The best restaurants in Charlotte’s top neighborhoods, ranked

7
1997
Photo by Peter Taylor
Haymaker

At last, Charlotte is ready.

For years, the restaurant scene in town has been restrained — limited by stubborn, fussy Charlotte diners who refuse to trust in their neighborhood chef. Possible new menu items die in the land of daily specials, never to be heard of again.

No more. Every week, patrons keep our favorite restaurants in the black while a constant stream of new residents provides the adventurous appetites that allow for our best chefs to work unencumbered.

And our chefs are responding.

Chefs like Michael Noll of Bardo are arriving with a splash, unafraid of breaking Charlotte foodways.

Workhorses like Trey Wilson (Flour Shop, Customshop Handcrafted Food) and Blake Hartwick (Bonterra) put their heads down and create chef-driven fare — rewarding frequent guests with constantly rotating offerings.

The gravity of Charlotte’s amassing culinary scene is pulling in area chefs from William Dissen (Asheville/Haymaker) to Craig Diehl (Charleston/Hello, Sailor) to Paul Verica (Waxhaw/The Stanley), all bringing flavors and stories of their own.

And restauranting godfathers like Bruce Moffett (Barrington’s, Good Food on Montford, Stagioni) and Frank Scibelli (Yafo, Midwood Smokehouse, Mama Ricotta’s) continue to build empires with quiet calculation — stretching the boundaries where fine food is served and laying the framework for a future generation of Charlotte chefs.

We eat well because of them.

Eat well. Trust in a chef.

Here are my picks for top restaurants in the Charlotte area, so you can do precisely that:

Dilworth

Courtesy of Bonterra

Bonterra Dining & Wine Room

1829 Cleveland Ave.
Classic Fine Dining
$$$
Modern Southern/Classical French Technique

Housed in a Dilworth church built in 1895, Bonterra still manages to maintain a sense of modernity while displaying 17th century Romantic art above its bar. Since taking over the kitchen in 2000, chef Blake Hartwick has made a name for himself in town cooking Southern cuisine with a distinctive leaning toward flavors that pair with the excellent wine program here. A strong effort is made to feature North Carolina products throughout the constantly rotating menu.

What to order: embered octopus ($11); Kuleto Estates, ‘Native Son’ Cabernet Sauvignon ($12)

Inizio’s Pizzeria Napoletana

2230 Park Road Suite 101
Fast casual
$$
Neapolitan Pizza/Regional Italian

The pizza here is the best in town and for good reason. Everything in the dough is imported from Italy — right down to the water. A detail one may mock, until experiencing the heavenly crust for the first time. Toppings range from classic to modern, seasonal combinations you may find in a contemporary Naples pizzeria.

What to order: Maria pizza ($15/small; $22/large)

Copper Modern Indian Cuisine

311 East Blvd.
Fine Dining
$$$
Modern Indian/Classical Indian Technique

Housed in a 110-year old historic home in Charlotte’s first suburb, Copper has been a popular spot for Dilworth residents for years — serving modern Indian cuisine with deep roots. Nothing exists in town like Copper’s Punjabi gosht “rara.” Intense umami is the result of burnt garlic paste and garam masala spices, slow-braised with lamb.

What to order: Punjabi gosht “rara” ($21)

Honorable mentions: Foxcroft Wine Co.Dilworth Tasting Room, 300 East, Not Just Coffee

Elizabeth/Myers Park

Photo by Stefanie Haviv
Stagioni

Stagioni

715 Providence Road
Casual Fine Dining
$$$
Regional Italian

Bruce Moffett’s third restaurant on this list presents Italian food the way it is eaten across its various regions in a way that Charlotte had not witnessed before its arrival. These masters of gluten produce some of the best pizza, pasta, and focaccia bread in town in a gorgeous historic mansion in Myers Park. Chef Andrew Dodd, who has developed a firm reputation as a force in the Charlotte culinary world, will take over the kitchen of Moffett’s new spot in Plaza Midwood, NC Red, in late winter or early spring 2019.

What to order: NC shrimp, black pepper spaghetti ($32)

The Stanley

1961 E. 7th St.
Casual Fine Dining
$$$
Small Plates/Farm-to-table/World Cuisine/Experimental

Paul Verica shut down his Waxhaw restaurant and moved to the heart of Elizabeth this year. The menu is constantly changing and features Verica’s bold, whimsical take on locally sourced ingredients. Chef Verica is always educating his staff — including his son, Alex, who works as sous chef. Service is professional, yet unassuming. And the donuts served at brunch could inspire a franchise.

What to order: Ben’s chicken liver mousse (prices varies by menu)

Aix en Provence

545 B Providence Road
Classic Fine Dining
$$$
Modern French and Mediterranean/Classical French Technique

Unlike the heavy, decadent French food of Paris, the plates coming out of chef Nicholas Tarnate’s kitchen are delicate and reflect the cuisine of South France, Italy, Northern Spain, and elsewhere in the Mediterranean. The small restaurant has an intimate, but not stuffy, feel to it, and the highly professional staff will ensure your visit is a pleasant one.

What to order: foie gras ($18)

Honorable mentions: Customshop Handcrafted Food, Carpe Diem, Sabor Latin Street Grill, The Fig Tree Restaurant

NoDa

Haberdish

Courtesy of Haberdish

3106 N Davidson St.
Sunday Supper Dining
$$
Southern

NoDa’s mill culture is celebrated throughout this Southern restaurant, from the bar stools made of industrial spools to the denim seat coverings produced in a North Carolina mill. Dinner here feels like a family holiday, with platters of deviled eggs, bowls of mac and cheese and baskets of crispy, juicy fried chicken. Weekday brunch availability only adds to the comforting atmosphere.

What to order: fried chicken ($7.50/2-piece dark; $9.50/2-piece white; $14/half-chicken; $26/whole chicken)

Crepe Cellar Kitchen and Pub

3116 N Davidson St.
Modern Casual
$$
French/Classical French Technique

Brunch food is the star here, but more complex savory dishes such as beef short rib over potato herb gnocchi ($27) and seafood specials such as scallops over bulgur risotto allow guests to explore outside the egg.

What to order: pesto Brie fries ($8/small: $13/large)

Le’s Sandwiches & Cafe

4520 N Tryon St. # 41
Fast Casual
$
Sandwiches/Vietnamese

Deep inside the Asian Corner Mall sits Le’s Sandwiches & Cafe. The Vietnamese sandwiches, served on traditional light and crispy banh mi baguettes, are every bit as good as ones you get in the hidden spots of San Francisco or NYC. In general, your grilled, roasted, or cured meat will be topped with pickled vegetables, cilantro, and fresh jalapeno. This is the place to try meats typically unavailable in most neighborhood delis, from head cheese to shredded pork skin.

What to order: shredded pork and pork skin sandwich banh mi ($4.25)

Honorable mentions: Brooks’ Sandwich House, NoDa Bodega, Heist Brewery

Park Road/Madison Park

Photo via Yelp @FeedmeCharlotte
Good Food on Montford

Good Food on Montford

1701 Montford Dr.
Casual Fine Dining
$$$
Small Plates/Classical French Technique/World Cuisine

Chef Larry Schreiber is opening his own spot in Optimist Hall soon — still under the umbrella of the Moffett Restaurant Group, but Good Food on Montford will land on its feet thanks to a strong support staff, including one of the most well-rounded GMs in the city, Brad McClain. This spot is best enjoyed with groups of three or more, hunkered around a table full of shared small plates.

What to order: steamed bun ($10) and pommes frites ($6)

Flour Shop

2171A, 530 Brandywine Road
Casual Fine Dining
$$$
Wood-fired Kitchen/Classical French Technique

Guests at chef Trey Wilson’s second restaurant are as drawn to the centrally located open kitchen as planets are to our sun. And the coal-burning grill at its center is nearly as hot as it cooks dry-aged steaks while specials like porchetta spit-roast high above the flames. But, it’s called Flour Shop for a reason — definitely try the pasta featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients as well as rich, carefully braised meat sauces.

What to order: seasonal pasta

Midwood Smokehouse

540-C Brandywine Road
Sunday Supper Dining
$$
Barbecue

The barbecue scene in Charlotte was surprisingly lacking until Frank Scibelli’s first smoked meat joint opened in 2011. Three more Charlotte locations and one in Columbia, South Carolina later, the smoked brisket, chicken, and pork along with classic side dishes make this spot reign supreme in the Queen City ‘cue world.

What to order: beef brisket classic BBQ plate ($13.50/small; $18.50/large) with collard greens and/or BBQ slaw

Honorable mentions: Pasta & Provisions, Dot Dot Dot

Plaza Midwood

Photo by Remy Thurston
Yafo

Yafo

1331 Central Ave., Suite 101
Fast Casual
$$
Israeli/Middle Eastern/Mediterranean

A top restaurant in Charlotte where you have to stand in line to order at a counter? The Middle Eastern food produced by Israeli-born chef Shai Fargian (at both his original SouthPark location and the new Yafo in Plaza Midwood) has no equal in Charlotte. From the laffah bread you can watch being made while standing in the typically long line, to the ethereal whipped hummus to the rotisserie meats — this place is special despite its fast casual setting. The new expansion into Plaza Midwood is forcing neighborhood kitchens to refocus their efforts, which is a scenario in which we all win as diners.

What to order: chicken shawarma on a hummus bowl ($10.99)

Soul Gastrolounge

1500 Central Ave.
Casual Fine Dining
$$
Eclectic/Experimental

Soul produces some of the most energetic and adventurous food in town. A cuisine ranging from fusion sushi to world fusion allows for a wide variety of shareable plates to fill your table. The Asian glazed pork belly tacos is one of the most popular dishes in the city.

What to order: Asian glazed pork belly tacos ($12)

Intermezzo

1427 E 10th St.
Modern Casual
$$
Pizzeria/Serbian

Chewy, doughy pizzas shine at this comfortable neighborhood restaurant, but come here for Serbian dishes you are unlikely to experience anywhere else in Charlotte. In the stuffed cabbage dish (​sarma​), sweet, sour, and savory flavors from the ground beef, onions, and house-pickled cabbage come together for something truly unique.

What to order: sarma ($16.95)

South End

Photo by Jayson Whiteside
Bardo

Bardo

1508 Unit B, S. Mint St.
Casual Fine Dining
$$$$
Small plate/Avante Garde/World Cuisine/Experimental

Chef Michael Noll arrived from the underground dining scene in Chicago earlier this year. His tiny restaurant in Wilmore has enormous potential with conceptual flavor combinations that feel edgy yet familiar. The egg & grains bowl appears simple but is a window into chef Noll’s often understated methods that portray both confidence and technical prowess.

What to order: Egg & Grains ($12)

Yamazaru

2173 Hawkins St.
Casual Fine Dining
$$$
Traditional Japanese

Only open for dinner and a fiercely protected secret by locals, Yamazuru serves traditional Japanese fare from yakitori to sushi to ramen in a spot that echoes NYC style. The ever-changing chirashi bowl is Japan’s version of poke with delightful flavors and textures that highlight sea treasures served at the chef’s discretion.

What to order: Chirashi Sushi Rice Bowl ($16)

Futo Buta

222 E. Bland St.
Modern Casual Dining
$$
Modern Japanese

With one of the most popular patios along the Rail Trail when the weather’s nice, things get a little tight inside when the weather turns. And there is good cause for such a constant crowd. The excellent ramen bowls are just the beginning here and small plates such as steamed bao buns are meant to share with friends while kicking back a can of sake.

What to order: Buta bowl ($18)

Honorable mentions: Lincoln’s Haberdashery, Price’s Chicken Coop, Superica, Zeppelin, The Suffolk Punch, Yume, Beef ‘N Bottle Steakhouse, O-Ku

SouthPark

Photo by Stefanie Haviv
Barrington’s

Barrington’s Restaurant

7822 Fairview Road
Classic Fine Dining
$$$
Seasonal/Classical French Technique

Bruce Moffett’s flagship boutique restaurant marries Classical French techniques and local ingredients with years of precision — setting the standard in Charlotte’s fine dining scene. Menu items are thoughtful. Most rotate with the seasons but items like the roast chicken have reached fervent fanbase levels and so remain as anchors throughout the year. Other plates, like the foie gras, have changing sets depending on the season and the chef’s whim.

What to order: seared organic chicken ($23)

Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen

6601 Morrison Blvd.
Sunday Supper Dining
$$$
Farm-to-table/Classical French Technique/Southern

Jim Noble likes his meats smoky and his sauces buttery. Simple dishes like the Joyce Farms BBQ chicken show off technique as well as product. When available, the side of roasted wild mushrooms is a gem to be shared or to be selfishly guarded.

What to order: Joyce Farms BBQ chicken ($12/quarter chicken; $16/half chicken)

Baku

4515 Sharon Road
Contemporary Fine Dining
$$$
Japanese/Sushi

Across from Southpark Mall, Baku serves sushi as well as other traditional and modern Japanese fare. Don’t limit yourself to just raw fish here—weave in a grilled meat or a side of roasted vegetables for a high-end, homestyle meal to share.

What to order: crispy Brussels sprouts ($8) and uni nigiri ($13)

Honorable mentions: Dogwood Southern Table & Bar, Corkbuzz

Uptown

Photo by Ben Jarrell
Haymaker

Haymaker

225 S. Poplar St.
Casual Fine Dining
$$$
Farm-to-table

Asheville-based chef William Dissen opened his beautiful two-story farm-to-table restaurant bordering Romare Bearden Park to much anticipation and subsequent accolade. Special occasion dishes including the roast leg of lamb for two are meant for feeling the warmth of Southern hospitality. But a can’t-miss dish is the crispy pork belly with red peas, sorghum and charred onion, garnished with crunchy peanuts.

What to order: Crispy pork belly ($14)

The Asbury

235 N Tryon St.
Fine Dining
$$$
Modern Southern/Classical French Technique

Despite chef Matthew Krenz’s departure and chef Chris Coleman’s before that, The Asbury has continued to produce refined Southern food in Uptown’s historic Dunhill Hotel. A uniquely integrated pastry program run by pastry/sous chef Miranda Brown and the stability provided by longtime anchor in the kitchen, Mike Long, now executive chef, should allow for a new and interesting path for this kitchen.

What to order: sticky biscuits ($6), Maw Maw’s cast iron biscuits ($8), Krenz Beef blackboard (MP)

Fin & Fino

135 Levine Avenue of the Arts #100
Casual Fine Dining
$$$
Seafood/Raw Bar/Classical French Technique

The oyster shell chandeliers are your first hint of what to expect at one of Uptown’s newest and most exciting restaurants. Some of the best seafood in the city is being plated in this kitchen night by night. Typically, The Treatment menu tour begins with a selection from the 12 varieties of fresh oysters available from the raw bar. After that, your journey is mostly fated to what seasonal seafood lurks in the depths of the open kitchen. Take the plunge.

What to order: The Treatment menu tour ($55)

Honorable mentions: Loft & Cellar, La Belle Helene, Halcyon, Flavors From the Earth, Basil, Evoke, McNinch House Restaurant, Sea Level, 5Church

In other areas in and around Charlotte:

Davidson

Photo by Kyo Nam
Kindred

Kindred

131 N Main St., Davidson
Casual Fine Dining
$$$
Modern Southern/Classical French Technique/Small Plates

After dining at this restaurant overlooking the Davidson College campus, it’s difficult to argue against it as the top in the area. Chef/co-owner Joe Kindred takes influences from past kitchens like Quince and Delfina in San Francisco, and has applied them to create truly special seasonal Southern food. The house-made milkbread has developed a reputation as both a pillowy accompaniment to signature dishes such as the fried oysters with dill yogurt and Calabrian chili, and as a capstone to your meal in the form of a cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing.

What to order: crispy oysters ($15)

Mountain Island Lake

Heirloom

8470 Bellhaven Blvd.
Sunday Supper Dining
$$$
Modern Southern/Classical French Technique/Microlocal/Experimental

Heirloom sits off the beaten path in the Mountain Island Lake area of North Charlotte. And off the path and into his kitchen is where you can find chef Clark Barlowe — showcasing foraged North Carolina ingredients he often finds himself. For all his other needs in the kitchen, Barlowe relies on his purveyors, with whom he has developed many strong relationships. You will find no better example of a microlocal kitchen, experiential lab, and seasonal larder in the Tarheel State.

What to order: seasonal NC catch (MP)

Cornelius

Hello, Sailor

20210 Henderson Road, Cornelius
Modern Casual Dining
$$
Seafood/Raw Bar/Classical French Technique

Of course the seafood at Joe and Katy Kindred’s nod to a fish camp on Lake Norman is fresh and well-prepared. But it’s preparations such as the 5-day spiced pressed duck that are drawing national attention, prompting Eater to name it to its best new restaurants list in America, writing, “If only I had a place like Hello, Sailor to suggest in every community.”

What to order: citrus Crab Louie salad ($17.49)

Honorable mentions in and around Charlotte: The Dumpling Lady, Gallery Restaurant, Lang Van, Fork!

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. Good to see a list that focuses on the quality of the food instead of the hip quotient or social media buzz. Also good to see places like Intermezzo, Le’s, Yafo and Yamazaru mixed in with the more obvious choices. And good not to see the overrated joints that usually make these lists, which shall remain nameless.

  2. Oh my. I’m waiting for your next article that is going to define what your definition of a top neighborhood is.
    I’m trying to be charitable and believe it is only referring to property values. But as you know a neighborhood is made up of many more things than property (like maybe people?).
    People and places are too complex to use such a value statement without providing definition and clarity.

    • Stephen, these are likely the most popular neighborhoods for cuisine. If this list includes the “expensive neighborhoods”, then Ballantyne and Grier heights must be in the same price range.

  3. No mention of University City area once again… This list feels repetitive, giving exposure to areas and restaurants that regularly appear on your “The best…” and “The top…” type lists. I like reading your reviews of dishes and restaurants to try, so let’s get some reviews of new places in 2019! (And not just places opening a sister spot offering different yet equally trendy cuisine or restaurants that have reopened under new management/ownership)

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