Dinner in Charlotte: Not fine dining, not a dive, not a chain...
Coming to Charlotte from Manhattan. I've been there a few times but haven't gotten a lot of exposure to a lot of places. Would love some help for a few places for dinner, here's the criteria:
Not Fine Dining: Not looking for upscale white table cloth dining. Nothing against it, but not looking to get a good meal by paying $100 a head.
Not a Dive: I love the dives. Really do. As a matter of fact that probably makes the most of what I've eaten in Charlotte, so I need a change of pace.
Not a Chain: Kind of goes without saying, but no need to suggest Cheesecake Factory or Applebee's. Nothing against them, just would like something different.
Not trying to be negative, I like pretty much all places, just looking for a specific vibe. Relaxed, fun, casual dining, but not in a sports bar or diner. Atmosphere a plus.
This sounds kind of restrictive, but I'm really just looking for great suggestions...and welcome your thoughts.
Here I go sounding like a broken record but Rooster's fits your requirements perfectly. It's a very lively place, reasonably priced, casual, and most of all...delicious. The cocktails are good and the wine list is interesting --there's even a separate wine bar across the way now.
If it's not raining, you can have after-dinner drinks on the heated patio at M5 (across the street).
There are far fewer $100 a head places in Charlotte than upscale. Downtown, Ratcliffe on the Green is a good spot. With apps and entree, you're looking at $35 a head, not including drinks/wine. Ratcliffe features local, sustainable ingredients, and they do a bang up job. They hosted the Alice Waters dinner for Slow Food Charlotte last fall.
A little further out of town is Carpe Diem, which is a local favorite that has been around for a long time. Apps are about $9-11 and entrees run $20-30. Carpe Diem is on Elizabeth Avenue. Down the street from Carpe Diem is Loft 1523, which is a hip new martini bar with great views of downtown.
Another perennial favorite is Pewter Rose on South Blvd. They have everything from burgers to bouillabaisse. Below Pewter Rose is their popular bar called Tutto Mondo that features a Dj and caters to the 30-something crowd.
Also on South Blvd is the new Woods on South restaurant, which is a collaboration of chef personality Marvin Woods. They have wood fired pizzas, sandwiches and Southern inspired entrees. It's new, and I have not read any reviews on the place yet.
East Blvd has a few worthy destinations: Cantina 1511 for upscale Mexican food, 300 East for everything from burgers to filet mignon (another old Charlotte standby), and Copper for Indian-inspired cuisine.
One of my favorites is a chain, but a regional chain. Frank Manzetti's near Southpark Mall has great salads, steaks, and pasta dishes. I really like their atmosphere and they have good service.
Dish on Thomas Street in the Plaza Midwood area has good Souther inspired food, and is probably the cheapest of all of these spots. I love Cajun Queen on 7th Street, but it can be noisy, They have without a doubt the best fried oysters and gumbo in town. Their blackened catfish is pretty good too. A lot of people love Lulu's on Central Ave. I haven't been in over a year, but the one time I went, it was very good - somewhat French bistro in a cute renovated house, decent prices.
I 2nd Hazzardnc's suggestions of Carpe Diem and 300 East. Not sure what part of town your staying... but Nolen Kitchen (Selwyn Ave) is a great place. Very creative and fresh... http://www.nolenkitchen.com/.
My favorite spot in town and a very foodie kind of place is Lulu on Central Ave. Prices are very reasonable and they have an eclectic array of dishes. Moules & Frites are phenomenal. Foie gras, pate. The owner is French and they've given their food a southern funk. I don't know how else to explain it! But it's lovely. They only serve beer and wine. http://www.luludinewine.com/.
A fun place w/ great 'cue and neat vibe is Mac's Speed Shop. It was once a transmission shop and has been converted to a biker inspired bar & grill. So, it's not a dive but is "dive inspired". Try the bbq brisket... it'll knock your socks off. Huge beer list. www.macspeedshop.com.
If you're in South Charlotte/Arboretum area, try New South Kitchen & Bar. Small and big plates w/ a Southern flare. They have duck confit, shrimp & grits, Berkshire pork, foie gras (can u tell I love this stuff), etc. I recently posted about this place:
Let us know how you make out - Enjoy!
p.s. I'm a huge David Chang admirer. Momofuku rocks! What I wouldn't give for a bowl of his ramen, a pork bun and some kimchi. Oh, and a Hitachino White Ale to wash it all down.
What about Blue in Uptown? I thought it was very good.
I also like Manzettis right behind The Park Hotel across from Southpark Mall.
Its not impossible t spend $100 per person in Charlotte, but it's pretty hard. In Center City, try Taverna 100, Town, or Arpa, a tapas restaurant. Someone else suggested Blue which is also really good, as is Table. Lots of good food in Charlotte -- enjoy!