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Good Eats 

The following is Creative Loafing's bite-sized guide to restaurants in Charlotte.

ALL AROUND TOWN

ANNTONY'S CARIBBEAN 2001 E. 7th, 704-342-0749; 145 Brevard Court, 704-339-0303; 20910 Torrence Chapel Road, Cornelius, 704-894-0280. A fun, change-of-pace restaurant for a casual lunch or dinner. Limited menu features rotisserie-cooked barbecued meats, what else, Caribbean style. $

BRUEGGER'S BAGEL BAKERY All over town. Chewy bagels, crisp on the outside, and served with either your favorite cream cheese or as a sandwich with any of a number of stuffings. $

EL CANCUN With various locations around town, El Cancun serves as close to authentic Mexican food as you'll find in the area, featuring fresh ingredients, down-home atmosphere and good vegetarian selections. $-$$

FUEL PIZZA CAFE 1501 Central Avenue, 704-376-3835; 319 W. Trade Street, 704-344-1767; 404 S. Main Street, Davidson, 704-896-0200. Hand-tossed New York style pizza with kitschy automobile and gas station memorabilia. Traditional and gourmet style pizzas all on a notable crust. Also calzones, garlic knot mini-sandwiches, chicken wings, nachos, and gyros. Limited seating. $$

THE GRADUATE 911 E. Morehead Street 704-377-3808; 8334 Pineville-Matthews Road, 704-543-4020; 2014 Sharon Forest Drive, 704-532-2562; 123 W. Trade Street, 704-358-3024. Popular hangouts with college crowd, offering good variety of dishes, subs, sandwiches, calzones, pizza. Try the cheese fries. $

LONGHORN STEAKS Various locations in Charlotte. A bustling, friendly crowd gathers here and no wonder - they have some of the best steaks and burgers anywhere. Casual, fun, meat haven. $L, $$D

MCALISTER'S DELI 4130 Carmel Road, 704-540-7199; 19330 W. Catawba Road, Cornelius, 704-896-3354; 8046-D Providence Road, Arboretum, 704-752-9665; 15201-A John J. Delaney Drive, Ballantyne Commons East, 704-542-0727. Offers over 100 items including sandwiches, salads, appetizers, plus they do more with a baked spud than you can imagine. $-$$

MELLOW MUSHROOM 4100-A Carmel Road, 704-341-8236; 4422 Colwick Road, 704-362-5335; 5814 Prosperity Church Road, 704-875-2418. What draws people is the convivial, relaxed atmosphere, great pizzas, and the largest selection of beer in town. $$

MIDTOWN SUNDRIES 618 Kenilworth Avenue, 704-358-3933; 7715 Pineville-Matthews Road, 704-541-8117; 3425 David Cox Rd. 704-597-7413; 4544 South Boulevard, 704-522-6100; 18665 Harborside Drive, Cornelius, 704-896-9013. Very popular, festive spot for burgers or wings, or watching a wide screen, playing pool, or listening to live music. $-$$

OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE 1412 East Boulevard, 704-333-0505; 9623-Y E. Independence Boulevard, 704-845-2222; 1015 Chancellor Drive, 704-598-7727; 1319 River Run Court, Rock Hill, 803-329-6283. The presiding theme is Australian: the presiding food is meat and lots of it. Great steaks, great appetizers. $$

VINNIE'S SARDINE GRILL & RAW BAR 1714 South Boulevard, 704-332-0006; 142 E. John Street, Matthews, 704-849-0202; 643 Williamson Road, Mooresville, 704-799-2090. Friendly, popular place for the after-work crowd. The menu ranges from soups, salads and wings to raw oysters and plentiful seafood dishes. $$

WOLFMAN PIZZA McMullen Creek Market, 704-543-WOLF; Selwyn Corners Shopping Ctr., 704-377-4695; Cotswold Mall, 704-366-3666; 10620-A Providence Road, 704-845-9888. Flashy wide-ranging selection of California-style pizza, with everything from the sweet-tangy Maui, to New Mexico, to Shrimp, Pesto and Goat Cheese. Also home of the Howlzone (calzone).$-$$

ZAPATA'S CANTINA MEXICAN RESTAURANT 8927 J.M. Keynes Drive, Suite 900, 704-503-1979; 1990S NC Hwy 73, Cornelius, 704-987-8890; 15105 John J. Delaney Drive, 704-752-6869. Extensive, quality Mexican dishes like grilled lamb, along with variety of burritos, enchiladas and more in a rustic, Old Mexico atmosphere. $$

DILWORTH/SOUTHEND


300 EAST 300 East Boulevard, 704-332-6507. This stylishly casual neighborhood bistro in an early 20th century house, features an eclectic menu. A longstanding local favorite. L$$, D$$-$$$

BERRYBROOK FARMS NATURAL FOODS 1257 East Boulevard, 704-334-6528. Healthy and wise, the lunches here are tasty. Veggie Burgers, bean burritos, tofu dogs, freshly squeezed OJ, carrot, and vegetable juices, large variety of smoothies, homemade soups, salads, and sandwiches. $

BISTRO EAST 1608 East Boulevard, 704-334-6161. Unpretentious American bistro cooking with a Southern twist. $$$

BRIXX WOOD-FIRED PIZZA 801 Scott Avenue, 704-376-1000. Gourmet pizzas, fabulous Caesar salad, other salads. Limited, but well chosen wine list served by the glass, too. Open late. $$-$$$

COMET GRILL 2224 Park Road, 704-371-4300. Good, dependable bar food at this friendly neighborhood spot. Big burgers, great fries, a spicy shrimp app and some veg alternatives, too. $

DILWORTH COFFEE 1235-B East Boulevard, Kenilworth Commons. 704-358-8003. Coffees and desserts, plus good morning munchies. Full array of coffees, including espresso, latte, cappuccino, all roasted there. $

EAST BOULEVARD BAR & GRILL 1601 East Boulevard, 704-332-2414. Friendly place whose menu ranges from wings to terrific salads to hearty burgers and more. $L, $$D

KOKO, AUTHENTIC CHINESE CUISINE 1742 Lombardy Circle, 704-338-6869. Cantonese and Mandarin cuisine served in an intimate environment. Chef Cheng uses a light touch with ingredients and the foods are slightly undercooked to stress the natural favors. Imported Sake. $$

MCINTOSH'S STEAKS & SEAFOOD 1812 South Boulevard, 704-342-1088. Locally-owned, men's-club-styled steak and chop house (fish, too) with straight forward menu selections, gargantuan portions, and flawless service. Dinner only. $$$$

MANGIONE'S RISTORANTE 1524 East Boulevard, 704-334-4417. A Charlotte landmark, Mangione's serves terrific traditional Italian cuisine in a charming atmosphere. First class. $$-$$$

MISTER K'S 2107 South Boulevard, 704-375-4318. A South Blvd institution for over 20 years: 50s-ish ambience, soft ice cream machine, plus some of the best burgers, dogs, sandwiches, and, yes, homemade onion rings in town. $

NIKKO JAPANESE RESTAURANT & SUSHI BAR 1300-F South Boulevard, 704-370-0100. Sushi chef and owner Joanna Nix radiates warmth and hospitality throughout this traditional Japanese cuisine oasis. In addition to sparkling fresh sushi, there's yakimono, teriyaki, tempura and udon, too. $$$

NIRCHI'S PIZZA 1300-M South Boulevard, 704-372-2929. Sicilian pan pizza and upper state New York styled 16 inch pies, exceptional chicken wings, subs, and sandwiches at reasonable prices. $$

ORIGINAL PANCAKE HOUSE 1300 South Boulevard, 704-372-7099. This is a chain restaurant, but the pancakes are so good. The apple pancake is a huge, puffy affair big enough for at least two people. There are plenty of other flavors too. Expect to wait in line on weekends. $-$$

PATOU, A FRENCH BISTRO 2400 Park Road, 704-376-2233. Well-executed French and Belgian (try the Waterzooi) bistro cuisine. Menu changes seasonally. Patio. $$-$$$

PEWTER ROSE BISTRO 1820 South Boulevard, 704-332-8149. One of Charlotte's favorites with excellent eclectic cuisine. Outstanding wine list. Whimsical, charming ambiance. Next door is their Tutto Mondo, a stylish bar with late night food. $$L, $$-$$$D

PICASSO'S SPORTS CAFE 1301 East Boulevard, 704-331-0133. It's had as many names as Liz Taylor, but this wide-screen sports bar consistently bakes top-of-the-line pizza and washes it down with a wide beer selection. $-$$

PIKE'S OLD FASHIONED SODA SHOP 1930 Camden Road, 704-372-0092. The name says it all. Nostalgia reigns while being served homemade quality from ice cream floats to sandwiches and fries to sticky buns. $

THE PLANET GRILL 1531 East Boulevard, 704-372-1818. From a buffet, select the foods you want stir fried then wrap in the flour tortillas served on the tables or enjoy over sticky rice. All you can eat. $$

PRICE'S CHICKEN COOP 1614 Camden Road, 704-333-9866. Opened in 1962 and known locally for having the best deep fat fried chicken and fish in town. Take out only. Long lines at lunch move quickly. Cash. $

RHEINLAND HAUS 2418 Park Road, 704-376-3836. A Charlotte institution, offering a full array of hearty German dishes and beverages. $$

RU SAN'S JAPANESE CUISINE, SUSHI & SEAFOOD 2440 Park Road, Park Square Shopping Center, 704-374-0008. From Atlanta comes this fun, high spirited, reasonably priced restaurant, a place where even those fearful of a culinary unknown would feel at home. $$$

SOUTHEND BREWERY & SMOKEHOUSE 2100 South Boulevard, 704-358-HOPS. Big, beautiful microbrewery serves up a variety of brews and eclectic cuisine. An A for atmosphere. Same menu lunch and dinner. $$-$$$

TALLEY'S CAFE VERDE 1408 East Boulevard, 704-334-9200. Cafe in Talley's Green Grocery features vegetarian, ethnic and naturally prepared foods for both lunch and dinner till 8pm. $-$$

THAI TASTE 324 East Boulevard, 704-332-0001. This elegant Oriental cuisine is treated with all due delicacy and fiery pleasure. Imaginative specials and great selection of curries and noodle dishes. $L, $$D

VIDALIA & GRAPES 1626 East Boulevard, 704-358-8188. The concept here is for the diner to try new combinations of tastes. Food can be ordered in either tapas or entree sizes, and wine is offered by the taste, glass, or bottle. Sharing is encouraged. $$$

DOWNTOWN / MIDTOWN


ALEXANDER MICHAEL'S 401 W. 9th Street, 704-332-6789. Favorite friendly Fourth Ward hangout is great for an after-work pick-me-up or lunch or dinner. $$

BIJOUX BRASSERIE & BAR, 201 N. Tryon Street, 704-377-0900. If you yearn for Paris, Bijoux is the place. The setting alone is worthy of a visit. $$$

BISTRO 100 100 N. Tryon Street, Bank of America Corporate Center, 704-344-0515. A wood-burning oven is the secret behind the wonderful, smoky roasted dishes here. The roasted chicken, vegetables and salmon are great. $$-$$$

BRAVO! RISTORANTE 555 S. McDowell Street, in Adam's Mark Hotel, 704-372-4100. Authentic Italian cuisine is the star, and professional singers share the stage as waiters. Very good wine list. $$-$$$

BRIXX WOOD-FIRED PIZZA 225 E. 6th Street, 704-347-2749. Gourmet pizzas, fabulous Caesar salad, other salads. Limited, but well chosen wine list served by the glass, too. Open late. $$-$$$

CAPITAL GRILLE 201 N. Tryon Street, 704-348-1400. An upper end, luxuriously appointed, dark wood, clubby steak house with a national reputation for dry-aged porterhouse and sirloin steaks and large portions. L$$$, D$$$$

CARPE DIEM RESTAURANT 401 E. Trade Street(corner of Brevard), 704-377-7976. Relocated to new downtown digs in a century old building, but has been popular with Charlotteans since it first opened in 1989. The menu features eclectic cuisine. Closed Sunday. $$$

THE COFFEE CUP 914 S. Clarkson Street, 704-375-8855. Charlotte institution and Soul Food Central, serving the most mouth-watering Southern fare this side of Grandma's stove. $-$$

COSMOS CAFE 300 N. College Street, 704-372-3553. Popular spot, great for late-night, with a comfortably hip ambience, serving a wide variety of cuisine styles: sushi, tapas, pizza, Malaysian to Middle Eastern, you name it. Clever cuisine in a busy location. $$-$$$

FRENCH QUARTER ANNEX 317 S. Church Street, 704-377-1715. Deservedly popular restaurant serves a selection of Cajun and continental foods. $$

GREEN'S LUNCH 309 W. 4th Street, 704-332-1786. Longtime uptown favorite for one main reason: Hotdogs. If it's dogs you want, you'll be hard pressed to find better ones. $

GUS' SIR BEEF UPTOWN 324 S. Tryon Street, 704-347-5741. One of the city's most popular spots for homestyle meals, Gus's is known for "Fresh My Farm" vegetables cooked without grease. $

HARTIGAN'S IRISH PUB 601 S. Cedar Street, 704-347-1841. A friendly neighborhood bar dishing up sandwiches, salads, and traditional bar appetizers. All in the shadow of Ericsson Stadium. $$

LATORRE'S, LATIN-AMERICAN CUISINE 118 W. 5th Street, 704-377-4448. Featuring upscale Nuevo Latino dishes. Here you'll find a unique palette of flavors that are well-executed and served in large portions. Plus after 11pm Friday and Saturday they have a Salsa DJ and dancing into the night. $$$

LAVECCHIA'S SEAFOOD GRILLE 225 E. Sixth Street, 704-370-6776. A haven for seafood lovers. Well-prepared, inventive dishes. For fun try the three coast raw oyster sampler. Valet parking Wednesday through Saturday. $$$

MAMA RICOTTA'S 901 S. Kings Drive, 704-343-0148. Small but imaginative menu of pastas, antipasti and pizza. Authentic, creative dishes, good sauces, good prices, and a terrific lunch selection. $-$$

McNINCH HOUSE 511 N. Church Street, 704-332-6159. One-of-a-kind experience: 6-course gourmet meals served in a 100-year-old Victorian mansion in Fourth Ward. Exquisite. (Call days ahead for reservations). $$$$

MELTING POT Kings Court Plaza, Kings Drive, 704-334-4400. For those fond of fondues: cheese, beef, seafood, chicken, and, naturally, chocolate for dessert. $$$

MERT'S HEART AND SOUL 214 N. College Street, 704-342-4222. Owners James and Renee Bazzelle create delectable Low Country and Southern country dishes. Service is solicitous, art provocative, food down-home honest, and prices incredibly low. Open late weekends. $$

MORTON'S OF CHICAGO-THE STEAKHOUSE 227 W. Trade Street (Carillon Building), 704-333-2602. Well known for their steaks and elegance. Morton's has restaurants in 50 U.S. and international cities. Dinner only. $$$$

PALOMINO RESTAURANT ROTISSERIA BAR 525 N. Tryon Street, 704-373-9499. A Seattle-based chain which serves fresh and uncomplicated dishes in a warm, vibrant and inviting atmosphere. Delightful patio fountain. Complimentary dinner parking in adjoining parking deck. $$$

PHIL'S DELI 105 E. 5th Street, 704-347-0035. Authentic NYC-style deli (without NYC prices) with friendly service, fresh breads, and sumptuous cold cuts. $

THE PINE ROOM, RESTAURANT & BAR 121 W. Trade Street(Interstate Tower), 704-347-8947. Contemporary American cuisine. Restaurant in two parts: bar area opens on Trade Street, dinner in a beautifully appointed room. Validated parking. $-$$B, L, $$-$$$D

RED SEA RESTAURANT AND BAR 206 E. Independence Boulevard, 704-375-4999. Small, bare bones restaurant serving flavorful Ethiopian food. $$

SIMMONS FOURTH WARD RESAURANT 516 N. Graham Street, 704-334-6640. Classic Southern country recipes and hard to beat prices. Many downtowners come to sample Charlotte's heritage cuisine: smothered pork chops, mac & cheese, baked chicken with corn bread dressing, collard greens, barbecue ribs, candied yams, steamed cabbage and more. $$

SONOMA 129 W. Trade Street, 704-377-1333. Impeccable presentation and innovative recipes in a first-class atmosphere. Award-winning wine list. $$-$$$

EAST CHARLOTTE


BRAZAS BRAZILIAN GRILL 4508 E. Independence Boulevard, 704-566-1009. Meat runners brandish towering skewers of meat and add to the Carnival-like atmosphere. The price is fixed and it's all you can eat from a cold and hot buffet. Meats are grilled over an imported rotisserie with 105 skewers. Many dishes are Brazilian specialties, others are just plain good. $$$

DIAMOND RESTAURANT 1901 Commonwealth Avenue, 704-375-8959. Good, solid homecooking with a down-home, almost small town touch. The food is fine, the iced tea is phenomenal, but the corn muffins are heaven. $

DIM SUM CHINESE RESTAURANT 2920-B Central Avenue, 704-569-1128. Serves both excellent "real" and Americanized Chinese food. Functional ambiance, but wonderful Dim Sum assortment. L$, D$$

GUS'S SIR BEEF 4101 Monroe Road, 704-377-3210. One of the city's most popular spots for homestyle meals, Gus's is known for "Fresh My Farm" vegetables cooked without grease. $

HOUSE OF CHINESE GOURMET 5608 E. Independence Boulevard, 704-563-8989. This friendly little place serves some dishes lacking in other Charlotte Chinese restaurants with helpful, friendly service. $-$$

HUONG VIET 4808 Central Avenue, 704-537-8475. This little hole-in-the-wall serves up delicate, balanced Vietnamese dishes. A little less hot than Thai, but no less interesting in the use of spices. $$

INDIA PALACE 4515 E. Independence Boulevard, 704-568-7176. Indian cuisine, featuring a wide selection of subcontinental dishes including tandoori meats, lamb or yogurt-based dishes, a good selection of vegetarian dishes, as well as appetizers and flatbreads. $$

KABOB HOUSE, PERSIAN CUISINE 6432 E. Independence Boulevard, 704-531-2500. An array of Persian delights: tender char-broiled kabobs, polo, and khoresht dishes, all reasonably priced. Building is not much to look at from the outside, but the interior is welcoming. $$-$$$

KING AND I RESTAURANT 4800 Central Avenue, 704-532-7511. Pristine Thai restaurant with flavorful dishes that are well-executed. Solicitous and knowledgeable service, too. L$$, D$$-$$$

KYOTO JAPANESE/KOREAN RESTAURANT 6404 Albemarle Road, 704-569-1954. The Korean dishes are so authentic that even the Korean menu is written in Korean script without benefit of translation. Helpful servers will guide you though. $$

LA CANASTA DOMINICANA RESTAURANT 4808 Central Avenue, 704-536-0009. Small, friendly, bilingual family-owned place offering well-prepared root and fruit island dishes. Seafood, stewed goat, and homemade desserts, too. L $, D$$

LA GRAN HAVANA 5546 Albemarle Road, Redman Square Shopping Center, 704-535-0223. Cuban chefs create island delights here. Wonderful black bean soup, golden maduros, mariquitas, and char-grilled pork with a tangy-sweet tamarind sauce. Steak, fish, and shellfish ingeniously prepared. Lunch features the famed Cuban sandwich. Bilingual menu. L, D $$

LANDMARK DINER 4429 Central Avenue, 704-532-1153. Big diner serves up the big picture of American food: millions of items, all cooked fresh. Save room for their big desserts. $L, $-$$D.

LANG VAN 3019 Shamrock Drive, at the corner of Eastway, 704-531-9525. Delicious Vietnamese cuisine with lots of fresh herbs in creative combinations. Try the yellow pancake, or let the helpful staff steer your order. $$.

MAMMA LENA'S PASTA & PIZZA 5135 Albemarle Road, 704-568-0000. Pizza (cooked in a wood-burning oven) and pasta are both terrific, as is fresh crusty bread. Unlimited salad or soup with entrees. $-$$.

MARISCOS LA MEXICANA, MEXICAN SEAFOOD 4400 Central Avenue, 704-531-4500. Mexican coastal cuisine, primarily seafood, served in huge portions at reasonable prices. $$

PHO AN HOA 4832 A-B Central Avenue, 704-537-0060. Very tasty Vietmanese soup shop. $

PIKE'S OLD FASHIONED SODA SHOP 2133 Shamrock Drive, 704-568-1636. The name says it all. Nostalgia reigns while being served homemade quality from ice cream floats to sandwiches and fries to sticky buns. Shamrock location closed on Sunday. $

PORTOFINO ITALIAN RESTAURANT AND PIZZERIA 3124 Eastway Drive, 704-568-7933. Wonderful rustic Neapolitan dishes at incredibly low prices served in a casual atmosphere. New York Style Pizza (large is 16 inch). Take out, too. $$

RESTAURANTE EL PULGARCITO 4816 Central Avenue, 704-563-6500. A bare bones shop specializing in pupusas, an El Salvador treat, and other Central American favorites. $

SOUTH 21 DRIVE IN 3101 E. Independence Boulevard, 704-377-4509. Charlotte landmark since '55, serves great burgers, fries, onion rings, etc. and still wins awards every year from our readers. Drive in or take out. $

WOODLANDS PURE VEGETARIAN SOUTH INDIAN CUISINE 7128-A Albemarle Road, 704-569-9193. Featuring excellent vegetarian idlis, vadas, sambars, and rasams of Udipi, south India served up with a flair. $$-$$$

ELIZABETH/PLAZA-MIDWOOD


CAJUN QUEEN 1800 E. 7th Street, 704-377-9017. Friendly atmosphere, jazz, and terrific service highlight the complete New Orleans-style menu. $$$

CIBI 1601 E. 7th Street, 704-344-0844. Unpretentious American bistro with French-Italian bistro-styled cuisine in an historic Elizabeth house. $$$

CUISINE MALAYA, MALAYSIAN CUISINE & JAPANESE SUSHI BAR 1411 Elizabeth Avenue, 704-372-0766 or 704-372-0768. Charlotte's only Malaysian restaurant serving first rate Roti Canai, Satay, Char Kway Teow and Beef Rendang. Sultry, yet sophisticated ambiance and fine service. $$$

ETHAN'S OF ELIZABETH AMERICAN BISTRO 366 N. Caswell Road, 704-375-3007. Located in a charming old house in one of Charlotte's quaint neighborhoods, this comfortable bistro features well-executed New American cuisine. $$$

JOHN'S COUNTRY KITCHEN 1518 Central Avenue, 333-9551. A reminder of a culinary tradition we're quickly leaving behind. Brains and eggs, country ham, grits, and gravy. Open for lunch, too. Cash only. $

LUPIE'S CAFE 2718 Monroe Road, 704-374-1232. This funky, semi-legendary place is home to an eclectic, down-home hip clientele and a kitchen full of some of the best burgers and chili in town. Also, good homestyle meals. $

NOVA'S BAKERY 1511 Central Avenue, 704-333-5566. A great Eastern European bakery. Wonderful Cranberry Pecan and Orange Chocolate bread, focaccia, baguettes, country bread, brioche, potato pizzas, and more. $

THE PENGUIN 1921 Commonwealth Avenue, 704-375-6959. Reopened in 2001 after being refurbished to the original red, black, and chrome 1950s interior. Menu features burgers, foot long hot dogs, Eastern-styled barbecue, veggie burgers, fried pickles and pimento cheese sandwiches. $-$$

SWING 1000 1000 Central Avenue, 704-334-4443. Familiar dishes in a glamorous neo-1940s/Lounge/Rat Pack setting. Entertainment and dancing with a dose of swank. $$$-$$$$

LAKE NORMAN


ASAHI JAPANESE RESTAURANT 14211 Reese Boulevard, Huntersville. 704-948-7728. Prices are reasonable for this upbeat neighborhood spot filled with promise. Take out, too. $$$

BROOKLYN SOUTH PIZZERIA & ITALIAN EATERY Jetton Village Shopping Center, 19911-C N. Cove Road, Cornelius, 704-896-2928. A typical New York style, family-owned, neighborhood pizzeria where items are served in large sharable portions and kept at a minimal price. $$

GREG'S FAMOUS B-B-Q 233 S. Broad Street, Mooresville, 704-664-4848. The menu has everything from barbecue to lasagna, chicken to foot long hot dogs and all at unbelievably low prices. $-$$

JASPER'S 127 Depot Street, Davidson, 704-896-1881. Secluded patio surrounded by a garden filled with fragrant herbs. Refreshingly light eclectic cuisine. L$$, D$$$.

KUDZU ON SOUTH BROAD 259 S. Broad Street, Mooresville, 704-663-1859. Chef-owner Chip Potts filters his culinary training in classical cuisine through his Southern heritage to arrive at a unique combination of tantalizing and mouth-watering dishes. Situated in a quaint Victorian house. Patio. L$$, D$$-$$$.

MAMA MIA TOO AT THE HOLBROOK HOUSE 101 Maxwell Avenue, Huntersville, 704-875-0575. New Yorkers love this place primarily featuring Southern Italian cuisine in a charming house in the center of town. L$$, D$$$.

MICKEY & MOOCH 9723 Sam Furr Road, Northcross Shopping Center (Exit 25), Huntersville, 704-895-6654. This stylish locally-owned restaurant has an infectious energy. Steaks and chops are served Pittsburgh style. Menu also has many Low Country dishes, pastas, barbecue baby back ribs, chicken, and seafood. Huge portions. Dinner only. $$$-$$$$

ROYAL SIAM 8301 Magnolia Estates Drive (Exit 28), Cornelius, 704-892-4811. Exceptionally fresh Thai food. Everything made to order in house. L$$, D$$$.

SARAGONI'S RESTAURANT & BAR 1459 River Highway, Mooresville, 704-664-6996. A neighborhood restaurant with pasta, pizzas, sandwiches and grill items with a view of Lake Norman. $$$

SOUTHEND BREWERY & SMOKEHOUSE 19441 Old Jetton Road, Cornelius, 704-895-BREW. Part of the locally owned, now regional chain featuring a micro brewery, house smoked meats, and regional American cuisine with southwestern flair. $$, $$$

SUSHI @ THE LAKE 19732 One Norman Road, Suite 300 (Exit 28), Cornelius, 704-987-8080. This West Coast styled Sushi bar offers traditional sushi and grilled items at very reasonable prices (for sushi, that is). $$$

MATTHEWS/SOUTHEAST CHARLOTTE


BOARDWALK BILLY'S RAW BAR AND RIBS 1636 Sardis Road North, 704-841-8688. This beach-styled place may look like a bar, but offers much more. Their Billy's Steam Party (enough for two) is filled with steamed shrimp, oysters, clams, and crab legs. Serves food late. $$

THE FISH FARM 1200 Sam Newell Road, Matthews, 704-847-8578. Traditional fish camp food mixed with Southern country, steaks, and ribs set in a barn. L $$ D $$-$$$

GREG'S FAMOUS B-B-Q 10915 Monroe Road, Matthews, 704-847-5035. The menu has everything from barbecue to lasagna, chicken to foot long hot dogs and all at unbelievably low prices. Expect a line even at breakfast. $-$$

KRISTOPHER'S SPORTS BAR & RESTAURANT 250 N. Trade Street, Matthews, 704-845-6200. Popular sports bar with more satellite dishes and televisions than anyone else around. They serve New York style pizza, Buffalo wings, soups and sandwiches. $$

MONTERREY MEXICAN RESTAURANT Windsor Square Shopping Center, 704-841-8068. Full array of Mexican specialties, including fabulous Margaritas. $$

PICADELI Fullwood Plaza, E. Independence Boulevard & Hwy 51. 704-841-1918. Sandwiches galore and over 60 imported and domestic beers. $$

RAUCCI'S ON EAST JOHN STREET 131 E. John Street, Matthews, 704-841-8282. Family owned Italian restaurant serving New York-styled southern Italian cuisine (no pizza). This is hearty but unobtrusive fare. You can eat your fill of nicely turned out dishes. Wonderful desserts. L $$, D $$-$$$

TASTE OF ASIA, VIETNAMESE & CHINESE RESTAURANT 9626 Monroe Road, 704-846-2515. Fresh, large-portioned, and flavorful Vietnamese, Hunan and Szechwan cuisine prepared in an open kitchen. Eat in or take out. $-$$

TOWNSHIP GRILLE Matthews Festival @ Independence Boulevard, 704-847-2480. Matthews' version of Buffalo, NY with great wings, plus large selection of homestyle dinners and sandwiches and a massive beer selection. $

YEN'S 9010 Monroe Road, 704-845-9444. Fresh vegetables and individual preparation set this small Chinese restaurant apart from the rest. Crowd pleasers include spareribs in black bean sauce and lantern shrimp, which is sauteed with straw mushrooms and cilantro. $-$$

MYERS PARK


ETIENNE JAULIN'S TOWNHOUSE 1011 Providence Road, 704-335-1546. Chef Etienne Jaulin produces marvelous American Regional with a French twist. Elegantly presented in a handsome dining room. Extensive wine list. Dinner only. $$$-$$$$

FENWICKS 511 Providence Road, 704-333-2750. Smaller than some bathrooms, but cozier, and a fun place. The menu runs to standards like steak and pasta, with fresh vegetables daily. Everything comes in generous portions with fresh bread. $$-$$$

THE MEETING HOUSE RESTAURANT 801 Providence Road, 704-334-6338. Located in a charming house in the center of Myers Park, this is a meeting place for the neighborhood crowd. Chef-owners were trained at Le Cordon Bleu, yet the dishes are American bistro. $$$

PROVIDENCE CAFE 110 Perrin Place, 704-376-2008. PC's signature, foccacia (Italian bread with various fresh toppings baked in) makes sandwiches an adventure. Brunch is simple but well prepared. Admire the art and neon-based decor. $$L $$$D

SALUTE WINE & PROVISIONS 2912 Selwyn Avenue, 704-343-9095. Popular authentic Italian market with emphasis on quality of the ingredients, presentation and fair pricing. Extensive Italian wine selection. Dishes prepared daily. Go early or call ahead. $$

SELWYN AVENUE PUB 2801 Selwyn Avenue, 704-333-3443. Popular spot is known for fun and good food. Some of the best appetizers in town. $$

NORTH CHARLOTTE/UNIVERSITY


AMALFI, ITALIAN CUISINE 8542 University City Boulevard, 704-547-8651. Small, family-owned Italian eatery with a loyal following. The owner, a native of Naples, prepares generous portions of simple and tasty southern Italian fare, everything from pastas to pizzas. Closed Monday. $$

AMBER HOUSE 5625 N. Tryon Street, 704-596-6145. A popular Charlotte tradition, they serve up great home cooking, plus a fine selection of sandwiches, steaks and other entrees. $-$$

BOARDWALK BILLY'S RAW BAR AND RIBS Shoppes at University Place, 8933-2 J.M. Keynes Drive, 704-503-7427. This beach-styled place may look like a bar, but offers much more. Their Billy's Steam Party (enough for two) is filled with steamed shrimp, oysters, clams, and crab legs. Serves food late. $$

BOUDREAUX'S LOUISIANA KITCHEN 501 E. 36th Street, 704-331-9898. Po'Boys and muffalettas at lunch, inexpensive traditional Creole and Cajun dishes at dinner served in a spacious, artsy dining room. Sunday Brunch, too. $$

BUBBA'S BARBECUE I-77 @ Sunset Road, 704-393-2000. The best Eastern NC-style barbecue we've had in Charlotte. Barbecue, hush puppies, cole slaw, beans - the real thing, right down the line. $

CARLO'S, N. TRYON 5130 N. Tryon Street, 704-597-7511. Terrific New York-style pizza sends some former Empire Staters to tomato-and-cheese heaven. Other Italian dishes, too. $-$$

CIRO'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT 8927 J.M. Keynes Drive, #100, (University Place), 704-510-0012. Simple New-York-styled southern Italian red and white cuisine served in a lively Italian-wedding/happy family atmosphere. Enormous portions, steaming fresh baked bread, marvelous marinara, reasonable prices. L$$, D$$-$$$

FAT CITY 3127 N. Davidson Street, 704-343-0240. This mainstay of the N. Davidson arts district serves a variety of well-prepared sandwiches, salads, and apps, with a good vegetarian selection. $

GERT'S LIL' DINER 3658 Beatties Ford Road, 704-392-0485. It's in a trailer, and there isn't much of a sign outside, but this diner serves up the best country food in the world. The okra and tomatoes will save your soul. $

GRANDMA'S COUNTRY KITCHEN, 6615 N. Tryon Street, 704-598-1221. Small, make yourself at home place featuring Southern country cooking. Excellent freshly baked johnnycakes with molasses. Menu roster changes daily, but look for fried croaker, meatloaf, veggie burgers, tuna melts, fried okra, macaroni and cheese with as many as eight cheeses, collard greens, and homemade desserts. $-$$.

MELTING POT 230 E. WT Harris Boulevard, 704-548-2432. For those fond of fondues: cheese, beef, seafood, chicken, and, naturally, chocolate for dessert. $$$

OLD HICKORY HOUSE 6538 N. Tryon Street, 704-596-8014. Western-NC-styled barbecue at its finest. Sliced or chopped, served on paper wrapping, in a dining room that's a 60s (and TV's Bonanza) throwback. Cash only. $

THE ROASTING COMPANY 9311 JW Clay Boulevard, 704-503-3335. Rotisserie chicken that falls off the bone and melts in your mouth, plus more than the usual selections of veggies. Excellent cornbread. $

PINEVILLE / HWY 51


CAJUN QUEEN 207 Johnston Drive, Pineville, 704-889-3214. Friendly atmosphere, jazz, and terrific service highlight the complete New Orleans-style menu. $$$

CAMPANIA 6414 Rea Road, 704-541-8505. Charlotte's nexus to Naples. Copious portions of remarkable dishes with Italian wines to match. Beautifully appointed dining room. Pricey, but considerably less than airfare. $$$-$$$$

CIRO'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT 10420-F Centrum Parkway, Pineville, 704-543-1550. Simple New-York-styled southern Italian red and white cuisine served in a lively Italian-wedding/happy family atmosphere. Enormous portions, steaming fresh baked bread, marvelous marinara, reasonable prices. L$$, D$$-$$$

FIREBIRDS ROCKY MOUNTAIN GRILL 7716 Rea Road, 704-752-7979. This stunning facility resembles a Colorado lodge complete with roaring fire and aspen columns. Menu items, served in huge portions, are simple, straightforward, and have a southwestern flair. $$$

JOJO CHINA BISTRO 7800 Rea Road, 704-541-6488. Upscale ethnic eatery offers Asian dishes tailored to American tastes in a comfortable setting. $$-$$$

KATZ NEW YORK 8045 Providence Road, Arboretum Office Park, 704-543-4666. Hand cut fries, potato knish, matzo ball soup, housemade corned beef and cole slaw, egg creams, and well-made cold cut sandwiches, all Big Apple deli styled. $-$$

MIRO SPANISH GRILLE 7804-A Rea Road, Stonecrest Shopping Center, 704-540-7374. (www.mirospanishgrille.com) Owner Tri Luong offers dishes which are simple, yet flavorful. A quintessential Spanish restaurant excelling in seafood and tapas. Some New World dishes, too. Chilean and Spanish wines available. L $$, D $$$

MONTERREY MEXICAN RESTAURANT 10707 Park Road, 704-541-6664. Full array of Mexican specialties, including fabulous Margaritas. $$

MUSASHI, JAPANESE RESTAURANT 10110 Johnston Road (in Hannaford Plaza Shopping Center), 704-543-5181. Small intimate space, wonderful service and outstanding tempura. Sushi is an exquisite balance of color and flavor. $$L, $$-$$$D.

NAKATO 8500 Pineville-Matthews Hwy., 704-543-8899. Fine implement-juggling routine, as well as a floating sushi bar and a Tatami room with four tables for those nights when you just don't want to eat with your shoes on. $$$

THE PEACEFUL DRAGON, TEA HOUSE AND CLUTURAL CENTER 8324 Pineville-Matthews Road, 704-544-1012. Light vegetarian fare. All dishes made from scratch, including the veggie burger. Many vegan items. $$

SIBONEY CUBAN RESTAURANT 8706 Pineville-Matthews Road, 704-542-2996. Featuring authentic Cuban dishes and drinks. Cigar bar, too. $$$

TRIO RESTAURANT 10709 McMullen Creek Pkwy., 704-541-8000. Friendly place for an imaginative and eclectic selection of entrees, gourmet pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, salads and pastas. Emphasis on creative taste combinations. $$

TSUKIJI 8320 Pineville-Matthews Road, Pineville, 704-543-4081. Cheaper than most sushi bars and usually less crowded, Tsukiji's sushi is as good as any you'll find. There's a regular Japanese menu too, including tempura for those who won't touch raw fish. $$-$$$

WALDHORN RESTAURANT 12101 Lancaster Highway (Rt. 521), Pineville. 704-540-7047. Biergarten, beer, music, and inspired German cuisine produced in a masterful kitchen under Chef/Owner Thomas Maier's attentive care makes this a hot spot. $$$

WAN FU 10719 Kettering Drive. 704-541-1688. One of the city's favorite Chinese restaurants with a wider variety than most. Everything is beautifully presented and complemented by great service. $$-$$$

SOUTH CHARLOTTE


AZTECA 116 Woodlawn Road, 704-525-5110. Unlike many Mexican restaurants, at Azteca you'll actually spend some time mulling over the menu. Fine cuisine with a wide variety. $-$$.

BANGKOK OCHA 7629-B Pineville-Matthews Road. 704-544-7770. Thai dishes of complex intensity and flavor set in a small, but polished restaurant. $$$

BILL SPOON'S BARBECUE 5524 South Blvd, 704-525-8865. For nearly 40 years, this 65-seat pork parlor has been packed at lunch. The place to go for die hard Eastern barbecue aficionados. $

BOMBAY GRILLE INDIAN CUISINE 8706 Pineville-Matthews Road, 704-542-3933. Spice laden entree dishes evoke familiar taste memories. The chicken tikka masala is second to none in town. $$$

BOURBON STREET STATION 6101 Old Pineville Road, 704-522-0231. Good Cajun-style food is served up here, with an emphasis on a fun and friendly ambience. You can't miss; just keep your eye out for the old train. $$-$$$

THE CUPBOARD 3005 South Boulevard, 704-523-9934. One of the best, and busiest, of Charlotte's many home cooking restaurants. Great daily specials (don't miss the chicken pan pie) and legendary coconut pie. $

DON QUIJOTE, RESTAURANTE ESPANOL 4640 South Boulevard, 704-529-5959. Exceptional Northern and Southern Spanish cuisine. One could readily make a meal by choosing a variety of the 15 tantalizing Tapas items. And there's more: paellas, fabulous fish dishes, Spanish wines, and a large deck. $$-$$$

FOSTER'S TAVERN 1601-B Montford Drive (downstairs). 704-527-1456. 56. Foster's offers the closest thing to a great friendly neighborhood bar, with good food to boot: wings, burgers, soups, etc. are all palate pleasers. $

HARPER'S RESTAURANT 301 E. Woodlawn Road, 704-522-8376. Wide-ranging menu and excellent service puts this restaurant in the top echelon of the popular salad-chicken-burger-seafood-etc. places. Good desserts. $$

HARRIGAN'S GOURMET DELI 5033-K South Boulevard, 704-522-3550. Traditional cold cut sandwiches on round bread, speciality "Dilbert" sandwiches, housemade salads, and daily specials. $

JAIPUR INDIAN CUISINE 5909 South Boulevard, 704-646-1421. Don't let the exterior put you off. Inside you'll find balanced Indian dishes from all parts of the subcontinent. Reasonably priced, too. A great weekday lunch buffet, and a great dinner buffet on weekends. L$$, D$$-$$$.

LA CASCADA-CHICKEN TO GO 5033-G South Boulevard, Seneca Place Shopping Center, 704-523-1011. Explore the freefall of South American comfort food with dishes from Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, with a few specialty dishes from Bolivia. $$

LUISA'S BRICK OVEN 1730 Abbey Place, 704-522-8782. Brick oven-baked pizza plus other Italian dishes. Pizza available with innovative topping alternatives (roasted eggplant, roasted garlic, etc.). No delivery, but take out orders are prepared quickly. $-$$

MAI JAPANESE RESTAURANT 5906 South Boulevard, 704-552-1515. Modest prices -- for a Japanese restaurant, that is. Sushi chefs produce deftly cleaved wondrous rolls that taste sparklingly fresh. Robata grill, too. $$$

MIRO SPANISH GRILLE 8418-A Park Road, Quail Corners Shopping Center, 704-553-8588. (www.mirospanishgrille.com) Owner Tri Luong offers dishes which are simple, yet flavorful. A quintessential Spanish restaurant excelling in seafood and tapas. Some New World dishes, too. Chilean and Spanish wines available. L $$, D $$$

MOJO RESTAURANT & SPIRITS 1812 Montford Drive, 704-523-0474. Not much in decor or ambiance, but more than just a place to drink and listen to music. The dinner menu is short, yet surprisingly ambitious; the food is quite good and reasonably priced. Late night bar menu, too. $$

PHO 98 5937 South Boulevard, 704-643-1243. You may not find all the Vietnamese dishes you like here, but what is offered sparkles with freshness and flavor. $$

THE PRESS BOX 1627 Montford Drive, 704-523-4981. Longtime favorite for a great lunch burger, sandwich, salad or more. A Charlotte standard. $-$$

RESTAURANT TOKYO 4603 South Boulevard, 704-527-8787. Authentic Japanese offering a full selection of excellent sushi, as well as teishoku, donburi, tempura and more. First rate. $$$

THE ROASTING COMPANY 1601-A Montford Drive, 704-521-8188. Rotisserie chicken that falls off the bone and melts in your mouth, plus more than the usual selections of veggies. Excellent cornbread. $

SAIGON PALACE 4508 South Boulevard, 704-592-0098. Delightful frothy tropical fruit shakes and hardy bowls of teaming pho are among the array of delicious items to try from the menu. Chinese buffet at lunch, but Vietnamese menu items are always available. $$

SIR EDMOND HALLEY'S RESTAURANT AND FREE HOUSE 4151-A Park Road, 704-525-2555. Quaint neighborhood pub ambiance, but the food here is good. Caters to beer savants pouring seven drafts including Watney's and Whitbread. Late night light menu available. $$-$$$

TRIBORO DELICATESSEN AND BAKING COMPANY, Sharon Lakes Plaza, 7631-J Sharon Lakes Road, 704-643-5052. Native New Yorker and Chef George Ryan produces wonderful freshly baked breads, deli sandwiches, salads and items from the grill. Kids menu, too. A+ for quality. $

VILLA ANTONIO 4707 South Boulevard, 704-523-1594. A wide-ranging, expertly prepared selection of Northern Italian specialties and a fine wine list. Great service tops it off. $$L, $$$-$$$$D

SOUTHPARK / COTSWOLD


BAODING 4722 Sharon Road, Suite F., 704-552-8899. Funky, haute Chinese with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and unusual vegetarian selections. $-$$L, $$-$$$D.

BARRINGTON'S RESTAURANT 7822 Fairview Road, Foxcroft Shopping Center, 704-364-5755. Place is small, the wine list brief, but the food is powerful. Chef/owner Bruce Moffett achieves sensational tastes while creating simple and honest New American cuisine dishes. $$$

CHARLEYS Cotswold Village Shops, 704-367-9500. Specialties are good soups, salads and sandwiches. Don't miss the grilled chicken salad. $$

CINO GRILLE 6401 Morrison Boulevard, in the Specialty Shops. 704-365-8226. Eclectic innovative Southwestern cuisine celebrating corn and chilies. Not only for heat-seeking diners, some dishes are mild. Massive martini list. Jazz on weekends. L$$, D$$$

HARPER'S RESTAURANT 6518 Fairview Road, 704-366-6688. Wide-ranging menu and excellent service puts this restaurant in the top echelon of the popular salad-chicken-burger-seafood-etc. places. Good desserts. $$

HOTEL CHARLOTTE 705 S. Sharon Amity Road, 704-364-8755. This comfort-food port with Cajun and Creole specialties has a loyal, neighborhood following. Known for its mammoth beer selection. L$$, D$$-$$$

MANZETTI'S BAR & GRILL 6401 Morrison Boulevard, 704-364-9334. Big crowds, big fun, with an emphasis on Pittsburgh-style steaks and other meaty edibles. $$

METROPOLITAN BAKERY 7810 Fairview Road, Foxcroft Shopping Center, 704-362-1660. Bakery features bread baked in a Tavailler oven, European-influenced pastries and select gourmet products unavailable elsewhere in Charlotte. Some seating. Sandwiches. $$-$$$

NOBLE'S 6801 Morrison Boulevard, 704-367-9463. A local version of award-winning Triad restaurants featuring American Regional cuisine. $$$$

ORIGINAL PANCAKE HOUSE 4736 Sharon Road, 704-553-8364. This is a chain restaurant, but the pancakes are so good. The apple pancake is a huge, puffy affair big enough for at least two people. There are plenty of other flavors too. Expect to wait in line on weekends. $-$$

P.F. CHANG'S CHINA BISTRO 6809 Phillips Place Court, 704-552-6644. Upscale ethnic eatery, very popular with the SouthPark after work crowd. $$$

PALM RESTAURANT 6705 Phillips Place Court, 704-552-7256. Excels in such classics as Clams Casino, Maryland crabcakes, Caesar salad, and of course, the all-American steak. Relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere and popular bar. $$$$

PHIL'S DELI Strawberry Hill Shopping Ctr., 704-366-8811. Authentic NYC-style deli (without NYC prices) with friendly service, fresh breads, and sumptuous cold cuts. $

SCALINI'S 5501 Carnegie Boulevard, @ Hyatt Charlotte. 704-554-1234. In the atrium garden, an elegant Northern Italian and seafood restaurant serves splendidly prepared dishes. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. $$L, $$$D

SHUN LEE PALACE 4340 Colwick Road, 704-366-2025. Dependable, classic Hunan, Mandarin, and Szechwan cuisine. Practically a Charlotte institution. $$-$$$.

THAI ORCHID 4223 Providence Road (in Strawberry Hill). 704-364-1134. Entrees with fresh herbs and imported Thai ingredients. Order stir-fry and noodle dishes with one or two peppers delineating spiciness. $$-$$$

UPSTREAM 6902 Phillips Place Court, 704-556-7730. Interesting menu renditions primarily featuring seafood. Stylish interior reminds one of a mountain stream. Patio. $$$$

VILLAGE TAVERN 4201 Congress Street, Suite 190. 704-552-9983. Popular spot with a good variety for casual meals, good apps, great pizza, burgers, chicken grills, full entrees and more. $-$$

ZEBRA RESTAURANT & WINE BAR 4521 Sharon Road, 704-442-9525. Chef Jim Alexander's cooking is classic and luxurious and the wine list is deep. Although located in an office building, the pine paneling and fireplace gives an intimate feel. $$$-$$$$. *

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