Charlotte lacks a great resource to find restaurants. Our newspaper is terrible, and there are no good food critics in town. The only food critics I can find seem to love everywhere they review, and never have any critical comments. Also, there are relatively few good postings for Charlotte, NC, recommendations on this site, so I have taken it upon myself to list a few of my favorite spots for people who may be visiting for business or pleasure.
I moved here from Washington, DC, about a year ago, and I was skeptical about the quantity of quality affordable restaurants I would find in Charlotte. I have been pleasantly surprised. These recommendations are in no particular order, but I tried to divide them up according to cuisine type. And unless otherwise noted, I have enjoyed friendly and prompt service at each location listed. I've also tried to provide a URL to the menu if I could find one.
- Copper - This restaurant features some traditional Indian cuisine as well as several more modern Indian preparations - I have been 4 times, and everything I have tried (appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts) has been excellent. I don't remember the name of my favorite dish, but it is in the "For the Gormand" section of the menu, and it is a chicken dish with a mango sauce. It is one of the top 5 chicken dishes i've ever had. The atmosphere is unique and nice. I would recommend business casual attire. The cost is about $18/entree if I recall correctly. The wine list is not great, but there are a few good selections, and they do have a couple indian beers on hand. The bar area is also nice, and there is a very small outdoor area off the bar. I think this is 100% non-smoking. Located at 311 East Blvd. between the Dilworth and Southend areas of Charlotte.
- Udipi - This restaurant serves vegetarian Indian fare and is a much cheaper and more traditional way to go if you're craving some Indian food. It is in the university area of Charlotte, so it's a little out of the way for folks staying in the downtown area. I have not been disappointed with anything I've had there. I have been one of only a couple non-Indian customers each time I visit.
They have a weekend buffet for under $10/person. Atmosphere is nondescript, very plain - although there is a bizarre mural depicting some sort of dream sequence on one of the walls. Casual attire. 100% non-smoking. 9510 University City Blvd.
- Mac's Speedshop (http://www.macspeedshop.com/menu.html) - This is another place where I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I've ever tried from their menu. Their wings are absolutely delicious - they enjoy 12 hours in their smoker. I've had the quesadillas, the hush puppies, the pulled pork, the brisket, the mac n cheese, the green bean casserole, and the chicken - all of which are among the best I've ever had. They have a tremendous beer list. The price is definitely right as well - I'd guess under $25/person including 2 drinks, tax, and tip. Casual, loud, and fun atmosphere. I think this is 100% smoking (boo). 2511 South Blvd. - Just south of Southend neighborhood.
- Price's Chicken Coop (http://www.priceschickencoop.com/) - This is a take-out only spot. The fried chicken is outstanding from this local dive. I can't speak for the sides, as I've only tried the hush puppies, and they were okay - a touch on the dry side. And I've never tried any of the other offerings such as the fish, shrimp, or pork. I definitely recommend calling ahead to place your order. You can specify what time you want to come pick it up, and they will plan accordingly. 1614 Camden Road. Southend neighborhood.
Chili or Burger
- Lupie's (http://www.lupiescafe.com/menu1.html) - Very good chili at this local dive. My favorite is the cincinnati chili mac with beans, cheese, and onions. I recommend the burgers as well. And I hear the daily specials are delicious as well, particularly the monday meatloaf. I can also vouch for the mac n cheese. It is quite good. I haven't been hear enough to speak to most of the other menu items. I guess that means I need to go this weekend. Domestic and Imported beers available by the bottle. You'll have a pretty hard time spending over $20 - $25 per person including a couple beers, tax, and tip. Casual atmosphere. Offers smoking and non-smoking sections. 2718 Monroe Road. Elizabeth or Chantilly neighborhood.
- Hawthorne's - Charlotte has many pizza joints that put a decent product on the table (Wolfman and Brixx deserve honorable mention). Of these chioces, my favorite is Hawthorne's. They offer up a New York style pie, and while I've tried many pies whose makers claim they are authentic NY style, Hawthorne's attempt is the most authentic NY style I've had outside of NYC. That said, they also make a quality stromboli and a good warm spinach salad (with bacon!). They have a decent beer list (draft and bottle). Again, you can easily escape for under $20 per person when all is said, eaten, and done. Casual atmosphere. Located at E. 7th St and Hawthorne in the Elizabeth neighborhood.
- Salute Ristorante - The chef at Salute uses locally grown and organic ingredients (I appluad this and wish I could find more restaurants in all cities who apply this philosophy). I have only had the pleasure of enjoying a meal at Salute once to date, but I had no complaints. The menu changes frequently due to the availability of fresh ingredients, so I can only decribe what I had. I enjoyed the a superb caprese salad (fresh mozz, yellow, orange, and red cherry tomatoes, basil and olive oil), another appetizer consisting of grilled asparagus served with a fried egg drizzled with white truffle oil - my mouth is watering as I re-think that experience. My girlfriend had a delightful salmon dish served with a chilled cucumber sauce. I had a fairly traditional penne dish with two types of sausage, mushrooms, and tomatoes - it was delicious. Our server was very helpful in helping select a wine that turned out to be exactly what we were looking for. Business Casual to Business attire acceptable. Our dinner for two, including two appetizers, two entrees, and a $70 bottle of wine, was in the neighborhood of $200. I believe it's 100% non-smoking. Located at 613 Providence Road in the Myers Park neighborhood.
Comfort Food, Southern
- Dish (www.eatatdish.com) - It's been a while now since I've been to Dish, as it's a place one craves more during the cooler months. Dish provides tasty home-cooked comford foods at a reasonable price. I recommend the shrimp and grits, the chicken and dumplings, and the Cajun Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes. I think all meals come with a delicious fresh-baked biscuit drizzled with honey. I wish I could recommend more from their menu, but I haven't had a chance to sample anymore items. I will soon though, as it's starting to be that time of year. I'm not sure about the smoking situation there - I'd guess 100% non-smoking though. Casual atmosphere. $10.95 is the priciest entree on the menu. Located at 1220 Thomas Ave in the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood.
I hope these recommendations are helpful to some of you. I will add more as I have time, as there are many more places I recommend. I also home to more establishments worthy of recommendation.