Where to Eat in Charlotte’s SouthPark Neighborhood: 2021

Where to Eat in Charlotte’s SouthPark Neighborhood: 2021

The squid ink bucatini topped with Spanish octopus at Peppervine. Photo by Peter Taylor.

These picks are based on our BOB Awards and our 50 Best Restaurants list.
Good Food on Montford1701 Montford Dr.704-525-0881Bruce Moffett’s small-plates bistro unites a variety of influences and flavors onto one menu, and each dish is worth ordering.Try This: Pommes Frites (fries topped with truffle oil, parmesan, and herbs)
Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen6601 Morrison Blvd. (additional location in uptown)704-366-8688Chef Jim Noble’s menu features gussied-up, Southern-tinged American and European peasant fare, like hand-tossed pizzas and roasted chicken.Get This To Go: Roasted Chicken Pizza

Dogwood Southern Table & Bar4905 Ashley Park Ln.704-910-4919Ingredients are fresh and cocktails are innovative at this spot, a sister to Dressler’s.Try This: Crab & Chorizo Hushpuppies

Photo by Peter Taylor

Steak 484425 Sharon Rd.980-580-4848Steak 48 had a buzzy December opening at Apex SouthPark, and this upscale steakhouse with locations in Phoenix, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Houston is worth the hype.Try This: Bone-In Ribeye topped with black truffle sautéed Maine lobster
Little Mama’s Italian4521 Sharon Rd. 980-209-0323Think of this eatery as the prequel to Mama Ricotta’s, with family recipes and scratch-made pastas and mozzarella. Settle into one of the dining rooms with a plate of pappardelle or cozy up at the “Mozz Bar” and watch the chefs at work.Try This: Penne alla Vodka* Best New Restaurant
Peppervine4620 Piedmont Row Dr., Ste. 170B980-283-2333Chef Bill Greene serves a rotation of artistic small plates with unexpected pairings like lamb belly with kimchi porridge, or smoked butternut squash with miso.Get This To Go: Signature Yeast Rolls

Flour Shop530 Brandywine Rd.980-299-3754Watch your pasta get prepared in the open kitchen. Chef Trey Wilson’s shared plates are great for larger groups, but if you don’t want to share, get the lamb Bolognese.Try This: Rigatoni with Veal Bolognese
Barrington’s7822 Fairview Rd.704-364-5755Bruce Moffett’s first restaurant is one of the best in town, with a classic menu and stellar service.Get This To Go: Roasted Chicken, Family-Style
Dot Dot Dot4237 Park Rd., Ste. B704-817-3710Stefan Huebner’s creative cocktails may be the main attraction at this members-only speakeasy, but the sweet potato gnocchi with bourbon glaze will convince you to stay for dinner.Get This To Go: Old Fashioned Cocktail Kit + the Cheese & Charcuterie platter

Louisiana BBQ Shrimp with red beans and rice. Photo by Peter Taylor.

Southern Pecan6705 Phillips Place Ct., Ste. C704-749-2949The team behind Café Monte serves Gulf Coast-inspired cuisine like pecan fried catfish, Louisiana barbecue shrimp, and oyster po’ boys.Try This: Roasted Corn Cakes* Best New Restaurant

Where to Eat in Uptown Charlotte: 2021

Where to Eat in Uptown Charlotte: 2021

With pickup options

January 19, 2021

Chef de Cuisine Whitney Thomas garnishes dishes like lamb kofta kebabs with edible flowers at Mico. Photo by Peter Taylor.
These picks are based on our 2020 Best of the Best Awards and 2021 50 Best Restaurants lists, and rolling editorial decisions.
The Asbury235 N. Tryon St.704-342-1193Chef Mike Long’s inventive menu mixes countryside favorites like biscuits and deviled eggs with bold flavors and contemporary techniques.Try This: The Chicken Sandwich and Sticky Biscuits
Sea Level NC129 E. 5th St.704-412-2616Concrete beams and rustic brick give an industrial feel to this seafood restaurant, which serves up dishes that are accessible, inventive, and sustainably sourced.Get This To Go: Weeknight Seafood Supper (3 courses)

5Church127 N. Tryon St.704-919-1322Top Chef alum Jamie Lynch’s innovative, seasonal menu includes morel mushroom flatbread and mint crusted lamb loin.Try This: Yellowfin Tuna Sushi Tots
McNinch House511 N. Church St.704-332-6159Guests order from a daily prix fixe menu (ranging from five courses to nine courses), choose their wine and entrées, and the staff takes care of the rest.Try This: Rosemary & Dijon Crusted Rack of New Zealand Lamb
Fin & Fino135 Levine Avenue of the Arts, Ste. 100 704-800-5680Come for the raw bar, but stay for bartender Brittany Kellum’s drinks. Then splurge on a slice of cheesecake.Get This To Go: Lobster & Shrimp Roll + To-Go Cocktail Kit
Haymaker225 S. Poplar St. 704-626-6116Enjoy locally and seasonally inspired dishes from North Carolina chef William Dissen in this bright, stylish space next to Romare Bearden Park.Try This: Billy D’s Fried Chicken Sandwich
Alexander Michael’s401 W. 9th St.704-332-6789The blackened catfish is cooked just right, the Cajun pasta is piping hot, and chatter fills the no-reservations dining room.Try This: What It Is (blackened chicken breast over rotini in Cajun cream sauce)

Forchetta230 N. College St.704-602-2750Chef Luca Annunziata serves lasagna just like his mom made it and carbonara as it’s served in Rome.Try This: Fagatoni (stuffed crepe purses with Maine lobster and mascarpone, vodka sauce, and Parmesan cheese)
Aria100 N. Tryon St.704-376-8880This restaurant serves up an extensive Italian menu in an elegant, modern space.Get This To Go: Pasta Dinner For Two(2 Caesar Salads, 1 Grandma B’s Lasagna, 1 Spaghetti + Giant Meatball, 2 Tiramisu, bread + beans)
Mico at The Grand Bohemian 201 W. Trade St.980-999-5550The South American-inspired menu is full of complex flavors and unexpected mash-ups like harissa creamed spinach and brown butter bread crumbs.Try This: Lamb Kofta kebabs + Flourless Chocolate Cake* Best New Restaurant
Red Salt by David Burke555 S. McDowell St.980-237-5354Celebrity chef David Burke is known for his Himalayan salt aging process for beef, and avant-garde approach to food presentation is on full display with bites like the maple-glazed bacon clothesline.Try This: 32-oz. Dry-Aged Porterhouse for Two* Best New Restaurant

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8 Must-Try Sushi Spots in Charlotte

8 Must-Try Sushi Spots in Charlotte

And which roll you have to try at each one

January 13, 2021

Sushi is all about the sourcing, and you can taste that it’s done well at South End’s O-Ku. Photo by Peter Taylor.
YUME Ramen Sushi & Bar1508 S. Mint St. The excellence of this spot’s ramen and sushi thankfully carry over to the to-go format, with Yume’s In-Home Ramen and Gyoza Kit among its innovations.Try This: The Sakura Roll
Red Sake8410 Rea Rd., Ste. 100 This is sushi for true sushi aficionados. The Luke Lobster roll is a delectable mouthful of lobster meat, spicy tuna, avocado, and eel sauce topped with sweet potato strings.Try This: Black Jack Roll
New Zealand Café1717 N. Sardis Rd.This small, 40-seat seafood grill and sushi bar specialized in takeout before the pandemic; the bulk of its business came from residents in nearby apartment complexes on Sardis Road.Try This: Philly Roll

Nikko325 Arlington Ave., Ste. 108Artistic sushi, a moody interior, and thumping sound system bring in dinner and late-night crowds, but quick service makes it a great lunch spot.Try This: Dilworth Roll (salmon, kani, masago, and breaded, fried, and re-rolled in rice)
Baku4515 Sharon Rd.Black and red decor, delicious sushi, techno beats, and a large pair of geisha eyes staring out at the crowd make for a dramatic setting in this shared-plates restaurant.Try This: Blue Fin Tuna Roll
O-Ku2000 South Blvd., Ste. 510Sushi is all about the sourcing, and you can taste that it’s done well at South End’s O-Ku. Michael Chanthavong is the executive chef at this Charleston import, and his enthusiasm radiates from the people behind the sushi bar to the front-of-house staff, who will help you navigate the sushi and sake selections.Try This: Hot & Heavy Roll
BlacowMultiple locationsThis concept, combining burger and sushi, extended to South End in September. Its University location also has sushi, but the Fort Mill spot only does burgers. Try This: Tempura Crab Stick Roll
Yamarazu2173 Hawkins St., Ste. AThis sushi spot opened in South End in 2017, offering a stylish backdrop and an extensive list of rolls, including the beloved titular one.Try This: Crazy Horse (tuna, salmon, yellowtail, cucumber, avocado, masago, and soy paper)

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5Church Charlotte to Reopen With a New Executive Chef

5Church Charlotte to Reopen With a New Executive Chef

Spot returns on Feb. 4

January 8, 2021

COURTESY
5Church Charlotte officially reopens on Thursday, February 4, following a 10-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Top Chef alum and 5th Street Group partner Jamie Lynch will return alongside Sherief Shawky, the restaurant’s new executive chef.
The announcement comes on the heels of 5th Street Group’s newest restaurant, Tempest Charleston, being awarded the No. 1 “Best New Restaurant” in the country by USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice 2020. 5th Street Group’s portfolio also includes 5Church Charleston, Sophia’s Lounge, and Union in Nashville.
Shawky’s menu will feature a seafood tower of oysters, jumbo shrimp, lobster, and Alaskan King Crab, which is a nod to Tempest’s focus on sustainable seafood. Other additions include Moroccan turkey meatballs with goat cheese baba ganoush, cucumber, and pomegranate glaze; and ricotta potato gnocchi with black truffle, roasted mushrooms, parmigiano-reggiano, and thyme. Fans of 5Church’s signature flatbreads, steaks, and yellowfin sushi tuna tots can still find those items on the menu; pastry chef Michaela Moehring will debut several new desserts for the reopening as well.

5Church’s interior, known for its large-scale artwork and hand-painted ceiling with verbiage from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” will have a new piece of artwork inspired by Aesop’s Fables. The style is a trademark of 5th Street Group, which commissions artists to create murals of different fables in their restaurants.
The team has also installed a Reme Hale LED Air Purifier/Ionizer LED Light in the HVAC system to purify air quality, and they’ll offer digital menus in addition to one-time use paper menus. 5Church Charlotte will open at 50 percent capacity, and reservation are strongly recommended.

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Fresh Take: Southern Pecan Brings Gulf Coast Flavors to SouthPark

Fresh Take: Southern Pecan Brings Gulf Coast Flavors to SouthPark

Chicken and Dumplings with broccolini and a side of succotash. Photographs by Peter Taylor.

Southern Pecan’s Gulf Coast-inspired cuisine is a nod to owner Monte Smith’s Galveston roots, and it’s a specific type of southern. You won’t find fried chicken, grits, hush puppies, or beignets. This menu is heavy on shrimp, catfish, oysters, and rice. It’s cornmeal-crusted, not deep-fried. You order corn soufflé instead of cornbread and flatbread instead of biscuits. It’s Texas-meets-Louisiana packaged for an upscale SouthPark customer.

A fried shrimp Po’ Boy with a side of baked mac and cheese and a Hurricane Connie CAT-5 cocktail. Photo by Peter Taylor.

Smith, who also owns Café Monte and is a former general manager of The Palm in SouthPark, opened his latest venture in the former Wolfgang Puck Kitchen + Bar space in October. Diners accustomed to Wolfgang Puck will notice that Smith made mostly cosmetic changes to the interior. The booths, with their teal velvet bench cushions, are now separated by glass partitions. In the center of the room, orange leather barstools line Wolfgang’s original hexagonal wood bar, over which flatscreen TVs still hover. Oversized canvas pendant lights hang from the ceiling; on the walls, portraits of jazz and blues legends like Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, and Willie Nelson give the space some swagger.
The drink menu has bottled beer and local brews like Juicy Jay, Captain Jack Pilsner, and Triple C Baby Maker Double IPA. Order wine by the bottle or glass, or try a Gulf Coast-inspired cocktail like the Lonestar ($13) or Hurricane Connie CAT-5 ($14).
Start with Louisiana BBQ Shrimp ($14.95), and use the toasty bread to grab as much of the New Orleans BBQ au jus as you can. If you like corn soufflé—and you will after you try it here—you can order it as a side with your entrée or get the Roasted Corn Cakes ($7.95) from the shareables menu. It’s a bigger plate of the sweet soufflé topped with a savory heap of pulled pork and green chili creme, and it’s enough for a light lunch or an appetizer for two.

(Middle) Roasted corn cakes topped with pulled pork and green chili crème; (above) sweet potato cheesecake.

From the fryer, there’s Gulf Oysters ($18), Jumbo Shrimp ($16.50), or Catfish Nuggets ($15.50) served with your choice of a side and sauce. Sides, which you can also order à la carte for $6.95, include red beans and rice, baked mac and cheese, and scalloped potatoes. For sauces, you have remoulade, tartar, Creole honey mustard, and a handful of others. (Ask your server to bring a few if you can’t decide.)

(Top) Catfish Nuggets from the fryer; (above) Louisiana BBQ Shrimp with red beans and rice.

If you stop in for lunch, try a Po’ Boy ($14.95) with fried shrimp, oysters, catfish, or New Orleans BBQ shrimp. For a hearty dinner, there’s Chicken and Dumplings ($16.95) and a Southern Pecan Shrimp Boil ($18.95), which comes in a spicy shrimp au jus, so ask for plenty of toasty bread for dipping. The dessert menu changes regularly, but look for a rotation of sweet potato cheesecake, chocolate chess pie, and key lime pie.
A meal at Southern Pecan doesn’t transport you to the Gulf Coast the way Leah & Louise sends you to a Memphis juke joint, and it’s not a family-run place steeped in history like Price’s Chicken Coop. You won’t see bowls of empty clamshells on the tables or leave with the smell of Old Bay seasoning on your fingers. It’s just solid, reliable seafood with some southern flair to enjoy after a day of shopping or a Saturday matinee.
Don’t leave without trying: The Roasted Corn Cakes ($7.95) topped with pulled pork and green chili creme.

Southern Pecan6705 Phillips Place Ct., Ste. C704-749-2949Hours: 11 a.m.–11 p.m. daily

TAYLOR BOWLER is lifestyle editor of this magazine.

7 Tasty Charlotte Dishes Using Pork or Chicken Skins

7 Tasty Charlotte Dishes Using Pork or Chicken Skins

The roundup only our editor asked for

January 5, 2021

ON OUR RECENT LIST OF 25 Must-Try Takeout Spots in Charlotte, we noted that two of the dishes used pork rinds in wildly different ways. Believe it or not, I showed restraint in only including two, because pork (and chicken) skins are a secret ingredient in several appetizers and entrees across the Charlotte area. This isn’t a highly requested food roundup, like our cheesesteak and chicken sandwich lists, but I’m sure you’ll find something to love below. (Unless meat is something you generally avoid.) 
River Chips at Leah & Louise 301 Camp Rd.Esquire recently named this Camp North End spot as one of the Best New Restaurants in America, and they’re on our list, too. The River Chips here are chicken skins made “Voodoo Chip Style” with granch, which is a combination of ranch and green onion sauce.Boat Noodles at Deejai NoDa3629-103 N. Davidson St., 980-859-3701This Thai spot’s Boat Noodles soup includes pork rinds alongside slices of beef, slow-cooked steak, meatballs, herbs, and sprouts. The murky result isn’t the most photogenic item on this list, but it’s among the tastiest.
Pork Rinds at Sweet Lew’s BBQ923 Belmont Ave.Sweet Lew’s takes the skin from slow-cooked pork shoulders, chills it, and then fries them into a crisp with crunchy and chewy results. Like much of the menu here, it’s a step above a version you’d find elsewhere in town.   
Yuca con Chicharrón at Lempira RestaurantMultiple locationsAmong the Honduran dishes found here, you can order tasty pork skins with fried yucca. It comes with cabbage salad, cheese, and salsa. Pork skins also come with the Honduran Dish, which adds grilled meat and an empanada to the mix.Dirty South Nachos at Soul Gastrolounge 1500 B. Central Ave.Soul knows how to do small plates with a big punch.These nacho “chips” are fried chicken skins, and they come with pimiento cheese fondue and jalapeno pickled okra. 
Smokey Mac & Cheese at Haberdish3106 N. Davidson St.The mac and cheese is tasty enough, with creamy mornay cheese sauce and smoked cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese. Add spicy, crispy chicken skins for a couple more bucks to make it a side that nearly eclipses any entree you’re going to get. Chicharrones & Queso at The Roasting CompanyMultiple locationsThe Roasting Company’s seasoned pork rinds are an ideal appetizer, especially with the restaurant’s decadent queso for dipping. There’s also a pork rinds appetizer that comes with guacamole, and you really can’t go wrong with either scenario.

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Charlotte Restaurateurs Give Insight on 2 Highly Anticipated Openings

Charlotte Restaurateurs Give Insight on 2 Highly Anticipated Openings

Chef Paul Verica’s new concept is coming soon. Photo by Peter Taylor.

ORTO
Owner: Paul Verica
You might know him from: The James Beard semifinalist is executive chef and owner of The Stanley.
The premise of Orto: Orto is Italian for “kitchen garden.” The casual Italian spot, located in the Novel NoDa project on 36th Street, focuses on handmade pizzas and pastas.
Original opening: June 2020
New grand opening: Verica is targeting mid-January for a soft opening.
When was it clear the pandemic would postpone your grand opening? (Fiancé) Jane and I were in Italy in late February, and we had to cut our trip short because of COVID. We woke up one morning in Genoa; we were getting ready to head to Milan, and they were shutting the city down. Jane is a doctor, so she started looking at emails and said, “We need to get the hell out of here.” Four hours later, we were at the Genoa airport. The day after we left, they stopped letting people back in the U.S. from Italy. We came home and quarantined for two weeks. We’d planned to start construction in March, but we kept holding off. Finally, in August, we started construction.
How did you keep Orto moving forward? I’ve made a lot of pizza dough in the last eight months (laughs). At one point, I talked about walking away and not doing it. But Jane pushed me to keep going.
What’s been the biggest hurdle? What’s going to happen when we open? That scares the living daylights out of me. Thankfully it will be a lot more delivery and to-go-friendly than The Stanley is. This food translates better to a to-go box.
Any adjustments you’ve made to Orto’s layout? We’ll have a huge covered patio, which we never realized would be so important before we started.
What’s a can’t-miss-dish we should order at Orto? The pizza. It’s based off my favorite pizza spot outside Philly, called Pica’s. We’ll have an upside-down square pie with cheese and toppings on the bottom and sauce on top, so kind of Detroit-style with a thicker crust.

Photo by Peter Taylor.

Supperland
Owners: Jamie Brown and Jeff Tonidandel
You might know them from: The spouses and business partners also own Haberdish, Crepe Cellar, Growler’s Pourhouse, and Reigning Doughnuts.
The premise of Supperland: The couple transformed a historic Plaza Midwood church into a restaurant and cocktail bar. The menu is a nod to a church potluck picnic.
Original opening: Summer 2020
New grand opening: January 2021.
When was it clear the pandemic would postpone your grand opening? “I was at Supperland scoping out a new stereo system—I’d spent a lot of money on speakers,” Jeff recalls. “I got a text that we would have to shut down our other restaurants, and I’d have to fire 90 people. At Supperland, things just slowed down naturally. Construction was still allowed, but it was harder to get people over there.”
How did you keep Supperland moving forward? “Jeff took over a lot of the construction work, so our garage became a woodshop, and he built the tables in our backyard,” Jamie says. “That would typically be done by a professional, so it was a nice cost savings and gave us work to do outside the restaurant to keep things moving.”
What’s been the biggest hurdle? “We’re cooking on live fire for the first time,” Jeff says. “We had a whole bunch of stages in New York set up for our chefs, but now we’re down to watching Zoom videos and cooking in our backyard on a Green Egg. It may take us awhile to get a handle on consistency.”
Any adjustments you’ve made to Supperland’s layout? “We will likely do Plexiglas like we did at Haberdish, at the bar and the chef’s counter,” Jamie says, “but for the most part, the design is what we originally intended. We designed it for the future.”
What’s a can’t-miss-dish we should order at Supperland? “The lobster made on the grill, served simply with butter,” Jamie says. “We’ll also have homemade breads and potluck-type dishes like mac and cheese and homemade Jell-O with natural ingredients.”

Out-of-Towners: 8 Great Restaurants That Expanded Into Charlotte

Out-of-Towners: 8 Great Restaurants That Expanded Into Charlotte

Skrimp Shack3718 Central Ave A, 980-298-6418Last year, Charlotte got its first “fast-casual fish camp.” East Charlotte’s recently opened Skrimp Shack location at the intersection of Central Avenue and Eastway Drive, is a welcome addition to the scene. Though its interior may not have the vibe of an old-school camp, entrees like the Skrimp N’ Catfish Po Boy taste just right. —Andy Smith
Snooze A.M. Eatery 2041 South Blvd., Ste. 106, 980-701-9600The Denver-based breakfast joint opened its second Charlotte location next door to Silverlake Ramen; the first came to Plaza Midwood last year. The menu is lengthy—omelets, breakfast tacos, and pancakes that taste like dessert—but feel free to mix and match if you can’t decide. Order one smashed avocado and one chile verde benedict with toast…or swap it out for a side of hash browns. —Taylor Bowler
Ruby Sunshine332 W. Bland St., 980-273-1230Charlotte has plenty of brunch spots, but New Orleans-inspired brunches aren’t as plentiful. This brand comes straight from the Crescent City. A sweet and savory menu includes beignets, omelets, and benedicts; a brunchy drink menu has a brandy milk punch, boozy iced coffee, and sizable Big Easy Mimosa. —A.S.

STIR 1422 S. Tryon St., Ste. 130, 980-209-0277The lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch spot with locations in Chattanooga and Raleigh opened another in South End’s RailYard last summer. Get ceviche and local oysters from the raw bar, or order fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits off the main menu. They take ice pretty seriously, too—a professional ice chef cuts blocks into different shapes for each cocktail. —T.B.

”The Blaze,” a spicy tonkotsu ramen bowl, is a signature dish at Silverlake Ramen. Photo by Peter Taylor.

Silverlake Ramen 2041 South Blvd., Ste. 107, 980-299-2400The ramen bowls are the main attraction at the L.A.-based eatery that opened in South End in September. But don’t skip over the appetizers too quickly. The crispy rice topped with spicy tuna, avocado, jalapeño, and eel sauce tastes like sushi and ramen had a love child. —T.B.
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit327 W. Tremont Ave., Ste. B, 704-831-8103Biscuits are to southerners what bagels are to New Yorkers, and this Charleston-based biscuit counter is the real deal. Owner Carrie Morrie uses mom Callie’s recipe for flawless buttermilk biscuits. Order an assortment of flavors like toasted maple, cheese and chive, or iced blueberry, or build your own breakfast sandwich. It’s totally worth standing in line for. —T.B. 
Maple Street Biscuit Company2725 South Blvd., Ste. A, 704-559-6550Though owned by Cracker Barrel, Maple Street Biscuit Company has its own flavor. Its biscuits are diverse: The Five and Dime has bacon, a fried egg, cheese, and sausage gravy atop a  piece of fried chicken, while The Iron Goat is packed with goat cheese and sauteed spinach. —A.S.

The Original Hot Dog Factory9211 N. Tryon St., Ste. 9A staggering menu is long enough for you to start thinking about what you’re going to order next time you go to this spot. Just a few of these choices: Detroit Coney, BLT, LA Dog (bacon-wrapped beef dog with chili cheese fries and onions), Jamaican Jerk Chicken, and the Hawaiian with bacon, BBQ sauce, cheese, onions, and pineapple. —A.S.

10 Must-Try Taco Spots in Charlotte: 2020

10 Must-Try Taco Spots in Charlotte: 2020

From the traditional to the unconventional

December 18, 2020

Tacos de Carne Asada at Three Amigos. Photo by PeterTaylor.
Tacos El NevadoMultiple locations (Plaza Midwood and South End)Tacos El Nevado doesn’t have a proper Taco Tuesday special. But most of its tacos are just $2 every day, so it’s always a solid deal. We recommend trying these four first: al pastor, asada, pollo, and lengua. (Vegetarians, fear not: Tacos El Nevado serves non-meat options.) The owners’ native Oaxaca, the capital city of the Mexican state that shares the name, inspires much of the menu here.
Taqueria Mal Pan4625 Piedmont Row Dr., Ste. 115 D, 980-298-6138Taqueria Mal Pan quietly opened in SouthPark’s Piedmont Row in November 2019 and gained steady momentum with the grab-and-go lunch crowd. Owner Andre Lomeli brings a Mexican and West Coast-inspired menu from his former restaurant in San Diego; his tacos, burritos, and enchiladas have the pizzazz of a food truck’s and the flavors of his native Yucatan Peninsula. The blue corn tortillas loaded with shredded chicken punch up a typical Taco Tuesday.
RuRu’s Tacos + Tequila715 Providence Rd.The “I’ll Have What She’s Having”  is one of the standouts here, with grilled mahi mahi, lettuce, avocado, cilantro, and pineapple salsa. But don’t pass over the Long Duck Dong, with Korean sweet-and-spicy steak, pickled cabbage, sesame seeds, and cilantro. The spot offers select $2 tacos on Tuesdays.

El Pulgarcito de America4816 Central Ave.Felix Godward, owner of Felix’s Empanadas, calls El Pulgarcito de America “the best Hispanic food I’ve had in Charlotte.” Among the options here for tacos are asada, pollo, chicharron, and chorizo options.
Three Amigos2917 Central Ave., Ste. A This loaded menu has many options, but you have to try the Tacos de Carne Asada: marinated steak with onion, cilantro, and lime, all on a corn tortilla. A family meal boxes right now offers 12 tacos (corn, flour, toastadas, or hard shell) with a slew of protein and filling options, all for $30.
Tin KitchenFood truckThere’s a slew of eclectic tacos here, and here’s one to put on your list of musts: Garam Masala, with stewed chick peas, tomatoes, coriander, and ginger and garlic over red cabbage-carrot slaw with a cucumber raita and grilled scallions.
Krazy Fish2501 Central Ave.There are fourteen tacos on the menu at Plaza Midwood dive Krazy Fish, including three vegetarian options. Don’t miss the Spicy Potato Cake Tacos, which are thick flour tortillas stuffed with savory chunks of fried potato and ladled with Krazy Fish’s signature—and addictive—blueberry tamarind chutney.
Paco’s Tacos & Tequila6401 Morrison Blvd., Ste. 8AAt this FS Food Group joint, you have to try the titular taco: a 10-hour slow roasted chili rubbed beef brisket with caramelized onions, queso fresco, and chipotle barbecue sauce. (They also own Midwood Smokehouse, so you know the barbecue will be on point.)

Cabo Fish Taco3201 N. Davidson St.Fans of fish tacos are already going to know about this NoDa favorite. A suggestion for newbies: Try the bearty chunks of fresh, flaky blackened tuna are rubbed with lemon, then drizzled with a kiwi-pineapple sauce and piled onto two grilled tortillas for the Tavarua Tuna Tacos at Cabo Fish Taco. The shells are then topped with chopped romaine lettuce, tomato, and a honey wasabi sauce for an extra little kick to this tangy treat.
Sabor Latin Street GrillMultiple locationsThe $1 Tacos Autenticos here are a Taco Tuesday favorite in Charlotte, in ground beef, shredded chicken, and veggie varieties. If you’re looking for a more complex taco, they recently added a tasty Pork Belly Taco to the menu, with Ranchero mayo, spice rosada slaw, and cilantro.

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A Winter Food Guide for Charlotteans

A Winter Food Guide for Charlotteans

From chili to bread pudding

December 16, 2020

LOGAN CYRUS
Even if it doesn’t feel like winter outside, “fake it until you make it” is a popular phrase that carries over to dining. We have already started ordering some of our winter favorites in Charlotte, and we’re sharing that list below:
LUNCH/DINNER
GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH (top)The Workman’s FriendThe Workman’s Friend is intimate, warm, and cozy—just the kind of atmosphere that begs for a grilled cheese on sourdough, served alongside a tomato basil bisque. (Note to self: best enjoyed while sitting beside the crackling fireplace.) 1531 Central Ave.BURGERThe Diamond RestaurantWith two 1/3-lb. patties, the Big Block Burger is hearty. (There’s also a Full Blown Hemi option, with three patties for a full pound of beef.) You can get it “All the Way,” with the standard lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mayos, and pickles, or “Southern Style”: chili, mustard, onions, and coleslaw. 1901 Commonwealth Ave.
CHILILupie’s CafeLupie’s doesn’t mess around. Texas is the hottest, Southern style the mildest, Cincinnati all Skyline and cinnamon-infused, vegetarian the veggiest. All come with pintos, cheese, onions, and cornbread. Get it in a cup, bowl, atop spaghetti, or with mac and cheese. When the weather is cold and the sky overcast, you want nothing else. 2718 Monroe Rd.

(VEGETARIAN) MEATLOAFDishVegetarian meatloaf might sound like an oxymoron, and, mostly, it is. But the competition for who makes the best loaf of “meat” in Charlotte is surprisingly stiff. We give a slight edge to Dish for its Cajun-seasoned veggie loaf, which comes in three forms: sliders, sandwich, and regular loaf. Crafted from lentils, the spicy loaf comes with mashed potatoes and gravy and another side. Go with the vegan slaw or collard greens to complete the improper Southern meal. 1220 Thomas Ave. (Ed.: The meat meatloaf is also wonderful.)ALSO AT DISH: CHICKEN & DUMPLINGSLASAGNAPasta & ProvisionsWhen a friend has a baby or a new neighbor moves in down the street, the 16-layer lasagna from Pasta & Provisions is the easiest way to say, “I’ve got your dinner covered tonight.” A large order feeds nine to 12 people, and it’s flash frozen so they can pop it in the oven whenever they’re ready. It’s not homemade, but it certainly tastes like it. Multiple locations.

MEATBALLSOsteria LucaThe TRUE Meatballs, complete with marinara, parmesan cheese, and grilled bread, are a hefty option to scratch that wintry Italian itch. The casual spot opened this year in Park Road, from the team behind TRUE Crafted Pizza. As you can tell by the name of this dish, some of the favorites of the brand carried over. 4127 Park Rd.BREAD PUDDINGMama Ricotta’sWe had to get a dessert in there, too: The Warm Bread Pudding at Mama Ricotta’s is studded with marsala-soaked raisins and vanilla bean—and accompanied by housemade gelato with dulce de leche. 601 S. Kings Dr., AA.

BREAKFAST/BRUNCH
PANCAKESEddie’s PlaceEddie’s Place does so many breakfast favorites right, but its Big Fluffy Pancakes deserve the spotlight on this list. Add blueberries, cranberries, raisins, pecans, almonds, or chocolate chips to customize your rich breakfast. It comes with a choice of meat and side, for some extra joy to start the day. 617 S. Sharon Amity Rd.BACON, EGG, & CHEESE SANDWICHSunflour BakeryHere’s a brunch classic that rises above the rest with an integral choice of bread: the cheddar biscuit. The seasonal menu here also has peppermint swirl and red velvet treats, tiramisu, and sweet potato pie bars. Multiple locations.

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Restaurant Inspired by Indian Street Food Opens at Optimist Hall

Restaurant Inspired by Indian Street Food Opens at Optimist Hall

Botiwalla comes from James Beard Award-nominee Meherwan Irani

December 15, 2020

Photo by Night Watch Crew

Botiwalla, a full-service restaurant serving Indian street food, opens this week at Optimist Hall. The first tenant in the hall’s upstairs restaurant wing, the spot comes from five-time James Beard Award-nominee Meherwan Irani. This is the third location for the concept, with prior locations in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market and Alpharetta City Center.

SPDP And Lamb Burgers. Photo by Night Watch Crew.

This 2,727-square-foot restaurant is currently in a soft open until Thursday’s grand opening. Per a release, the menu has “grilled chicken, lamb, and paneer wrapped in hot naan with fresh herbs, smoky Lamb Burgers, finger lickin’ chaat such as SPDP (Sev Potato Dahi Puri) and Masala Smashed Potatoes, and the cult-followed Desi Salad,” as well as “snacks and grilled meats, the restaurant features boozy slushies, afternoon high tea, and retail items including Irani’s own Spicewalla spices, roasted and packed by hand in Asheville, NC.”

Photo by Night Watch Crew

This is the first Indian restaurant for the hall, which has been building its roster of international options since opening last year. Soft opening hours for Botiwalla are 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; regular hours will be 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Chicken Tikka Roll. Photo by Night Watch Crew.

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3 Picturesque Winter Hikes in Burke County, N.C.

3 Picturesque Winter Hikes in Burke County, N.C.

December 3, 2020

Winter may be a great time to stay inside and cuddle under warm blankets, but what happens when dreaded cabin fever starts to creep up on you?
Hiking can be exactly what you need to get your blood pumping and your sense of adventure peaking.
Head just 1.5 hours west of Charlotte to Burke County, North Carolina, and experience the outdoors the way it should be: less sweat, no bugs or snakes, and few leaves to get in the way of the amazing views you achieve. The crisp air and bright surroundings will be sure to wake you up from the haziness of the holidays.
After a day of hiking and exploring the mountain winter wonderland that is Burke County, nearby Morganton’s award-winning restaurants, breweries, and bottle shops make it easy to sit and relax for a while.
While you’re in town, pick out a Christmas Tree up the mountain near Jonas Ridge or Pineola.
For hiking in the area, we recommend the following areas but there are many more to visit as well.

3 Winter Hikes To Try in Burke County, N.C. 
1. Fonta Flora State Trail

Fonta Flora State Trail near Lake James is popular for good reason: the pet-friendly trail’s scenic lake vistas are made even better with your furry friend by your side. The trail currently winds 15 miles around Lake James, and it will eventually connect Downtown Morganton to Downtown Asheville.
 
2. Shortoff Mountain Trail/Pisgah National Forest

For more of a challenge, try the moderately-rated Shortoff Mountain Trail that climbs up from WolfPit road to the summit of Shortoff Mountain. On this trail, you’ll find remarkable views of the Linville Gorge plus far away peaks once you climb up the 2,400 feet across 2.5 miles.
 
3. High Shoals Falls Trail and South Mountains State Park

Another moderate trail, this one stretches for two miles round trip in North Carolina’s largest state park, offering creekside trails with wooden steps crossing the creek. The cascading waters are a haven for nature photographers.

Hiking these few trails are just one of many outdoor activities you can do this winter in Burke County. Click here to explore more fun ideas for a weekend in Western N.C.

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