There’s something about these extra dark and cool nights that leaves you craving a cozy and hearty meal. (Or maybe that’s the post-election, pre-holiday stress talking?) Whatever the case, these six top Charlotte restaurants have recently revamped their menus to feature decadent comfort foods filled with sophisticated ingredients and seasonal flavors.
Here’s where to go, what to order, and why — as if you needed an excuse for any of these meals.
WHAT: This modern restaurant is located in the historic Dunhill Hotel in Uptown, making it the perfect pre-performance stop for those catching “The Nutcracker” or a symphony holiday concert this season. Its farm-to-table menu is full of savory and Southern choices, and you’ll want to indulge in inventive options like a rabbit and white bean ragout or the seared foie gras over a butternut squash grit cake. But whatever you do, don’t skip the twist on the traditional chicken pot pie made with colorful root vegetables, a crumbled buttermilk biscuit, and a creamy roasted lemon jus.
WHY: This is the restaurant’s first seasonal menu created entirely by Executive Chef Matthew Krenz, who is undeniably a rising culinary star in Charlotte. With a deep background both in local farms and culinary technique, Krenz gets especially creative with Southern fare.
235 N. Tryon St., Charlotte.
WHAT: Sure, it has an inviting patio topped with string lights and a front porch filled with rocking chairs perfect for warmer weather. But this Dilworth restaurant’s rustic-meets-elegant interior was made for chilly nights. Bring a group of friends for dinner and order plenty of everything to share. Top picks for the table? The squash salad made with butternut squash and cider marinated goat cheese, the crabcake corn dogs with an Old Bay mayo, and the maple bruleed Brussels with lardons.
WHY: Because you deserve dessert and the Apple Cider Donuts are served warm and topped with a cider sugar glaze and cinnamon Chantilly cream. (This is the one thing you should definitely not share.)
1531 East Blvd., Charlotte.
WHAT: Chances are if you’ve been in Charlotte for long then you’ve already indulged in an evening or two in this swanky Uptown spot. Good news: It’s officially time for another trip. Seasonal offerings such as the fragrant wild mushroom and purple barley soup with black truffles or the roasted duck with spicy plum sauce fuse global and local flavors to create alluring autumn dishes.
WHY: The restaurant’s Executive Chef Jamie Lynch is on the upcoming season of “Top Chef” (it premiers Dec. 1). So, in addition to getting to brag to your friends about eating at a celebrity chef’s restaurant you get to, you know, actually enjoy eating at a celebrity chef’s restaurant.
127 N. Tryon St., Suite 8, Charlotte.
WHAT: You know who really knows how to do sophisticated comfort fare? The French. It only makes sense then that this lively and inviting SouthPark restaurant would be an ideal destination for winter’s classic luxurious dishes. Start your meal with the melt-in-your-mouth-thin crispy Brussels leaves before moving on to the rich chili-charred pork belly with a hot pepper jam and black garlic aioli followed by the tender rack of lamb in a fig-merlot balsamic glaze.
WHY: Snag a seat with views of Piedmont Row’s twinkling lights and consider this fare — and its accompanying wine list — the ideal way to end a day of holiday shopping at the nearby mall.
4620 Piedmont Row Dr., Charlotte.
WHAT: Sure, this is a favorite spot for a quick lunch of burgers or brisket. But this stylish Uptown restaurant’s dinner menu is filled with unexpectedly elegant options. Seasonal dishes like the roasted mushroom turnovers with truffle aioli and the butternut squash bisque topped with green chimichurri are full of vivid flavors, but City Smoke’s true treasures come from its rotisserie. Try the porcini rubbed prime rib or the pork shoulder with tomato jam — or, for an especially unusual twist, the delicate rotisserie cauliflower.
WHY: This is a restaurant dedicated to smoking and roasting — so basically the ultimate destination for curing your winter blues with cozy comfort food.
100 North Tryon St., Charlotte.
WHAT: This Cornelius restaurant is housed in a bucolic bungalow that makes a meal here feel like dinner in a friend’s home — if that friend is an incredibly talented chef. Long-loved Charlotte chef Tim Groody weaves together innovative and traditional flavors in dishes like a crispy duck confit with fava bean stew or a pork rib chop with apple mustard. And dishes don’t get more comforting than the restaurant’s decadent staple: a creamy, bubbling bowl of lobster mac and cheese.
WHY: Groody’s signature dedication to seasonal ingredients and local purveyors (often as close as the restaurant’s own garden!) make this spot well worth the trip to Cornelius.
20517 N. Main St., Cornelius.
Photos: Sarah Crosland