Can you name 9 delicious chains Charlotte gave the region?

BBQ at Midwood Smokehouse. Courtesy of @midwoodsmokehouse on Instagram

Did you know Charlotte gave these houses of deliciousness to the region? While some are full-blown franchises, others are blossoming expansions of a really good thing. Plus, here’s what to order.


This concept of Greek-meets-Southern-meets-American food first opened on Independence Boulevard in 1982. Founder George Couchell, or Mr. C, moved from Greece to America as a youth and started working in his family’s restaurant. He attended Duke University and served as a naval officer before opening Showmars in Charlotte.

What to order: The menu spans gyros, pita burgers, salads and more. But the website boasts the “World’s Best Flounder,” a fried fish fillet with homemade tartar sauce, paired with fried goods (French fries and hush puppies) plus coleslaw.

Where it’s spread: Showmars has more than 30 locations (largely in the Charlotte area) and has expanded to Greenville, SC. Its latest expansion was announced for Wake Forest in July. 

Showmars, a Greek restaurant chain that first opened in Matthews, is expanding its footprint. Courtesy of Showmars

Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar

Created by Frank Scibelli and Dennis Thompson, the burger bar originated on East Boulevard in 2007 under the name Big Daddy’s (until the name changed in 2011) — and another one opened that same year. Colorado-based Good Times Restaurants Inc. agreed to acquire the chain for $21 million in 2015.

What to order: Dig into everything from burgers, to non-burgers (chicken and tuna options are available), to salads (Thai chicken sounds enticing). I’m partial to the the crispy black bean Cantina Burger topped with white cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, avocado, chiles and chipotle ranch. Must pair with sweet potato fries.

Where it’s spread: People can now bite into a Bad Daddy’s burger as far away as Colorado, with other locations in Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Carolina and, of course, NC.

Famous Toastery 

Opened in 2005 in Huntersville, this breakfast and brunch hotspot was the vision of two best friends: Brian Burchill and Robert Maynard.

What to order: Catering to your breakfast cravings, Toast serves up omelets, benedicts, breakfast sandwiches, mimosas and beyond. The huevos rancheros with crunchy tortilla strips and avocado is a dream.

Where it’s spread: Toast is available for breakfast in the Carolinas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Georgia.

Living Kitchen

While not a true chain, this raw-vegan-lifestyle concept is definitely expanding. Juliana Luna and Stephen Edwards brought the first Luna’s Living Kitchen spot to South End in 2012.

What to order: Vegans and non-vegans alike can feel satisfied by the bright, plant-based menu, which ranges from burritos (with collard leaf wraps, sunflower refried beans and cauliflower rice) to sandwiches (the quinoa-millet veggie burger is crispy and amazing) to pad Thai (with zucchini and sweet potato noodles). You also have to splurge on a smoothie — the Incan Warrior with maca, cacao, cinnamon, banana and hemp milk is like a cleansing milkshake.

Where it’s spread: Living Kitchen now reaches locations in SouthPark and Raleigh, as well as South End.


Jack Fulk and Richard Thomas opened this fast-food stop (with its beloved chicken biscuits) in Charlotte in 1977.

What to order: Here, find biscuits of every kind (like the Cajun Filet Biscuit and Gravy Biscuit), boxes (like the 12-Pieces Chicken Supremes) and dinners (like the 3-Wing Dinner). Interestingly, there’s also a chicken and rice bowl — paired with a biscuit.

Where it’s spread: More than 700 places to find the biscuits have made it through the South and up the East Coast, from Florida, to Alabama, to Maryland to Pennsylvania.

Midwood Smokehouse

Another Scibelli concept, Texas-style barbecue spot Midwood Smokehouse opened in Plaza Midwood in 2011.

What to order: You come here for the ‘cue (with classic BBQ plates like Carolina Pork, Beef Brisket and Chicken BBQ), and add on the sides, from creamed corn to mac and cheese.

Where it’s spread: Five locations carry the BBQ, with one in Columbia, SC.


This restaurant first rose on the corner of 5th and Church streets in Uptown Charlotte in 2012. There were three managing partners: Mills Howell, Alejandro Torio and Patrick Whalen. Chef Jamie Lynch has risen as a star as well, through appearances on “Top Chef.”

What to order: Come for the dinner, stay for the cocktails. The menu features main courses like pan-roasted grouper and eggplant piccata, starters like ceviche and tuna tartare, and bar bites like a charcuterie board. On the drinks menu: Try something mixed, like the Blackberry Smash with blackberry and Maker’s Mark.

Where it’s spread: 5Church can now be experienced in Charlotte, Atlanta and Charleston (where the restaurant is actually housed in a former church).

FUEL Pizza & Wings

A group of men from New York started FUEL in 1998 at a 1930s gas station on Central Avenue in Charlotte. They were aching for some really good pizza.

What to order: Buffalo wings (from Asian Chili to Hot Honey BBQ), calzones (from Five-Cheese to Veggie Delight) or pizza (from pesto chicken to white pizza). Don’t order a salad — that’s not what this is about.

Where it’s spread: FUEL serves up its goods in Charlotte, Davidson and DC.

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza

There’s more pizza goodness that originated in Charlotte. The first Brixx opened in 1998 at the corner of East Boulevard and Scott Avenue (thanks to pizza visionaries Eric Horsley, Jeff Van Dyke and Barbara Bodford-Morgan).

What to order: Go for a more complex pizza (the Mexican Pizza has a black-bean spread topped with jalapeños, chicken, cheeses and more; the Brunch Supremo Pizza involves scrambled eggs, spicy sausage, bacon and beyond), or a simple salad (the Brixx Salad has the proper pistachio-to-goat-cheese-crumbles ratio).

Where it’s spread: The original Dilworth location lives on — as do 29 other locations across eight states including Alabama, Georgia and Virginia.


  1. What about Salsarita’s and Clean Juice? They’re both more widespread than some of the ones you selected. Seems like some of these were a stretch but you could have made it an even 10.

    • In fact this is another Dennis Thompson venture. He owns the Viva Peruvian along concept with Randy Garcia and Bruno Macchiavello.

    • Agreed, I think they are up to 43 locations now. Opened by Dennis Thompson (cofounder of Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon and an original owner of Fox and Hound Bar, and also cofounder of Bad Daddys above. Along with Doug Glendenning, former president of Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon


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