BEST NEW RESTAURANT (OPENED IN LAST 12 MONTHS)
While other contenders for this award set out with high marks, they fell short due to bellowing interiors or food prices that didn’t meet the expectations of Charlotte’s new lean reality. Since September 2008, when Charlotte’s economy fell off the edge, dining has changed. High-end, chef-driven restaurants with mega-dollar upfits have made way for the new economic reality: solid, satisfying neighborhood (and wallet) friendly comfort food. Common House is a restaurant for the time. Co-owners Andy Robinson, Ryan Looney and Mike Fisher were smart to hire Chef Emily Hahn, a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, to man (so to speak) their kitchen. Hahn’s enthusiastic cooking brings to the table unpretentious, straightforward food, and she continues to cultivate relationships with local farmers and coastal fishermen.