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Charlotte, NC?

My wife and I are going to a conference in Charlotte -- never been before -- and we'd LOVE some advice about where to eat. We're apparently staying in a chain restaurant area (P.F. Chang's, Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, etc.) and that is decidedly NOT what we're looking for. Something funky? Something unique and local? Something authentically Southern (as we're coming from Boston)? We'd appreciate anything you can recommend: many thanks!!

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  1. Where will you be staying and will you have a car?

    1. The restaurants you list indicate you are in the Southpark Mall area. If that is the case, you are in luck as there are some excellent choices.

      First, by authentically Southern. are you talking corn bread, black eyed peas, fried chicken, biscuits, etc? While Charlotte is in the south, we don't have the upscale Southern food you can find in Charleston. That said, we have some pretty decent places that I would suggest for lunch if you have time away from the conference: The Coffee Cup and Simmons 4th Ward, both in downtown Charlotte. For dinner, slightly more upscale Southern inspired cuisine can be found at Dish in Plaza Midwood and Mert's Heart and Soul in downtown. None of these establishments do everything well, but they all do certain dishes quite well.

      If you want barbecue, your best bet in Charlotte is Bill Spoon's on South Boulevard near Archdale. Spoon's has the closest thing to Lexington, NC style cue in town. Many folks on these boards like Mac's Speed Shop - I am not one of those people, but I will admit the atmosphere is fun and they are open for dinner, while Spoon's is not. Spoon's also is a cash or check only establishment (NO credit/debit cards). When was the last time you paid for a meal by personal check?

      If you just wants some damned good fried chicken and really sweet iced tea, go to Price's Chicken Coop - take out only and closed on Mondays. They often run out of chicken in the evenings and their sides are forgettable, but their fried chicken is the real deal. I love, love love their fried chicken livers and gizzards!

      Near Southpark you have some excellent fine dining options. My first and top suggestion is Barrington's http://www.barringtonsrestaurant.com/, followed by Nobles Restaurant and then Zebra. Jim Noble also owns Rooster's Kitchen adjacent to the mall, which gets very good buzz. I have not tried Roosters pulled pork, but they have some great veggies. http://www.roosterskitchen.com/menu.html

      1 Reply
      1. re: hazardnc

        I'm more in the Mac's Speed Shop category than Bill Spoon's - I've been to both and I didn't care for Bill Spoon's at all.

        Also, I'd try for a trip to a local fish camp, which one, I'm not sure. Also, a southern burger would be a good choice. Maybe the LuLu burger?

        I know that this sounds strange, but I would point them to Bojangles. If I ever left the South, I would miss it. When I run into Charlotte ex-pats around the country, their eyes glaze over when they ask if it's still as yummy as they remember.

        Actually, I'd probably recommend the places I'd yearn for if I left, Bojangles, Showmars (Old Fashioned Pita Burger w/ chili, onions and slaw), Mac's, Roasting Company and anywhere with good hushpuppies.

      2. For "funky" definitely go to Penguin in Plaza Midwood. I recommend the fried pickles, the burgers (get 'em "Southern style") and the banana pudding.

        1. It does sound like South Park. In that area I would second the rec on Roosters. Good food, good wine, good atmosphere.

          Also in the area:

          Earth Fare - this is an organic grocery store out of western NC - they have great food for lunch in the deli/salad bar area

          Barringtons (see hazardnc reply)

          Portofinos, Park Rd (down the road a bit) - good pizza

          Sir Edmund Halleys Park Rd Shopping Center (down the road a bit further) - really good bar food

          Outside of the area, I totally agree on Mac's, dish, and Penguin.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mcap

            The only problem with Sir Edmund Halleys is the cigarette smoke. The place reeks -

          2. I've always ejoyed Manzetti's. That's in the SouthPark area across from the mall.

            1. Put me in the Mac's and Bojangles camp. In fact, there is a Bojangle's near where you're staying in SouthPark. It's on Morrison, kind of next door to the previously mentioned Rooster's. Also have to agree with Barrington's. Small, chef owned, fresh local ingredients, maybe a mile from SouthPark. Beef n Bottle is a locally owned steak house, pretty funky and retro without a trace of irony. It's not too far away. Nolen Kitchen has a good bar.

              10 Replies
              1. re: sunsh9e

                Bojangles? Really? I don't get it. It's fast food, a lot of the "restaurants" aren't clean and it's just okay.

                1. re: southernitalian

                  I know, I know. There is place in South End, Price's Chicken Coop, which, according to Bon Appetit or maybe Gourmet has the "3rd best Fried Chicken in America." And I think it is overrated. So, maybe my choice of Bojangles is a reaction to that. Maybe, try this when you're in town--try a piece of Bojangles and compare it to the 3rd Best FC in America. What an opportunity!

                  1. re: sunsh9e

                    I definitely think Price's is overrated and get the smackdown any time I say it. If your idea of atmosphere is an Offtrack Betting location than it might appeal. Their chicken is just okay. Jane and Michael Stern were the latest to drink the kool-aid. There are so many good dining options in Charlotte these days. Not sure why I would want to sit in my car and eat that.

                    1. re: southernitalian

                      Jane and Michael Stern drink a lot of kool aid, I'm afraid.

                      1. re: brentk

                        If you are looking for "character", try the Penguin or Common Market (deli) near Central Ave, Cabo Fish Taco in NoDa, or Mac's Speed Shop (BBQ/Harley bar) on South Blvd.

                      2. re: southernitalian

                        Years ago I told a Charlotte native that I prefer Hatahway's Fried Chicken in Monroe to Price's and the response I got was "Them's fightin words ma'am."

                        1. re: hazardnc

                          I know. Right? People get really angry with me. You'd just think after all this time they would actually open a restaurant. Who wants to stand in line on the sidewalk outside that place in the blazing sun? By the time I get to a place where I can comfortably eat anything, everything's gone cold and soggy.

                          1. re: southernitalian

                            while i certainly think Price's is good, i quite honestly when it comes to it, would rather just eat my grandma's fried chicken, or Bojangles withsome biscuits. Chowish and gourmand, maybe not, but just because something's raved about doesnt mean everyone must automatically love it.

                            1. re: Chocolate Toe

                              I agree-it may not be fancy, but Bojangles is pretty awesome and I'd truely miss it if I moved from the South.

                              And as far as fried chicken goes, Otto's knife and Fork had fried chicken that I will yearn for until the day I die. Anyone know if he is still working in town? He's a chef I would gladly stalk around the city!

                              1. re: littlegirltree

                                The last I heard, Otto was at City Tavern downtown, Hearst Tower.

                2. Bojangles and Mac's? I know to just disregard those comments as people who enjoy foods wil too much salt and way too much fat. I would try Price's for Chicken and Bill's for BBQ the way it should be done. Just a straight shot down Sharon Amity (but a decent drive) is Granny Lucy's. They are only open til 5:30 and take out only, but the BBQ is fantastic.

                  1. I would also recommend Cafe Monte in the Phillips Place shopping center in South Park. It's a french bistro with good food and a good inexpensive wine list. Nothing "different" in terms of food but if your just looking for a good relatively inexpensive restaurant I highly recommended them.