I’ve been eating out. A lot. I’m now poorer and fatter, but that’s OK.
Rankings are based on food, vibe, beverages and service. I have nothing against chains and I’m a big fan of Chili’s, but to be eligible, restaurants had to be locally driven.
Gorgeous, award-winning small plate restaurant.
Must-order dish: Crispy oysters with dill yogurt, Calabrian chile oil ($12).
Agenda pro tip: Order a “Barkeep’s Choice” and the bartender will surprise you with a cocktail of his/her choosing.
Creators: Joe and Katy Kindred, a marvelous young couple with three children. This fall, Joe and Katy will debut their much anticipated second restaurant, Hello, Sailor.
Noteworthy: You’ve probably seen it on Instagram, but their milkbread is free and delicious.
Money: $$. The average small plate is about $12, and you should do at least two small plates per person.
Location and hours: Davidson. 131 N Main St. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday: 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 5 – 10 p.m. They’re closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Upscale Southern comfort food within a warm, welcoming setting.
Must-order dish: BBQ chicken ($13) with side of Margaux’s succotash ($6).
Agenda pro tip: Rooster’s pizzas are underrated — give their roasted chicken pizza a shot.
Creator: Jim Noble, an obsessive BBQ lover, restaurateur and devoted Christian.
Noteworthy: Noble will be launching a new BBQ restaurant named Noble Smoke within the next year.
Money: $$. Average entrees run $14 and average sides are about $6.
Locations: SouthPark and Uptown.
Chef-driven, obsessively farm-to-table-oriented spot loved by regulars and foodies.
Must-order dish: HFC, Heirloom fried chicken served with truffle mac & cheese, Heirloom cabbage slaw and their rooftop honey hot sauce ($16).
Agenda pro tip: For the full effect, order their six-course tasting menu. It’s a journey for your palate.
Creator: Clark Barlowe, arguably Charlotte’s most promising young chef.
Money: $$. Most entrees run in the $20 – $25 range.
Location and hours: 8470 Bellhaven Boulevard. Tuesday- Thursday: 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Friday, Saturday: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday, Monday: Closed.
Tiny, no-frills SouthPark restaurant where it’s hard to get a reservation without making it a week in advance.
Must-order dish: Seared organic chicken served with creamy mashed potatoes, wilted spinach and a garlic pan sauce ($23).
Agenda pro tip: The restaurant only has about a dozen or so tables, so make sure to call well in advance for a reservation. Also, it’s 30 yards from Foxcroft Wine Co – which makes for a great pre- or post-dinner drink.
Creators: Bruce Moffett, Charlotte’s most famous chef and owner of Moffett Restaurant Group (which oversees Barrington’s, Good Food on Montford and Stagioni).
Money: $$. Most main cources run $30 – $35 and pastas are $17 – $19.
Location and hours: SouthPark. Monday – Saturday: 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Closed on Sundays.
The OG of Charlotte small-plate restaurants.
Must-order dish: Steamed bun – Five Spice rubbed pork belly, hoisin, pickled vegetables ($10).
Agenda pro tip: Go with an intimate group of friends (or a hot date) and share a ton of small plates. You’ll probably need 2-4 small plates per person. It ends up being an expensive dinner, but worth it. Oh, and the cocktails are underrated.
Logistics: Good Food doesn’t do reservations, it’s first come, first served. But they do use the Nowait app if you’re looking to shorten your wait time.
Creators: Bruce Moffett, again. He’s good.
Money: $$$. Small plates range from $6 – $14.
Location and hours: Montford. 1701 Montford Drive. Monday – Saturday: 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Closed Sunday.
Must-order dish: 16 oz. choice-cut ribeye ($39).
Noteworthy: Instead of adding the salad toppings onto the salad, they give you a separate salad topping plate. Puts me to work and allows me to create the perfectly balanced salad and to dip the remaining veggies into my blue cheese salad dressing. Oh, and the cheese dip is money.
Money: $$$. Most steaks are around $40 and each comes with a salad and your choice of one side. Additional sides are another $5.
Location and hours: 4538 South Boulevard. Monday – Thursday: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday: 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Authentic Mediterranean bistro focusing on southern French, northern Spanish and northern Italian cuisine nestled in a cozy space in the heart of Myers Park.
Must-order dish: Tagliatelle – bacon lardon, parmesan, egg yolk cream ($17). Or the lobster spaghetti – Maine lobster, tomato, parmesan froth ($22).
Agenda pro tip: Stagioni and RuRu’s are within about 250 yards of each other if you’re looking for another cool spot to hang out before or after your meal.
Creators: Nicholas Tarnate (chef) and co-owners/operators Bryan St. Clair and Patrick Garrivier.
Money: $$. Pastas run $17 – $22 and entrees are $29 – $34.
Location and hours: Myers Park. 545-B Providence Road. Lunch: Tuesday – Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner: Monday – Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Closed Sunday.
#8 Fig Tree
Sets the standard for a white tablecloth, fine-dining destination in Charlotte.
Must-order dish: Fig Tree’s famous elk chop ($42) — grilled New Zealand elk chop over horseradish spaetzle with smoked bacon-braized purple cabbage and boursin-dijon sauce.
Space: Located in Elizabeth, you’ll find Fig Tree inside a Craftsman-style bungalow built in 1913.
Owners: Chef Greg Zanitsch and GM Sara Zanitsch.
Money: $$$. Entrees included sea bass with lobster ($42), grouper ($36), salmon ($31), scallops ($36), ostrich ($39), elk chop ($42), filet mignon ($40), veal ($37), lamb ($35) and pappardelle ($25).
Location and hours: Elizabeth. 601 East 7th Street. Monday-Thursday: 5:30 p.m-10 p.m. Friday: 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday: 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Sunday: 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
Sophisticated French cuisine and menu items that you’re sure to mispronounce.
Must-order dish: Fricassee de poulet (aka chicken) – poulet rouge chicken, foie gras and mushrooms ($28) with a side order of lobster macaroni with brioche, béchamel and cheese ($12).
Creators: Chef/co-owner Tom Condron and operator and co-owner Matthew Pera.
Money: $$$. Salads run about $11, apps about $15 and entrees are around $30. You can also add side dishes for $7-$12. Portions are small, so don’t expect to stuff yourself.
Location: Myers Park. 1039 Providence Road.
#10 Carpe Diem
Fine dining in a non-stuffy Elizabeth neighborhood setting.
Must-order dish: Grilled grape salad ($9.50) followed by the buttermilk fried chicken breast ($20).
Agenda pro tip: Eat at the bar area. It’s cool and has a cozier feeling than the main dining room. Oh, and enjoy cleansing your palate with sorbet, because you’re fancy like that.
Money: $$$. Salads are about $9, apps about $12 and entrees range from $19 – $32.
Location and hours: Elizabeth. 1535 Elizabeth Avenue. Monday – Thursday: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.
New American fare in an intimate rustic-chic setting.
Must-order dish: Harmony Ridge pork chop with sage, plums and pressed potatoes ($40). Or try the ribeye deckle with caramelized onions, buttermilk blue cheese and an apple cider reduction ($45).
Agenda pro tip: With its intimate yet casual feel, Customshop is a perfect date restaurant. The bar is small, but it’s also a great happy hour spot or place to dine.
Newsworthy: Owner and executive chef Trey Wilson is also launching a new restaurant named Flourshop in the Backlot of Park Road Shopping Center that will feature fresh pasta and roasted meats from an open-fire grill. Construction is underway.
Money: $$$. Small plates run $10-$15, pastas are $24-$28 and entrees are $30-$45.
Location and hours: Elizabeth. 1601 Elizabeth Avenue. Tuesday – Thursday: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., Friday – Saturday: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Hottest new restaurant of 2017, known for its Southern comfort food and refreshing craft cocktails.
Must-order dishes: Hushpuppies $7, fried chicken tenders ($2.50/each), mac & cheese ($6/$11), charred okra ($5/$10) and finish off the meal with their waffle and housemade buttermilk ice cream ($8).
Noteworthy: Their cocktails are delicious and feel like they’re the most Instagrammed drinks in the city.
Creator: Jeff Tonidandel, who also owns popular NoDa spots Crepe Cellar Kitchen & Pub and Growlers Pourhouse.
Money: $$. Apps range from $5-$9, fried chicken is about $9.50 and sides range from $3.50 to $6. Cocktails are about $12.
Location and hours: NoDa. 3106 North Davidson Street. Tuesday – Thursday: 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Friday: 5 p.m. – 1 a.m. Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 1 a.m. Sunday: 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. Closed Monday.
O-Ku has the best sushi in Charlotte in an trendy urban setting that’ll make you feel like you’re in NYC.
Must-order rolls: Spicy rainbow roll – seafood wrapped, filled with snow crab, cucumber, avocado, masago, shiso dust, lime zest rainbow tobiko, spicy aioli, eel sauce, togarashi ($15). Potato roll – Tempura shrimp, avocado, wrapped with fried shoe-string potatoes, eel sauce, sweet chili ($13). And their new tuna tart — crispy flour, tuna sashimi, truffle creme, black salt, greens ($16).
Agenda pro tip: If you’re not into sushi, try their Tsukamen dipping noodles — ramen, hardboiled egg, condensed pork broth, braised pork belly ($16). You can replace the pork belly with Wagyu ($40).
Money: $$$. Most rolls are $11-$15.
Location and hours: South End. 2000 South Boulevard. Monday – Wednesday: 5 p.m. – 10:30 pm. Thursday – Saturday 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Sunday: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
#14 Summit Room
Southern-inspired plates in a rustic-chic setting with a handful of rocking chairs on the patio that make for the perfect fall evening
Must-order dish: BBQ shrimp with corn pudding, tasso cream and chive oil ($14).
Noteworthy: Arguably the best cocktails in Charlotte. Go with theBlueberryy Smash cocktail – Tito’s, fresh squeezed lemon sour, fresh squeezed lime sour, muddled blueberries ($12).
Creator: DeeDee Mills
Money: $$. Small plates from from $8-$14 and larger plates range from $19-$34.
Location and hours: Dilworth. 1531 East Boulevard.
#15 The Asbury
Modern Southern restaurant located in Uptown’s Dunhill Hotel.
Must-order dishes: Start off with Maw Maw’s cast-iron biscuits with bacon jam and the deviled eggs. You can’t go wrong with any of the entrees, especially if you get a side of their cast-iron mac + cheese with cheddar, grilled piquillo peppers, crispy country ham and goat Gournay cheese ($8).
Money: $$$. Full entrees range from $20-$27.
Location and hours: Uptown. 235 North Tryon Street. Monday – Friday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday – Sunday: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
#16 The Gallery
New American fare located inside the Ballantyne Hotel
Must-order dish: French onion soup with OMB-soaked gruyère, focaccia crouton ($10) or the filet with truffled mashed potatoes and charred red onion roasted garlic herb butter ($40).
Agenda pro tip: If you need a getaway, but don’t the time to travel, here’s how to do a 24-hour staycation at The Ballantyne.
Money: $$$. Most entrees range from $30-$40. The service is outstanding.
Location: Ballantyne. Inside the Ballantyne Hotel. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Modern take on classic Italian dishes in an intimate Myers Park setting with an open kitchen
Must-order dishes: Start with the meatballs – local pork, parmesan, marinara and ciabatta ($10) and then go with the pepperoni and sausage pizza ($16).
Money: $$. Apps and small plates run about $10, pizzas about $15 and both pastas and entrees are around $30.
Noteworthy: Pizzas are served with giant pair of scissors so you can cut it as you like. It’s fun.
Location and hours: Myers Park. 715 Providence Road. Monday – Thursday: 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday: 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Closed on Sundays.
Adventurous global small plates and amazing cocktails makes this the hippest restaurant in our city.
Must-order dish: Asian glazed pork belly tacos on flour tortillas with watermelon salsa ($12).
Noteworthy: Rotating DJs come on around 9 p.m. on weekends.
Money: $$. Small plates range from $7-$20 with most around $10.
Location and hours: Plaza Midwood. 1500 Central Avenue. Open every day: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
#19 The Cowfish
You’d think that they couldn’t pull off being both a top 10 burger and a top 10 sushi restaurant, but they do. That explains the crowds.
Must-order dish: Fusion Specialty Bento Box ($16) – combo meal featuring both burger and sushi, including the featured mini-burger of the week, sweet potato fries, Thai cucumbers, edamame and choice of a 4-piece Fusion Specialty roll (Mark’s, firecracker, blackened tuna or tempura shrimp roll) or 3 pieces of mixed nigiri (tuna, salmon and shrimp)
Money: $$. Burgers run about $14, sushi rolls are $12 and Burgushi $16.
Location and hours: SouthPark. 4310 Sharon Road. Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
[Agenda related story: Have you tried all the #1 most popular rolls at these Charlotte sushi hotspots?]
If it’s good enough BBQ for Obama, it’s good enough for you (yes, he really did visit this barbecue spot with Hillary Clinton in 2016).
Must-order dish: Start with the pimento cheese fries ($6) and BBQ queso ($4), then go with the large Carolina pork served with hushpuppies, pickled onions and 2 sides (classic mac & cheese and bacon wrapped jalapeños).
Creator: Frank Scibelli, owner of FS Group, which also owns YAFO, Paco’s Tacos and Mama Ricotta’s. He recently had a large Bad Daddy’s exit.
Money: $$. Apps are around $5, sandwiches around $9 and BBQ plates run between $10-$18. A whole rack of Saint Louis-style pork ribs with two sides will set you back $25.
Locations: Plaza Midwood, Ballantyne, Park Road Shopping Center and Birkdale Village.
#21 New Zealand Cafe
Don’t be fooled by the strip mall location and weird decor — their sushi is the real deal and they don’t price-gouge you.
Must-order dish: Rainbow Roll – California roll draped with tuna, salmon, white fish, shrimp and smelt roe ($8.95).
Money: $$. Most rolls are $7-$10.
Location: 1717 Sardis Road North.
[Agenda related story: Definitive ranking of Charlotte’s top 10 sushi spots]
Fast-casual Mediterranean and Israeli restaurant with healthy, fresh, addictive food. I go there at least once a week.
Must-order dish: Shawarma – shawarma chicken, tzatziki, cucumber and tomato salad, tahini, sumac onion, Schug ($10.99). And get the hummus too.
Money: $$. Wraps and bowls run about $11.
Location and hours: SouthPark. 720 Gov Morrison Street. Sunday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Our city is obsessed with Sabor’s Latin street food and if you’ve never been, you’re crazy.
Must-order dish: Supreme nachos – tortilla chips, choice of protein, refried or black beans, queso, lettuce, sour cream, pico, guac & cotija cheese ($7).
Noteworthy: Sabor’s weekly specials are amazing. Our favorites? $1 Taco Tuesdays, Kids Eat Free Wednesdays, $4 margaritas on Fridays and tacos are only $1 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday.
Creator: Dalton Espaillat, who once told me, “We’d like to take over Chipotle” with a straight face.
Money: $. Tacos are about $3, street food $6, burritos $8 and nachos are $7.
Locations: Elizabeth, NoDa, Wesley Chapel, Indian Trail, Steele Creek, SouthPark, Fort Mill and Pineville.
Tiny roadside burger joint in NoDa that serves breakfast and lunch out of a window — no seating, just a few tables for standing.
Must-order dish: Cheeseburger served “all the way” which means mustard, onions and their homemade chili on top ($3.75).
Money: $. You can’t find anything on the menu over $5. Oh, and people forget they have breakfast sandwiches.
Location and hours: NoDa. 2710 N. Brevard Street. Monday – Friday: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
[Agenda related story: Best burgers in Charlotte? Here’s the definitive ranking of Charlotte’s top 10 burger spots]
Mouthwatering Neapolitan-style pizza restaurant that’s tops in our city.
Must-order dish: Pistachio Pizza – rosemary, sea salt, ricotta, Buffalo mozzarella, garlic, pistachio pesto sauce, pistachios($15/$22). If you’re going to do a salad, do the sizable Italian chopped ($10) and finish off the meal with cannoli or gelato.
Money: $$. Salads range from $7-$10 and small pizzas range from $10-$15.
Locations and hours: Providence Commons and Dilworth. Sunday – Thursday: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
#26 Futo Buta
Modern, cozy space with creative ramen dishes located in the heart of South End
Must-order dish: Fire & Ice Ramen – kimchi and dashi broth, hot smoked salmon, fresh mint, bok choy, shaved carrot, radish, black sesame, scallion, leek ($13). If you’re hungry, do the Buta Bowl – chicken and dashi broth, double noodle, pecan smoked pork belly, duck confit, spicy pork, ono chili sauce, sweet white corn, leek, scallion, cayenne pepper threads, onsen egg ($18).
Creator: Michael Shortino, who’s also opening up an urban grocery store named Lincoln’s Haberdashery just around the corner in South End.
Money: $$. Steamed buns are $10, small rice bowls are $8 and ramen bowls are between $12-$18.
Location and hours: South End at the Bland Street light rail station. Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sunday: noon to 10 p.m.
#27 Living Kitchen
Super-hip vegetarian restaurant that even your meat-loving friends will love.
Must-order dish: Living Burrito – sunflower seed refried beans, cauliflower rice, sprouts, pico de gallo guacamole and cashew sour cream wrapped in a collard leaf – served with fire and brimstone hot sauce ($10.50).
Money: $$. Most dishes are between $8-$13. Smoothies and juices are about $9.
Location and hours: South End and SouthPark. Monday – Saturday: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
#28 Crepe Cellar
European gastro pub in a cozy, chill setting.
Must-order dish: Pesto brie fries, hand cut and twice fried ($8).
White tablecloth, but friendly setting serving up Southern-style dishes in SouthPark.
Must-order dish: Octopus & wild boar – spaghetti squash/local peas/tatsoi/apples/cress pesto ($34).
Money: $$$. Entrees run from $21 to $42.
Location and hours: SouthPark. 4905 Ashley Park Lane. Sunday: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Lunch is served Monday – Friday 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Dinner is served Sunday – Wednesday: 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. and Thursday – Saturday: 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Upscale new American dishes served in a restored 19th-century Dilworth church.
Must-order dish: Fried lobster tail – whipped potatoes, market vegetables, local N.C. honey-soy reduction, mustard aioli ($39). If you’re more of a steak lover, go with the embered asparagus & cast iron hash browns dry aged 12oz Kansas City strip steak ($38).
Agenda Pro Tip: If you’ve got a group, ask for the 10-person private dining space in the cellar.
Money: $$$. Salads and apps are about $10 and entrees range from $24 to $41.
Location and hours: Dilworth. Monday – Thursday: 5:30 to 10 p.m., Friday – Saturday: 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
#31 Mama Ricotta’s
Traditional Italian restaurant.
Must-order dish: Penne alla vodka – penne pasta tossed with sautéed pancetta in a pepper vodka, spicy tomato cream sauce ($15). Also, you can’t go wrong with their lasagna – southern Italian-style lasagna made with layers of ground beef, veal, homemade sausage and a blend of three cheeses ($13).
Noteworthy: Pizza is a New Haven-style with a thin crust that’s crisp and bubbly, cooked in a true wood-burning oven.
Agenda pro tip: Mama’s does family-style pastas that feed approximately 2-3 people that are perfect for takeout.
Money: $$. Medium pizzas are $12.50 and pastas are about $15.
Location and hours: Midtown. 601 South Kings Drive. Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
#32 Viva Chicken
Peruvian rotisserie chicken joint well known for its dishes and yellow, green and red sauces.
Must-order dish: 1/4 chicken with cilantro-infused rice and plantains ($8.75). Also, grab a quinoa stuffed avocado – organic quinoa, avocado, red pepper, rocoto mayo and balsamic vinaigrette ($7.95)
Noteworthy: Shockingly, Viva Chicken may also have the best fried rice in town ($6.95).
Money: $$. Dishes are about $9.
Locations: Elizabeth, Ballantyne, Huntersville, Concord, Park Road and Waverly.
#33 Thai Taste
Making its debut in 1988, Thai Taste is the original Charlotte Thai restaurant and still the best.
Must-order dish: Pad Thai lunch special ($8.95). If you dine in at lunch, all dishes come with soup, a spring roll and iced tea.
Money: $$. Most dishes are around $8-$14.
Locations and hours: Dilworth and University City.
[Agenda related story: 5 best Thai restaurants including sexy Pad Thai photos from each]
Top burger joint located in a low key strip mall in Elizabeth.
Must-order dish: Bang Bang Burger ($9.50) – American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, homemade pickle and Bangburger sauce with fries. A double will cost you an additional $3. Backup order is the Cowboy Burger – sharp cheddar, bacon and homemade BBQ sauce with fries.
Money: $$. Most fancy burgers will run you about $10.
Location and hours: Elizabeth. 2001 E. 7th Street. Open daily, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
#35 Poppy’s Bagels
Sure, Owen’s is solid and Poppyseeds is on the rise, but Poppy’s still has the best bagels in town.
Must Order Dish: Bacon, egg and cheese on an everything bagel.
Money: $. It’s bagels.
Location and hours: Cotswold. 2921 Providence Road. Monday – Friday: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday – Sunday: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
New American cuisine focused on farm-to-table with a rotating menu.
Must-order dish: N.C. shrimp, grits, corn, okra, tomatoes, summer squash, bell pepper and herbs ($23).
Money: $$$. Entrees are between $25 and $39.
Location: Their original Waxhaw location has closed and they’ll soon open in Elizabeth.
#37 Bistro La Bon
Small plates and tapas restaurant located on the corner of a strip-mall in Plaza Midwood
Must-order dish: P.E.I mussels & frites – Pan broth, leeks, tomatoes, saffron aioli ($13).
Money: $$$. Small plates range from $8-$14 and entrees range from $18-$33.
Location and hours: Plaza Midwood. 1322 Central Avenue. Closed Monday.
#38 McNinch House
Set menus and tasting menu served in a Victorian home located in Fourth Ward.
Must-order dish: Order the jumbo lump crab cake appetizer with Louisiana-style remoulade, lemon ash and apple-carrot salad. Most menu items rotate every quarter. For your main course, do the filet mignon with hot German potato salad and cognac bordelaise.
Noteworthy: The Victorian house was built in 1892 and owner Ellen Davis (who personally greeted each table) lives upstairs.
Money & Menus: $$$. Here are your options:
- Premier Menu – 5 courses ($89): Choice of two appetizers, sorbet, entree and dessert.
- Grand Menu – 7 courses ($109): Choice of three appetizers, sorbet, entree, cheese and dessert.
- Chef’s Tasting – 6 courses ($185): Six chef’s choice courses and wine pairings.
Location and hours: Uptown. 511 N Church Street.
Gourmet donuts so good that you’ll start dreaming of them.
Must-order dish: Cinnamon sugar w/ cream cheese buttercream icing. Here’s how owners Courtney Buckley & Benjamin Frye describe the process: “When the donuts are fresh out of the fryer, we coat them in glaze, dip them in cinnamon sugar, then top them with our homemade cream cheese buttercream icing.
Location and hours: Matthews. 11025 Monroe Road. Wednesday-Saturday: 7 a.m. – 1 p.m. (or sell out). Sunday: 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. (or sell out). Closed Monday – Tuesday.
The ideal neighborhood tavern, serving unpretentious food in historic Fourth Ward.
Must-order dish: What It Is – blackened chicken breast over fresh rotini in a cajun cream sauce ($16.75).
Money: $$. Sandwiches cost about $9 and entrees are around $17.
Location and hours: Uptown. 401 W. 9th Street. Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Closed Sundays.
#41 Sea Level
Top seafood restaurant in the heart of Uptown.
Must-order dish: Start your group off with a 5th Street Tower – cold cooked mussels, clams, shrimp cocktail and oysters with cocktail sauce, horseradish, migonette ($75). Then order the lobster roll ($22).
Money: $$. Oysters are about $3/each and fish dishes range from $21 to $33.
Location and hours: Uptown. Monday – Friday: 11:30 a.m. to midnight. Saturday: 11 a.m. – midnight. Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Nonprofit restaurant in Uptown serving Southern dishes to benefit the homeless.
Must-order dish: Aunt Beaut’s pan-fried chicken – classic meat and three, dark or white, served with choice of cornbread or biscuit ($15).
Money: $$. Entrees range from $15-$24.
Location and hours: Uptown. 129 W. Trade Street. Lunch is served Monday – Friday: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner is served Monday- Thursday: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Closed Sundays.
#43 Dumpling Lady
This food truck that serves up locally sourced, authentic dumplings will be a relief to your belly.
Must-order dish: Pork & chive dumplings. $9 for 10 dumplings.
Dumpling Options: Pork & chives, sweet pork belly, chicken & mushrooms, crab & chicken, shrimp & chicken, and veggie.
Money: $. It’s about $9 for 10 dumplings.
Location: It’s a food truck, so follow them on Instagram to view their location.
Famous fried chicken.
Must-order dish: 1/4 chicken dark – which comes with cole slaw, french fries, hushpuppies and a roll ($6.85).
Money: $. Prices range from a $2.15 hamburger to a $10.90 1/2 chicken dinner. You can also purchase bulk items if you’re feeding your whole crew.
Location and hours: South End. 1614 Camden Road. Tuesday – Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Sunday.
#45 JJ’s Red Hots
Retro-style classic hot dog and sausage spot in Dilworth.
Must-order dish: JJ’s “No. 1” Red Hot – JJ’s hot relish, diced onions, Weber’s mustard, dill pickle spear ($3.99).
Agenda pro tip: If it’s a nice day, check out the super-chill rooftop patio.
Noteworthy: In late 2017, their new Uptown location near Romare Bearden Park will open.
Money: $. Fancy dogs are about $4.
Locations: Dilworth and Ballantyne.
#46 Seoul Food
Southern BBQ restaurant with a heavy Korean inspiration, hip urban vibe, Instagrammable cocktails and an amazing back patio in South End.
Must-order dish: Kimchi fries – a mound of french fries, covered with carnitas (pork), kimchi, cheese, and toppings ($4).
Agenda pro tip: Mondays through Thursdays, Seoul Food runs a happy hour special from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. where all sides (normally $4) are $1.
Money: $$. Wings are about $1 each, tacos are $4 each and meats run $9 – $15. Cocktails are excellent and will set you back $8-$12.
Location and hours: South End. 1400 S. Church Street. Lunch is served Monday – Friday: 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Dinner is Sunday – Thursday: 4:30 p.m. to midnight. Friday: 4:30 p.m. – 2 a.m. Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 2 a.m. Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to midnight.
Myers Park bistro with vineyard-style decor serving Napa Valley-inspired dishes.
Must-order dish: Mozzarella stuffed meatball bucatini – Pomodoro, white wine, blistered grape tomatoes, shaved Piave Vecchio, purple basil ($19). If you’re looking for fish, go with their grilled Chilean salmon – Tuscan white bean puree, garlic confit, sautéed kale, pickled red onions, and cranberry marmellata ($24).
Agenda pro tip: Outside patio is a perfect brunch spot.
Money: $$. Most entrees are in the $25-$30 range.
Location: Myers Park. 110 Perrin Place. Serving brunch, lunch and dinner.
[Agenda related story: Top 10 brunches in Charlotte, ranked]
#48 Paco’s Tacos
Casual Tex-Mex joint with over 100 tequilas near SouthPark Mall.
Must-order dish: Outlaw steak fajita – giant portion of wood-grilled marinated skirt steak cooked to order on a wood-burning grill ($20). Fajitas are served with onions, green peppers, charro beans, lettuce, red rice, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, jalapeños, shredded cheese, Mexican butter and warm homemade flour tortillas.
Agenda pro tip: If you’re a queso person, give their Volcano Queso a shot – blend of cheeses melted with pineapple, jalapeno bacon, with onions and poblano peppers ($10).
Money: $$. Most dishes are in the $10-$15 range.
Location and hours: SouthPark. Open daily, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Some of the best Thai food in our city and packed at lunchtime.
Must-order dish: Pad Thai – rice noodles stir-fried with chicken, shrimp, eggs, bean sprouts, scallions, peanuts and Pad Thai sauce, served with a wedge of lime ($16.50).
Money: $$$. Most entrees, curries and noodle dishes are between $15-$20.
Location and hours: Uptown. 210 North Church Street. Lunch is served Monday – Friday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner is Sunday – Thursday: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., Friday – Saturday: 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Our city’s go-to Indian restaurant located in a historic Dilworth bungalow.
Must-order dish: Murgh tikka masala – roasted chicken breast chunks, creamed tomato sauce and fenugreek ($17).
Money: $$. Entrees range from $15-$27.
Location and hours: Dilworth. 311 East Boulevard. Lunch is served Monday – Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Sunday: 11:30 to 3 p.m. Dinner is Monday – Thursday: 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Friday – Saturday 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Sunday: 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Cover photo courtesy of Kindred. Rankings are based on food, vibe, beverages and service.