10 of Charlotte’s newest places that you HAVE to try

Pimento Cheese Steak Sandwich. Photo by Jess Bentley.

This year is still quite new, so make sure you pack it with new experiences. Here are 10 of the newest places in Charlotte you must try.

(1) Skylark Social Club

What it is: Welcome to Plaza Midwood’s new rock ‘n’ roll neighborhood bar, opened by local punk rock musicians who were mourning the closing of Tremont Music Hall, Double Door Inn and Amos’ Southend. As co-owner Justin Driscoll said before the January opening, “It’s going to be a rock ‘n’ roll ‘Cheers.’”

Come for: Local, live music on the weekends and cheap, cold beer and whiskey.

2131 Central Ave.

Skylark Social Club. Photo by Alex Cason

(2) Backstage Lounge

What it is: First, find the hidden entryway to South End’s latest speakeasy, located at the back of taco and tequila spot SouthBound. Pick up the black phone on the wall to be connected to a hostess. Interestingly, like Skylark, this higher-end space pays homage to music halls that have closed in town, with signage for Amos’ Southend, The Pterodactyl, the Double Door Inn and others placed over the booths.

Come for: The cocktails ($10 and up) range from classic, to signature, to house barrel-aged. Don’t forget to sip on your small glass of complimentary house punch, which changes frequently, while you mull over your order.

2433 South Blvd.

Backstage Lounge

(3) Flour Shop

What it is: The latest restaurant concept by Trey Wilson, the chef/owner of Customshop, can be found in Park Road Shopping Center’s Back Lot section. Behind the bar, there’s a wood-cooking rig for ducks, legs of lamb and pork shoulder, and more space for chef action with an oven for breads, vegetables and specialties like porchetta.

Come for: The pastas, as the cuisine is Italian-inspired. Consider topping your noodles with King Crab.

4101 Park Road

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(4) Lincoln’s Haberdashery

What it is: South End’s latest market-meets-café is designed with cozy nooks to sit with drinks or freshly made food. With the market set-up, there’s plenty to browse, from fun pet retail items, to unusual bottles of wine, to potted succulents.

Come for: Freshly baked loaves of bread in the morning (limited supply!) an eclectic beer selection, and the best non-traditional grilled cheese in all the land (hint: gruyere, shallots and thyme).

1300 S. Blvd., Ste. S.

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(5) The “new” Bulldog Beer and Wine

What it is: This low-key neighborhood spot in Dilworth got a makeover and is now known as Bulldog Dilworth. Here, you can find a fresh coat of paint, added bar room and a revamped back patio.

Come for: The liquor addition, which is now part of the menu well loved for its craft beers and wines.

2447-B Park Road

Courtesy of Bulldog Beer & Wine

(6) Zeppelin

What it is: This tapas and craft cocktail lounge has a name that references the early 1900s balloon-like gas-filled aircraft. Dinner service features small plates, large plates and local charcuterie and cheeses.

Come for: The Pen Pals: Queen Charlotte rum, mint, kaffir lime and fresh lime juice, with a “Z” carefully tapped out into the top.

235 W. Tremont Ave.

Photo courtesy of Zeppelin

(7) HI Tide Poke & Raw Bar

What it is: HI Tide functions as a casual spot to grab poke bowls and raw bar items, from lobster rolls to East and West Coast oysters.

Come for: The build-your-own bowls with five steps from choosing a base (kale salad, soba noodle salad, coconut rice and more) to choosing a sauce (Ponzu lime, sriracha Ponzu, Chili Yuzu and more).

 919 South McDowell St.

Photo courtesy of HI Tide Poke & Raw Bar

(8) JJ’s Red Hots Uptown

What it is: This laid-back hot-dog restaurant exists for all of your no-fuss grab-and-go dreams, with a focus on smokehouse hot dogs, sausages and toasted Martin’s potato rolls.

Come for: The extensive list of regular and premium toppings (like chili, pimento cheese and borracho beans), beer (self-service, cans only) and side dishes.

400 South Tryon St.

Photo: Jessica Bentley/Foodesign Associates

(9) Reigning Doughnuts

What it is: This card-only pick-up window is NoDa’s newest, sweets-serving hole in the wall, thanks to the vision of the owners behind Haberdish, Crepe Cellar and Growler’s Pourhouse — Jeff Tonidandel and Jamie Brown. Enjoy the doughnuts and don’t overlook the Counter Culture coffee, as well as hot chocolate and milk.

Come for: Your pick of doughnut flavors, from plain, to vanilla icing, to chocolate icing, to honey glaze and more. Plus, snack on a rotating doughnut of the day.

3120 N. Davidson St.

(10) Toucan Louie’s

What it is: A funky café with dishes and drinks made in-house, including scratch-made hummus and salad dressings, and fresh-pressed juices and coffee. (We hear if you like Rhino Market, you’ll love this place.)

Come for: A delectable sandwich, whether it’s the Pimento Cheese Steak Sandwich with home fries, or the Veggie Hummus Sandwich.

2753 Rozzelles Ferry Road

Pimento Cheese Steak Sandwich. Photo by Jess Bentley.


  1. Why do the majority of restaurant reviews here always revolve around drinking instead of extensive food reviews? Read some restaurant reviews from cities such as NY, CHI, TOR, SF etc and the food takes center stage and the drinks (cocktails, wine, etc) are mentioned as compliments to the dining experience. Moreover, one of your staff gave a “snarky” retort to a reader when they inquired whether this publication ever considers activities outside of microbreweries for things to do in this area. I’m no judge and I enjoy a glass of wine before a good meal and a cocktail afterwards on occasion but y’all at this publication may need to dry out for a bit.

    • ??? which food reviews in this article focus more on drinking than the food? Each restaurant listed has more focus on food. I feel like you didn’t read the article and posted out of frustration from something else.

        • 1, 2, and 5 are bars, not restaurants. So it wouldn’t make sense to focus on food more than drinks lol. 4 talks about bread and grilled cheese. 8 talks about the toppings for their hotdogs. They barely mention beers.

  2. I get that it’s Charlotte Five. etc.
    But can’t you do reviews on places OUTSIDE of uptown, southend, noda, plaza, etc.
    Some of us go to uptown a lot, but we still live in other cities.
    Concord, Huntersville, Kannapolis, Matthews, etc.
    It would be nice to find little hidden places in those areas as opposed to only news in “queen city”

    • That’s been the Observer’s attitude towards restaurants forever. Those of us living in the suburbs only deserve chain restaurants. Remember when the Observer had no clue about Bobbee O’s during its bbq tourney several years ago? They were perplexed when the joint made their Final Four of bbq restaurants. Guarantee that none of its staff had ever been there.

  3. I have to agree with johntrihkr. If Charlotte is to be a “first class” city, why highlight coattails? Everyone may have the chose, but I think the owner’s of these beautiful establishments would like to show there cooking skills.

    • Each restaurant DID have their cooking skills shown. Not sure how you missed that. But some of the establishments listed are NOT restaurants, and would rather have other things highlighted instead of their cooking.

  4. I did not mean to offend by my comments but would like to clarify for the staff. Almost 40 years ago my uncle who was then on the editorial staff of the NY Times took me to my very first fine dining five star restaurant. I had good food before but never had food as an experience. I never saw food the same again. If possible please give us a fine dining review once a month or so. By this I do not mean a chain either. Tell us what the wine list and appetizers are, the various main courses, specialties, and desserts. Even though I am probably twice the age of the writers for this publication, life does indeed not end. In fact date nights become even more special. We even find ourselves not looking at our phones for a couple of hours. I guarantee that we are not the only folks who like to experience fine dining. Tell us about the exciting new chefs that are coming upon the scene.

    • hahaha! I agree with you johntrlhkr. Life does not end. I’m 46 and truly enjoy the restaurants for the food at this point. We are always on TripAdvisor or Yelp to find good places to eat and pubs and bars are super fun for the younger set but honestly I haven’t seen South Park Grill on here and I found that on Instragram. AMAZING food! Fried lobster bites, incredible seafood. It was the best restaurant I’ve been to in a long time. I love seeing the other stuff but agree that some focus on food would be a nice addition.

  5. I hate that more of these “Have to Try” lists are coming out. I can’t afford to eat out this much and am worried about my family if we don’t try!


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