Top 12 Best Restaurants in Charlotte

Last Updated on February 16, 2024 by Emily Johnson

With gleaming high rises mutualizing upward from revitalized neighborhoods, Charlotte dining captures contemporary Southern dynamism thriving on local ingredients and culinary talent. James Beard-recognized chefs make the Queen City a repeat destination for food-focused travelers craving elevated experiences alongside downhome hospitality.

Restaurant NameSpecialty
The AsburyRefined soul food
McDonald’s KitchenSouthern comfort fare
Good Food on MontfordTapas-style, seasonal plates
La Belle HeleneFrench cuisine
StagioniRustic Italian cuisine
The Goodyear HouseNew American brasserie
Heritage Food and DrinkSouthern culinary canon
HaberdishSouthern comfort plates
Leah & LouiseProgressive Southern dining
Pinky’s Westside GrillAmerican comfort fare
Brooks’ Sandwich ShopDiner scene with burgers
The StanleyEuropean bar and eatery

Whether you seekupdated New South cuisine fusing regional flavors or clever takes on classics like fried chicken and mac ‘n cheese, Charlotte’s restaurant landscape entices with something for every palate. Here are 12 of the city’s most acclaimed eateriesdefining its welcoming table centered firmly at the crossroads of cosmopolitan and comfort food.

The Asbury

Name and Location: The Asbury is a historic boutique hotel and dining destination located in downtown Asbury Park, New Jersey along the famous Jersey Shore boardwalk.

History and Significance: Originally built in 1930, the Art Deco hotel fell into disrepair before a 2016 renovation spearheaded by award-winning Salt Hotels restored the iconic 18-story tower into a vibrant coastal retreat. Multiple bars and restaurants led by executive chef Amanda Fee breathe new life through elevated cuisine.

What to Expect: Guests sip craft cocktails on the open-air rooftop meeting locals while gazing at ocean sunsets before sampling globally-inspired small sharable plates showcasing fresh seasonal ingredients at the vibrant ground-level Salvation restaurant and corner Asbury Oyster Bar led by Chef Amanda.

Visitor Information: The Asbury’s restaurants welcome local patrons daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Hotel and resort fee validate parking access in nearby lots otherwise public transportation connects through downtown easily.

History buffs relish the restored 1940s garage ambiance accompanying Chef Jim Noble’s refined soul food creations drawing national acclaim since debuting along hip artsy North Davidson Street. Expect updates like rainbow trout dip replacing typical pimento cheese spread and Moroccan spiced quail shining up tired fried chicken expectations. Heartier meat-and-potatoes patrons still find satisfaction attacking the impressive dry aged Porterhouse steak under towering timber rafters beside a vintage Indian Scout motorcycle frozen in midair installation. Whether enjoying Asbury’s upscale downhome dishes fireside during winter months or coasting into summer on the sprawling hidden garden patio, every meal puts progressive Southern cuisine firmly in focus within reach of downtown just minutes away.

McDonald’s Kitchen

Name and Location: McDonald’s Kitchen is an elevated seasonal neighborhood bistro located in a converted old house along Kingsley Avenue amid downtown Asbury Park, New Jersey.

History and Significance: Owned by Salt Hotels, McDonald’s Kitchen emerged during 2017 reviving Asbury’s food scene by transforming a run-down home blocks from the beach into a rustic-chic farm-to-table restaurant led by executive chef Amanda Fee. Her dedicating to sourcing quality local ingredients made it a gastronomic staple.

What to Expect: Ever-changing dishes showcase seasonal produce, sustainably-raised meats and regional flavors across creative sharing plates and hearty mains complemented by craft beer and natural wines in the distinctly vibrant yet cozy adjacent house setting dotted with string lights and vintage furniture to match elevated but comforting cuisine.

Visitor Information: McDonald’s Kitchen serves dinner nightly plus weekend brunch. Reservations highly recommended at the intimate eatery with local parking options. Closed Mondays.

Breakfast devotees deem this NoDa go-to restaurant flipping classic Southern comfort fare with chef-driven twists since 2013 a daily essential, regardless of zip code. Patrons happily wait in lines down the block for ricotta hotcakes crowned with fresh berries or impossibly fluffy omelets stuffed with local Cajun crawfish and charred corn. Lunch hours keep the Southern-inspired plates rolling with choices like buttermilk fried chicken sandwiches doused in redeye gravy or the ever-popular shrimp roll plump with fried seafood goodness. Don’t sleep on cocktails either shaken or stirred to perfection alongside windows opening out to open-air lounge seating when weather allows. Thanks to STK, that signature NoDa artsy edge even follows dinner patrons out the door in clever iconic fry takeaway containers designed exclusively for this 1400 block destination prized citywide.

Good Food on Montford

Name and Location: Good Food on Montford is a contemporary farmhouse bistro located on Montford Avenue, just a few blocks inland amid the vibrant Flats dining neighborhood of Asbury Park, New Jersey.

History and Significance: The husband-wife co-owned rustic restaurant focuses on approachable seasonal cuisine sourcing quality ingredients from local farms, dairies and fisheries across the Jersey Shore region since 2014. Their dedication helps strengthen area food systems through sustainable relationships.

What to Expect: Weekly changing dishes means vibrant offerings spanning baked oatmeal, fermented foods, grain bowls, flatbreads and seasonal vegetables at rustic wood tables. Specials scrawled on boards also feature alongside New Jersey wines, regional craft brews and classic cocktails in a relaxed, inviting neighborhood atmosphere.

Visitor Information: Good Food on Montford offers counter-service breakfast and lunch daily, with full-service dinner added Thursday through Saturday evenings. Street parking available, but fills fast so plan time and carpool if possible.

Seasonally-focused ingredients starring in clever share plates built tapas-style woo diners to this hip eatery anchoring Montford Drive’s lively dining and entertainment nexus near Verde at Montford Park. Look forward to seeing what local products the chef incorporates from week to week – past plates range from early summer fig flatbreads crowned with mascarpone cream to roasted acorn squash agrodolce with farro and crisp kale when autumn arrives. Seafood lovers favor buttermilk poached Carolina trout served alongside velvety Anson Mills grits and a vibrant watercress-fennel salad. And Good Food’s lengthy craft cocktail menu delights with surprises like the ginger-tinged Penicillin balancing smoky Scotch and spiced honey syrup. Thanks to an airy charming ambiance matching exceptional execution, repeat visitors flock frequently anticipating the latest inspirations arising from both kitchen and bar at this neighborhood darling less than 10 minutes from Uptown by car.

La Belle Helene

Name and Location: La Belle Helene brings Parisian cafe culture serving French Mediterranean cuisine to Asbury Park’s downtown Flats just off Cookman Avenue.

History and Significance: Open since 2017 inside a restored brick building blocks from the beach, executive chef Christophe Haggenmiller and Liz Helene Marrone elevate farm-fresh bistro flavors drawing inspiration from France and North Africa. The intimate space exudes comforting old-world character.

What to Expect: Dishes like Moroccan spiced beet salad, duck cassoulet and moules frites join staples like croque monsieur to satisfy cravings for classics with a touch of refinement perfectly enjoyable inside the cozy vibrant dining room or at patio tables daily for breakfast through dinner complemented by French wines.

Visitor Information: La Belle Helene serves daily breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch and dinner. Reservations suggested for dinner at the popular Flats neighborhood eatery with public parking available on side streets.

Tucked away on a tree-lined street in historic Dilworth, this cozy 30-seat French bistro specializing in regional rustic fare seduces guests with Provencal charm and culinary masterpieces from the moment warm crusty Loire Valley bread meets the table. Begin your odyssey through Chef Brendan Cox’s creative takes on classical cuisine constructed carefully around seasonal ingredients and French technique acquired from years under Michelin man Alain Passard’s tutelage. Riviera-inspired plates like herb pistou-slathered salmon and duck leg cassoulet invite lingering over French wines or flutes of sparkling rose chilling nearby. For a sweet ending, finish on regional desserts like Parisian cakes and crowd-pleasing floating islands dolloped in crème anglaise sure to cure any French food cravings. Thanks to a stellar intimate experience marked by exceptional hospitality, La Belle Helene sets Charlotte fine dining benchmarks bon appetit style.

Stagioni

Name and Location: Stagioni brings effortlessly elegant Northern Italian cuisine to Deal, New Jersey just north up the coastal highway from Asbury Park.

History and Significance: Husband and wife owners Fred and Margaret Paparoni transformed a former antique shop into an intimate upscale trattoria in 2020 straying from Jersey Shore norms to transplant diners to Italy through Fred’s family recipes, a carefully curated wine list and transports of imported ingredients reinforcing culinary traditions.

What to Expect: Housemade pastas, imported cheeses, cicchetti small plates and central Italian entrees like braised rabbit ragu or pistachio crusted salmon satisfy cravings for authenticity using premium ingredients in rustic preparations diners savor slowly, as Italians do, paired best alongside Italian wines amid exposed brick walls in the cozy enclave.

Visitor Information: Stagioni serves dinner Tuesday through Sunday with a classic Italian lunch service added Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations ensure tables at the petite restaurant with only street parking available nearby.

Expect transportive rustic Italian cuisine crafted using seasonal ingredients and centuries-old family recipes passed down to Chef Mario Ferrari when visiting this South End darling. Known for handmade pastas cut fresh daily, Stagioni wows meat-centric appetites with tender ossobuco and crusty Roman-style suckling pig. Past primi course highlights include squid ink trofie threaded with sea brine and juicy wild mushrooms atop delicate layers of lasagna naughtily swathed in béchamel cream. Come warmer weather, streetside patio seats draw regular crowds swaying to the startup tech hub neighborhood’s energetic urban vibe fueled by smart cocktails and vibrant dinner conversation. Yet Stagioni’s soul remains tethered strongly to Italian food traditions serving diners spritzes and smiles in spades.

The Goodyear House

Name and Location: The Goodyear House resurrects a historic gas station into a modern American restaurant and bar overlooking beautiful Weehawken waterfront vistas across from Midtown Manhattan.

History and Significance: First built as a goodyear tire facility in 1923, the landmark structure later operated for decades as Glory Days Grill before an elegant redesign unveiled in 2022 reimagined the soaring industrial space. Talented chef de cuisine Lauren Napolitano helms the seasonally focused kitchen.

What to Expect: Cathedral windows bathe diners in natural light as they sip restorative cocktails before knife and fork slices through tender beef carpaccio, crackling skinned Branzino and olive oil poached tuna. Upstairs Firepit lounge complements small sharable plates and entrees embracing peak seasonal ingredients from local purveyors.

Visitor Information: The Goodyear House serves lunch, dinner and weekend brunches with views of the Manhattan skyline. Garage parking access below validates for restaurant guests otherwise rideshare pickup convenient right at entry.

Situated like an airy workshop off the light rail tracks in hip South End, this restored warehouse turned New American brasserie woos vacationers, techies and neighborhood dwellers alike inside with market plates riffing playfully on regional ingredients and global flavors. Lunch patrons swoon over clever bowls layering Faroe Island salmon in coconut broth, crispy tofu and udon noodles threaded with edamame and wakame. Come dinner, snacks like duck wings glazed with sweet miso give way to hearty Carolina trout in spicy tomato sofrito or dry aged New York strip steak slices melting over creamy truffle risotto. And the Goodyear House bar keeps pace shaking up shareable punches, spritzers and crafty concoctions easily enjoyed at communal high top tables under Edison bulb fixtures buzzing with lively conversation throughout the evening.

Heritage Food and Drink

Name and Location: Heritage Food and Drink brings creative elevated comfort cuisine focusing on seasonal regional ingredients across several locales in Northern New Jersey.

History and Significance: Chef-owner Mike Ciccotelli established the initial Heritage Brick Oven location in Pompton Lakes during 2013 to cultivate community around quality thoughtful preparations in casual welcoming environments. Additional outposts emerged recently led by emerging talent chefs.

What to Expect: Menus showcase approachable yet memorable dishes often with global accents like General Tso’s Cauliflower or Truffle Cheeseburger served alongside extensive craft beer selections perfect for sharing in an easygoing social atmosphere where quality shines over stuffy service – expect rustic modern decor like exposed filament bulbs dangling above cozy leather booths.

Visitor Information: Heritage locations offer weekday lunch and dinner plus weekends brunches with menus varying slightly by individual outpost. Advance reservations accommodated though most walk-ins seat promptly with validated parking.

Charlotte culinary all-stars pay homage to the Southern culinary canon referencing regional history and heirloom goods across thoughtful progressive plates and craft potables within this historic brickwork spot minutes from downtown. Chef Oscar Torres pulls from over two decades of experience awakening diners tastebuds through previous pursuits Joe’s Crab Shack and Dean & Deluca before alighting just off North Davidson. Diners now find Torres re-conceptualizing po boys with ridiculously tender Nashville hot chicken and buckwheat pancake batter crisp okra alongside chayote and heirloom tomato salads dressed up nice in jalapeno basil vinaigrette. Pair your meal with surprise delights from Heritage’s bar like spiked Kool-aid or the Black is Beautiful stout brewed in collaboration with Charlotte favorite Lucky Dog Bark and Brew to support local minority businesses. Whether firing it up family-style with friends or celebrating special occasions enamored by historic architecture, Heritage satisfies elevated soul food cravings mornings to night.

Haberdish

Name and Location: Haberdish brings modern Southern hospitality spanning hearty cuisine and craft cocktails to several New Jersey locales including a booming flagship location in Bloomfield.

History and Significance: Pitmaster Aaron Gottesman merged years smoking regional barbecue across America with wife Danielle’s pastry talents to open their initial 30-seat eatery in 2015 focusing efforts towards down-home scratch cooking in intimate environments filled with restored antique furnishings befitting Gottesman’s alter ego, “The Junk Doctor” alongside Chief Culinary Officer Adam Pazan.

What to Expect: From sticking ribs to Nashville hot chicken, expectations run high for genuine smoky Southern flavors paired with creative craft cocktails and local brews best enjoyed slowly across the Haberdish experience spanning informal comfort to special occasion celebrations connected by soulful cooking benefitting from wood smoke, sweat and heritage.

Visitor Information: The flagship Bloomfield location shown above serves lunch, dinner and boozy weekend brunches with additional outlets in Secaucus, Fairfield and Sea Isle City, New Jersey. Reservations available by location for dining spanning indoor and outdoor covered patio spaces.

Cozy down in clever garden-esque digs off funky North Davidson Street for a memorable meal starring butter-blanketed biscuits big as your head alongside clever Southern comfort plates packing big brightness into every bite. Don’t fret; parking abounds on surrounding streets just minutes from NoDa’s pulsing main drag. Then feast on shareables like crispy meatballs swimming five cheese gravy studded generous with sweet peppers. Chicken & Dumplings arrive fashionably crafted into hand pies oozing meaty chicken pot pie deliciousness with each flaky, buttery mouthful lined with mushrooms and fresh thyme. Consider washing comfort fare down with clever zero proof “spirit-free” sippers like the Fall Friend with juiced parsnip and roasted pear finished gently with ginger bitters and sparkling water. However your meal plays out at this buzzy breakfast and dinner scene stealing Davidson Street shopfront hearts, expect hospitality and Southern culinary prowess winking smartly with every comforting forkful straight through the weekend thanks to inventive weekend waffle flavors awaiting sweet tooths.

Leah & Louise

Name and Location: Leah & Louise brings Parisian cafe culture to downtown Montclair, New Jersey through cozy bakery space and airy patio garden led by classically trained chefs and sisters Leah and Louise Haney.

History and Significance: After working under prestigious chefs like Daniel Boulud, Leah and Louise Haney opened Leah & Louise cafe in 2018 to share their passion for quality breads, pastries and scratch-made preparations celebrating seasonal regional ingredients across quintessential Parisian-inspired dishes served with New Jersey warmth and welcome.

What to Expect: Fresh croissants, macarons and flaky galettes authentically begin the French bakery experience continuing through pasta crepes, salads, quiches, sandwiches and leisurely weekend brunch cocktails enjoyed within the vibrantly tiled cafe or amid flowering trellises and herb beds dressing the intimate garden patio.

Visitor Information: Leah & Louise offers baked goods, breakfast and lunch Tuesday-Sunday with brunch served weekends featuring specials like Steak Au Poivre Benedict. Front door and garden seating available by walk-in only. Street parking nearby.

Few Charlotte newcomers or natives discover this Dilworth darling without earning coveted secret phone numbers from trusted friends protecting Chef Gregory Collier’s reservation list for this intimate prix-fixe experience. Behind the emerald façade of a historic city home transformed into a discreet 12 seat progressive Southern dining destination, guests discover playful updates to regional recipes lost, forgotten or ready for contemporary polish. Therefore, menus evolve seasonally celebrating harvested goods and new culinary inspirations arising subtly as the calendar unfolds. But expect masterful manipulation of complex flavors – past hits boast lobster with buttery corn pancakes in summer or seared duck breast with potato confit and black truffle emulsion brightening up dreary winter days. And Collier’s plentiful hospitality, laser focus and authentic culinary narrative promising to “cook from the heart” elevate Leah & Louise among the nation’s elite dining establishments worth both repeat visits and a spot on your bucket list immediately.

Pinky’s Westside Grill

Name and Location: Pinky’s Westside Grill brings burgers, barbecue and live music to an eclectic industrial space spanning over 10,000 square feet in Long Branch, New Jersey.

History and Significance: Owners Adam and Melanie Lippman transformed a vacant Route 36 building into a sprawling restaurant and entertainment venue designed expressly for connecting community across comfort food and acts touring through New Jersey’s vibrant music scene since 2018 with additional Asbury Park location.

What to Expect: Pinky’s serves unfussy plates like house smoked brisket nachos and brick oven pizzas satisfying families early before the scene transitions into a giant open dancehall as live bands ignite regional craft brews and signature pink cocktails flowing across the dieselpunk palette of neon accents contrasting exposed ductwork through late night DJ sets.

Visitor Information: Pinky’s Westside offers lunch and dinner daily with live entertainment and menu service starting nightly at 4PM leading into late nights at the high-energy rustic roadhouse. Event schedules vary. Call for updated calendar or visitor parking questions.

Diners seeking classic affordable American comfort fare revel in Pinky’s signature twists on abundantly portioned cheeseburgers, oven-baked sandwiches and farm fresh salads drawing loyal local devotees to their no-frills dining room just over the state line into Fort Mill, South Carolina for decades. Juicy half pound Pubhouse cheeseburgers deliver the perfect greasy burger fix sentimentally smeared with housemade “Pinky Sauce.” Oddly intriguing Fried Green Tomato BLTs arrive thick-cut toast dressed up sensationally with salty strips of pork belly or classic options with cool pimento cheese and vine-ripened tomato slices instead. And rotating pie selections boast sweet housemade crusts enveloping gooey seasonal fillings – fresh strawberry in spring or pumpkin praline cream closer to Thanksgiving bags up easy for dessert on the sofa later that evening. Nothing fancy about it, but Pinky’s scratch-made Southern comfort cuisine encourages repeat visits from Charlotteans combating kitchen fatiguefrequent as the weekend returns.

Brooks’ Sandwich Shop

Name and Location: Brooks’ Sandwich Shop brings historic Jersey diner culture serving breakfast and lunch daily from a tiny luncheonette space along Salem Road in Ewing, New Jersey.

History and Significance: The Brooks family has steadfastly sustained this cherished community pillar for over 35 years refining short-order classics across cozy booths filled with regulars and new faces continually drawn back by consistent quality, hospitality and nostalgia evoking the familiarity of downhome cooking crafted with pride by locals.

What to Expect: Patrons continue traditions sampling oversized omelets, melty grilled cheese sandwiches and mile-high donut creations promising full bellies and sore jaws as plates overflow with generous portions prepared classically by an extended family of veterans affectionately serving their loyal following of locals, regulars from nearby offices and hungry passersby.

Visitor Information: Brooks’ Sandwich shop awaits daily 6AM-2PM for takeout or tight counter and booth seating on a cash-only basis. Be prepared to wait weekends as everyone wants their jersey diner fix but turnover stays speedy.

Searching for Charlotte’s true divey diner scene steeped in legacy? Look no further than family-owned Brooks’ Sandwich Shop slinging monstersized burgers and melty grilled cheeses across their fluorescent-lit counter since 1973. Initially a pit stop for working folks in now trendy NoDa, this happy greasy spoon along Matheson Street still draws loyal crowds today lining vinyl stools below racing memorabilia tacked across wood paneled walls by previous generations of diners. Challenge appetites to ultimate comfort glory attacking the Super Club: triple decker beauty with turkey, salami and ham between toasted white bread hiding melty Swiss, cheddar, crisp bacon, lettuce, juicy tomatoes and Duke’s mayo. Or opt lighter with their classic grittery: a perfectly golden waffle capped with sautéed grits glistening temptingly in butter pooling across every crevice. However you construct your vinyl counter meal, expect big flavor, bigger personalities and a quintessential Charlotte diner vibe humming comfortingly through the decades at Brooks’ treasured blue-collar hideaway.

The Stanley

Name and Location: Classic American bistro The Stanley sits inside the historic Hotel Stanhope gracing New Jersey’s prestigious Princeton University campus grounds in the heart of downtown.

History and Significance: Reimagined from the former Princeton University Inn in 2022 by Olympic Collection hospitality group, the stately hotel revival pairs Gilded Age architecture with modern amenities including preeminent farm-to-table dining led by Chef Joshua DeMelo showcasing seasonal regional purveyors through approachable bistro recipes prepared distinctly within full view of an open state-of-the-art kitchen.

What to Expect: From sun-drenched breakfast plates to handcrafted brick oven pizzas and cellar-aged steaks, polished casual fare impresses palates without pretense inside the public restaurant or private events within ornate architecture commemorating over a century of traditions at the institutional city landmark now invigorated by distinctly local and spirited hospitality.

Visitor Information: The Stanley serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily with menus promoting New Jersey farmers and products. Reservations recommended at the bustling bistro also accessible to hotel guests and campus visitors via metered parking and complimentary valet.

History returns deliciously to life within Plaza Midwood’s The Stanley, an Art Deco European bar and eatery breathing new energy into the historic Stanley Arms Apartments originally built 1915. Sip thoughtfully crafted cocktails in the shadow of the stunning original grand fireplace restored to former glory. Pore over leather-bound tomes recovered from the property relishing nuggets of local lore. As the evening unfolds, snack on Bavarian-style pretzels, flammkuchen crackers shingled in prosciutto or other Old World bites registered for modern fans of cultural cuisine and bar hopping with an educational twist. Come warmer weather, the scene spills out onto an ivy-clad patio flanking vintage neon signage leftover from past incarnations like Stanley’s Drug Store – where staff mixed up milkshakes for customers like President Truman during drives through Charlotte decades before. Somehow familiar yet surprising all the same, cocktails and clever comfort cuisine keep this historic haunt humming, even amid Plaza Midwood’s more modern culinary Draws beckoning just around the corner.

From downhome moderns fusing contemporary cooking prowess with heirloom ingredients to cosmopolitan destination dining experiences reflecting this New South city’s welcoming forward momentum, Charlotte chefs keep proving Southern food need not remain shackled to tired tropes nor tired tastebuds. Visitors instead find an ever-unfolding, ever-welcoming culinary landscape filled with as many pleasant surprises as friendly smiles awaiting their next memorable meal highlighting all the dynamic Queen City now proudly represents across her flavor-packed table.

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