If you’re looking to take a day trip through the Lake Norman area (or perhaps you live there, like I do), Cornelius has a lot to offer, whether you’re looking for something quick and easy or a relaxing dinner on an enchanting outdoor patio.
I have a few on my wish-list that I haven’t had the opportunity to dine at yet. One being Hello, Sailor… I can’t wait to see first-hand how they revamped the Rusty Rudder space.
From my food adventures, here are 10 of the best places to wine and dine in Cornelius.
17830 Statesville Rd.
When should you visit? This establishment is perfect for date night, birthdays or anniversaries. My husband and I like to sit at the bar (or on the patio by the fireplace when weather permits) with a glass of wine and various appetizers. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual (with a hint of upscale) and service is always top-notch.
What should you order? The Grilled Artichokes ($12) are the perfect size for two people to split, then we suggest ordering a couple salads or a lighter entrée so you can save room for dessert. The Top Chop Salad ($18) is one of my top choices along with the Slow Roasted Chicken ($20). For sweet-tooth devotees, their Strawberry Shortcake is a mouthful of pure joy.
When should you visit? If an imaginative burger strikes your fancy, this is your burger bar. This casual duo of restaurants boasts a family-friendly atmosphere that’s inviting and comfortable. They offer craft cocktails that rotate daily and a decent collection of brews and wine.
What should you order? I may or may not have already tried every burger on their menu (I’m kind of a burger fanatic) but a few that stick out in my memory include the Hot Pepper Burg’r ($8.99 ) – which is also offered in veggie burg’r form for the same price – and The “Good Egg” Burg’r ($8.99 ) that’s topped with a fried egg, grilled onions, cheddar cheese, bacon and mayo. They also have a Mac N’ Cheese Burg’r ($8.99), but I actually prefer ordering the Mac N’ Cheese as one of my sides and stuffing it into my concoction of choice. Note: The chicken sandwiches are a mouthwatering alternative if you’re in the mood for something a little different.
20910 Torrence Chapel Rd.
When should you visit? When I’m in the mood for an authentic Italian sandwich, this hidden gem has got everything I’m craving (and more). It’s family owned and when you’re looking to grab your goods to-go, they offer antipasti from the gourmet deli counter. We like to stock up here before heading out for a day on the lake.
What should you order? The Caprese Sandwich on Ciabatta ($8.99) is a classic that will never disappoint. Another great option is their Chicken Parmesan ($8.99), as it’s the real deal. Make sure to come hungry and prepare to leave happy. Oh, and they are also a butcher shop so this is a great option for purchasing quality meats for your next cookout.
20517 N. Main St.
When should you visit? After-work dinner and cocktails or Sunday Brunch. This cute-as-a-button restaurant is located in an old, renovated house with a large wrap-around porch that’s perfect for enjoying the nighttime breeze. They specialize in small plates made in collaboration with local farmers and even list partnered venues on the bottom of their menu.
What should you order? I’m a big sucker for goat cheese anything, so I recommend adding their Goat Cheese Mac & Cheese ($6) as an extra to your main entrée. The Slow Cooked Lamb Shank ($20) is very popular and pairs perfectly with a big glass of red wine. They also offer cocktails for those who prefer a boozier thirst-quencher.
20609 Torrence Chapel Rd.
When should you visit? This location is on the smaller side, so we’ve only ordered our meals as takeout to enjoy at home. If you’ve dined in, please let us know your experience in the comments. This health-conscious restaurant specializes in wholesome entrees in massive portions, that way you leave feeling full and satisfied without the bloat.
What should you order? The Blackened Chicken Caesar ($13) is the perfect blend of classic ingredients with house-made croutons and fresh salad dressing. Insider Tip: I usually substitute kale for the greens (I know it sounds weird but it’s actually fantastic); they offer this option free of charge for any of their salads.
17044 Kenton Dr.
When should you visit? Each year they host a massive St. Patty’s Day Celebration, but they are also ideal for dinner or weekend drinks with the gang. First off, the entire bar was built in Ireland and shipped over piece by piece (how cool is that?); it truly is an authentic Irish pub. We personally love their patio and often host out-of-town guests out there for cocktails and appetizers. Note: Galway Hooker is also home to The Comedy Zone upstairs and hosts local and celebrity guests.
What should you order? Where do I start… The Irish Egg Rolls ($8) are pretty stellar, along with their Beer Battered Fish and Chips ($12) and the Corned Beef Reuben ($10). Another MUST is the Brown Ale Bavarian Pretzel ($6) that’s served with sweet potato mustard and cheddar-ale sauce, yum.
19930 W. Catawba Ave.
When should you visit? Here’s another Irish pub that is popular for weekend brunch and evening rendezvous. They have a great selection of appetizers and some of the “Old Country” favorites are a must-try. It is family owned, so you get that “grandma’s in the kitchen” feel.
What should you order? The Shrimp and Artichoke Dip ($8) comes out piping hot with a nice serving of chips and the Shrimp Hushpuppies ($8) are an interesting twist to a southern favorite. As for the “Old Country” fare, try the Bangers & Mash ($12.95) or Harp Beer-Batter Fish & Chips ($14.50).
18059 W. Catawba Ave.
When should you visit? Authentic Pho and Vietnamese dishes are what you’ll find here. It’s not fancy by any means… so don’t expect the bells and whistles (but don’t let their appearance fool you either). Oh, and listen up ladies… the nail salon next door (called Nails Design) is one of the best in town. This too is not fancy, but the quality of service is top-notch.
What should you order? I originally went here to try their Pho ($8.95), which has excellent tasting broth and comes with a hefty plate of veggies, herbs and lime wedges for topping. However, a friend recommended the Spicy Sate (call for pricing, it’s not on the regular menu) and I now crave that dish about once a week. The staff is friendly and service is exceptional.
18341 Statesville Rd.
When should you visit? This fast-casual eatery is part of the PDQ Chain, but don’t let the “chain” scare you away… their food is fresh and nothing short of amazing. Visit for lunch, dinner or anytime in-between! Just to warn you: they can get rather busy during mealtimes so the parking can be a little tough to navigate (their lot is huge, but they seriously get that busy). Cashiers are equipped to get you in-and-out during those times though, so don’t worry about enduring a grueling, long wait (it’s not that bad).
What should you order? The Chicken Tenders with fries (4-piece meal for $8.29) are phenomenal, but I also really enjoy the Crispy Chicken Salad ($7.29). As far as dipping sauces, the Creamy Garlic is my absolute favorite – it’s like ranch but with a massive garlic kick. They just introduced “Totchos” and a milkshake called “The Snack Machine” that I can’t wait to try next week.
20910 Torrence Chapel Rd.
When should you visit? The daily lunch buffet is nothing short of mind-blowing… so go for your mid-day Indian fix. Plus, it’s a great way to try an assortment of specialty entrees you’ve been curious about without having to commit to one dish.
What should you order? If you’re joining them for a-la-cart or dinner, starting with the Assorted Appetizers ($8.50) is a wonderful choice. Then I’d move on to the Chana Masala (Punjabi-style chickpeas and diced potatoes for $10.95), Vegetable Biryani (basmati rice with fresh veggies and nuts for $12.95), Tandoori Chicken Tikka ($12.95) or the popular Chicken Tikka Masala ($13.95). Make sure to order a side of Roti or Naan (each $2.50) to go with your meal and save room for their Gulab Jamun (pastry balls dipped in cinnamon syrup for $3.50) or Kheer (traditional rice pudding with cardamom and rose for $3.50).
Carolina Cones is one of my son’s favorite spots. They have a toddler-safe playground, an old-school horse merry-go-round that plays music and an endless amount of ice cream flavors to choose from. They are located at 20801 N. Main Street.
As per the usual, this is not a catch-all list. If we missed our beloved restaurant of choice, please let us know in the comments below so we can go check them out. Stay tuned for more features on Lake Norman towns such as Davidson and Mooresville.
Photos: Jessica Bentley