From authentic Korean and Ethiopian food, to the “Fresh My Farm Vegetables” at Gus’ Sir Beef, Monroe Road in southeast Charlotte has an eclectic mix of dining options. Connecting historic Elizabeth and bustling downtown Matthews, the road slices through the up-and-coming Oakhurst and MoRA neighborhoods, with new developments popping up all over.
I’ve lived off Monroe Road for nearly six years and I’ve done my fair share of research on the area’s dining destinations. Based on my experience – and with some help from the C5 team – here are the best places to eat in the area, from north to south.
Quick note: I decided to focus just on places unique to the corridor, but you’ll find some other local favorites in the honorable mentions at the bottom (because of course I couldn’t pick just five).
Lupie’s Cafe: 2718 Monroe Road, Charlotte
This classic Charlotte spot has barely changed since it opened in 1987 just south of where Seventh Street turns into Monroe. Artifacts and black-and-white photos cover the walls of the low, brick building where owner Lupie Duran and her daughter, Larkin, continue to serve comfort food like meatloaf and spaghetti that keeps people coming back. When a hit-and-run driver busted a hole in the side of the building in 2015, patrons donated more than $4,000 to pay the servers while the restaurant was closed for construction. That’s love.
Don’t overlook: The chili. Lupie’s serves four varieties — Texas, Cincinnati, Vegetarian and Southern Style. I like the super-spicy Texas dumped on top of mac and cheese.
The Red Sea: 4301 Monroe Road, Charlotte
The Red Sea was opened about 17 years ago by Tecle Gebemussie, who hails from Ethiopia. The restaurant moved to Monroe Road after development pushed it out of its longtime home on Charlottetowne Avenue. While this Ethiopian/Eritrean eatery isn’t flashy, the food is — expect brightly colored lentils, sauces and vegetables generously heaped on your order of injera, or spongey flatbread. The variety of dishes will please the meat lover and vegetarian alike, especially if you take to heart the hands-on method of tearing the serving of injera, scooping the fillings and landing them in your mouth.
Don’t overlook: The traditional Ethiopian coffee service.
New Zealand Café: 1717 Sardis Road North, Charlotte
This may have once been a hidden gem, but the secret’s out about the hole-in-the-wall sushi spot at the corner of Monroe Road and Sardis Road North. The inside holds only a handful of tables and a tiny sushi bar, and I’ve seen people waiting outside every night of the week – but trust me, the wait is worth it. There may be better sushi in Charlotte, but not for the price you get it here. Pro tip: Skip the wait by ordering take-out.
Don’t overlook: My go-to rolls are the Sweet Dragon Roll (fried jumbo shrimp, cucumber and mayo topped with eel and avocado) and the Dynamite Roll (spicy yellow tail, avocado and crab roll with smelt roe).
Deep Sea Seafood Market: 10020 Monroe Road, Charlotte
Don’t let the name fool you — Deep Sea is way more than just a seafood market. In addition to selling some of the freshest fish in Charlotte, Larry and Tracy Mesiti serve an incredible lunch (Monday-Saturday) and dinner (Tuesday-Saturday) menu. Go for the Pecan-Crusted Rainbow Trout or the Pan Fried Crab Cakes, get adventurous with the Alligator Sausage Po-Boy, or try something new on the ever-changing menu. The shop is small and doesn’t take reservations, so, like New Zealand Café, you might have to wait, but also like New Zealand Café, it’s worth it.
Don’t overlook: Deep Sea doesn’t serve alcohol, but dinner is BYOB.
Your Mom’s Donuts: 11025 Monroe Road, Matthews
For my money, these thick and delicious square doughnuts are the best in the city. (I still love you, Duck Donuts.) And owner Courtney Buckley, who opened the shop in 2013, is relentlessly local. She uses local ingredients to create her out-of-the-box flavors and even bought a small farm herself. The shop now has a Monroe location (the city, not the road), and also serves doughnuts weekdays Uptown during warmer months and at Davidson Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. But don’t wait — Your Mom’s makes a set amount of doughnuts each day and once they’re out, they’re out. (But you can preorder.)
Don’t overlook: The flavors change regularly, but the Cinnamon Sugar with Cream Cheese Buttercream Icing doughnut is always a hit.
– Common Market Oakwold, 4420A Monroe Road, Charlotte: You can’t go wrong with a Common Market sandwich. Well, maybe you can, but I haven’t yet. But don’t overlook breakfast (6:30-10:30 a.m. weekdays) and brunch (10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday). The grit bowls are legit.
– PePeRo, 10920 Monroe Road, Matthews: If authentic Korean is your jam, PePeRo is your place. Tucked in the back of an Asian grocery store, this humble little spot dishes out favorites like bulgolgi, seafood pancakes and kimchi fried rice.
– Hawthorne’s New York Pizza & Bar, 6215 Old Post Road, Suite 101, Charlotte: This local favorite opened its newest location in the recently-built Meridian Place development. Stop by for the famous Inducer pizza or, through the month of February, $2 draft beers on Mondays.
Did we leave off your favorite Monroe Road spot? Let us know in the comments.
Katie Toussaint and Caroline Portillo contributed to this story.
Photos: CharlotteFive file, Corey Inscoe