In case you haven’t noticed, Charlotte has in recent months welcomed an influx of new eateries, chefs, and food choices—making our job for the annual Food Issue decidedly easier this go-round. In 2018, a diverse array of restaurants, driven by creative, determined chefs, arrived with some fanfare. These are the people, from William Dissen at Haymaker to Paul Verica at The Stanley, who are taking the city’s food scene by the reins. The thirteen restaurants featured here are bringing their own interpretations of food culture. There’s everything from fine dining to fast-casual, to a take on the farm-to-table movement that’s been fashioned to suit this city. Charlotte wasn’t a place traditionally known for its food culture, but with this strong surge of visionaries, and a city of foodies ready to eat well, now seems the time to make a place for Charlotte at the table.
Le Cochon d’Or: Clean, petite and cozy, Le Cochon d’Or in Waxhaw is delivering all the savory delights of French-style cooking in a setting that will make you feel like you’ve been invited back into the kitchen. The interior is simple and minimal, but comfortable. In turn, all of the flash is reserved for the menu. Chef Nicholas Tarnate has compiled a laundry list of classical French dishes— all of which could make anyone’s culinary bucket list—while also sprinkling in Southern staples and regional ingredients. All together, it makes for a fusion that is unlikely, yet incredibly appealing. The North Carolina triggerfish in particular, accompanied by grits, escargot, and English peas, mixes both worlds beautifully.
Flour Shop: Fresh pasta, glowing wood-fire ovens, and a thoughtful and well-selected wine menu are all staples of one of Charlotte’s freshest and most exciting new spots: Flour Shop. Of course, Flour Shop is not only home to exquisite new food, it is also offers up one of the best shows in town. Bar style seating surrounds an island of chefs and creators perfecting their crafts and bringing it right to you. Watch in person as pasta is made from scratch, bread is baked, and dishes are orchestrated, all while experiencing the results: an incredible meal that delivers the freshest and most wholesome meats and produce local farms have to offer.
Bardo: Inspired by a decidedly American mixture of global tastes, Bardo is a brazenly creative enterprise with a sleek menu of small plates. The aesthetic is eclectic, simple, and tasteful, with special attention paid to catering a comfortable but exciting experience for patrons. The real star behind this eatery is Michael Noll, the head chef and driving force behind Bardo’s creation and its sustained success. His list of accomplishments is long, and yet he brings something singular and personal to this new endeavor. Expect beautifully-arranged small plates and surprising flavors.
Fin & Fino: Thanks to the wonderful staff and chefs at this colorful spot, Fin & Fino brings you so close to the sea you can almost feel the salty air, but not so close that you might get your shoes wet. The dining room is beautifully done and inviting, the menu changes constantly to incorporate the seasons and the freshest catches, and the wine list is catered to complement every single dish. The food is stellar and the staff will remember your name—Fin & Fino is an absolute splash for Uptown.
The Lights: Everything about The Lights has an exuberant feeling of tidiness, as though you’re walking into a painting by Piet Mondrian: bright and colorful, with everything in exactly the right place. That sentiment is communicated through their food, juice, and the coffee as well. It’s clean and well put together, but devilishly tasty, and the cozy eatery doesn’t shy away from appealing to the eye either. There are indeed more options than just your average juice, coffee, and pastry bar might have—note a section of the menu adorned ‘not coffee.’ It features “golden milk,” a turmeric, maple syrup, black pepper, almond and coconut cashew milk that pairs wonderfully with the avocado and arugula toast.
Seven Oaks Cafe: Newly opened but already seemingly caked in history, the Seven Oaks Cafe delivers a relaxing demeanor and delicious Southern dining out of the beautiful, antique McLean House. Seven Oaks Cafe is both an endeavor in preserving history and bringing forward its traditions in dining and hospitality to the present day. The result? An overwhelmingly abundant, positive embrace from the community. If you’re lucky enough to find your way to this special place, make a point to enjoy the porch on a nice summer evening, and be sure to bring a friend or two. Their spinach and brie salad, paired with any one of the farmhouse sandwiches, will surely be something to talk about.
Bulla: In the dictionary, a gastrobar is simply dubbed “a bar that specializes in high-quality food,” but in Charlotte, gastrobars have lately been defined by Bulla. A sleek new landmark in a city that has seen its fair share of good food, Bulla Gastrobar, has boldly carved out a spot of its own. The tapas-style menu will send your palate in seven different directions in one sitting, epitomizing Spanish-Mediterranean cuisine in tasteful fashion, and allowing patrons to experience a number of regional classics. The Manchego is rich with a hint of sweetness, the Chorizo de Cantimpalo is hot to the tongue but wildly savory, and the bar has a host of wines that you simply must put on your radar.
Superica: There is something inexplicably superb about Tex-Mex-style cuisine. It’s a combination of flavors that are exciting, yet incredibly comforting, as they utilize simple, homey ingredients while fashioning them in a way that’s irresistible. And if we’re going to talk about Tex-Mex and Charlotte, we have to talk about the long-anticipated, Atlanta-born Superica. Superica is not just a restaurant, it’s an aesthetically authentic, detail-oriented endeavor that has elevated the style and panache of Tex-Mex food in North Carolina. Of course, as if that weren’t enough, they also make some killer cocktails. Make sure to take note of their savory-sweet Tacos Al Pastor, and if you really want to spice up your night, match it with The Highwayman, a mezcal Old Fashioned with agave syrup and mole bitters.
La Belle Helene: Having just opened its doors at 300 South Tryon in Uptown this summer, La Belle Helene is set to become a Charlotte trendsetter in fine French cuisine. It’s also been carefully designed as a stunning landmark, sporting what’s slated to be a striking interior—clocking in at 6,992 square feet and seating up to 166. The restaurant is the creation of Elior North America/STARR Catering Group, who might sound familiar since they are quickly coming off the heels of success with Parliament, an Uptown espresso and coffee bar. It’s not fully certain when doors will officially open, but we know we will be on our way as soon as it does.
Eddie V’s Prime Seafood: The luxury, Orlando-based brand made its Charlotte debut this winter, in an expansive space in South Tryon’s Bank of America Plaza. Eddie V’s has locations from San Diego to Pennsylvania; it’s luxurious, but relaxed, with careful touches like live jazz and blues music each night and six private rooms. The Charlotte menu is Eddie V’s standard: gourmet seafood, a long wine list, and the cult favorite dessert the restaurant has become known for, a next-level Bananas Foster butter cake.
Let’s Meat KBBQ: Tim Chun and Lisa Kamura, the couple behind Seoul Food Meat Company, unveiled their newest take on Korean BBQ with an all-you-can-eat-style experience where you grill your menu choices right at your own table. Once you pay the flat rate, there’s unlimited meats and sides, from the traditional to the unique. It’s a casual, entertaining, family-friendly dining option.
Holler & Dash: South End has continued to explode, welcoming newcomers in every industry. Holler & Dash, a new fast-casual concept from Cracker Barrel, opened its seventh location here this year to much excitement. From 7 am to 2 pm, the trendy eatery serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch. There’s a variety of toasts, biscuits, breakfast sammies, and a delicious take on New Orlean’s beignets. It’s shareable, quick, and satisfying.
The Waterman: Opening soon in South End, The Waterman is set to be an oyster and rooftop bar from Paul Manley of Growlers Pourhouse and Sea Level NC. He plans to stick with a Carolina coast theme, serving up neighborhood pub-type food, including fresh seafood, steamed oysters, fish sandwiches, burgers and more.
Sukoshi: We’re anxiously awaiting O-Ku’s fast-casual offshoot, Sukoshi, set to open some time this summer. The team plans to take their perfected authentic sushi and give it a fast-casual twist. The menu will be health-conscious and customizable, and you’ll be able take your fresh sashimi, nigiri, sushi rolls, small plates, salads, and poke bowls to-go. The eatery is located in the Bank of America Plaza at 101 S. Tryon St.
Haymaker: This place is getting so many things right that it’s simply impossible to get them all down. Chef William Dissen’s Haymaker is a far above average farm-to-table eatery, boasting a brash new take on Southern/local fare. Combine that with the view of Uptown’s Romare Bearden, and Haymaker is a knockout.
The Queen & Glass: With The Queen & Glass opening this month, the intersection of East Boulevard and Scott Avenue in Dilworth is becoming one of our favorite spots in the whole neighborhood. A team-up of the people behind The People’s Market and a little-known mixologist named Bob Peters, the Queen & Glass is a secretive, small-seating craft cocktail bar situated next to The Peoples Market, a deli, bakery and coffee combination centralizing all of our 21st-century culinary must-haves. The bar at The Queen & Glass will also have tapas-style plates to go alongside its list of craft brews and cocktails, cementing this corner as the place we’ll be stopping in to grab bites and drinks this fall. This location is more than just a watering hole, however; it’s also a meeting place for the neighborhood.
Hello, Sailor: Perched on the edge of Lake Norman’s Holiday Marina, Hello, Sailor sits brightly lit, open-aired, and happily awaiting the crowds to stream into its enclave of incredible food and authentic panache. You get the feeling that no one here takes themselves too seriously—until they get to the food, that is. The fun seeps onto every plate, but this is not your average seafood-bar combo. Sailor is taking traditionally straightforward dishes from land and sea and elevating both their composition and their flavor potential, resulting in food that is—thanks to the Kindreds and their team—visually striking and delicious from top to bottom.
The Stanley: The Stanley is an example of a restaurant utilizing the idea of a farm-to-table menu to the best of its ability. This restaurant is a creative endeavor and a family enterprise, led by James Beard-nominated Chef Paul Verica and his Sous Chef and son Alex Verica. The two team up to deliver a passionate barrage of culinary wisdom and wholesome sourcing, changing the menu often to reflect the availability of ingredients, but utilizing their skill so effectively that—no matter the menu change—the quality remains the same.
Zinicola: Located in Ballantine Village, Zinicola opened its doors this past winter. With locally-grown produce driving the menu items, Chef Richard Cranmer is channelling his family’s recipes through Carolina ingredients; it’s no wonder Zinicola is already becoming a staple. The eatery has the requisite handmade pasta options, but includes lighter fare, like tuna crudo and a beet salad, freshly prepared pizzas, and heartier entrees ranging from short rib to seafood and vegetarian options.
Nuvolé Rooftop TwentyTwo: The 22nd-story Nuvolé does food and handcrafted cocktails with the freshest ingredients, dishing up everything from charcuterie to Carolina bison tartare. Located in Charlotte City Center Tower, it’s an upscale eatery with a menu led by Asheville Chef Peter Pollay. Whether you come for the views, the drink menu, or an after-work meal, Nuvolé hits the mark every time.
Lincoln’s Haberdashery: The latest venture from Chef and restaurateur Michael Shortino of the beloved Futo Buta is a fast-casual grocer called Lincoln’s Haberdashery. It’s not actually a haberdashery, naturally, but rather a shop with everything from Italian sandwiches to a full coffee bar, breakfast, and beer on tap. Shortino is hand-making the bread, and his pastry chef Elena Shchepalina leads the sweets, making this an even more unique place than you may have originally thought.
Zeppelin: Zeppelin in South End is a little like falling into a turn of the century time warp. Inspired by the rich history of South End, this restaurant’s design pays homage to the industrial revolution. You’re quickly awakened back to the present, however, by the sweet and savory aromas of executive chef Vince Giancarlo’s divinely crafted menu. Zeppelin is just enough of the future and past to keep you coming back for more. As if this restaurant’s amazing food and aesthetic weren’t enough, you can also find a classic and innovative menu of housemade cocktails.
QC Social: Even though this one is more lounge than restuarant, the menu at Uptown’s QC Social deserves a place on this list. QC Social Lounge’s menu draws inspiration from all corners of the globe—reaching into the trendy Lower East Side of Manhattan (the site of Bar Director Katie McKeown’s last watering hole), embracing the local flavors of Asheville (the original home of Executive Chef Tyler Maney) and even channeling the family-run Thailand restaurants of the lounge’s owner. The pork belly buns and tuna poke are our go-tos.