When I moved to Charlotte nearly 40 years ago, if you wanted wine or a cocktail with dinner it meant brown bagging and there was no such thing as pizza delivery or valet parking. Now, as we end 2014 and move headstrong into 2015, Charlotte’s culinary skyline continues to expand and the nation is starting to pay attention. Great chef-driven restaurants abound in every neighborhood; new locally-owned restaurants are opening every day.
The list in this post was first published and is up online in the current issue of Charlotte Living magazine. It started as a Baker’s Dozen round up of 2014 – a bakers dozen to give myself a cushion from only listing a top ten. But then 10 grew to 20 and, well, you know the story. This list is not a finite one, but a work in progress.
The problem with a list of any kind is that once you write it and publish it, a new place opens or you rediscover old favorites you want to add. So this list starts as a post and then next week it will be become a page on my blog at HeidiBillottoFood.com under its own tab. In the weeks and months ahead, I’ll add to it with updates of new finds, old favorites and don’t miss places in a dedicated blog post out each week on Wednesday or Thursday with enough time for you to make weekend plans..
My hope is for it to grow into a list of great places to simply eat or wine and dine your way across the Carolinas.
It is in alphabetical order and offers something for everyone, suiting every palate and pocketbook. Most of these restaurants opened this year or late in 2013, but some are old favorites I just had to mention.
Your favorite places on my list may vary from day to day depending on your mood but I can promise there is not a wrong choice in the bunch. Take the tasting into your own hands and check back weekly for additions and updates and even some video from my monthly Charlotte Today restaurant segments.
Enjoy! – Heidi Billotto
The Asbury – Off the lobby of the historic Dunhill Hotel at 235 North Tryon Street. Call 704.342.1193. Visit DunhillHotel.com/Dining. Under the watch of executive chef Chris Coleman the Asbury offers modern southern cuisine with a farm to fork approach with a menu that honor the past and celebrates each seasons supporting local farms, farmers and producers along the way. Private dining rooms separate bar area and lounge
Baku Robata Bar and Lounge – 415 Sharon Road, Call 704.817.7173. Visit Baku-restaurant.com Japanese cuisine featuring Robata and Yakitori grilled seafood and meat specialties as well as unique presentations of sushi and sashimi. All of it beautifully done. Tapas style serving, so go prepared to share items at the table. At the bar, an extensive collection of premium sake, wines , beers and craft cocktails – this writer’s favorite – the kumquat infused Sazerac made with candied kumquats, Russell’s reserve rye, Absinthe and lemon juice
Bonterra Dining and Wine Room – 1829 Cleveland Ave, Charlotte, NC 28203 Call 704.333.9463. Visit BonterraDining.com. The band is back together again at this old Charlotte favorite reinvented in the fall of 2014 with the return of Chef Blake Hartwick doing great new things and taking the menu back with a whole new and delicious farm to fork vibe along with pastry chef Jason Lemon and sous chef Mike Long.. Nightly food and drink bar specials, incredible desserts, excellent service staff, lots of room and great opportunities for private events. Private rooms, wine cellar dining, catering, great venue for weddings and receptions
Dean & DeLuca Wine Room – 6903 Phillips Place Court, Charlotte, NC. Call 704.643.5152; Visit Deananddeluca.com/aboutus/northcarolina Made in America wine comprised of many tasty selections all available by the bottle, the glass or the taste. Red and white flights, plus a long list of domestic and imported beers. Enjoy the a menu of delicious fresh made options many featuring local ingredients. For something light, think snacking and sharing and turn to the list of cheese and charcuterie (complete with several vegetarian pates) or small plates. For something more, there is a short list of flavorful entrees and desserts to help finish it all off in style. Gift Baskets, Catering, Patio Dining
E2 emerils eatery – 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts #100, Charlotte, NC. Call 704.414.4787. Visit emerilsrestaurants.com/e2-emerils-eatery Chef de Cuisine Brian Motola at the helm of the talented team in this Uptown eatery channeling owner and creator Emeril Lagasse’s take on New Orleans-inspired American cuisine. Motola uses many local and regional products on the menu which changes seasonally. Top notch wait staff will make you feel right at home. For a quick bite at breakfast or lunch patrons can also enjoy e2 to go and to make it more convenient you can order ahead online ( via computer or mobile device) and pick up within 30 minutes. But at dinner plan to go, relax and take it all in course by course. The tuna crudo, beef carparcio and wood roasted oysters are great ways to start. Salads and entrees delicious, too; but be sure to pace yourself and save room at dessert time for the banana cream pie, oh my! Separate bar area, patio dining, private rooms, wine dinners, catering
Fig Tree Restaurant – 1601 E. 7th Street, Charlotte, NC Call 704.322.3322; Visit CharlotteFigTree.com Fine seasonal cuisine with French and Italian influences. This beautifully restored building is The Lucas House, a registered historic landmark home and a fine example of a 1913 Craftsman Bungalow nestled at the corner of 7th street and Louise Ave in the charming Elizabeth neighborhood. Top notch staff with attention paid to every detail. Owned and operated by chef and proprietress Greg and Sara Zanitsch. Award winning wine list – you will leave wanting for nothing but to come and enjoy it all over again. Private Rooms, patio Dining, separate bar area, wine dinners, annual game dinner, catering
Heirloom Restaurant – at 8470 Bellhaven Blvd. Charlotte, NC 28216; Call 704.595.7710; Visit HeirloomRestaurantNC.com Chef Clark Barlowe’s flavors are intricate, texture is key, and each plate a work of art as good to look at as it is to eat! Tasting menu’s are fun and a great way to try it all. It’s nearly impossible to make a recommendation as every dish in this all local from North Carolina restaurant changes from day to day, but guests at Heirloom will delight in knowing that they are enjoying any given menu item at the height of just harvested flavor. Private dining room, cooking classes and farm dinners.
Heritage Food and Drink – 201 W, South Main Street, Waxhaw, NC 28173 . Call 704.843.5236 . Visit HeritageFoodAndDrink.com Chef Paul Verica’s vision for Heritage? To bring the idea of tradition back to life and to celebrate the bounty of our region and the seasonality of local product . Verica’s personal take on New American Cuisine style finds his menu featuring the best in each local product. Supporting farms and producers from around the region, Verica incorporates molecular gastronomy’s powders and sprays in a way that simply feels right. This baker of biscuits and doughnuts also serves small plates layered in Mason jars, just for the fun of it. Big flavors make for a very satisfying dining experience, indeed. Catering
Fahrenheit Charlotte – Fahrenheit Charlotte is located at 222 S Caldwell St in the Hyatt Place Hotel, Charlotte, NC 28202; Call 980.237.6718; visit ChefRoccoWhalen.com One of the Queen City’s newest and highest dining establishments. The venue – 21 floors up – undoubtedly has the best view in the city. The menu, which changes quarterly, lives up to the striking atmosphere with an air of creative yet comfortable sophistication. I’m crazy about the ramen noodle appetizer , but don’t miss the short ribs, the potato starter or any of the seafood entrees – the level, quality and presentation of each dish delights. Nightly specials Private rooms, catering, separate bar
Flipside Café – 3150 Highway 21 North, Fort Mill SC, 29715. Call 803.802.1711. Visit theflipsidecafesc.com This little casual café in the Regency Park strip mall in Ft. Mill is owned and operated by a talented husband and wife team of chefs: Jon and Amy Fortes . The Flipside kitchen is turning out big flavors – lots of them local and all of them fresh and delicious. Check it out -Breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner – great kids’ offerings with tasty rather grown-up, well seasoned choices. And even though Amy’s palate may be pork-centric, there are lots of vegetarian selections on the menu too! Chef Jon Fortes was the winner of the 2013 and 2014 Competition Dining Fire in the City Championship and went on take the 2014 state wide title as well. Catering
Fork! – 20517 N Main St, Cornelius, NC Call 704.655.7465 Visit ForkRestaurantCornelius.com Fork! is home to chef Tom Groody, a true frontrunner among chefs in Charlotte, Tim was the very first here to ever put a farmers’ name on the menu. Groody’s style is clean and uncomplicated ; paying homage to the vast array of locally sourced ingredients on his menu. Menu changes daily and featured items change with the season. This old home turned restaurant is a charming venue with on the porch seating in suitable weather. Separate bar area. catering
Kabab Je Rotisserie and Grill – 2233 Matthews Township Pkwy. Sycamore Commons Mathews NC. Call 704-845-0707. Visit kababje.com This great little place just keeps getting better and better, from classic Hummus to stuffed grape leaves to the grilled lamb and chicken shawarma. Don’t miss the Za’taar “pizza”, the roasted cauliflower, the falafel and the chick pea and broad bean appetizer called Ful Mudammas. With a host of sweet syrupy Middle Eastern desserts, a tiny cup of Lebanese coffee made with cardamom is the perfect finish. Patio dining and Catering, too!
Little Spoon Eatery – 2820 Selwyn Ave, Charlotte, NC 28209 Call (704) 496-9908 Visit LittleSpoonEatery.com/ “ the little spot right on the corner”, this neighborhood spot for breakfast and lunch is taking the Myers Park neighborhood by storm, chef Miles Payne at the helm using local ingredients and supporting local farms in almost all of his breakfast and lunch offerings. Its all good, but I can’t get past the homemade pop tarts, the bowl of frothy cappuccino and the over easy eggs with toast. Weekends are packed, so go on a weekday and take the time to relax and enjoy before you start your day. Patio dining, take out
Lumiere French Kitchen – 1039 Providence Rd Call 704.372.3335 Visit lumieremyerspark.com The newest culinary adventure by Chef Tom Condron and restaurateur Matthew Pera. These two long time Charlotte culinarians, owners of the very successful gastropub, The Liberty on South Blvd, have taken a more formal turn at Lumiere. Don’t miss the Wild Mushroom “Lyonnaise” salad or the Mediterranean White Sea Bass with roasted with olives, basil and lemons, beluga lentils, mushrooms and herb butter. Excellent staff, tremendous wine offerings and a host of classic French dishes with Chef Condron’s modern twist. Taking it up a notch in Charlotte, Lumiere French Kitchen is located in the heart of Myers Park bringing modern French cuisine to the Queen City. Wine dinners, Cooking classes, catering
Mama Ricotta’s – 601 S Kings Dr, Charlotte, NC; Call 704.343.0148. Visit MamaRicottasrestaurant.com Great neighborhood spot for classic Italian and American Italian fare, all exceptionally well done. From scratch sauces, homemade cheeses and sausages, fresh baked bread and from scratch pastas made from high quality imported Italian ingredients. Competition Dining semi finalist chef Tom Dyrness heads the team as executive chef and menu favorites include: the meatballs or Polpette Al Forno, the grilled salmon and arugula salad, any of the pastas and the pizza hot out of the wood burning oven. Mama’s is the flagship restaurant of owner Frank Scibelli’s FS Foods chain that includes Midwood Smokehouse, Pacos Tacos, and a huge catering division as well. Patio dining, full separate bar, catering
Passion 8 -1523 Elizabeth Avenue Charlotte, NC, 28204. Call 704.910. 3161. Visit ThePassion8.com Owned by chef Luca Annunziata and his lovely wife Jessica, Passion 8 Bistro moved from its tiny home in Ft. Mill to bigger newer more sophisticated digs in Charlotte on Elizabeth Ave. in Charlotte in late October. While the surrounds are new, Chef Luca and his staff continue to supporting nearly 75 different local farms across North and South Carolina and serve their own contemporary style of farm to fork cuisine. Looks for special theme dinners and cooking classes too. The new interiors are soft and sophisticated yet warm and inviting; with the same family friendliness and incredible local fare and flair that has always made you want to come back for more. Make your reservations now for the weeks and months ahead – its gonna be a hot spot in town, for sure. Now serving lunch as well! Private rooms, chefs table, catering, craft cocktails, separate bar
The Summit Room – 1531 East Blvd. Call 980.237.2227 . Visit thesummitrm.com In a clever and creative move, The Summit Room owners also own the adjacent restaurant The MayoBird and the two dining establishments share this picturesque porch and patio. The MayoBird is open for breakfast and lunch, while The Summit Room with Chef Brent Martin at the helm in the kitchen is open from early afternoon till the wee hours of the evening. But at night, the space at MayoBird is available for private events. Chef Martin has come into his own at the helm of this kitchen, doing some really innovative things with the menu. Love that the menu changes at his whim, with the weather, and with the availability of local product. Specials are always great – the hand cut fries are incredible! Private rooms, seating at the bar, catering
Stagioni – 715 Providence Rd. in the Eastover neighborhood. Call 704.372.8110. Visit stagioniclt.com Stagioni, the third jewel in Chef Bruce Moffett’s triple crown of restaurants including Barrington’s and Good Food on Montford opened to rave reviews and standing room only crowds. The menu, which changes with the seasons, features deliciously done Italian classics with a fresh, modern twist. The food, like that in each of the Moffett Group restaurants is beyond reproach; and the atmosphere at Stagioni is, well, the Moffett website says it best, “The Moffett’s know from experience that life’s greatest memories unfold around the dinner table. Stagioni ( is the perfect place) to bring family and friends together.” Separate bar, catering
Terra – 545 Providence Road, Charlotte NC; Call 704.332.1886; Visit TerraCharlotte.com. A quaint little neighborhood French café you’re going to love. The menu changes with the seasons, the service is very personal and the feel is classic French right down to owner Thierry Garconnet, who is living his dream of bringing a taste of his home town in Paris back to the states. This charming little bistro is tucked away at the end of a small strip right next to Starbucks, but don’t let the casual surrounds fool you, the food is the real deal. Daily specials include: Tuesdays: All you can eat Mussels; Wednesdays: Pasta Special and Thursday: Half price wine Patio Dining
Va da Vie Gelato – 4203 Park Road Call 980.201.9159. This free standing building with the little patio offers big flavors inside –flavors like homemade, almond, pistachio, coffee bean, chocolate hazelnut, lemon ricotto, local strawberry and blueberry and pineapple and mango! It’s all in the guise of homemade gelato by owners John and Wendy Paglia who use all local product to make their Piedmontese style gelato and sorbet. No bases or mixes just local Homeland Dairy milk and cream and real fruit, fair trade coffee, local cheese and imported Italian nuts – no chemicals or preservatives. As this product doesn’t travel well – you can’t really take quantities to go – just gotta eat it there and savor the moment
Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza Bar – Phillips Place Call 704.295.0101 Visit wolfgangPuck.com Charlotte’s WP Pizza Bar is Puck’s flagship Pizza Bar Restaurant and offers a relaxing getaway from to enjoy lunch and dinner. While the menu offers an assortment of appetizers and pasta dishes, for me this place is about the pizza done in Wolfgang’s signature style a la an aromatic wood burning oven. Puck is in town occasionally but day to day it is the talented Chef Scott Whallen and staff who channel Puck’s vision and creative juices into beautiful and delicious plates for lunch and dinner. Our go to order is the arugula and asparagus salad lightly dusted with grated Parmesan, teamed with any one of the lists of pizzas – our current faves are the mushroom pizza with rubiola cheese and the slightest drizzling of truffle oil and the margarita pizza – simply perfect for two to share.
Your Moms Donuts – 11025 Monroe Rd, Matthews, NC 28105 Call 803.280.5720 Visit Yourmomsdonuts.com I’ve talked about these wonderful square-shaped locally-made donuts throughout the year. The company is owned by Benjamin Frye, chief donut maker and his wife Courtney Buckley, manager of everything else. These truly gourmet donuts are made with locally sourced ingredients, including organic, NC grown flour , grass fed dairy, local pasture eggs, and the donuts are fried in freshly rendered leaf lard!
The best news of 2014 is that Your Moms Donuts is now operating out of its own bricks and mortar location on Monroe Rd. Donuts are available every day but Monday for breakfast and lunch or until they sell out. Check the website or follow on Facebook @yourmomsdonuts and Instagram @yourmoms_donuts for the daily list of flavors. Large orders in advance. Complimentary delivery is available.