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Who says New York and Los Angeles have all the best restaurants? The Queen City of Charlotte, NC has its fair share of establishments that will make any bona fide foodie drool, from top-notch sushi to steaks, comfort foods, and even vegetarian fare. In fact, there are so many places to choose from, you’re sure to find a new favorite no matter what your palate or your checkbook requires.
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O-Ku Sushi in Charlotte is not your typical sushi bar. Yes, you will find many Asian favorites on the menu like Miso Soup, California rolls and Chicken Teriyaki. But you’ll also find some unique items with a Southern twist, like Sunomono – braised conch sashimi that features pickled watermelon relish, the South End Shrimp made with chili paste and crushed peanuts, and the Potato Roll that features among other things, fried shoe-string potatoes. You’ll also find plenty of unique cocktails to wash it all down including a Lychee Martini or the Chai Not, made with Kentucky bourbon, Irish cream, chai and spiced meringue.
Located in the Le Meridian hotel in uptown Charlotte, Evoke is an award-winning restaurant that features steaks, crudo and house-made pasta, served in a clean and modern atmosphere with light fabrics, wooden light fixtures, large windows and dark floors. By using both local and international ingredients, the chef at Evoke presents modern twists on favorites from around the world like a 35-day dry-aged NY strip steak and gnocchi that’s served with smoked pancetta, lump crab meat and mascarpone cheese. Due to its location inside a hotel, the restaurant also offers several grab-n-go breakfast items, as well as a variety of upscale bar foods like heirloom tomato bruschetta and crab salad teasers served on mini brioche buns.
This restaurant is about more than just serving up good food. It’s also a non-profit that works to help Charlotte residents in two ways – by donating 100% of profits to the poor and by providing job and life skills training to those who would otherwise be considered unemployable after battles with substance abuse or incarceration. As for the food they serve, it’s an eclectic array of “New Southern Cuisine” made with local organic ingredients that will give you the familiar feelings of comfort food with a bit of added flair. You’ll find favorites like fried catfish, meatloaf and pot roast, each served with a choice of 3 sides like blacked eyed peas, sweet potato mash, collard greens and mac & cheese.
If you’re not sure what kind of food you’re in the mood for, you might want to go to Soul Gastrolounge, located in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood of Charlotte. Their menu has a little bit of everything including sushi, wings, salads, flatbreads, skewers, paninis, pita sandwiches and a selection of unique tapas like pork belly tacos served with watermelon salsa, anchovy fries, fried brussel sprouts and pork belly stuffed shells baked in American cheese and topped with bacon fat cornbread crumble.
Crepe Cellar is a European-style Gastropub located in the NoDa arts district of Charlotte that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to the streets of England or France. Settle in to one of the cozy booths or tables, order a pint of your favorite brew and then get ready to eat one of the most delicious crepes you’ve ever tasted. They have a variety of savory buckwheat crepes (which means gluten free diners can enjoy them too) like ham & gruyere, turkey apple brie and spinach & wild mushroom. Or if you’re stopping in for a sweet treat, try the Brownie in a Blanket or the Crepe Suzette, made with Grand Marnier butter sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. If you’re not in the mood for a crepe, they have other options as well like salads, sandwiches, burgers and entrees like fish & chips and steak & Guinness pie.
Italian food lovers must try Luca Modern Italian Kitchen where they serve traditional Italian fare with an innovative modern twist. After working in New York City and living in Sorrento, Italy, the owners returned to Charlotte in 2005 and now you can see and taste the evidence of their travels in the dishes they serve. In addition to soups, salads and antipasti, you’ll find classics like lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, ravioli and fettucine, as well as unique Italian tapas like crepe purses stuffed with lobster, summer squash and vodka sauce, and fried risotto balls filled with short ribs, sweet peas, sun dried tomatoes and cheese fondue.
Luna’s Living Kitchen in the South End neighborhood of Charlotte takes vegan and vegetarian fare to a whole new level. Everything here is fresh, organic and plant-based. But don’t let that scare you off. The menu is full of surprising items like sweet potato sushi rolls, BBQ sliders made with locally-sourced oyster mushrooms, and manicotti made with zucchini noodles and cashew cheese. Plus, the bar serves up homemade nut milks, juices, smoothies and house-made specialty drinks like kale lemonade and ginger ale that’s sweetened with maple syrup.