“That was today?”
You need last minute dinner plans so you call every hot restaurant in town. As hostesses laugh through each reservation rejection, you realize there has to be another way.
The NoWait app, created in Pittsburgh in 2010, was designed to allow users to queue in line for participating restaurants that don’t offer reservations—and even for a few that do.
The app has since increased its hostile takeover of frisbee-sized pocket buzzers and hoarse-throated hostesses, ushering pre-dinner rituals into the digital age.
In March of last year, Yelp purchased NoWait for an estimated $40 million. Even before that time, users of the NoWait app had seen increased integration with Yelp, a restaurant guide that allows users to share experiences with businesses and rate them on a scale from one to five stars.
The number of restaurants in the Charlotte area using NoWait is on the rise. So, we worked within the Yelp rating system, using its user-sourced ratings while weighing in our own experiences, to break ties within each rating.
(Note: For restaurants with multiple area locations using the NoWait app, we took an average of each score. All locations are within and around the 485 loop.)
1701 Montford Dr
If not the top restaurant in the city then certainly in the top handful, Good Food on Montford sets the standard for small plates in this town. The combo of pommes frites ($6) and steamed bun ($10) is about the best $16 you can spend in Charlotte. But, use the app. Wait times at this place can extend late into the night.
3106 N Davidson St
Even if this Southern restaurant celebrating the historic mill culture of NoDa only served its fried chicken and mac n’ cheese, it would still be toward the top of this list. Add a spectacular cocktail program that is starting to get more attention, and locally-sourced interiors echoing the neighborhood’s history and you can understand why you should probably log on to the app right now to go ahead and reserve your spot.
1508 Unit B, S Mint St
The food coming out of chef Michael Noll’s kitchen shows flashes of what may ultimately change Charlotte’s food scene. Dishes like the charred Spanish octopus with chorizo, pineapple, and avocado ($17) appear complex while remaining familiar and comforting. And seemingly simple items like the egg and grains ($12) are surprisingly inspiring. A boutique-size restaurant with a chic, urban interior and a sophisticated bar program is a recipe for Charlotte crowds, so use the NoWait app and save yourself some time.
1401 Central Ave (and various other Charlotte area locations)
The original Midwood Smokehouse uses the NoWait app and for good reason. Smaller than the other three Charlotte-area locations, this spot remains popular with people from both within and without Plaza Midwood. It’s not just the smoked meats here that make this place special—the sides from collards to creamed corn are ideal accompaniments to Southern-style barbecue. And I hear it makes for great tailgating.
300 East Tremont St
A CharlotteFive favorite going back to its opening in early 2017, Dilworth Tasting Room stays true to its name serving diverse charcuterie platters and bold-flavored flatbreads alongside its curated wine selections. And it’s daily specials like this duck breast with goat cheese gnocchi that are starting to separate this constantly evolving kitchen from ones in other Charlotte wine bars. It’s still new to the scene but should have staying power due to the connections it has already formed with regulars.
3220 N Davidson St
This is North Carolina’s first ‘Shack’ location and third overall by this VA-based restaurant team. There may not be a plate unadorned by fried food here… and that may not be a bad thing.
1500 Central Ave
The whimsically eclectic dishes coming out of this kitchen in Plaza Midwood are stellar. From funky favorites like their sushi rolls to the legendary Asian glazed pork belly tacos ($12) with cubes of dressed watermelon, the popularity of the food here can make for long wait times—so use the NoWait app and get a head start before you walk in the door.
Bro-tip: Have a bro (or bro-ette) who boasts that they’ll eat anything? Challenge him to a plate of Rocky Mountain oysters ($7). After ordering, tell him what they mean by “veal fries.” (Hint: it ain’t potatoes.)
(8) Crepe Cellar
3116 N Davidson St
There is so much more to order than crepes at this restaurant. But start with the crepes on your first visit and return for more savory items like red wine braised short ribs and hand-cut french fries. And return for a third time because the French-leaning cuisine here really shines for Sunday brunch.
2911 Griffith St, Suite A
The food here is built for drinking—which is good because this South End brewery has over four dozen beers on tap and a full liquor bar. But the elevated pub fare here is solid with favorites like the Suffolk Punch Burger ($15) and a pork belly small plate with house made chow chow ($11). The brewery, formerly named ‘Hyde Brewing,’ recently rebranded as ‘Suffolk Punch Brewing’ to align with its restaurant.
(10) The Waterman
2729 South Blvd, Suite D
From the same owners as Sea Level in Uptown, South End’s newest oyster bar is ideal for having a good time with friends. The long community tables and dual bars invite communions shared over Kumamoto oysters and cold Narragansett lagers. And I, for one, cannot wait to take advantage of their second-floor open air bar for springtime views of the Charlotte skyline.
(Southpark) 4736 Sharon Rd
(Midtown) 915 Charlottetowne Ave
My favorite order of 49’er Flapjacks, hash browns, and bacon is sometimes interrupted when I am craving something sweeter. The apple pancake satisfies with caramelized cinnamon apples baked into a pillowy pancake batter. As a chef, I often recreated this breakfast topped with ice cream for a last minute menu item in a pinch.
Pro-tip: Ask for the hash browns ‘extra crispy, with extra onion.’
(12) Moo & Brew
1300 Central Ave
Somehow this place flies under the radar, says me, who just went here for the first time this week. It was pretty darn great. The french fries rank with some of the best in Charlotte (Good Food on Montford, Comet Grill). And the burgers are nicely charred with classic combinations from mushroom and swiss ($11) to chili, cheese, onion, and yellow mustard ($11) to more loosely interpreted burger options using salmon, black bean, or turkey patties.
1626 East Blvd (and various other Charlotte area locations)
It’s the toppings—from buttermilk fried bacon to apple bacon BBQ sauce to housemade bacon mayo to other, non-bacon combinations that make this burger restaurant successful. At this point, only their Dilworth location offers NoWait service to Charlotte diners.
(14) Famous Toastery
8933 J M Keynes Dr #2 (and various other Charlotte area locations)
Enjoy coffee in the lobby while you wait for your table or use the NoWait app and enjoy it at your table. This location is perhaps the best amongst the various ‘Toasteries’ in town.
(15) First Watch
(Ballantyne) 6311 Providence Farm Lane Suite 100
(Matthews) 1643 Matthews Township Pkwy, Matthews, NC
This chain restaurant out of Florida (I am getting deja vu typing that) is only open until 2:30 p.m. everyday and serves breakfast and lunch items along with many healthy alternatives.
(16) Seafood Connection
630 University Center Blvd
Grilled, steamed, or fried are your options at this seafood restaurant in the University area. But this place is known for its giant crab clusters that hang out of your to-go container like a Flintstone’s dino-chop.
Pro-tip: In addition to using the NoWait app, call ahead. This place has a reputation for keeping unconventional hours.
(17) Dot Dot Dot
4237 Park Rd B
The ironic thing is that this speakeasy cocktail bar with a nondescript entrance behind Park Road Shopping Center frowns upon its guests using cell phones. So, get in line early with the NoWait app—then put your phone away and just talk. On a boring date? Their bartenders are used to breaking uncomfortable silences.
(18) Queen Park Social
4125 Yancey Rd
With an adult playground and alcohol, this place isn’t the worst to wait for a table. But use NoWait when you’re done playing ping pong. I’ve got winner.
(19) Crave Dessert Bar
500 W 5th St #120
A recently revamped menu makes one wonder what the future holds for this dessert bar. Although desserts are still the highlight here, savory dishes like hummus platters and lamb lollipops are getting more attention. Save room for tableside S’mores ($15).
11324 N Community House Rd
Various Benedicts and omelettes make up most of the breakfast menu, in addition to burgers, sandwiches and several healthier options.
(21) Boardwalk Billy’s
9005 J M Keynes Dr #2
This is your spot if you’re a college student looking for a place to sit outside in the sun, throw back a few oysters and a fried fish sandwich, while sipping on syrupy cocktails—or if you’re attempting to recreate your long-lost college days by doing so.
(22) Char Bar No. 7
(Matthews) 3118 Fincher Farm Rd, Matthews, NC
(Mint Hill) 7312 Town View Drive, Mint Hill, NC
(Pineville) 6300 Carmel Rd
This burger restaurant with multiple locations across the state and into Alabama serves bar food and has decent daily specials.
(SouthPark) 4945, 7814 Fairview Rd
(Ballantyne) 9820 Rea Rd
This Charlotte-based franchise with its headquarters in Elizabeth produces a consistent product across its various locations. A family-friendly setting and now the ability to use the NoWait app at their Ballantyne/Blakeney and Foxcroft locations makes this a good choice for kids of any age. And with fantastic daily drink specials including $2.50 local craft beers on Monday, waiting ain’t so bad anyhow.
400 S Graham St
This bar could not be more perfectly located for pre- and post-game Panthers’ game festivities. The rooftop bar gets crowded but offers unique views of the west-facing side of Uptown.
(25) Hot Taco
200 East Bland, A
Daily drink specials and a nice wooden porch facing the Rail Trail with outside TVs make Hot Taco a popular choice amongst South Enders for game day. And of course they participate in the phenomenon that is Taco Tuesday, with all tacos available for two bucks.
Photos via Yelp (linked to source).