Greg and Sabrina Collier, the couple behind The Yolk, one of Charlotte’s best breakfasts, will open Leah & Louise in Camp North End this spring. If they even come close to meeting expectations, there’s a good chance you’ll see some of these on our best restaurants list next year.
Located inside the Mint Museum Uptown, Halcyon is an upscale restaurant with an approachable, Southern-leaning menu and a view over Second Ward. Must-order dish: Halcyon burger ($20), mostly because of the onion marmalade on top of the beef patty.
Location and hours: 500 South Bryon Street (in Mint Museum Uptown). Inside, the South Boulevard restaurant is dark and cozy with wood paneling and decades-old photographs on the walls.
Steaks always arrive tender and cooked to your preference (medium rare, duh), and it’s affordable ($39+) compared to most well-known chains. Compared to Chef Dissent’s acclaimed Asheville restaurant, The marketplace, Haymaker is more upscale and trendy, fitting for Uptown.
The bright 4,000-square-foot restaurant also features floor-to-ceiling windows, mezzanine level seating, and a cool four-seat chef’s table overlooking the open kitchen. Must-order dish: The North Carolina shrimp and bay scallops à la Blanca was so popular as a small plate, Dissent moved it to the entree menu ($30).
The Midtown spot isn’t about gimmicks or reinventing Italian-American cuisine; it’s focused on the classics. Penne alley vodka ($16) arrives with sautéed Panetta in a peppery tomato cream sauce.
And Mother Ricotta’s lasagna ($14), with layers of ground beef, veal, sausage, and a whole gotta cheese, is so good it’s like a hug straight from Donna. Pro-tip: Mother’s also offers family-style pastas that feed two to three people that are ideal for takeout.
Dogwood’s menu is representative of the dishes common across the South, from Harmony Ridge duck breast from Winston-Salem to Sunburst trout from North Carolina’s crisp mountain rivers. It’s listed as a small plate, but the portion of comfit duck leg is substantial.
It’s hard to compare Fin & Fine and Dogwood because they’re owned by the same restaurant group, Rare Roots Hospitality. We’ll give Fin & Fine a slight edge in part because of its innovative and quirky cocktail program led by Brittany Keller, and its unflinching focus on serving Charlotte’s best seafood.
$$$ | Intimate 66-seat restaurant focused on pasta with a central show kitchen in the middle of the dining room. Flour Shop’s simple, rotating menu consists of fresh pasta and breads, along with roasted and grilled meats, seafood, and vegetables.
Choose a seat at Flour Shop’s bar and watch the chef prepare your dishes in the restaurant ’s central kitchen. Must-order dish: Burrito toast ($14) with a herb and butternut squash pistol, a French sauce similar to pesto.
Dishes like charred okra and fried chicken are Southern classics perfected. And Colleen Hughes’ cocktails are some of the most innovative and beautiful in the city (think flower petals frozen into ice spheres).
Hello, Sailor is not as polished as Kindred in Davidson, but what it lacks in elegance, it makes up in fun. The Cornelius restaurant ’s location on Lake Norman makes it an unbeatable spot on a sunny day.
On a hot day, order one of Hello, Sailor’s cocktails, which arrive in luau-themed glassware with colorful umbrellas. Round out the fried food with a side of watermelon ($4.99), which is served with sea salt and all pastor seasoning.
$ | Modern, cozy space with creative ramen dishes in South End This intimate restaurant along the Rail Trail would be easy to forget it exists if it wasn’t so darn good.
Owner and chef Michael Shorting’s giant bowls of ramen ($12-$18) are among the best in Charlotte, which explains why this spot is almost always busy. Must-order dish: “Fire & Ice” ramen ($13) with kimchi and dash broth, hot smoked salmon, fresh mint, BOK chop, shaved carrot, radish, black sesame, scallion, and leek.
Since then, dozens of other Charlotte restaurants have latched on to the small plates approach to dining, but none do it with as much versatility as Good Food, with influences from Greece, Korea, Italy, and more. Must-order dish: Steamed bun with Five Spice-rubbed pork belly, housing, and pickled vegetables ($10).
Then in October, a fire in Rooster’s Uptown kitchen temporarily closed operations. There’s no word on when Rooster’s Uptown will reopen, but thankfully, its loyal following of diners can still visit the South Park location.
$$$$ | Tiny, no-frills South Park restaurant that helped establish Charlotte’s culinary scene Barrington’s was Bruce Buffett’s first venture in Charlotte, and it’s still hard to get a reservation here without making it a week in advance.
Must-order dish: Seared organic chicken served with creamy mashed potatoes, wilted spinach, and a garlic pan sauce ($23). Soul Gastrolounge was already one of Charlotte’s hippest restaurants, but with the recent addition of Kiki and the tiny Tattoo Bar, this block of Plaza Midwood got even cooler.
$$$$ | Sets the standard for a white tablecloth, fine dining destination in Charlotte Husband-and-wife duo Greg and Sara Danish opened The Fig Tree in 2005 after a year of renovations to a historic Craftsman-style bungalow in Elizabeth.
The Fig Tree isn’t focused on what’s new or trendy, and that’s evident in the restaurant ’s longstanding signature dish, the elk chop, which has been on the menu for nearly 15 years. After Heritage in Wax haw closed, people couldn’t wait to see what chef Paul Erica would do next.
The Stanley was part one of that answer; next is Erica’s venture into Italian cuisine with Onto opening later this year. The Stanley is a warm space in Elizabeth with cozy, cranberry-colored booths and plenty of natural light from the front windows.
And expect that inspiration and imaginative approach to carry on when Poll and co-owner Jayson White side open restaurant number two with Van soon. $$$$ | Progressive American restaurant from the owners of Banner Elk’s Artisanal, now open in South Park.
The South Park fine-dining establishment has an experienced team behind it: Bill and Anita Greene, who are also the couple behind one of North Carolina’s most picturesque restaurants, Artisanal, located in a converted barn in Banner Elk. Ahead of Pepper vine’s debut, Food+Wine Magazine listed the restaurant as one of the most-anticipated openings in the country.
The Greene's partnered with Chain Gallery to display art on a rotating basis. Then order big eye tuna tartar ($18) and squid ink beating with Spanish octopus ($18).
Located on Main Street in Davidson, the two-story restaurant has a charm you won’t find at most city spots and unparalleled service from the moment a free loaf of milk bread hits the table. Joe, the chef, has been James Beard semi-finalist three times, and Kindred was named the best restaurant in North Carolina by Southern Living in 2018.
Agenda pro-tip: Order a “Barkeep’s Choice” and the bartender will surprise you with a cocktail of his/her choosing.