddy. It’s that cocktail dramatically served in a smoke-filled glass dome that you’ve seen on Instagram.
- The #1 most popular dish at Zeppelin is their Point Judith Calamari ($11) — Korean chile, yuzu, pickled bacon dashi gel, serranos and shishitos. It’s a must-order when you go.
Instagram-worthy restaurant that shares space with Wooden Robot
Neighborhood: South End, 1440 South Tryon
Agenda Award: Best restaurant inside a brewery
Agenda Guide: Kre8 Gastropub now serving up Bosshog Mac & Cheese egg rolls inside new Wooden Robot space
Agenda Field Notes:
- Popular dishes include their beer cheese ($11), chicken sandwich ($12), Bosshog Mac & Cheese Eggrolls ($12) and the Southern-fried tacos ($11). Must order for the group: He’s Having a Beer Cheese ($11) – Wooden Robot rotating IPA, salt-crusted pretzels, flatbread crackers and a pale ale mustard.
- You can actually sit anywhere within Wooden Robot. There is a hostess station at the main Wooden Robot entrance where you can grab a menu and/or order and get a number for your table. Originally, I thought you could only get service in the new Kre8 space.
Fast-casual breakfast chain restaurant described as “Cracker Barrel for Millennials”
Neighborhood: South End, 2725 South Blvd
Agenda Award: Most Instagram-worthy new breakfast biscuit sandwiches
Agenda Guide: 7 things to know about Holler & Dash, now open in South End
Agenda Field Notes:
- Skip the bacon, egg and cheese biscuit and go with one of their two popular signature biscuits, the Kickback Chicken or the Chicken.Set.Go.
- At $9, signature biscuits are pricey, but don’t forget that you get a side as well. Sides include the following 8 options: Baby potato salad with lemon buttermilk pesto, charred corn salad with mozzarella and lime, roasted sweet potato salad with apple and almond, fried green tomatoes with Hollerback sauce, grist, tots, fresh fruit or a side salad.
- Holler & Dash is literally owned by Cracker Barrel. They launched this type of concept to compete with quick-service chains like Panera Bread and Chipotle.
- Don’t order avocado toast from a biscuit place. If you’re going to get avocado toast, go to Not Just Coffee. NJC’s avocado toast is much better.
All-you-can-eat traditional Korean BBQ restaurant
Neighborhood: South End, 1400 S Church
Agenda Award: Most likely to guarantee meat sweats
Agenda Guide: 8 quick takeaways from my first trip to Let’s Meat
Let’s Meat Field Notes:
- The all-you-can-eat experience is a $29.99 flat rate per person ($11.99 for kids 4-10).
- You have a two-hour limit at the table, which is plenty of time given how fast everything comes out. You’ll be seated once your entire group is there, not before.
- Food comes out and cooks fast, so you can order in waves (2-5 dishes at a time).
- Each table has built-in burners where your meat and veggies will be cooked. Don’t worry about undercooking your meat — your server handles the actual cooking.
- Unlike its sister restaurant, Seoul Food, there are no cocktails at Let’s Meat. It’s bottle/canned beer, wine, Korean wine and soju.
- Yes, there are scissors on your table. Yes, they’ll be used often. Your server will use the scissors to cut the meat, which is often in a bacon type strip, into small bites. You won’t have to do any cutting. Let’s Meat doesn’t even provide you a knife because it’s unnecessary.