Today, Eater returns to Charlotte, North Carolina, to focus on 15 new bars and restaurants that have been garnering some serious buzz. Once again, writer and photographer Rémy Thurston has kindly offered his picks for the hottest openings of the past 12 months.
Among his recommendations are a members-only speakeasy (Dot Dot Dot), a soul food go-to known for its fried chicken (Haberdish), a So-Cal-inspired taco stand with plenty of margaritas (SouthBound), and a steakhouse that has quickly become a meat lover’s paradise (The Porter’s House).
Without further ado, and in geographic order, the Eater Heatmap to Charlotte:
Tim and Melanie Groody helped pioneer Charlotte’s farm-to-table movement with their first restaurant, Fork, and now they’re bringing their fresh, local flavors to Asian cuisine with Ramen Soul just up I-77 in Mooresville. Since it opened in June, the Southern-inspired ramen spot has been packed with ramen-loving locals.
The marriage of beer and coffee continues to blow up with Lindsey Pittman’s new coffee venture, Trade and Lore, which shares a space with newly opened Salud Cerveceria. Her inventive offerings pair well with Salud owner Jason Glunt’s adventurous local and international beer flavors — if possible, attend his annual sour beer festival in December. Don’t sleep on the homemade Fud at Salud or the waffle-wiches either.
Famous for its pressure-fried chicken but beloved for its sides — the creamed kale grits are a frequent order — the mill-town restaurant brought its own version of the dimly lit, cozy Edison-bulb style to NoDa this year. Restaurateur-owner Jeff Tonidandel, known for Crepe Cellar and Growlers Pourhouse, also hired famed local bartender Colleen Hughes, who upped the Charlotte cocktail scene with ice-cube flowers in the Haberdish cocktails.
For those wanting high-end barista-crafted coffee beverages without getting out of the car, owner Ian Kolb opened CupLux off of Freedom Drive. Serving commuters and locals alike, this spot provides everyone with cappuccino and latte art on their way to work. And make sure to ask your server to lightly warm the baked goods — it makes a difference.
This three-level destination opened in July. The ground floor is a bustling restaurant where one can find dishes inspired by the chef’s extensive travels — like Southern pad Thai with beer noodles. The Loft is a speakeasy-style bar with revolving live music performers, and the soon-to-open Cellar has a private wine room and 20 seats for private dining along with a tasting menu.
The lounge bar (known as the K Lounge to those in the know) at the Ritz-Carlton got a revamp in January and is now an attraction all on its own. It serves small plates with global inspirations, like the Peruvian crispy pork belly or the green curry baba ganoush, and offers a bar program godfathered by Bob Peters, who famously runs the modern lounge the Punch Room on the 15th floor. It’s the perfect place for guests to forget they’re waiting for someone.
Charlotte’s newest brewery (making the total 18 inside city limits) opened to fanfare in Plaza Midwood because of its accessibility to locals and restorative beers. The menu is full of wild ferments, hoppy IPAs, and barrel-aged beauties, which can all be enjoyed on a large patio with rotating food trucks stopping in. Its beers are a neighborhood welcome in a glass.
After moving Passion8 to Elizabeth in 2014, chef Luca Annunziata and his wife, Jessica, decided to revamp the concept and return to their Italian roots. Their modern takes on Italian dishes, like the diver scallops with squid ink gnocchi, are exactly what a hip nonna would make after a long day. Try the rabbit ragu for a lighter version of a traditional meat sauce.
In January, Jaffer Kovic hoped to open a wine bar in Dilworth without any stuffiness. The Dilworth Tasting Room offers a bright, open space with plenty of seating for locals to sit with a glass of wine that they may not have heard of before. The selection, available both by the glass and in retail bottles, is on the smaller side to give customers a chance to try a more targeted variety. Be sure to swirl a glass of red among the leaves on the lush patio.
Previously known for his Roots food truck, chef Craig Barbour took his extensive catering business and added a brick-and-mortar cafe to the mix. Decorated with plenty of natural wood and stocked with local goods, this hole-in-the-wall off South Boulevard in Dilworth offers craft coffees, a root-vegetable-laden brunch, casual lunch and dinner options, as well as wine and grab-and-go foods for the busier clientele.
Tacos and margaritas may never go out of style, especially when So-Cal beach vibes radiate through this new spot off of South Boulevard. It’s backed by Jimmie Johnson, and guests can expect stock-car-fast service and icy beverages to get them through the weekend. Load up on the chipotle cream from the salsa bar in the back.
Coffee bar, taphouse, culinary cafe, fermentation lab — it may sound like four different establishments, but Suffolk Punch (the food side) and Hyde Brewing (the drink side) make the most of one roof by serving everything from refreshing cachaça cocktails and IPAs to tuna poke and za’atar-roasted squash. Dan Hyde runs the brewery, while notable caffeine queen Lindsey Pittman helms the coffee program.
Dot Dot Dot is an upscale Prohibition-style cocktail lounge only open to members, who can purchase a $10 membership on its site. Those in the know can find it in the back lot of the Park Road Shopping Center near the loading docks. The newly formed team of Stefan Huebner, formerly of Heist, and Conrad Hunter, owner of Foxcroft Wine Co., bring style and a curated bar menu of eccentric cocktails, like the truffled New York sour, to Charlotte’s next hot neighborhood.
The Indigo Road restaurant group has a solid reputation in Charleston, but it’s been spreading the gospel of service done well across the Southeast in recent years. Oak Steakhouse in SouthPark extends yet another branch of that hospitality, offering customers prime certified Angus beef, served in a comfortable yet modern setting with sides to match.
Since opening in February, the Porter’s House has been attracting meat lovers to Waverly. Owners Kim and Jon Dressler (of Dressler’s and Dogwood Southern Table) branded it as “a modern chop house for the new South,” but the breadth of menu — care to order the duck-fat-fried fingerlings with pickled peppers? — suggests that it’s much more than that.