The Charlotte food scene exploded in 2019. We’ve covered around 100 restaurant grand openings in the past 12 months.
We imagine all the grand opening coverage is bleeding together so we’ve narrowed it down to the 25 best new restaurants that have opened in the past 12 months (December 1, 2018 until now). The list is alphabetical order (not a ranking).
(1) Ace No. 3
Counter-service burger joint with a less-is-more approach and neighborhood hangout vibe
Opened: October 2019 in Belmont (between NoDa and Plaza Midwood)
Burgers: Their signature “Ace Burger” consists of two thin patties, American cheese, onions, pickles, and homemade “comeback” sauce ($8.49) on a toasted potato bun. It’s immediately a top 10 burger in Charlotte, especially if you like easy-to-eat, thin, flat-top burgers. You can also build your own burger (single, double, triple, or veggie). Add bacon, egg, or a get your burger on a gluten free bun (each $1).
Extras: Side options include french fries ($2.79) and shoestring onion rings with garlic mayo ($3.49).
Ace No. 3 also does soft serve ($2.79) and milkshakes ($4.50). In terms of adult beverages, they have canned local beers, canned wine, and Boozies (soft-serve milk shakes with a kick).
(2) Bao & Broth
Ramen and bun shop from Larry Schreiber, the former chef at Good Food on Montford
Opened: August 2019 in Optimist Hall
Menu: They have three ramen dishes (miso, spicy pork, and vegan) priced between $11-$12; four bao buns (Belly, Bulgogi, Falafel, and Chicken Sausage) priced any 3 for $12 or $4.25 each; and a few sides and sweets priced $3-$4.
Must-try item: Spicy Pork Ramen with pork and chicken broth, Fresno chili paste, Cashe pork belly, Shoyu egg, and pickled ginger ($12).
(3) Bar Marcel
European-inspired concept from the owners of Vivace
Opened: April 2019 in SouthPark near Yafo
Concept: Bar Marcel focuses on European dishes with a heavy influence from Italian, Spanish, and French cuisines, and the owners described it as “European cafe oriented.” The menu, which will rotate seasonally, consists of roughly 15 small plates, 5 pastas (made in house), and 9 large plates. The former Aix en Provence (RIP) chef was recently hired to lead the kitchen.
Popular Spanish tapas and wine bar with a chic European vibe located in South End
Opened: February 2019 in South End’s Design Center.
Menu: Barcelona offers about 25 small plates. Go with the lamb skewers ($12.50), potato tortilla ($5), garlic shrimp ($9.50), grilled hangar steak with a truffle vinaigrette ($11.50), and spiced meatballs in a ham tomato sauce ($8.50)
Cheese situation: Barcelona offers a Charcuterie + Cheese board that you can customize with your own selection of meats and cheeses sourced from Spain, Italy, and other nearby European countries. It’ll run you $6.50 for one and $17.50 for three. Barcelona has about 15 choices for your mixing and matching pleasure.
(5) Bossy Beulah’s
Chicken shack from the team behind Noble Smoke and Rooster’s
Opened: November 2019 in FreeMoreWest, next to Noble Smoke
Sandwich: The main attraction at Bossy Beulah’s is “The Beaut,” a sandwich with Joyce Farms chicken breast, pickles, and Duke’s mayo on a Copain bun ($7). The chicken is brined and then buttermilk-soaked before being seasoned with salt and pepper, floured, and deep-fried. If you want cheese on top, order “The Cheesy Beaut” ($8).
More locations: Although he doesn’t have a timeline in mind, Noble plans to open more Bossy Beulah’s locations. He said he’d open as many as possible — as long as he can maintain quality. “We need a leader in each one that has the incentive to run it right,” explained Noble, referencing a profit-sharing setup with future operators.
Fast-casual Italian restaurant just outside of Uptown
Opened: December 2018 in Dilworth on East Morehead
Menu: This fast-casual Italian concept offers a focused menu of nine Neapolitan-style pizzas (red and white options), six handmade pastas, four sandwiches (with made from-scratch bread), four salads, and a handful of small plates and desserts. Everything is handmade, fresh and fast — the neapolitan pizza only cooks for 90-120 seconds in the oven. The most popular dishes are their rigatoni and chicken pasta and the margherita pizza.
Quote: “In general the pasta has been keeping pace with pizza, a nice surprise. Initially, I was concerned we were going to sell nothing but pizza,” owner Bruce Willette told the Agenda. “David Cavalier [previously at Kindred] has been producing some great product.”
Expansion: Don’t forget, Capishe will open a second location near Rooster’s in SouthPark within the next few months.
Two-story Italian wine bar with a build-your-own bruschetta bar and monthly wine club
Opened: October 2019 in Uptown near the Ritz
Menu: Cicchetti’s menu consists of authentic Italian “two-bite” dishes comparable to Spanish-style tapas. This includes a selection of polpette (meatballs), build-your-own bruschetta, tinned seafood and chips, and more than 20 seafood, meat, and vegetable small plates. They also have four full-size entrees for sharing.
Booze: Cicchetti has $5 wine delivery, curbside wine pickup, and a monthly wine club cranking out $10 bottles to members. Their retail selection features 400-plus bottles of hard-to-find wines from around the world priced $15 to $200 with a $10 corkage fee for on-site consumption.
Celebrity bartender Bob Peters leads the cocktail program. Drinks are priced in the $7 to $12 range. The house cocktail, The Cicchetti ($12), is a draft cocktail made with Malfy gin con Limone, house-made limoncello, Aperol, Massican sweet vermouth, and Prosecco.
(8) The Crunkleton
84-seat cocktail bar and restaurant in Elizabeth
Opened: December 2018 in Elizabeth. The original Crunkleton, on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, has garnered national attention for its Prohibition-era cocktails, most recently being named one of the Six Best Bourbon Bars in the South by Garden & Gun magazine. Don’t forget: Membership is $10 per year. Yes, they do take reservations now.
Cocktails: The Crunkleton focuses on classic cocktails like the Sazerac, Old Fashioned, Vieux Carré, Tom Collins, and Manhattan — no Fireball. If you venturing out, go with The Dusty Cactus (tequila based).
Menu: The focused menu has about a dozen dishes ranging from oysters to wings to fried sugar toads. If you’re there with a meat-loving group, order the massive, 36-ounce dry-aged tomahawk ribeye. We also recommend their signature Crunkleton Burger.
(9) Dumpling Lady
Popular food truck and Optimist Hall spot known for dumplings
Opened: August 2019 in Optimist Hall
Concept: Executive chef Qian Zhang’s popular local food truck is putting down roots at Optimist Hall. They’re known for authentic Sichuan cuisine, including handmade dumplings, noodles, and dim sum.
Menu: Dumpling options include pork and chives, shrimp and chicken, veggie, sweet pork belly, and Chengdu-style pork and scallion (seven dumplings per order). Dumpling Lady also has noodle bowls, wontons, dim sum, and sides like their Sichuan chili pot and garlic pork belly.
(10) Eight and Sand
Bakery, restaurant, cafe and bar from the owners of Inizio Pizza and Not Just Coffee
Opened: September 2019 in South End across the light rail tracks from Suffolk Punch
Menu: The foundation of the food menu is housemade breads prepared with locally sourced organic flour, natural leaven, and heritage grains milled in house.
Breakfast is served until 2 p.m. and includes breakfast sandwiches and thick-cut, meal-sized toasts topped with avocado, ricotta + jam, and peanut butter.
Lunch offerings include sandwiches and salads. And bakery items are available daily, including their signature cruffins — laminated croissant-style dough baked in the shape of a muffin (go with their popular funfetti cruffin).
The space: The 3,500-square-foot space with 20-foot ceilings and large roll-up garage doors seats 78 inside and another 60 outside on the patio. The design has a Scandinavian-style modern minimalist aesthetic and features local Rosewood Co. custom tables and stoneware from The Little Studio. Rachel Martin Design designed subtle custom produce graphics on walls and in the bathroom.
(11) Flower Child
Popular health food restaurant with several locations throughout the Southwest and California
Opened: July 2019 in the former Phat Burrito building in South End
Menu: It has bowls, salads, and wraps made with responsibly sourced health foods like sustainable salmon, grass-fed beef, and organic non-GMO tofu. They have a ton of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free options, too. It’s healthy, pricey, and delicious.
Must-try items: You can’t go wrong with the gluten-free mac and cheese or the “Forbidden Rice” bowl ($10.75) with black pearl rice, snap peas, bok choy, broccoli, onion, carrot, toasted sesame, and red chili hoisin sauce. Add shaved beef or chicken, grilled tofu, steak, or salmon for an extra charge ranging from $4-$7.
Orlando-based Asian restaurant inspired by hawker stalls of southeast Asia
Opened: February 2019. Hawkers is open for lunch and dinner in South End, but they do not take reservations.
Pricing: All dishes are $9.50 or less. Yes, seriously. Noteworthy small plates include Seoul hot chicken steamed boas, roti canai, lettuce wraps, bulgogi beef skewers, ‘Nam nom spring rolls, Yi-Yi’s chicken dumplings and the chef’s favorite dish Singapore ‘Chili’ crab.
Cocktails: If you’re boozing go with the “Margari-Thai” or the Capri-Sun-like “That’s my Bag, Baby.” Hawkers offers 12 speciality cocktails and six classic cocktails ranging from $10-$12. Sake bombs are $7.
Vibe: Expect a party-friendly Seoul Food Meat Co. vibe at Hawkers. It’s an ideal spot for a group date. The restaurant group spent close to $2 million on the upfit — and it’s evident. Inside you’ll find about 165 seats, including a 30-seat indoor/outdoor bar, 1,000 Asian street posters, neon lights, cool overhead wok lights, dozens of old bird cages, open kitchen, and glass accordion walls that will open to a 25-seat patio when the weather warms up.
Upscale Italian restaurant
Opened: November 2019 in Atherton. This is Indaco’s second location; the original is in Charleston.
Menu: The menu includes nine antipasti options, six pasta dishes, five pizzas, and five main dishes, all priced $5-$28. You can also do a three-course family-style meal for $45 per person.
Restaurant and lounge from the team behind Soul Gastrolounge
Opened: November 2019 in Plaza Midwood under and beside Soul
Menu: Chef Jason Pound of Soul Gastrolounge oversees the kitchen at KiKi with a menu of French- and Greek-inspired American small plates. Dishes include stuffed grape leaves, escargot, frogs legs, and lamb neck. The plant-based menu features things like zucchini fritters, ratatouille, stuffed eggplant, and butternut pasta.
Layout: KiKi is divided into three distinct spaces — the main dining room and bar (seats 90), a pocket rooftop terrace overlooking Central Avenue (seats 30), and an intimate cocktail lounge called Tattoo (seats 16).
Cocktails: Soul Beverage Director Kel Minton runs the bar program at all properties with a team of three lead bartenders — Julian Billings at KiKi, Christina Krout at Tattoo, and Ivan Artagaviytia at Soul.
Tattoo is a spirits-only lounge with rotating monthly “studies” on varying expressions of classic cocktails. The bar in the main dining room has 14 draft cocktails running on a one-of-a-kind custom tap system along with a robust wine program.
Sister concept of Craft Tasting Room & Growler Shop with rooftop patio
Opened: October 2019 in South End
Menu: The food menu consists of New-American small plates for sharing made with locally sourced ingredients. Most are in the $8 to $10 range, and everything is $15 or less.
Ground floor: You’ll find a statement moss wall, gorgeous live-edge walnut bar, wraparound antique mirrors, and tables for seating about 90. There’s a door that connects Craft to Lincoln Street Kitchen & Cocktails so customers can walk from one to the other.
Rooftop: Stairs from the Craft parking lot lead up to a 28-seat rooftop patio with views of Uptown. A live Ligustrum tree is planted right in the middle with banquette and high-top seating surrounding it.
(16) Link & Pin
Upscale restaurant and cocktail bar from Rob Duckworth
Opened: November 2019 in South End next to Eight & Sand
Menu: The lunch menu features mostly salads and fancy sandwiches like a $29 lobster roll, $16 oyster po’ boy, and $14 Nashville hot chicken.
Dinner is an extensive offering of more than a dozen shareable small plates (priced $8-$14) and full entrees like Tomahawk bone-in ribeye ($72), crispy flounder ($38) and a house burger topped with a sunny side egg ($14).
Brunch features include classics like chicken & waffles ($15), house-made poptarts ($8), shakshuka ($12) and shrimp & grits ($15).
Drinks: The cocktail menu is presented on an iPad with drinks priced $12-$16. Eventually, they’ll have table-side service with a mobile cocktail cart in the lounge.
Elaborate mimosa trays with fresh berries and orange, peach, and pear juice are available during brunch for $30 + the cost of your choice of a bottle of champagne (priced $60 and up).
(17) NC Red
“New England-New South” restaurant by Bruce Moffett
Opened: April 2019 in Plaza Midwood, in the space formerly occupied by Comida (and the iconic Penguin Drive-In before that)
Menu highlights: Nashville hot chicken, fresh fried fish, Point Judith calamari, lobster roll, clam chowder, poached crab salad, oysters, mussels and clams.
Oysters: The restaurant has a legit oyster and clam program sourced from both the East and West Coasts and served up as grilled, Rockefeller, casino, and broiled.
Owner: Bruce Moffett is a widely respected chef in Charlotte; three of his restaurants (Good Food, Barrington’s, and Stagioni) are in the top 10 restaurants in our city.
“N.C. Red is unlike any of my former restaurants,” Bruce said. “The artwork in the space along with the atmosphere of Plaza Midwood give it this unique quality that just makes you want to come and stay for a while. I’m thrilled to share this with Charlotte.”
(18) Noble Smoke
Barbecue concept from Jim Noble
Opened: July 2019 in FreeMore West
Barbecue: The pork is cooked both Carolina and Texas style in an 1,800-square-foot smokehouse. They’ve got eight wood-fired smokers — six made of steel (Texas style) and two traditional North Carolina masonry barbecue pits (which consist of 20,000 bricks).
Meats: Chopped Cheshire pork, prime beef brisket, Joyce Farms chicken, smoked turkey breast, smoked Joyce Farms wings, Cheshire pork ribs ($16 half rack, $30 full rack) and wood-grilled fish. You can purchase them by the 1/4 pound, 1/2 pound and full pound.
If you’ve got a group (or just really hungry for meat), go with the Miss Mary’s Platter ($80) — pound of pork, pound of brisket, pound of turkey, pork short rib rack with slaw (Eastern and Western), and picked veggies.
Sides: Slaw, broccoli salad, pan-fried corn, butter beans, Marguax’s succotash, pan-fried green beans, field peas, stewed squash, mac and cheese, Zack’s collards, smoked carrots, garden peas, okra, pickled beets, potato salad, pomme frites, Anson Mills hush puppies, onion rings, and pickled veggies.
(19) North Italia
Italian chain owned by the Cheesecake Factory
Opened: November 2019 in South End’s RailYard development
Menu: They’ve got small plates priced $8-$14; five signature pizzas priced $14-$17; pasta dishes priced $18-$20 with traditional pasta, gluten-free pasta, or vegetable noodles; and a handful of entrees priced $20-$38.
Brunch: Weekend brunch features much of the main menu along with breakfast items like crispy cinnamon French toast ($13), short rib hash ($14), bacon and egg pizza ($15), and an egg sandwich ($13) with rosemary ham, fontina cheese, and bacon on grilled brioche.
(20) Open Rice
Casual spot with authentic Hong Kong cuisine
Opened: May 2019 in the Blakeney Shopping Center
Menu: The menu with heavy Cantonese influence rolls out traditional street food, teppanyaki, noodle soups, rice and noodle dishes, and hearty Hong Kong-style baked dishes.
You can’t go wrong with the roasted duck ($17.95 half/$32.95 whole) or char siu ($14.95), a Cantonese-style barbecued pork. And large cast-iron rice dishes ($16.95-$22.95) and the pineapple fried rice ($15.95) served in a hollowed pineapple half are showstoppers.
How to order: Plan to order a big family-style spread to share with a crowd, which is what the “open rice” expression, a symbol of family and joy, is all about in Hong Kong.
(21) Papi Queso
Beloved grilled cheese concept
Opened: October 2019 in Optimist Hall
The menu: The brick-and-mortar version of this beloved food truck has the classic grilled cheese sandwiches we all know and love, plus new favorites like a burger melt grilled cheese and mozzarella sticks (which they hired a full-time chef to make).
Grilled cheese menu:
- The Pig Mac – slow smoked, Cheshire pork, mac and cheese, and caramelized onions ($10)
- Mushroom Gruyere – grand cru gruyere, fontina, pan-roasted mushrooms, and truffle cream ($9)
- Buffalo Chicken – smoked fried chicken, Srirasha-soy glaze, toasted sesame Chile crisp, and cilantro ranch ($10)
- Burger Melt – house-ground beef patty, Swiss, America, caraway onions, thousand island sauce ($9)
- Bacon Jalapeno – applewood smoked bacon, jalapenos, red onion, cheese curds, and pepper jelly ($8.50)
- Mac Melt – mac and cheese, bechamel, sea salt and fresh herbs ($6.50)
Progressive American restaurant from the owners of Banner Elk’s Artisanal restaurant, now open in SouthPark.
Opened: March 2019 in SouthPark. Food+Wine Magazine listed Peppervine as one of the 16 most-anticipated spring restaurant openings in the country. Yes, they do accept reservations on OpenTable.
Space: Peppervine is 7,800 square feet and, just like Artisinal, it’s beautiful. They partnered with Shain Gallery (shout out to owner Sybil Godwin) to rotate cool art throughout the restaurant. The best table is the booth with a window into the kitchen.
Menu: Peppervine’s menu includes 18 sharable small plates and six large plates. Go with the yeast rolls ($5), cauliflower soup ($9), squid ink bucatini with Spanish octopus, and dry-aged ribeye cap ($40).
(23) Sweet Lew’s BBQ
Authentic old-school North Carolina barbecue, cooked over hickory and pecan wood in Charlotte’s Belmont Neighborhood
Opened: December 2018 in Belmont near Birdsong Brewing.
Menu: Sweet Lew’s serves pork, ribs, chicken, and brisket — and boiled peanuts, a Southern delicacy. The menu includes Lexington-style chopped and pulled pork, dry-rubbed spare ribs, smoked chicken, and beef brisket.
Quote: “We’re trying to keep it simple,” says co-owner Lewis Donald, also known as Sweet Lew. “We’re not going to have mango jalapeño barbecue sauce.” Don’t expect anything super fancy. Think Price’s Chicken Coop but with seating.
Italian spot in Myers Park staffed by Italians and Italian-Americans
Opened: November 2019 in Myers Park in the space formerly occupied by Lumiere
Menu: They made it a point to highlight that the entire operation — from ownership to the kitchen to the bar — is staffed by Italians and Italian-Americans. So you’re getting the real deal. The opening dinner menu is tight, featuring five appetizers ($12-$14), six pastas ($14-$22) and four entrees ($20-$35). They also have a limited bar menu with select bites available late night.
Tasting flights: Can’t decide what to get? Let the chef pick for you. The Italian word volo, meaning flight, comes into play with a rotating selection of seafood, meat or vegetable tasting menu “flights.”
(25) The Yolk
Beloved Uptown breakfast spot with James Beard semifinalist chef Greg Collier leading the kitchen
Opened: January 2019 at 7th Street Public Market in the space formerly occupied by Local Loaf.
Menu: The Yolk serves breakfast and lunch. Dishes include Greg’s take on classics like the fried chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, and eggs benedict. If you’re going to get one dish, order their popular “Two If By Land” – cheddar grits, two eggs, toast ($8). The grits are heavenly.
Owners: The restaurant is owned by husband and wife team, Greg and Subrina Collier who will also debut a brand new restaurant at Camp North End in early 2020.
Related: Looking for more Agenda food and drink guides? Here’s a full list of guides ranging from best soups to cheap eats to burger rankings to best cocktail bars. Looking for holiday things to do? Here’s our full Agenda event board with 50+ top events and our holiday bucket list.