10 best new restaurants and bars of 2018

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We’ve been tracking 50+ restaurant and bar 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.

This poll is closed.

What's the best new restaurant of 2018 so far?

  • Superica (22%, 261 Votes)
  • Let's Meat Korean BBQ (12%, 149 Votes)
  • Brewers at 4001 Yancey (12%, 149 Votes)
  • The Stanley (11%, 128 Votes)
  • Shake Shack (10%, 119 Votes)
  • Flour Shop (8%, 94 Votes)
  • Holler & Dash (8%, 90 Votes)
  • Haymaker (7%, 88 Votes)
  • Graham Street Pub & Patio (5%, 59 Votes)
  • Sushi Guru Plaza Midwood (5%, 56 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,193

Want a look ahead to big grand openings still to come this year? Agenda related story: 9 most-anticipated restaurants and bars opening in Charlotte in the second half of 2018

Okay, here are the 10 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.

superica food

The Stanley

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.

Steam bun, fried chicken, slaw and pickles ($13)

Shake Shack

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.

Sushi Guru Plaza Midwood

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.

Sushi Guru’s signature roll (also their most popular) – Guru Roll ($15) – Tuna, lump crab, avocado drizzled with our signature spicy aioli, flash baked and topped with fried garlic and shallots.

Flour Shop

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.

Coal-Roasted Acorn Squash appetizer


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).


Graham Street Pub & Patio

Casual rooftop bar and restaurant located between Bank of America Stadium and BB&T Ballpark

Neighborhood: Uptown, corner of Graham Street and MLK Boulevard
Agenda Award: Most “opening soon” false starts EVER
Agenda Guide: Worth the wait: Graham St. Pub & Patio finally opens June 20. First look at full menu, food, cocktails and space

Graham Street Pub & Patio Field Notes:

  • The menu features a food truck-inspired lineup of handheld items like skewers, sliders, tacos and grilled cheese along with bar favorites like wings, nachos and loaded fries. Everything on the menu is under $15 with most items in the $8-$12 range.
  • As far as drinks go, they’ve got prosecco and rose on tap, a number of local beers (including Legion, OMB, NoDa, Sycamore, Birdsong and Catawba) and a selection of 7 dangerously drinkable $10 cocktails.
  • There are three hangout zones: the rooftop bar (8-seat bar and about 10 high-top table, triangular outdoor patio (about 10 tables, including a picnic table with a built in ice trough you can stock with beer) and an indoor bar (about 20 seats, a few booths and high top tables).


Brewers at 4001 Yancey

28,000-square-foot dual-branded Victory and Southern Tier brewery

Neighborhood: Lower South End, just down the street from OMB
Agenda Award: Most likely to compete with OMB and Sycamore as your go-to Saturday afternoon spot
Agenda Guide: Brewers at 4001 Yancey is now open. 9 things to know about this enormous new Victory and Southern Tier brewery near OMB

Brewers at 4001 Yancey Field Notes:

  • The massive space has 269 seats inside, 270 seats outside and an event space with a total of 104 seats.
  • Brewers at 4001 Yancey has 120 taps with 40 different offerings. Never heard of Victory or Southern Tier? They’re a pretty big deal. They brewed roughly 255,000 barrels in 2017. (OMB did about 21,000 for comparison.) Go with Southern Tier’s Nu Skool IPA and Victory’s Golden Monkey (9.5%, watch out).
  • The brewery offers full table service and a restaurant-style kitchen operation. The menu is legit — it has everything from smoked salmon to BBQ plates.
  • There are three distinct open-air patio spaces — a huge outdoor patio to the right of the building, a unique space dubbed “The Ruins” in front of the building and a covered patio with a view of Uptown.


Holler & Dash

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

  • 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.

My favorite: Chicken. Set. Go. ($9) – Fried chicken, pimento cheese, jalapeno, sorghum.

Let’s Meat Korean BBQ

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.


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Ted Williams
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