For many Charlotte chefs and bakers, the art of bread making is fundamental to their craft. For those of us who enjoy it, bread serves a foundational purpose as well: as the start of a meal, the base of a sandwich, the sign of friendship through the communal act of “breaking bread.” So it seems only fitting we have an article dedicated to enjoying and pairing the best bread in Charlotte. Read on for restaurants you can find it, where you can bring it home and tips from the chefs who make it.
THE BREAD & BUTTER – TRADITIONAL RESTAURANT OFFERINGS
Uptown, bread is a central element at sister Italian restaurants Aria Tuscan Grill and Cicchetti. Executive Chef Alex Piatt has perfected their sources, both in-house and out, for providing just the right bread for every dish.
For an excellent bun with buttery flavor, Piatt sources brioche buns locally from Nova’s Bakery for Aria’s popular Joe’s Salmon Burger, as well as the Ham & Cheese Panini and rotating burger features.
Nova’s also provides the rustic ciabatta that’s sliced thick and grilled to accompany Aria’s mussels and spaghetti dishes. Its combination of crusty exterior and pillowy middle is perfect for staying intact while dipping and soaking up every bit of wonderful sauce left in the bowl.
Both restaurants utilize the Tribeca oven baguette. Piatt chooses it for many of Aria’s lunchtime paninis, stating it has a great crust and isn’t too doughy, making a great balance for any sandwich. To make Cicchetti’s crostini, which accompanies options from the bruschetta bar, each baguette piece is sliced about three-quarters of an inch thick on a bias, then soaked in EVOO and toasted for exactly three minutes to make them equally crisp and soft.
Pizza dough is made in-house at Aria and stretched and hand-tossed to order for its wood-fired specialties. The same dough is used for flatbreads served with the restaurant’s house-cut charcuterie; the dough is stretched, topped with a little EVOO and salt, and baked in the wood oven, then cut into smaller crostini or crackers.
The pièce de résistance of Cicchetti’s bread selection is house-made focaccia from a recipe by Chef de Cuisine Kelsey Norgaa.
Chef Jamie Lynch is passionate about using local ingredients to craft the burger buns, flatbreads, brunch bread (pictured), and lavash (a soft, thin Middle Eastern flatbread) all from scratch.
“Because of the strength of the local foods movement there are mills not far from Charlotte that are freshly grinding local wheats regularly,” says Chef Jamie Lynch.
“What better way to bake a special loaf of bread with superior flavor and nutrition than using these fresh flours that have not sat in a warehouse in who knows where for who knows how long?”
Under Rare Roots Hospitality’s head baker Danny Acosta, Dogwood offers a variety of bread options, from burger buns to baguettes, served with steak tartare and baked pimento cheese. The hearty multigrain bread is made with rye, whole wheat, benne seeds and dried spent grains from Sugar Creek Brewing.
A meal at Flour Shop starts out with a serving of the restaurant’s housemate foccacia with olive oil and pepper. They also have selections that pair perfectly with Flour Shop’s housemade butters. Looking to take some goodness home? Choose from a selection of freshly baked breads available for retail, including baguettes and sourdough.
Whether you find a seat at the bar by the pizza oven or cozy up in the main dining room, a meal at Myers Park’s Stagioni is not complete without a taste of the house focaccia, served in brown paper bags with dipping oil.
Perhaps no bread in Charlotte attracts as much (well-deserved) attention as Kindred’s signature milk bread. Served at the top of each meal at this Davidson staple, guests rave about its pillowy texture and slightly sweet flavor. Can’t get enough? Order extra for the table (an additional cost) or close out your meal with a milk bread cinnamon roll for dessert.
In Uptown, Pastry chef and baker Charlotte Jenkins uses the highest quality products including Farm And Sparrow whole wheat to make Haymaker’s naturally leavened sourdough. Guests can also start with an order of the Whole Wheat Levain Bread ($6) served with cultured butter and WV sea salt.
From the moment you step into La Belle Helene, you can see (and smell) the important role that bread plays at Uptown’s take on the French brasserie. Start with an order of the housemade rosemary brioche with sea salt and butter ($8). The brioche makes an encore appearance for brunch, when guests can order the brioche French toast with seasonal fruit compote.
Before the pasta and pizza comes Mama Ricotta’s yeast rolls. These warm, doughy rolls, best dipped in chili-infused olive oil, are made in-house from the same recipe Mama has used for more than 25 years. Turns out we’re not the only fans – the team makes them twice a day just to keep up with demand.
At South End’s Eight and Sand Kitchen, the mill room is just past the restaurant’s bar. There, they stone mill heritage wheat grains into fresh flour and incorporate them into sourdough breads for sandwiches. Their top seller is the chicken avocado melt on country sourdough, followed by the panko chicken on house brioche roll.
AGAINST THE GRAIN – UNEXPECTED BREAD OFFERINGS
Made with spent grains from Sugar Creek Brewery IPA and fennel seeds, Fin & Fino’s house crackers are the perfect accompaniment to fresh oysters. Under the direction of baker Danny Acosta, guests can also enjoy a handcrafted burger bun with the restaurant’s crab cake sandwich, peasant bread, multigrain and baguette for bread service.
Diners have no shortage of small plate options at South End’s Hawkers, but no meal is complete without an order of Roti Canai. This warm, flaky and slightly chewy Malaysian flatbread is served with served with Hawker’s signature curry sauce, which you’ll be tempted to slurp with a spoon.
Garden and Gun dubs these as “the South’s best hush puppies,” and we have to agree. These fried-to-order cornmeal hush puppies with salted yuzu kosho honey butter are a must-order at this Lake Norman favorite.
All RoCo locations bake their cornbread fresh daily. It starts with a cornbread mix, then they add in cheese, green chiles, sugar and some special ingredients. Fun fact: One of the things that makes RoCo’s cornbread distinct, the owner says, is that they have actual corn in our cornbread – something that is ironically unique among cornbreads.
READY FOR RETAIL – BREADS TO SERVE AT HOME
Round out your meal by taking a focaccia to-go from Pasta & Provisions. In their Myers Park kitchen, bread maker Oscar has been baking the traditional Italian flatbread every morning for 27 years. The process starts the night before – the dough rises overnight before being baked into three varieties: rosemary and romano, gorgonzola, and tomato, olive and asiago.
The bakers at Renaissance Patisserie, under the leadership of Chef Sylvain, balance traditional French techniques with a dash of innovation to make artisan loaves loved by Charlotteans.
“We wear the flour on our faces with pride,” Chef Sylvain says.
Offerings include baguettes (their best seller, sought out by French ex-pats craving the flavors and textures of home), sourdough boule, rosemary loaf, French country loaf, butter brioche and housemate croutons. Depending on the season or special orders, guests can also get raisin pecan loaf, Fougasse (Sea Salt or Herbes de Provence), cheese loaf and brioche sliders.
Enjoy brioche, a sweet yeast bread with flaky crusts, the French way by slathering with Nutella, butter or jam and dipping into morning coffee. It’s also a game-changer in French toast.
The bacon and cheese loaf, another guest favorite, is dense and studded with chunks of bacon and cheddar cheese with a caramelized crust. The pros recommend buttering a piece and floating it in tomato soup or framing your tomato grilled cheese with two slices to take a traditional sandwich to the next level.
Many Charlotteans have another reason to look forward to the weekend: Suárez Bakery’s authentic and scratch-made Cuban bread. Perfect for pressed sandwiches or breakfast, Suárez’s Cuban bread is only available Saturday afternoons until they sell out. If your heart is set on grabbing a loaf, you can reserve yours with pre-payment by calling 704.525.0145.
Chances are, you’ve probably enjoyed Duke’s Bread without even knowing it. The Charlotte bread wholesaler has an ever-growing list of restaurant partners, providing the pretzel buns at Brewers at 4001 Yancey, brioche buns at Bang Bang Burgers and flatbreads at Dilworth Tasting Room.
You can find Duke’s Bread at a number of retail locations, including the Charlotte Regional Farmer’s Market, which offers the widest selection. Their most popular product is the sourdough, made with a 200-year old starter the team constantly maintains. It pairs well with a spicy tomato oil, also sold at the market.
For Chef Jim Noble, it all began in 1984 with the opening of his first bakery, J. Basul’s Boulangerie, in Greensboro.
“I opened because I could not find good bread for my restaurant which opened the year before,” says Noble.
Many years and successful restaurants later, Noble’s Copain bakery and catering kitchen is crafting French-style breads at Rooster’s SouthPark and looking forward to future retail spots. The breads are all naturally leavened, steam injected and deck-baked, using a 25-year-old starter named Peter. Kevin Aquino is the current Boulanger at Copain, which also makes bread for all Noble Food & Pursuits restaurants.
“I believe he is producing the best breads we have ever created,” says Noble.
Current Copain breads available for order:
- Copain loaf (two day fermented house sourdough)
- Ciabatta Baguette – heirloom buckwheat flour from Anson Mills
- Extra Long Grissini (24-inch long grissini with assorted seeds)
- Cranberry Copain (house sourdough with cranberries, cocoa, cinnamon)
- Petit Croissants
- Texas Loaf (white sandwich bread loaf)
- Parkerhouse Rolls (buttery, pull-apart rolls)
- Caraway + Rye (two-day fermented loaf, organic dark rye from Lindley Mills)
Orders require 24 hours notice. Guests can also choose from a daily selection of breads available at Rooster’s SouthPark without pre-order.
At any of Sunflour’s four Charlotte-area location, guests can expect to find scratch-made breads with fresh, real ingredients. The team takes pride in their slow fermentation process for breads and croissants, which owner Jack Parrish says “enhances the bread’s structure, but most importantly the taste and crust.”
The old-world process means it takes three days to produce one loaf, and four says for croissants. The breads and croissants start with an overnight levain and polish starter that sits for between 12-15 hours. Next, the doughs are carefully mixed and fermented until it is time to shape. Then the dough sits overnight before the next day’s final baking.
Sunflower offers sourdough, multi 9 grain, rosemary olive oil sourdough, butter rolls, croissants, top-selling cheddar biscuits and more.
Are you an aspiring bread baker? Take these tips to heart from Sunflour’s General Manager Laurent Whitt:
- The best way to get golden chewy crust is to heat your oven to 450-475 F degrees.
- Place a pizza stone inside to heat up with your oven – a hot pizza stone gets the bread cooking right away.
- Once your dough is shaped and fully proofed, carefully spray your loaf with water and dust with flour, then score ¼ inch deep with your sharpest knife (Whitt’s favorite is one long slice down the middle or one side) and very quickly but carefully transfer your loaf to the pizza stone and bake per your directions.
- Key tips – scoring allows for correct expansion of the bread and its also pretty, while the hot oven and water get the chewy, bubbly, crispy crust all good artisan breads have.