I love a good recommendation. It can fast-track you into veteran status at everyone’s favorite new restaurant. I went straight to the experts, asking teams at some eateries around Charlotte for what they see as must-have dishes on their ink-not-yet-dry menus. And as a former chef, I’ve thrown in some of my favorites as well.
*(Bonus: Read about a few of these places and a couple more from Observer writer Kathleen Purvis, here.)
So, here’s your list of how to go from zero to pro at a handful of recently-opened food spots around town:
7128 Albemarle Rd.
What’s new about it: Owners Jyoti and Marc Friedland,sought to provide some continuity from the Indian food at Woodland’s (formerly occupying this space). But at the same time, Jyoti’s World Cuisine is featuring a wide range of vegan and vegetarian cuisines from Thailand to Mexico to Italy.
Favorites: Korean Bibimbap (made with BBQ plant-based protein/$14.99); Assorted Dosa (South Indian crepe made from lentils and rice/$7.99-12.99).
When it’s open: Tuesday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. (Limited menu every day between 3 p.m.–5 p.m.)
300 S. Tryon St.
What’s new about it: This classic style French restaurant would look at home on The Champs-Elysées but nonetheless it is welcome in the QC. La Belle Helene just moved into its spot on South Tryon between Martin Luther King Blvd. & 3rd and it’s stunning. According to the marketing department: “(La Belle Helene)’s authentic brasserie-style menu from Chef Michael Rouleau and the esteemed Paris-based restaurant team Ducasse Conseil, highlights delicious local ingredients and a wide selection of specialty beers, signature cocktails, and French wines by the glass.”
Favorites: Poulet Roti (Poulet Rouge Fermier heirloom rotisserie chicken with rosemary potatoes/half for $24, whole for $48); Baba Au Rhum (rum cake/$10).
When it’s open: Monday–Thursday, 5–10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5–11 p.m. (Lunch and weekend brunch coming soon.)
*Pro tip: It may just be chicken, but it’s a very special chicken. Order it—or be jealous of the tables around you.
1600 South Mint St.
What’s new about it: After expanding from their Providence Road store into a second location across from Park Road Shopping Center in early 2016, Pasta & Provisions has now opened a brand-new spot in Wilmore. Expect P & P staples like frozen entrees (AKA last-minute dinner plans), regional Italian wine and local beer, imported dry goods, and handmade pasta and focaccia bread. Interestingly, the kitchen here will provide much of the production for the other stores, according to Katherine Peralta from The Charlotte Observer.
My favorites: Any of the frozen lasagnas (spinach, cheese, meat, chicken, vegetable/$9.99-11.99); The Royal (Capicola + sweet breakfast sausage on a hot-pressed roll/$8).
When it’s open: Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–8 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sunday, noon–6 p.m.
*Pro tip: Pick up some guanciale from the cured meat case. Sauté it (in cubes), add chili flake, a splash of pasta water, then good Sclafani canned tomatoes and reduce for a delicious pasta Amatriciana. (Don’t forget the Parmigiana!)
620 N. Church St.
What’s new about it: Owner Sal Sapienza and his brother now run two pizza shops—758 miles apart. “We are a second-generation restaurant with 30 years of recipes brought in from the original Pizzeria Sapienza in New York,” Sapienza explains. Expect true New York-style pizza with slices the size of your head.
Favorites: Pizza by-the-slice (cheese/$3; specialty/$3.69); Chicken Parm Sub ($10).
When it’s open: Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–10 p.m.; Saturday, noon–10 p.m.; Sunday, noon–8 p.m.
*Pro tip: Stop by for lunch and take advantage of the special: 2 slices of specialty pizza + fountain drink for $8 (tax included).
121 West Trade St., Suite 150
What’s new about it: Reid’s Fine Foods has come back to Uptown Charlotte. The new shop features surprisingly affordable grab-and-go selections like a breakfast burrito or bagel sandwich. According to the manager, most people pick up something before heading to the office, but more and more are holding quick breakfast meetings at this Uptown spot—utilizing the free WiFi.
Favorites: Avocado Toast ($5.99); Burrito Ranchero ($5.99).
When it’s open: Mon–Thursday, 7 a.m.–4 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m.–3 p.m.
*Pro tip: When you meet your friend or coworker here in the morning, one person should order food and drinks while the other saves the spots, because these 16-seats (inside) fill up quickly. And embrace the age of Venmo.
1315 East Blvd., Suite 115
What’s new about it: As hinted at by Katie Toussaint, and confirmed by Kathleen Purvis and Sallie Funderburk, Bob Peters, formerly of The Punch Room at the Ritz-Carlton, has indeed moved on to his next mixology craftination. On top of unique liquid preparations from the mind of Peters, this new cocktail lounge also serves bar bites—from duck fat fries to flatbreads to orange-glazed scallops and quinoa. And look out for specials like this amazing looking Scotch egg.
Favorites: Duck Confit Fries (fries tossed in herbed duck fat butter/$6); Scallops (orange glazed, wasabi pea purée, quinoa, radish/$14).
When it’s open: Tuesday–Saturday, 5 p.m.–midnight
*Pro tip: Ask Reid, from behind the bar, to make you something they’re working on for the next cocktail menu, releasing in a month or two. Have him explain the prep that goes behind it—then remember why you leave your house for fancy drinks.
1331 Central Ave., #101
What’s new about it: This is Frank Scibelli’s second Yafo location serving Mediterranean fare. A third location in Dilworth is opening soon. Rémy Thurston, Director of Content at FS Food Group, predicted the popularity of a new dish, the pork gyro: “It’s not officially on the menu but people are going crazy for it already.”
(Soon-to-be) Favorite: Pork Gyro Wrap (pork belly roasted on a spit with traditional gyro spices wrapped in a warm laffah + side/$11.99).
When it’s open: Sunday–Thursday, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
*Pro tip: Ask for extra schug (spicy herb sauce) and laffah bread ($1). Both make for delicious leftover-repurposing.
What’s new about it: Matthews restaurant owners Tony Yum and Rosena Tong have now set their focus on their new South End restaurant serving Japanese fare from ramen to sushi.
Favorites: Yume Tuna Tower (crispy rice bottom, avocado, tuna, house sauce/$14); Tonkotsu spicy miso ramen ($13)
When it’s open: Sunday–Thursday, 5–10:30 p.m.
Have a recommendation at other new restaurants? Leave it in the comments!