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My Charlotte Recommendations

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.

Indian

- 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.

Barbeque

- 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.

Fried Chicken

- 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.

Pizza

- 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.

Italian

- 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.

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  1. Sushi

    - Cuisine Malaya - Surprisingly for a place with this name, this is the best sushi I've found in Charlotte. Many folks recommend Nikko on South Blvd. I've been to Nikko twice and found it to be average at best. I've also been recommended Ru-San's, but I learned they've repeatedly had low sanitation grades (no thanks!). Back to Cuisine Malaya... The sushi is good quality and quite tasty. Plain and simple - I don't know what else to say. I've also had their dumplings (okay) and edamamme (tasty, but how can you screw that up?). Their pad thai is also unique and quite tasty. $20 - $30 per person depending on the amount of sushi you order. Casual to Business Casual atmosphere. Offers smoking and non-smoking sections. Located at the corner of Elizabeth Ave and Independence in the Midtown/Elizabeth neighborhood.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mdatwood13

      Jamaican

      - Addie's Jamaican - After having tried Anntony's and being quite disappointed, I was in search of better quality caribbean/jamaican cuisine. I happened upon Addie's. The Pot Roast and the Jerk Chicken both fully satisfied. I definitely recommend this place to those in search of quality, flavorful caribbean fare. The price was a bit more than I expected, with entrees ranging from $15-$19 dollars, but we left full and with leftovers, and it was delicious. 100% non-smoking. Casual to business casual atmosphere. Located at 3116 N. Davidson Street in the NoDa neighborhood.

      1. re: mdatwood13

        Did you ever check out the sanitation report for Ru San's? It's not that their restaurant is dirty - it looks fine to me - but that they get demotions for what I think are reasonable things - their toasters weren't UL rated (oh no), the sushi chefs had bowls of water out to dip their fingers in so that the sushi rice doesn't stick to their hands (well, duh). Things like that. I've eaten there probably a dozen times and never had any complaints about the cleanliness.

        The overall menu is huge with so many things to try you could spend an hour deciding what to get. From tempura to yakitori to udon and soba bowls to seafood dinners to CHEAP CHEAP maki (we're talking $1.50-3 for 6 pieces) and a great selection of nigiri.

        It's completely non-smoking. Located near Park and Kenilworth. Casual atmosphere.

        1. re: nurit

          I did read the entire sanitation report for Ru San's a few weeks ago. That is why I mentioned the low grades in my post above. I went to read it again, and it is no longer available on the web site. I do recall points being deducted for having raw meat stored in inappropriate places and some other things. Obviously the things you describe won't scare me away from a place, but Ru San's had scores in the 70s and 80s on their record, and it takes a lot of violations to get scores that low. For anyone who wants to look up the sanitation report for any restaurant (most are available), visit http://mecklenburg.digitalhealthdepar....

      2. Thanks for taking the time to post, it appears you are finding your way arounde our area. Charlotte must be a nice change from DC, quality of life wise.
        As to a lack of Charlotte postings I disagree. There just aren't many RECENT ones. Try searching using brentk, he was prolific at one time, and I happen to agree with his taste.
        Mac's speed shop is ok, but I wouldn't call it a barbeque joint. It is a great bar for people watching with (as you said) a good beer list and good wings, but the last beef brisket I had was fatty, and hey, this is NC, bbq ain't beef!
        Their pulled pork was , to me anyway, just ok.
        I travel the state regularly so I have access to real bbq.

        13 Replies
        1. re: Tee

          No problem... you're right... there are a number of Charlotte posts, but it would be nice if the Charlotte area was more active on here. Things change, so recent posts are more reliable than posts from a few years ago. As for Mac's... barbeque to me is the style of cooking, not the meat. I know BBQ means pulled pork in NC, but to me, anything that spends many hours in a smoker can be called barbeque. As for the brisket at Mac's, I have had a fairly lean one, and I've had a fatty one there, so it is inconsistent. The wings are out of this world though, and for Charlotte (I repeat "for Charlotte"), the pulled pork is better than just okay... Where's your favorite pork bbq in NC?

          1. re: mdatwood13

            My favorite bbq is Gary's in China Grove. I haven't made the trip to Lexington but have had some brought home for us. Not really the same when you reheat in the microwave...

            1. re: messyjessy

              Can anyone else second Gary's? How does Gary's compare to favorite Lexington establishments? I definitely need to experience the real thing real soon.

              1. re: mdatwood13

                As long as you are on 85, I'd keep driving to Lexington, where you can get the real thing smoked over wood.

                I may be mistaken, but I think Gary's cooks using, gasp, electricity.

                1. re: brentk

                  You're on target, Brent. Gary's is electric.

                  1. re: Hushpuppy

                    Thanks for that info... I will not waste my time hitting Gary's. Wood-smoked is what I need... Good work, guys...

                  2. re: brentk

                    Anyone have any opinions on R.O.'s Bar-B-Que in Gastonia? I'll be getting to Lexington ASAP, but I'll be in Gastonia well before that. Anyone? Is it worth the trip?

                    1. re: mdatwood13

                      R.O.s has an interesting slaw that is closer to Thousand Island dressing than any cole slaw I've ever tasted. It's great on a burger.

                      I've never had their BBQ as others have steered me away from it.

            2. re: Tee

              I have to agree with Tee that Mac's is not up to snuff. The quality of the meat was not great and the sides were just okay. For BBq, you should head to Lexington. Lots of debate on who is the best, but any in Lexington is better than the best in Charlotte. I am a big BBQ fan, but don't eat anywhere in Charlotte. In fact, the Lexington BBQ festival is in the fall and worth the trip. Winston Salem has some decent places too but is farther away.
              Cuisine Malaya is one of my favorites. Also in the same general area as most of your other selections are Cafe Sole and Restaurant i. Both have great food. I have been to Copper a time or two and loved it, but prefer Bombay Grill for lees gourmet Indian. Don't bother with Maharani or Situl. I like Portofino's Pizza and have heard good things about pizza at Zio and Riccio's to go seem to be busy, but I have heard nothing. (I like Woflman, Brixx and Hawthorne too)
              For burgers, I like the Penguin. For comfort food, a veggie plate at the Roasting Company is my stand by. For quick middle eastern, Kabob Grill on East is good (try the hummus!)
              A few other favortites: Fuse Box (uptown, if still open, has good sushi and curries), LaTorres (also uptown), Thai Thai-takeout on East and probably not a true chowhound rec, but both Mama Ricotta's and Cantina 1511 (owned by the same folks) are consistent, inexpensive although not authentic. I have only tasted, not dined, at Eskerem Ethiopian, but it is on my list. I had to scratch the Red Sea Ethiopian because of cleanliness issues. And lastly, there is a new Turkish restaurant in Pineville where Thai House used to be and the menu looks interesting.
              I am still looking for decent buffalo wings and welcome suggestions.

              1. re: jlwnc

                Thanks for those great recommendations! I agree that Mac's isn't authentic by any means for BBQ - I just think it's tasty and I think the quality is good. I really think their Buffalo Wings are top notch. I'm not sure ever I've had the real thing as far as BBQ goes, and I'm disappointed I have to miss the BBQ festival in Lexington this weekend. That would be a great chance to get a good sampling. I'll get up there ASAP and report back for sure. Eskerem is also on my list of places to try, and I will add others based on your selections.

                1. re: jlwnc

                  More questions, jlwnc... What's the lowdown on Cafe Sole? I've seen it many times and been curious, but i've never read anything or heard anything about it from anyone, so I haven't tried it. Also, can you tell me more about the Roasting Company? I'm intrigued. Where is it? What else is a hit there? Does Kabob Grill have Falafel? If so, is it good?

                  1. re: mdatwood13

                    I like the Roasting Company. It's over on Montfort Dr, near the Park Road Shopping Center.

                    Good grilled chicken cooked with a Latin marinade.

                    Veggies change day to day and always include some interesting selections.

                    It's a good place for a quick meal with counter service.

                    1. re: mdatwood13

                      If i recall, Cafe Sole is owned by folks who used to own Ole Ole- a great tapas place that had wonderful food, but has been gone about 5 years or so. To say it is Latin best describes it because I don't find it strictly Spanish. Save room for the Tres Leches. Also the charlotte coupons dot com web site has a coupon. I think their menu is on the web too, just google them.
                      Along that line (and some on here may disagree) is LaTorres uptown. I love their scallops and the tuna entree, the green salad with the hearts of palm and avocado and the chocolate ponque (can you tell I like the place??)I seem to be their only evangelist on here.
                      The Roasting company has good veggies and chicken. I also like the Jaco pork. The white beans, the sweet potatoes, okra and tomatoes and gouda pasta salad are my favorites. It really is very southern when it comes to the veggies. Consistent, reasonable and quick.
                      Yes, Kabob Grill has falafel. It and the chicken kabob plate are my favorites there. I always forget to ask about the special and when I pick up my order and see it on the board, I am sorry I didn't get it. The hummus and baba gannouj are my favorite sides. As an fyi, most of the middle eastern restaurants in Charlotte are sketchy, but this one is top notch. Nice folks, they will remember you when you return.

                      Let me add, I tried Eskerem and was not impressed. I got it take out and found it just so so. Also, I had take out from Anntony's and was really disappointed. They were out of potato salad and the collard greens we straight from a can with no tomatoes, onions, etc., typically they are much better.

                2. Thanks for the props, Tee.

                  I'm still around but moved to Greensboro at the beginning of the summer.

                  1. Then lucky Greensboro!
                    My folks moved there from Memphis in the early '50s and my dad said that "in Greensboro you were either working on the 3rd shift or on your 3rd million" (BTW, he didn't fit either category) I rather liked that and it stuck with me.
                    What's your current favorite restaurant in Gboro?

                    1. I haven't been many places yet but I did enjoy Southern Lights.

                      I guess I have something in common with your Dad, too :-)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: brentk

                        Good to hear Southern Lights is still around. It was a favorite 20 years ago when I lived in Greensboro...