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Tips for a Relaxed, Tasty Restaurant in Charlotte

My husband's 30th birthday is coming up and I want to make it a very special day for him. The most important ingredient in any of our celebrations is the food - we LOOOOOOOVE food. Finding great restaurants for him, however, is a bit tricky. He likes more complex, upscale kind of food, but he HATES formal dining. Most of the places with the best food in town are quite formal and seriously make him feel uncomfortable. Does anyone have suggestions for me? I'm looking for a relaxed atmosphere that can accomodate a group of 8+. He likes all types of food, so cuisine style isn't an issue. Most important, though, is it has to be really, really, seriously good food. Your help is much appreciated!

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  1. I'd suggest Lulu, on Central Avenue, although it may not be quite "complex" in terms of food. It is delicious and creative, however, and has a relaxed, but sophisticated atmosphere. For a group of 8 I'd definitely make a reservation, as its not a big place.

    1. Lulu is a great suggestion. The food is fantastic fand the atmosphere is comfortable and casual.

      1. I, too, suggest Lulu. It fits your requirements perfectly. It's very casual, cool, and the food is outstanding.

        Another idea is The Fig Tree. It's a bit more upscale than Lulu, but still relaxed. It's in an old, rehabbed bungalow on 7th St. The food is multi-layered and creative but expensive (great foie gras). Service is good too.

        Two other options, both owned by the same group, are Ilios Noche and Nolen Kitchen. I frequent Ilios Noche quite a bit and it's consistently good. The lamb shank w/ tomato orzo is to die for and their desserts are always mind-blowing (try the panna cotta - perfect texture).

        1. I've forgotten the exact name, but there's a great casual Southwest restaurant called Cantina 1567 (numbers I think are wrong). Inventive cooking using latino ingredients and ideas. Great tequila/mezcal list and adequate wine selection.

          1. I just thought of one other palace that would be great, Greek Isles on Bland Street. Dining room is large and comfortable, fun atmosphere and the food is fantastic

            5 Replies
            1. re: GodfatherofLunch

              I can second that one, GFL. Great food and great prices too. :)

              1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                Greek Isles and Waldhorn are the two places that sprang to mind. They both have plenty of room to accommodate a large table. (Lulu's is great but large tables throw off the balance of their intimate dining room).

                1. re: littlegirltree

                  Do you think Greek Isles and Waldhorn fit the "complex and upscale food" requirement of the poster though? While I like both places, I'd say they are both more rustic than complex and upscale.

                  1. re: HungryGrayCat

                    I haven't been to Waldhorn, but I agree completely in regard to Greek Isles. Its good, and I eat there fairly often, but I can't imagine its the type of place the OP has in mind. But, then again, maybe it is...

                    1. re: carolinadawg

                      I just had a birthday dinner at Greek Isles last night. I agree with HGC that the food is better described as rustic, but everything was delicious and the service was flawless. We had a great time. The lamb shank, leg of lamb and Taste of Greece platters(mousaka, spankopita, dolmades, gyros & pastitsio, etc) were all delicious. The octopus app and the roasted hot peppers and feta spread w/ pitas(Htipiti) were delicious. And of course it always fun watching the bursts of flames when they serve the flaming cheese app (saganaki) and everyone exclaims "Opa"! AND you always get a little gift at the end of the meal in the form of your bill - you won't believe how low it is and will likely think they've forgotten to charge you for something. The prices at Greek Isles are unbelieveably reasonable. It's a great value.