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Best Charlotte Restaurants

AOL PICK from our Editors

Located deep in the South, Charlotte is no stranger to good eats. Contrary to many towns in the Carolinas, the best places to eat in Charlotte present in a wide variety of cuisine and ambience. There's even a strong international flair to much of the cuisine. In 2004, Johnston & Wales University moved from Charleston to Charlotte, and that has infused the Charlotte culinary scene with new talent and dining concepts. There's a big focus on farm to fork, with chefs aiming to use fresh local products. You can't visit the South without enjoying some southern favorites, such as grits, fried chicken and sweet tea. These stick-to-your-rib favorites are popular for a reason—and there are plenty of “meat and threes” around the city to provide your southern fix. Several top Charlotte restaurants take those southern favorites and serve them with an innovative twist. The NoDa neighborhood is especially ripe with international cuisine and eclectic restaurants that can be hard to find in the South, with everything from European to Thai to Caribbean cuisine. It's best to call ahead for reservations a couple (3-5) of days in advance. During the summer, you'll need to call a couple days ahead to book the restaurants you want.

McNinch House Restaurant

Neighborhood: Uptown Price: Expensive

What was once the 1892 Victorian home of a former mayor is now one of Charlotte's landmark fine dining establishments. Dinner at the McNinch House, one of the best Charlotte restaurants, is a seven-course culinary experience. Choose your main entrée from the chef's choice menu, and then sit back and savor the long, leisurely evening. Chef and owner Ellen Davis offers an extensive, carefully-crafted wine list. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday by reservation only, and the cost is $89 per person (alcohol is extra). In our opinion, it's one of the most romantic restaurants in the city—and you won't leave hungry!

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Barrington's Restaurant

Neighborhood: Myers Park/South Park Price: Expensive

If you're looking for romantic night out with your sweetie, make the drive to Barrington's. This top Charlotte restaurant, located a few miles southeast of Uptown, can be found in an unassuming shopping strip in the SouthPark district. But don't let that fool you. Barrington’s offers a carefully-detailed, intimate atmosphere that provides for a delightful dining experience. Though many of the dishes may be recognizable, they are created with a surprising twist. Our favorite dish is the roasted chicken and rigatoni with sausage and marsala sauce. Barrington's is a popular place, so there's always a crowd. If you have to wait, grab a seat at the bar and chat with the staff, who are very knowledgeable about the food. Reservations are recommended.

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Carpe Diem Restaurant and Lounge

Neighborhood: East Charlotte
Price: Expensive

As another top place to eat in Charlotte, Carpe Diem has been around since the late 1980s with its unique fusion of tastes. The Charlotte restaurant features strong Latin and Caribbean flavors, although it includes dishes from around the world, such as Asian soba noodles with tuna. Here's our advice: order the specials. They are usually outstanding. On a recent visit, we had Szechuan Tuna with wasabi creme, cucumber relish, and roasted shitake mushrooms. Yum! The décor at Carpe Diem is a bit dated, but intimate and relaxing. Carpe Diem’s bar features an extensive wine and cocktail selection. Go for "Appy Hour" from 5PM to 6:30PM Monday through Thursday, when the appetizers at the bar are half price. The dessert menu is to die for. Be sure to try the creme brulée.

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Brixx Wood Fired Pizza

Neighborhood: Uptown Price: Moderate

Brixx Pizza is the ultimate pizza and beer joint. A local favorite, it’s packed even on weeknights when large groups gather to watch sports and enjoy the weekly drink and pizza specials. Brixx is well-known for their unique wood-fired pizzas, such as the Chicken Florentine and the Bronx Bomber, an all-meat pizza. There's also an extensive wine and beer menu, with many local microbrews available. 

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Greek Isles

Neighborhood: Uptown Price: Moderate

Greek Isles is the epitome of authentic Greek cuisine. The down-to-earth Greek restaurant is family-friendly with a laid back atmosphere. Located in Uptown, the restaurant gets busy at dinner, so it’s important to make reservations ahead of time. Greek Isles features hearty portions at a good value, offering all the Greek classics, from moussaka to steaks to pastitsio to souvlaki. Try the flaming cheese, which is lightly battered cheese sautéed in olive oil and flamed at your table with lemon and brandy. Most guests leave with a to-go box of leftovers. The restaurant is not known for their cocktails, which can sometimes be subpar, and the service can be a little slow. If you can save room for dessert, the homemade cakes and pies are fabulous.

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Mert's Heart and Soul

Neighborhood: Uptown Price: Moderate

You can’t visit the South without some good ol' southern soul food, and there’s no better place to get it in Charlotte than at Mert’s Heart and Soul. Don't come here if you’re on a diet, because you won't be able to stick with it. The food here is greasy, fried and downright yummy. You'll find all your southern food favorites, from pork chops to fried chicken to fried fish. The portions are large, so you'll probably have leftovers. Try the shrimp and grits or the fried chicken. We love their buttery cornbread because it melts in your mouth. Best of all, this family-friendly restaurant won't break the bank. The Charlotte restaurant is also popular for takeout. You can't go wrong with this kind of picnic food.

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Thai Taste

Neighborhood: Dilworth Price: Budget

If you're in the mood for Thai food, this popular eatery on East Boulevard will fit the bill. The prices are fair and the food filling. The restaurant offers all the typical Thai favorites, including Pad Thai and Tom Yum, but our favorite is the Chicken Pad Thai. Feel free to customize your spice level, but do so wisely. Portions are very generous. And, be sure to leave room for the Thai Tea.

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Green's Lunch

Neighborhood: Uptown Price: Budget

This small, roadside diner doesn't look like much, but this is one local favorite you won't soon forget.  Founded in 1926, Green's is one of the oldest establishments still serving food in Charlotte. The restaurant is as laid back and casual as they come, and it's perfect for a quick afternoon lunch stop. Green's offers the typical small-town café fare, from hamburgers to scrumptious sandwiches served with greasy fries. But Green's is best known for its hot dogs. You're sure to leave satisfied—happy with the food AND the prices.

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Mac's Speed Shop

Neighborhood: South End Price: Budget

What’s a trip to North Carolina without North Carolina barbecue? There's no shortage of barbecue restaurants in Charlotte, but this spot does it well—along with a myriad of other dishes. Our favorites are the smoked pork chops, which are served with a spicy red BBQ sauce and topped with tomato jam. Sure, this place has a strange name—it was once an auto shop—and there are lots of motorcycles parked out front, but the crowd of bankers, moms, families and businessmen are testament to this local's popularity.

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Neighborhood: East Charlotte
Price: Budget

Dish is that one hole-in-the-wall restaurant that all the locals tell you about—and it doesn’t disappoint. Though it's unassuming from the outside, the food is what keeps folks coming back. Dish takes popular southern classics and puts an edgy twist to them. Our favorite is the Cajun Meatloaf and mashed potatoes, which is one of the eatery's most popular entrees. Meatloaf is a southern classic, yet this version has an unusual spicy flair. We like that Dish includes incorporates healthy fresh vegetables into their side dishes. Be sure to save room for the vanilla bourbon sweet potato pie. Located in East Charlotte’s diverse neighborhood, Dish fits right in with its Bohemian style. Fun and friendly staff makes Dish a can’t-miss restaurant in Charlotte.

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