When your parents come visit, being host and entertainer can be difficult. All of a sudden your mind can draw a blank when trying to figure out everything Charlotte has to offer, especially when it comes time to eat and everyone has their own particular taste. The city has so many great restaurants it can be tough to narrow it down to a select few.
Well, we are here to help. Here are 10 restaurants that truly show off Charlotte’s food scene that are perfect for when your parents come to town.
In town to celebrate
Maybe it’s a birthday. Maybe it’s a holiday. Maybe you got a new job and your parents are coming in to revel in the fact that their little baby is becoming an adult. Either way, it’s a party where your parents are probably picking up the bill. This is a perfect opportunity to go to those higher end restaurants where the bill could normally empty out your wallet.
201 East Trade Street
This first one is a little bit of a combo. Inside The Ritz-Carlton in Uptown, this sophisticated restaurant offers up many of the traditional steakhouse offerings, like certified angus beef, seafood and delicious desserts. The servers are incredibly helpful with navigating the menu to make sure you make the best selection. It has a very laid-back atmosphere, making it easy to have a conversation. They also really jazz up the pre-dinner bread options too, offering bread with pate and cheese rolls.
The combo comes in after dinner, where I recommend you take the elevator up to The Punch Room for a post dinner drink. This spot not only offers up some of the best drinks in town, it also will give your parents an amazing view of the city. Trust me, the drink menu is big enough that everyone will find something they can enjoy. My go-to is typically the Apple Pie Infused Bourbon or The Strange Brew, made with contradiction blended bourbon, hazelnut milk and a coffee ice cube.
Recommended order: BLT is a steakhouse, so I normally stick with the steaks. I prefer the filet that is finished with herb butter. BLT also offers up seven different sauces to complement your steak choice. For dessert, go with the sticky toffee pudding cake with vanilla bean ice cream.
7822 Fairview Road
I spoke about this place that is tucked away off Fairview Road in our hidden restaurant gems podcast. It is my favorite restaurant in town, but is also the type of place that I’d probably only go to when I’m celebrating something special because it can get a little pricey. Sitting behind Foxcroft Wine, this quaint restaurant offers a very homey feel. There are not many tables, so your meal will feel very personable. Barrington’s has a phrase, “Southern Seasons. Northeastern influence,” which I feel perfectly sums up its menu. They use what is locally sourced and add their own unique twist to a dish. Fish, lamb, chicken and more are all offered up as protein options for your entrée.
Recommended order: As with many high-end restaurants, Barrington’s menu is seasonal, so it often changes to go with what is fresh. However, there is an item that consistently stays on the menu and it is what I would say you should order. It’s the seared organic chicken. Sounds simple, but I have never had a better chicken dish in my life. It comes with perfectly made creamy mashed potatoes and wilted spinach, all covered in a delicious garlic pan sauce.
7417 Waverly Walk Avenue
This steakhouse is a great new addition to the South Charlotte food scene. It’s located in the ever-growing Waverly Shopping Center and is owned by the same group that runs Dogwood Southern Table and Dressler’s. While it does have a large dining area with plenty of seating, it doesn’t take away from the relaxed vibe. The dinner will get off to a great start when your server brings out the complimentary focaccia bread that is covered in melted butter and seasonings. Trust me, your meal will only get better from there. The steaks have a nice crust with a good amount of pepper to enhance the flavor.
Recommended order: I’d start with either the wedge salad, with bibb lettuce, creamy bleu cheese, bacon, roasted tomato and crispy shallots, or the shrimp cocktail, with housemade cocktail sauce. I’ve never been excited about cocktail sauce, but this was the best version of it I’ve ever had. If you’re not feeling a steak, I recommend going with the maple bourbon salmon.
A taste of “soul”
These next two restaurants are two of the most popular in town, and unfortunately, neither take reservations. There is going to be a wait, but the food will definitely be worth it. If you really want to show your parents that you’re “in the know” and impress them by showing them a trendy spot, try one of these two.
1500-B Central Avenue.
This Plaza Midwood tapas spot offers a little bit of everything, but it’ll be a must-try if your parents are normally fans of Asian flavors. Soul has a very hip vibe, with a DJ booth and a large peacock on the wall, as they make the most of the small square footage. The dim lighting and bartenders with handlebar mustaches will have your parents feeling like they are in one of the coolest places in the city. Plus, the food. Simply put, it’s amazing. This is one of the few places in town where I often try something new and have yet to find something that wasn’t good. The tapas style will allow you and your parents a chance to try a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Don’t overlook the drink menu either, as Soul’s mixologists know how to make a cocktail. I normally go with the seasonal mule. Also, make sure to use the No Wait app to try and bypass the wait.
Recommended order: It’s the worst kept secret in town – the Asian Glazed Pork Belly Tacos. I’ve introduced countless people to these simple tacos that are packed full of flavor. The Asian glaze pairs perfectly with the piece of watermelon that sits atop the pork belly. An order normally comes with two, so make sure to let your server know that you would like three in your order. Once the plate is clean, go ahead and order another round of three.
1400 S. Church Street
Depending on where your parents are from, this could be a great introduction to Korean BBQ. As the name would suggest, this place is all about meat. While they do have plenty of tasty sides (Choiang broccoli and ramen mac & cheese, yes please!), Seoul really shines with its BBQ meat options. Definitely a fun atmosphere with plenty of TVs if there is a game on and even some soccer pool outside to play while you wait. If your parents are extra lively, you can rent out one of Seoul’s private karaoke rooms and hear your parents belt out some classics from when they were your age.
Recommended order: In my opinion, this place has the best wings in town. While you can argue wings at other places have better flavor, there is no debate about who has the crispest. That goes to Seoul Food Meat Co. The first bite into them may even be a little bit of a surprise because you won’t be used to wings having such a crunchy skin. There are two flavors, spicy or soy garlic. I prefer the soy garlic, but you can go half and half if you want to try both flavors. If you have a vegetarian in the family, you can get these same flavors in tofu.
A taste of the Carolinas
What a better way to introduce your parents to your home then by taking them to a place that puts an emphasis on regional cuisine. Here are some farm-to-table options that will give your parents a true taste of the Carolinas.
129 W Fifth Street
A majority of the seafood offerings at Sea Level NC are from local NC farms, as the restaurant works with Carolina coastal fishermen. The restaurant has the only North Carolina farm-to-fork oyster grown in the entire state. If your parents come from the Midwest and don’t get a chance to enjoy fresh fish often, this spot is a great introduction to some coastal seafood. Brick walls with dark wood tables give Sea Level NC a clean cut, less is more look that fits the atmosphere of the Uptown restaurant.
Recommended order: While oysters are not for everyone, I do suggest giving Sea Level NC’s a try. As previously mentioned, it’ll be hard to find a fresher oyster in town. If you grab an appetizer, the Sea Level NC Paella is a nice size to share since it is already served family style. It comes with the daily NC catch, NC shrimp, Anson Mills Carolina Gold rice, chorizo and crème fraiche.
8470 Bellhaven Blvd.
Executive chef Clark Barlowe is one of the best chefs in the city. He uses locally sourced ingredients to create ever-changing menus that are always well received by Queen City residents. Barlowe is able to truly highlight some of the best food that the region and area farms have to offer. The restaurant’s décor will make you feel like you’re home or over at a friend’s place for a meal. While the food is high end, the atmosphere doesn’t come across as stuffy. Heirloom will be offering both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day brunches, so if your family is coming in town for either of those, go ahead and grab your reservations now.
Recommended order: Barlowe has his own beehives on the roof, so you’ll want to try some of the housemade honey. This may sound a little strange, but get the honey as a dipping sauce for the fried pickles. You may not think it’ll work together, but the honey does a great job of cutting some of the fatty fried flavor. It was my favorite out of all the dipping sauces. Heirloom is also known for its fried chicken, so throw that in as your entrée order after the pickles.
131 N Main Street, Davidson
When your parents come into town, do yourself and them a favor and take a trip up to Davidson to enjoy a day wandering around the picturesque town and a delicious meal at Kindred. If the weather is nice, rent some bikes and take a joy ride through Davidson College’s campus and by the pond at Roosevelt Wilson Park. Work up an appetite before grabbing a seat at Kindred’s outdoor area. Davidson is normally alive with activity, so the outdoor table will be a great spot for people watching and checking out the beautiful landscape the town has to offer. Kindred also makes sure to change its menu based off what is fresh for the season, giving you the chance to try something new each time you come.
Recommended order: Two words – milk bread. This fluffy, savory and salty bread comes with house cultured butter and is a must order right when you sit down. If you’d prefer to save it for dessert, Kindred also offers a milk bread cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing.
A taste of traditional Charlotte
Help give your parents a Charlotte history lesson through its food. You can learn a lot about a city by eating at some of its oldest restaurants. These spots are uniquely Charlotte, making them great places to show off when your parents come visit.
309 W Fourth Street
Established in 1926, this Uptown hot dog and hamburger has that nostalgic feel. Over the years they’ve haven’t changed up the menu too much, deciding rather to stick with what has worked since its opening. While you’re not going to get anything fancy here, you are going to leave happy after enjoying a hot dog and a side. Don’t be scared if you see a long line, that just shows this is a place that locals love and have been coming to ever since they were kids. Cam Newton has been known to stop by Green’s for a meal every now and then, so maybe you’ll get lucky and see him during your visit.
Recommended order: Definitely go with a hot dog all the way, topped with ketchup, mustard, homemade slaw, onions and secret homemade chili. Also grab a side of onion rings, which are fried by the order.
1901 Commonwealth Avenue
While new ownership took over in 2010, this Plaza Midwood diner has been a staple of Charlotte since 1945. The inside will give you and your parents that true diner feel, with the checkered floor and jukebox. The Diamond serves up breakfast, late night meals and everything in between. If you’re craving some comfort food, this spot will hit the mark. The new ownership shined the place up some, but they made sure to not do anything to lose any of The Diamond’s history or diner vibe.
Recommended order: It’s a diner, so don’t overthink the order. I normally go with something like the BBQ dipped fried chicken or the Plaza Pimento Cheese sandwich, made with housemade pimento cheese and served on Texas toast. Make sure to save room for dessert too! While it is hard to go wrong with any of the homemade desserts, I like the pecan pie or banana pudding.
Featured Photo: Charlotte Observer file/Mark Ashcraft