Lately it seems like there’s always some trendy restaurant opening up in Charlotte, and while there’s nothing wrong with having a lot of choices and new places to go, we wanted to find out where true Charlotte locals go to eat. What restaurants do they rely on for for everything from brunch and dinner to special occasions and celebrations? We talked to residents who have lived in the city for more than 20 years and friends who were BORN and GREW UP HERE. (Yep, we know they’re hard to find, but they do exist.) Because let’s face it, who would have a better perspective than someone who’s lived here forever and seen the city change and grow into what it is today?
Keep in mind that while some of these places may not be the most elaborate restaurants with the most up-to-date amenities, you can always expect a delicious meal served with a side of true Southern hospitality. You might even run into a familiar face or two.
4127 Park Rd.
One look at Charlotte Cafe’s traditional breakfast menu that includes dishes like biscuits and gravy, blueberry pancakes, and pecan Belgian waffles, and you’ll understand why it’s considered a local treasure. Plus, you can’t beat their daily breakfast special that’s only $5.99.
1601 Central Ave.
For a no frills, but delicious breakfast, Ericka Houck — who has lived in Charlotte for 23 years — relies on Zada Janes. She suggests getting their chai latte, calling it “perfection.”
915 Charlottetown Ave.
4736 Sharon Rd.
The Original Pancake House is a go-to for longtime Charlotte resident, Maggie Will, who has called the city home for 30 years. She suggests ordering their country ham or fresh strawberry pancakes.
4429 Central Ave.
Featured on The Food Network’s popular “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,” Landmark on Central is at the top of locals’ lists for its wide variety. “The menu is huge — you can get anything depending on if you still want breakfast or prefer early lunch. The turkey with stuffing and berries is a yummy Thanksgiving-style treat year round,” says Victoria Gordon Namishia who has been in the area since 1991.
4201 Congress St.
South Park’s Village Tavern is a go-to brunch spot for locals — and with four different types of eggs Benedict, omelettes, Belgian waffles, and French toast smothered in fresh fruit on the menu it’s no wonder why. The tavern’s outside terrace is also a big draw on nice days.
300 East Blvd.
This Dilworth mainstay has been serving Charlotteans for 32 years in a cozy cottage built in the early 1900’s and while the building and some menu items may be familiar, 300 East often sneaks in some fine dining surprises. Sunday Brunch is served Sunday from 10am-3pm (limited lunch menu 10am-5pm) with 1/2 Off Bottles of Wine, $5 Mimosas & Bloody Marys, and $6 Bellinis.
6420 Rea Rd.
901 S Kings Dr.
1824 E Arbors Dr.
Great Harvest Bread Co. is another restaurant known for their freshly made sandwiches and cookies. Their lunch menu consists of several signature sandwiches, including the Carolina Chicken Salad, The Masters — a pimento cheese sandwich similar to what you’ll find at Augusta National, and the Smoky Mountain, which consists of smoked turkey, cream cheese, raspberry hot pepper jelly, lettuce, and cucumber.
6700 Fairview Rd.
Thirty-one year resident, Linda Healy Vespa, is a big fan of South Park’s Cafe Monte for a number of reasons saying, “it’s not noisy or rushed, and it’s a nice getaway in the middle of the day. Lovely quiches and salads.”
4121 Park Rd.
Park Road Soda Shoppe serves up delicious diner food at its very best. Kristy Thompson who has been born and raised in Charlotte says she goes for the grilled cheese and fries, and goes as far to say “if that’s the last meal I ever have and I would die a happy girl”.
114 Cherokee Rd.
If locals have a hankering for a sandwich for breakfast OR lunch they drop into Laurel Market, which has arguably one of the best deli counters in the city that will whip up a made-to-order sandwich in no time. Their grocery store also conveniently carries a few “essentials” you might need in a pinch like coffee and wine.
2718 Monroe Rd.
When longtime Charlotte residents want to grab lunch that consists of comfort foods like meatloaf, chicken n dumplings, chicken casserole, or chili, they go straight to Lupie’s Cafe.
511 Providence Rd.
For 34 years Fenwick’s has been one of the QC’s most beloved establishments in Myers Park for its made-from-scratch dishes that include a chicken and brocoli casserole, London broil, and a Nawlins’ Po Boy. Restaurant regulars say the homemade pecan cream pie can’t be missed.
116 Middleton Dr.
For a down-to-earth place with the best Italian dishes in town natives said Zio Casual Italian can’t be beat. The restaurant’s menu is full of traditional Italian recipes that date back generations and range from toasted ravioli and meatball parmesan to bolognese and piccata.
2710 N. Brevard St.
Serving Noda’s most beloved burgers since 1973, and home of the “all the way” cheeseburger with chili and slaw, Brooks always makes any list, local or national, of the top burgers in the QC. Cash only, weekdays only, 7 am to 3 pm only, definitely worth all the caveats ~ You’ll rarely see their parking lot anything less than full during the lunchtime rush.
1626 East Blvd.
15105 John J Delaney Dr.
8625-A Lindholm Dr. (Huntersville)
5501 Josh Birmingham Pkwy. (Charlotte International Airport)
If the multiple locations don’t give you an idea of how popular this restaurant is then trust our locals, because Bad Daddy’s got rave reviews from almost everyone we spoke to. “When I crave a burger, I want it to be juicy and pink and flavorful, and I want to have a good selection of toppings. Bad Daddy’s will cook your burger to order and their selection of add-ons can’t be beat. And their milkshakes are fabulous,” said Linda Healy Vespa.
3116 N Davidson St.
The Crepe Cellar doesn’t just serve up some of the city’s best crepes, they also dish out one of the best burgers in town according to our locals. “Hands down the BEST burger in Charlotte,” according to Maggie Mills. The restaurant’s Crepe Cellar Burger is covered in gruyere and garlic aioli, topped with onion straws, and on a potato bun.
1600 W Morehead St.
Long time fans of the Penguin in Plaza Midwood, which closed after decades amid ownership brouhaha in 2010, moved their loyalty to Pinky’s Westside Grill in Freemore West, to follow chef Greg Auten and his superbly tasty burgers and hot dogs.
For Southern Staples:
If you want the “best collards and make your Grandma-jealous fried chicken,” then you’ll want to head over to King’s Kitchen in Uptown according to Anja Workman, who has been in Charlotte since 1992. “I daresay you can’t find a better mission-based story as to the name/purpose,” she adds. (King’s Kitchen is a non-profit dedicated to helping residents who are down on their luck, by providing restaurant training and jobs.)
1614 Camden Rd.
Most people in the QC will tell you eating at Price’s Chicken Coop is basically a rite of passage if you live in Charlotte, whether you’re here for one year or fifty. Our longtime locals completely agreed naming it as the best place in town to go for fried chicken and Southern staples.
5524 South Blvd.
Opened since 1963, Spoon’s has been serving up award-winning Eastern NC-style barbecue since South Boulevard was just a two-lane road. They’re also known for a few other Southern favorites, including their Brunswick stew, hushpuppies, and banana pudding.
For Celebrations, Special Occasions, and Dates
7822 Fairview Rd.
“Most of my life and family celebrations have taken place at Barrington’s Restaurant in SouthPark. In fact, my mom just hosted a birthday dinner there for me a few weeks ago. I love their quality ingredients and the service is wonderful,” says Amanda Hollingsworth.
1601 E 7th St.
The cozy ambience, extensive wine list, creative desserts and attention to detail keeps Anja Workman and other locals coming back to Fig Tree for celebrations again and again.
4538 South Blvd.
While the outside of the building may be a little rustic, don’t let that fool you. Beef and Bottle is one of the most beloved restaurants in the city among families who have lived here for generations. Once you’re inside you can expect nothing but the best upscale dining and steaks.
115 E Carson Blvd.
Victoria Gordon Namishia swears by the Midnight Diner for the most decadent desserts in town. “Best chocolate cake ever, and the cheesecake selections are top notch. The pumpkin is coming in season, can’t wait!” Since the restaurant is open 24 hours seven days a week, it’s always an option.
2107 South Blvd.
Grabbing a soft-served ice cream at Mr. K’s on South Boulevard is a time-honored and cherished tradition that local families have been enjoying for generations since its opening in 1967. Definitely not just for dessert only, unless you enjoy dessert any time of day like we do.
1930 Camden Rd.
To some Pike’s Soda Shop is known as the place where “Shallow Hal” was filled, but to true Charlotteans the old fashioned soda shop is a go-to for the best milkshakes and malts in town. Not into milkshakes? Don’t worry their dessert case is always full of decadent chocolate cakes, pies, and pound cakes.
Have you been in Charlotte more than 20 years? If so, we’d love to know what your favorite restaurants are! Next time you’re out to eat snap a photo and tag us on Instagram using @ScoopCharlotte.