Answers from Our Experts (2)
Depending on the type of food you’re looking for, there are two relatively new fantastic restaurants in Charlotte that some consider the best. Here’s a look:
E2, Emeril’s Eatery
Yes, we know, it’s a celebrity chef’s restaurant, which all too often means it doesn’t meet much, if any, of the lofty expectations set upon it by foodies. But make no mistake: e2 is one of the best restaurants in the Queen City. The crisp, clean interior gives way to a menu bursting with New Orleans-inspired flavors—Chef Lagasse does, after all, hail from Louisiana. Sourcing local and regional products—such as the fried Ashley Farms chicken—e2’s menu features southern favorites such as shrimp and grits, a delicious portion of melt-in-your-mouth Gulf shrimp, pancetta, and Anson Mills rice grits while twists on modern favorites like pork belly lettuce wraps are a hit. While the food is outstanding, the bar options cannot be overlooked. Classic cocktails such as a Dark & Stormy, Sidecar, or Old Fashioned complement the seasonal and signature concoctions like the Grasshopper, a refreshing year-round cocktail featuring muddled wheatgrass, Hendrick's gin, jalapeño-infused simple syrup, and fresh lime juice and cucumber water. The rotating chef’s tasting menu featuring three to four courses is yet another reason why this Uptown spot is a hit with Charlotteans.
It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly makes 5Church so outstanding. Maybe it’s the interior—an industrial-chic design overseen by managing partner Mills Howell, co-owner of local design firm Reaching Quiet Design, that feels much like a hip eatery in Philly in SoHo. Maybe it’s the menu, designed by Chef Jamie Lynch, formerly of Barrington’s. A mix of steakhouse favorites—the Prime “60 Second” NY Strip cannot be missed—and seafood dishes such as the North Carolina Grouper draws palates of all kinds to this hip Uptown spot. But most likely, it’s the combination of the two as groups come here for drinks and snacks—specialty cocktails like the Rosemary Gin Fizz paired with blackbean hummus and house-made grilled flatbread are delightful—while others come for a romantic evening with a seat by the window, perfect for people watching. Whatever the reason, 5Church is one restaurant not to be missed while in Charlotte.
In recent years Charlotte's restaurant scene has seen major improvements. Once known as a city where banker-friendly steakhouses reigned, these days you'll find plenty of locally owned spots serving up innovative fare from area farms. Picking favorites is hard, but here are five spots where you're certain to find a great—and creative—meal:
Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth
Sure, the name sounds a little over the top, but the food more than lives up to it at this chic uptown restaurant. Located off the lobby of the city's Mint Museum of Art, Halcyon is the brainchild of longtime Charlotte restaurateurs. A modern-meets-rustic space in hues of blue and brown sets the tone for the locally and seasonally based menu. Start with a cocktail by one of the city's top mixologists, Maggie Ruppert, who concocts elixers like the Smoky Pig made with Smoky Makers 46 steeped in bacon and mixed with orange bitters, maple syrup and kosher salt. The menu is modern, but crammed with Southern influence (think braised Virginia lamb served with butternut squash and huckleberries). Make reservations for dinner, but this is also the perfect spot to stop for a post-museum drink and light bite (order the hearth charred shishito peppers) or for an easy uptown lunch.
Good Food on Montford
Located on an unexpectedly bustling side street in south Charlotte, this cozy restaurant features, well, some really good food. It also offers the kind of stylish and urbane setting you might expect in larger cities. Be prepared to wait here as it is a small spot, but when you pull up a stool to the bar and order the House Smoked Bourbon Mint Julep, time will pass quickly. Chef Kerry Moffett's steamed bun—a soft bun wrapped around tender spice rubbed pork belly—may be the restaurant's most famous item, but foodies will find plenty more to please them on this menu. A charcuterie plate offers housemade foie gras and smooth chicken liver mousse, while the falafel comes in flavor-packed orbs with a fresh cucumber tomato relish. There are larger plates, but Good Food is the kind of spot where you'll want to share just so you can taste it all.
This tapas lounge could only make sense in the eclectic Plaza Midwood neighborhood. Here DJs spin most nights while hip crowds pile into the small, second-story space with exposed brick walls and cozy booths. An outdoor patio offers views of uptown's skyline, while inside a small bar beckons with crafted cocktails and unexpected offerings like absinthe. The menu includes a dazzling array of small plates ranging from creamy dips like a white bean and goat cheese to inventive dishes like Asian pork belly tacos topped with fresh cubes of watermelon. The sushi here is some of the best in town—try the eponymous Soul Roll made with salmon, avocado, cucumber, white tuna, and a spicy twist of jalapeno. And definitely save room for dessert. Soul runs nightly specials and you'll want a bite of whatever creative cupcake the kitchen is serving up that evening.
This renowned restaurant has been serving some of Charlotte's more imaginative dishes since opening on Elizabeth Avenue in 2007. Both the decor and the food mix traditional and contemporary. Candlelit tables and exposed brick walls offer a warm atmosphere, while one of the city's top wine lists sets the scene for an elegant evening. It's the food though that shows the real attention to detail here. Fresh seafood specials are offered daily, weekly menu changes reflect local seasonal produce, and pastas like squid ink linguini are all housemade. Two things not to miss: The beef carpaccio is sliced on the antique fly-wheel slicer at the bar and the meat's rich flavor and texture are almost buttery. And the decadent version of bread pudding is the kind of dish that will forever ruin other, less perfectly executed versions for you.
Harvest Moon Grille
Everything served in this uptown restaurant comes from farms within 100 miles of Charlotte. Chef Cassie Parsons, who also owns the nearby Grateful Growers farm, is dedicated to locally sourced food. Of course, this means that the menu changes almost daily depending on what farmers bring in the door. But Parsons' talent shines through on dishes from fish tacos to meatloaf to pimento cheese. If you're a fan of pork, you're especially in luck. Grateful Growers focuses primarily on pork and so there's almost always an offering on the menu. Located in the bottom of the historic Dunhill Hotel, Harvest Moon Grille also features breakfast and if you're looking for a hearty-Southern-meets-locally-raised-fare option, the biscuits and gravy is as good as it gets.