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Food & Drink 

BEST NEW RESTAURANT (OPENED IN LAST 12 MONTHS)

Common House

While other contenders for this award set out with high marks, they fell short due to bellowing interiors or food prices which 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.

1101 Central Ave.
704-332-1010

BEST SPLURGE RESTAURANT

Noble's Restaurant

Locally owned Noble's Restaurant (named after self-trained chef and owner Jimmy Noble) has worked hard to be a SouthPark destination restaurant.

6801 Morrison Blvd.
704-367-9463

BEST CHEAP RESTAURANT

Rajbhog Indian Food Market and Cafe

The menu here offers snacks (chaats) and street food from a variety of regions in India. Not only are the prices easy on the wallet, but unlike traditional one-note fast food items, Indian cheap food has a sensibility of balance: crisp to soft, tart to sweet, creamy to spicy. One of the best chaats at Rajbhog is the puri: fried, golf ball-like spheres packed with a mix of cubed potatoes and onions sprinkled with bite-you-back chilies and spices, and then filled with yogurt, tamarind and mint sauces.

9539 Pinnacle Drive, Suite 100
704-909-7783

BEST LATE-NIGHT EATERY

Penguin Drive-In

A repeat winner. Charlotte's standard for late grazing.

1921 Commonwealth Ave.
704-375-6959

BEST RESTAURANT WINE LIST

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse

A repeat winner. People may not be ordering a bottle of Screaming Eagle, but Del Frisco's has quite a few of them on their novelette-length list, which ranges in price from $25 to $3,700.

4725 Piedmont Row Drive, Suite 170
704-552-5502

BEST SOUTHERN COUNTRY/SOUL FOOD RESTAURANT

Sadie's Soulful Southern Experience

Sadie's puts a new spin on old favorites. The concept here is Southern, but Southern in this century -- not the last two. You can eat healthy, or fried -- and in large portions.

5708-H N. Sharon Amity Road
704-532-5570

BEST GOURMET/SPECIALTY FOOD STORE

Pasta & Provisions

A repeat winner. Evoking an old town grocery store feel, Pasta & Provisions is filled with homemade pastas, freshly made mozzarella, Italian wines, breads and groceries. A helpful staff always makes you feel the love.

1528 Providence Road
704-364-2622

BEST BREAKFAST

Amélie's French Bakery

Forget eggs. Here, you'll find flaky, buttery and crisp croissants, pain du chocolat, sticky buns, luscious almond tea cakes and apple tarts. On the savory side are tartines, including an impressive ham and gruyere. Thankfully, Amélie's is open 24/7 for breakfast anytime -- no matter what your work schedule.

2424 N. Davidson St.
704-376-1781

BEST LUNCH

Crisp 7th Street Café

Best lunch with friends: a crisp Crisp salad made to order.

1971 E. 7th St.
704-333-9515

BEST BRUNCH

Café Monte French Bakery and Bistro

Crêpes, quiche, eggs Benedict, and French toast. Oh la la. Recently, Monte's initiated a liaison with Amélie's to sell their French pastries. Brunch starts at 8 a.m. on the weekends and ends at 2 p.m. Other items and the full lunch menu are added at 10 a.m.

6700 Fairview Road, Suite 108
704-552-1116

BEST TAKEOUT

Austin's Caribbean Cuisine

Want to be jerked around? Austin's has jerks and more - curries, oxtail and beef stews, and ackee and salt fish with plantains and dumplings, all for takeout only.

345 S. Kings Drive
704-331-8778

BEST BARBECUE

Old Hickory House

A repeat winner. This Carter family eatery is the only place in the region where diners can actually watch and smell pork shoulders slowly cooking in a barbecue pit right in the main dining room. If you like -- or know -- what outside brown is, Old Hickory is your kind of place.

6538 N. Tryon St.
704-596-8014

BEST BUFFET

No Winner

As CL food critic Tricia Childress states, "I think these are dangerous and should not be encouraged." Nuff said.

BEST COFFEE (SPECIFY LOCATION)

Julia's Coffee

A fundraising division of Habitat for Humanity.

1133 N. Wendover Road
704-295-4585

BEST COFFEE EXPERIENCE

A Cupping At Counter Culture

Bored with wine tastings? Tutored cuppings are offered with Brent Hall at Counter Culture Charlotte Regional Training Center every Friday at 10 a.m.

BEST STEAK HOUSE

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse

In a town that has a plethora of steak houses, Del Frisco's gets the high marks.

4725 Piedmont Row Drive, Suite 170
704-552-5502

BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

McCormick and Schmick's Seafood Restaurant

The grub is amazing -- even a staple entrée like the salmon served on a plank takes on super-savory powers. And be sure to join their club to receive incredible deals.

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