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Our critics' guide to recommended restaurants in Charlotte

Dilworth/Southend

300 East, 300 East Blvd., 704-332-6507. Locals have long gathered at this casual neighborhood bistro in a vintage house featuring an eclectic menu. L, D $$$

Berrybrook Farms Natural Foods, 1257 East Blvd., 704-334-6528. Homemade soups, herbed tofu sandwiches, bean burritos, and freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices found in a natural food shop. L $

Comet Grill, 2224 Park Rd., 704-371-4300. Dependable bar food in a friendly neighborhood joint. Big burgers, great fries, a spicy shrimp app and some vegetarian alternatives, too. $

Dominick's Little Italy, 200 East Bland St., 704-331-4010. This modest, but inviting Italian joint serves popular and predictable dishes, primarily Southern Italian, in large, family-style portions. $$$

Mangione's Ristorante, 1524 East Blvd., 704-334-4417. Opened in 1977. If you can't decide between Northern and Southern Italian, they have it mixed here. All the familiar bases are covered, plus you have Mr. Mangione's personalized service. L, D $$$

McIntosh's Steaks and Seafood, 1812 South Blvd., 704-342-1088. Folks head over to Greg McIntosh's steak and chop house for a round up of straight forward menu selections, gargantuan portions, and man-sized knives and forks. Elegant surroundings and service. D $$$$

Mister K's, 2107 South Blvd., 704-375-4318. A South Boulevard institution since 1967, but with a 50s-ish ambience: burgers, dogs and soft ice cream. Homemade onion ring lovers make this a second home. $

Nikko Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar, 1300-F South Blvd., 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 Blvd., 704-372-3535. Sicilian pan pizza and upstate New York styled 16 inch pies, exceptional chicken wings, subs, and sandwiches at reasonable prices. L, D $$

Original Pancake House, 1300 South Blvd., 704-372-2929. 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 Rd., 704-376-2233. Well-executed French and Belgian (try the Waterzooi) bistro cuisine. Menu changes seasonally. Patio. L, D $$$

Pewter Rose, 1820 South Blvd., 704-332-8149. Opened in 1984. With its whimsical, charming, second story ambience and notable wine list this restaurant is known for Chef Blake Dewey's eclectic cuisine. Very popular Sunday brunch spot. Next door is Tutto Mondo, a stylish bar with late night food. L, D $$$

Pike's Old Fashioned Soda Shop, 1930 Camden Rd., 704-372-0092. Nostalgia reigns while being served homemade quality ice cream floats to sandwiches and fries to sticky buns. Breakfast on weekends. $$

The Planet Grill, 1531 East Blvd., 704-372-1818. Buffet style, all you can eat, stir fry wrap joint. L, D $$

Price's Chicken Coop, 1614 Camden Rd., 704-333-9866. Opened in 1962 and known locally for having the best deep fried chicken and fish in town, if not North Carolina. You'll see all kinds in line from construction workers to cardiologists. Take out only. Long lines at lunch move quickly. Cash only. $

Ru San's Japanese Cuisine, Sushi & Seafood, 2440 Park Rd., Park Square Shopping Center, 704-374-0008. From Atlanta comes this high spirited, high volume, reasonably priced (for sushi) restaurant. $$$

Sole Spanish Grille, 1608 East Boulevard, 704-343-9890. After almost a decade away, the owners return to Dilworth to once again serve legendary tapas and sparkling fresh Spanish and New World entrees and wines. Heated patio. $$$

Southend Brewery, Southend, South Blvd., 704-358-4677. Charlotte based brewpub that serves up their well-known Carolina Blonde and Olmstead Red. $$

Southern Comforts, BBQ and Soul, 1511 East Blvd., 704-331-9222. A bit of fish camp, a dash of Low Country, and an ode to three styles of Southern barbecue. Comforts is pure Southern cuisine, albeit upscale. $$$

Vidalia & Grapes, 1626 East Blvd., 704-358-8188. The grapes are in the glass and it is more than onions on the plate. Owner-chef Tim Henderson hails from Charleston, as can be seen from the fat tendrils of crab in the She Crab soup. Dishes offered in tapas or entree sizes. L, D $$$

Vittorio's Italian Cuisine, 311 East Blvd., 704-344-8799. This is the former Chelsea's, relocated across town into an historic Dilworth house. The cuisine is primarily southern Italian, but some northern dishes. $$$

Downtown/Midtown

Alexander Michael's, 401 W. 9th St., 704-332-6789. A neighborhood pub in Fourth Ward with domestic and imported beers, burgers, blackened chicken breast sandwiches, and an unflappable staff. L, D $$

Bijoux Brasserie & Bar, 201 N. Tryon St., 704-377-0900. This restaurant evokes the painted memories of late 19th century French impressionists depicting life in a French brasserie. If you yearn for Paris, Bijoux has a setting worthy of a visit. $$$

Bistro 100, 100 N. Tryon St., Bank of America Corporate Center, 704-344-0515. A decade ago when there were few good places to eat downtown, there was Bistro 100. The kitchen is known for its wood-burning oven and dishes that are decidedly French bistro. Open for Sunday Brunch. L, D $$$

Bravo! Ristorante, 555 S. McDowell St., 704-372-4100. Italian cuisine is the star, and professional singers share the stage as waiters. D $$$

Capital Grille, 201 N. Tryon St., 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. $$$$

Carpe Diem Restaurant, 401 E. Trade St. (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. $$$

Cosmos Cafe, 300 N. College St., 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. $$$

Cousin James Cafe, 3900 Wilkinson Blvd., 704-399-9947. James Crosby uses secret family recipes to dish out large flavorful portions of Southern fried chicken, pork chops, candied yams, collards, macaroni and cheese, peach cobbler and more soulful treats in this casual westside spot. $

French Quarter Annex, 317 S. Church St., 704-377-1715. Deservedly popular restaurant serves a selection of Cajun and continental foods in the shadow of Ericsson Stadium. L, D $$

Green's Lunch, 309 W. 4th St., 704-332-1786. Longtime uptown favorite for one main reason: Carolina styled hotdogs with chili and slaw. If it's dogs you want, you'll be hard pressed to find better ones. B, L $

Gus' Sir Beef Uptown, 324 S. Tryon St., 704-347-5741. Homespun Gus's is known for "Fresh My Farm" vegetables cooked without grease. If you want to be a Charlottean, you'll have to go for the fried squash. $

Hartigan's Irish Pub, 601 S. Cedar St., 704-347-1841. A friendly neighborhood bar dishing up sandwiches, salads, and traditional bar appetizers, all in the shadow of Ericsson Stadium. L, D $$

Latorre's, Latin American Cuisine, 118 W. 5th St., 704-377-4448. Featuring upscale Nuevo Latino dishes that are innovative, well-executed and served in large portions. At lunch, they serve one of the best Cuban sandwiches in the city. L, D $$$

LaVecchia's Seafood Grille, 225 E. 6th St., 704-370-6776. A haven for seafood lovers. Well-prepared, inventive dishes set in an upscale interior. For fun try the three coast raw oyster sampler. L, D $$$

Maharani Indian Cuisine, 901 S. Kings Dr., 704-370-2455. At the confluence of Dilworth and Myers Park, this is the only Indian restaurant near downtown. If you seek shish kebab barbecued on skewers in a tandoor, aromatic biryanis, and spicy kormas, stop in here. $$$

Mama Ricotta's, 601-A S. Kings Dr., 704-343-0155. Small but imaginative menu of pastas, antipasti and pizza. $$

McNinch House, 511 N. Church St., 704-332-6159. Owner-chef Ellen Davis offers a prix fixe dinner in a renovated Fourth Ward Victorian mansion with nine wood burning fireplaces. Known for romantic, and sometimes clandestine meetings, and exceptional service. Reservations required. D $$$$

Melting Pot, Kings Court Plaza, Kings Dr., 704-334-4400. A Florida based franchise that has been around since 1975, but is now primed again to catch the latest fondue wave. You will find all kinds of fondues: cheese, beef, seafood, chicken, and chocolate. D $$$

Mert's Heart and Soul, 214 N. College St., 704-342-4222. Owners James and Renee Bazzelle create delectable Low Country and Southern country dishes. Service is solicitous, art provocative, food down-home and honest, and prices incredibly low. Open late weekends. L, D $$

Morton's of Chicago Steakhouse, 227 W. Trade St. (Carillon Building), 704-342-4222. Well known for steaks and elegance. Morton's has restaurants in 50 U.S. and international cities. Dinner only. $$$$

Palomino Restaurant, 525 N. Tryon St., 704-373-9499. A Seattle-based chain which serves uncomplicated dishes in a warm, vibrant and inviting atmosphere. Delightful patio fountain. L, D $$$

Red Sea Restaurant and Bar, 206 E. Independence Blvd., 704-375-4999. Small, bare bones restaurant serving flavorful Ethiopian food. L, D $$

Simmons Fourth Ward Restaurant, 516 N. Graham St., 704-334-6640. Classic Southern country recipes: smothered pork chops, mac & cheese, baked chicken with corn bread dressing, collard greens, barbecue ribs. B, L, D $$

Sonoma Bistro & Wine Bar, 129 W. Trade St., 704-377-1333. Owner Pierre Bader and chef Tim Groody team up to produce innovative New American cuisine with locally grown produce in an urban atmosphere. Award winning wine list. L, D $$$

East Charlotte

Brazas Brazilian Grill, 4508 E. Independence Blvd., 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. Many dishes are Brazilian specialties, others are just plain good. $$$

Dim Sum Chinese Restaurant, 2920-B Central Ave., 704-569-8959. Serves both excellent "real" and Americanized Chinese food with a wonderful dim sum assortment. Functional ambience. $$

El Loco Pollo, 3124 Eastway Dr. 520, 704-568-3600. These Peruvian dishes delight with a flavor dance of salsas, a freshness to the cerviche, a crispness to fried items, and an earthiness of potatoes and corn. Low-key setting. L, D $$

Gus's Sir Beef, 4101 Monroe Rd., 704-377-3210. Homespun Gus's is known for "Fresh My Farm" vegetables cooked without grease. If you want to be a Charlottean, you'll have to go for the fried squash. $

House of Chinese Gourmet, 5608 E. Independence Blvd., 704-563-8989. This friendly little place serves some dishes lacking in other Charlotte Chinese restaurants with helpful, friendly service. $$

Huong Viet, 4808 Central Ave., 704-537-8475. This little hole-in-the-wall serves up delicate, balanced Vietnamese dishes. L, D $$

Kabob House, Persian Cuisine, 6432 E. Independence Blvd., 704-531-2500. An array of Persian delights: tender charbroiled kabobs, polo and khoresht dishes, all reasonably priced. Building is not much to look at from the outside, but the interior is welcoming. L, D $$$

King and I Restaurant, 4800 Central Ave., 704-532-7511. Small, pristine Thai restaurant with flavorful dishes, and a solicitous, knowledgable staff. $$$

Kyoto Japanese/Korean Restaurant, 6404 Albemarle Rd., 704-569-1954. The Korean dishes are so authentic that the Korean menu is written in Korean script without benefit of translation. L, D $$

La Canasta Dominicana Restaurant, 4808 Central Ave., 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 Albermarle Rd., 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. Bilingual menu. $$

Lang Van, 3019 Shamrock Dr., 704-553-3864. Oldest Vietnamese restaurant in the city and has become one of the most popular ethnic restaurants, famous for their yellow pancakes. Delicious Vietnamese cuisine with lots of fresh herbs in creative combinations. L, D $$

Mamma Lena's Pasta & Pizza, 5135 Albemarle Rd., 704-568-0000. Pizza (cooked in a wood-burning oven) and pasta are both terrific, as is the fresh crusty bread. Unlimited salad or soup with entrees. $$

Mariscos La Mexicana, Mexican Seafood, 4400 Central Ave., 704-531-4500. Mexican coastal cuisine, primarily seafood, served in huge portions at reasonable prices. Bilingual menu and staff. L, D $$

Pho An Hoa, 4832 A-B Central Ave., 704-537-0060. Very tasty Vietnamese soup shop. $

Portofino Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, 3124 Eastway Dr., 704-568-7933. Wonderful rustic Neapolitan dishes at incredibly low prices. New York Style Pizza (large is 16 inch). Take out, too. $$

Restaurante El Pulgarcito, 4816 Central Ave., 704-563-6500. A bare bones shop specializing in pupusas, an El Salvadoran treat, and other Central American favorites. $

South 21 Drive In, 3101 E. Independence Blvd., 704-377-4509. Charlotte landmark since 1955, 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 Rd., 704-569-9193. Featuring excellent vegetarian idis, vadas, sambars, and rasams of Udipi, south India, served up with a flair. $$$

Elizabeth/Plaza-Midwood

Cajun Queen, 1800 E. 7th St., 704-377-9017. Friendly atmosphere, jazz, and terrific service highlight the complete New Orleans-style menu. D $$$

Cuisine Malaya, Malaysian Cuisine & Japanese Sushi Bar, 1411 Elizabeth Ave., 704-372-0766. Charlotte's only Malaysian restaurant seving first rate Roti Canai, Satay, Char Kway Teow and Beef Rendang. Sultry, yet sophisticated ambience and fine service. L, D $$$

Diamond Restaurant, 1901 Commonwealth Ave., 704-375-8959. Established in 1945, this is one of Charlotte's oldest restaurants. Good, solid homecooking with a down-home, almost small town touch. $

Dish, 1220 Thomas Ave., 704-344-0343. With an easygoing, yet retro, atmosphere and simple, but satisfying Southern including Low Country, Cajun and Tex-Mex fare this is the perfect neighborhood joint. $$

Ethan's of Elizabeth American Bistro, 366 N. Caswell Rd., 704-375-3007. Located in a charming old house in one of Charlotte's quaint neighborhoods, this comfortable bistro features the creative abilities of chef and owner Mark Martin who produces well-executed New American cuisine. $$$

Ibex Ethiopian Restaurant, 3200 Monroe Rd., 704-333-1818. A tasty berbere is used as the base for the piquant dishes. The 12-seat mesab room where the coffee service ceremony is held becomes a buffet at lunch; the main dining area is sparse. Ethiopian beer available. $$

John's Country Kitchen, 1518 Central Ave., 704-333-9551. 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. B, L $

Lupie's Cafe, 2718 Monroe Rd., 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, chili and vegetarian chili in town. $

Nova's Bakery, 1511 Central Ave., 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 Ave., 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-style barbecue, veggie burgers, fried pickles and pimento cheese sandwiches. $$

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

Lake Norman

Brooklyn South Pizzeria & Italian Eatery, 19911-C N. Cove Rd. (Cornelius), 704-948-7728. A typical New York style, family-owned, neighborhood pizzeria where items are served in large shareable portions and kept at a minimal price. $$

Ferrucci's Old Tyme Italian Market, 20910 Torrence Chapel Rd. (Cornelius), Shops on the Green, 704-896-3190. A few tables let you eat some of their homemade lasagna in-house, or take home some eggplant parmesan, or meats, cheeses and cold cuts. They grind their own Italian sausage. $

Greg's Famous B-B-Q, 233 S. Broad St. (Mooresville), 704-664-4848. The menu has everything from barbecue to lasagna, chicken to foot long hot dogs and all at unbelievably low prices. $$

Kudzu on South Broad, 259 S. Broad St. (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. L, D $$$

Lupie's Cafe, 101 Old Statesville Rd. (Huntersville), 704-948-3959. This funky, semi-legendary place is home to an eclectic, down-home hip clientele and a kitchen full of some of the best burgers, chili and vegetarian chili in town. $

Mama Mia Too at the Holbrook House, 101 Maxwell Ave. (Huntersville), 704-875-0505. New Yorkers love this place primarily featuring Southern Italian cuisine in a charming house in the center of town. $$$

Mickey & Mooch, 9723 Sam Furr Rd. (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. D $$$$

Royal Siam, 8301 Magnolia Estates Dr. (Cornelius), 704-892-4811. Exceptionally fresh Thai food. Everything made to order in house. $$$

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. $$$

Sekisui, 14211 Reese Rd. (Huntersville), 704-992-1234. Co-owner and chef Yoshi Takusagawa creates stunning Japanese cuisine in this neighborhood spot. A popular place during their "all you can eat sushi" hours. $$$$

Southend Brewery & Smokehouse, 19441 Old Jetton Rd. (Cornelius), 704-895-2739. A Charlotte-based brewpub that serves up their well-known Carolina Blonde and Olmstead Red. $$

Sushi @ The Lake, 19732 One Norman Rd. (Cornelius), 704-987-8080. This West Coast styled Sushi bar offers traditional sushi and grilled items. L, D $$$

Thai Grill, 19741 South Main Street (Cornelius), 704-655-8880. A neighborhood restaurant with fragrant soups and flavorful entrees. $$

Thai Marlai, 19700 One Norman Blvd. (Cornelius), 704-892-7191. For 20 years plus, owner Toi Rogers had Thai restaurants in Charlotte before launching this venture at Lake Norman, and she toils to make sure her patrons are happy. The menu features the usual fare, rarely mild, but spectacular specials. $$

The Soda Shop, 104 South Main St. (Davidson), 704-896-7743. The menu is crowded with gems that will convince you how delicious life can be in a small college town: chili, hot dogs, Reubens, tuna melts, chicken salad, club sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas, vegetarian selections, phosphates, and classic sundaes. $$

Matthews/Southeast Charlotte

Boardwalk Billy's, Crown Point, 1636 Sardis Rd. 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, crab legs, potatoes and corn on the cob. Serves food late. $$

The Fish Farm, 1200 Sam Newell Rd., 704-847-8578. Traditional fish camp food mixed with Southern country, steaks, and ribs. Set in a barn. $$$

Greg's Famous B-B-Q, 10915 Monroe Rd., 704-847-5035. The menu has everything from barbecue to lasagna, chicken to foot long hot dogs and all at unbelievably low prices. $$

Kristopher's Sports Bar & Restaurant, 250 N. Trade St., 704-845-6200. Popular sports bar with New York styled pizza, Buffalo wings, soups and sandwiches. $$

Mi Tierra Latino Grill & Fritanga, 11450 East Independence Blvd., Matthews Plaza, 704-845-0400. The Herrera family owns this gem which features a selection of Nicaraguan, Colombian, Cuban, and a few Mexican dishes. Feast on yuccas, plantains, flavorful grilled dishes and the Latino sauce triad: chimichurri, salsa encurtido, and mojo.

Raucci's on East John Street, 131 E. John St., 704-841-8282. Family owned Italian restaurant serving New York-styled southern Italian cuisine. Pizza at lunch only. This is hearty, but unobtrusive fare. L, D $$$

Taste of Asia, Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant, 9626 Monroe Rd., 704-846-2515. Fresh, large-portioned, and flavorful Vietnamese, Hunan and Szechuan cuisine prepared in an open kitchen. Eat in or take out. L, D $$

Township Grille, Matthews Festival, 10400 East Independence Boulevard, 704-847-2480. Matthews' version of Buffalo, NY, with great wings, roast beef on kummelweck rolls and a large selection of beers, including Genesee beer and cream ale. $

Yen's, 9010 Monroe Rd., 704-845-9444. Small, family owned Chinese restaurant which prepares many Chinese cuisines and offers solicitous service. $$

Myers Park

Fenwicks, 511 Providence Rd., 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. $$$

The Meeting House Restaurant, 801 Providence Rd., 704-334-6338. Located in a charming house in the center of Myers Park, this is a meeting place for the neighborhood crowd. Talented chef and owner Chris Zion was trained at Le Cordon Bleu, yet the dishes are American bistro. $$$

Providence Cafe, 110 Perrin Place, 704-376-2008. Gorgeous dining room and comfortable New American cuisine offers a neighborhood spot and place to linger in Charlotte's ultimate zip code. $$$

Volare Ristorante Italiano, 545-B Providence Rd., 704-370-0208. A small neighborhood spot in Charlotte's ultimate zip code with fabulous service and fine dishes which achieve Italian cuisine's reassuring freshness, along with an exquisite layering of flavors. $$$$

North Charlotte/University

Amalfi, Italian Cuisine, 8542 University City Blvd., 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. L, D $$

Boardwalk Billy's, UNCC, Shoppes at University Place, 8933-2 J.M. Keynes Dr., 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, crab legs, potatoes and corn on the cob. Serves food late. $$

Bombay Cuisine, 230 E. W.T. Harris Blvd., 704-503-5558. Exquisite Northern and Southern Indian dishes set before you in a setting where every detail has been noted. $$$

Boudreaux's Louisiana Kitchen, 501 E. 36th St., 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. L, D $$

Bubba's Barbecue, 4400 Sunset Rd., Exit 16 off I-77, 704-393-2000. Eastern NC-style barbecue. $

Cabo Fish Taco Baja Seagrill, 3201 N. Davidson St., 704-332-8868. Set in a humble NoDa historic building, these well crafted, tasty dishes will bring you back for regular feeding forays. There are vegetarian, chicken, and steak selections. L, D $$

Ciro's Italian Restaurant, 8927 J.M. Keynes Dr., #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. $$$

Fat City, 3127 N. Davidson St., 704-343-0240. This mainstay of the N. Davidson arts district serves a variety of sandwiches, salads and apps, with a good vegetarian selection. L, D $

Grandma's Country Kitchen, 6615 N. Tryon St., 704-392-0485. 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. W.T. Harris Blvd., 704-548-2432. A Florida based franchise that has been around since 1975, but is now primed again to catch the latest fondue wave. You will find all kinds of fondues: cheese, beef, seafood, chicken, and chocolate. $$$

Old Hickory House, 6538 N. Tryon St., 704-596-8014. Western-NC-styled barbecue at its finest. Sliced or chopped, served on paper wrapping, in a dining room that features a smoky hickory pit and a 60's (and TV's Bonanza) ambience. Cash only. $

Pineville/Hwy 51

Bombay Grille Indian Cuisine, 8706-Pineville-Matthews Rd., 704-542-3933. Spice laden entree dishes give a tasty overview of Indian cuisine. The chicken tikka masala is second to none in town. L, D $$$

Campania, 6414 Rea Rd., 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. D $$$$

Firebirds Rocky Mountain Grill, 7716 Rea Rd., 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, straighforward and have a southwestern flair. D $$$

Formosa Chinese Cuisine, 8200-400 Providence Rd., Arboretum Shopping Center, 704-540-3779. A casual spot featuring a mix of China's regional cooking and excelling in seafood dishes. Order from the second menu if you like more authentic offerings. $$

Katz New York, 8045 Providence Rd., in the 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 style. $$

Siboney Cuban Restaurant, 8706 Pineville-Matthews Rd., 704-542-2996. Featuring upscale Cuban dishes and mojitos set in a semitropical "courtyard." Expertly crafted dishes such as Cuban snapper and Pierna asada make their appearance here. 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. L, D $$

Tsukiji, 8320 Pineville-Matthews Rd., 704-543-4081. Less expensive than other sushi restaurants, and the sushi is pretty good. Other Japanese dishes offered. $$$

Waldhorn Restaurant, 12101 Lancaster Hwy. (Rt. 521), 704-540-7047. This restaurant is located in an imposing two-story Alpine building feted with geranium flower boxes. Chef and owner Thomas Maier's attentive care may cause you to jettison stereotypic views of German cuisine. From grilled duck breast in lingonberry sauce to wienerschnitzel, it's all good. L, D $$$

Wan Fu, 10719 Kettering Dr., 704-541-1688. Upscale Americanized Chinese restaurant in which dishes are beautifully presented. L, D $$$

South Charlotte

Bangkok Ocha, 7629-B Pineville-Matthews Rd., 704-544-7770. Thai dishes of complex intensity and flavor set in a small, but polished restaurant. L, D $$$

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. $

Bourbon Street Station, 6101 Old Pineville Rd., 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. L, D $$$

The Cupboard, 3005 South Blvd., 704-523-9934. One of the busiest of Charlotte's many home cooking restaurants. Great daily specials (don't miss the chicken pan pie) and legendary coconut pie. B, L, D $

Don Quijote, Restaurante Espanol, 4640 South Blvd., 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. L, D $$$

Harrigan's Gourmet Deli, 5033-K South Blvd., 704-522-3550. Traditional cold cut sandwiches on round bread, specialty "Dilbert" sandwiches, homemade salads and daily specials. $

Jaipur Indian Cuisine, 5909 South Blvd., 704-643-1421. 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 $$$

Luisa's Brick Oven, 1730 Abbey Pl., 704-522-8782. Brick oven-baked pizza plus other Italian dishes. Pizza available with innovative topping alternatives. Take out orders prepared quickly. $$

Mai Japanese Restaurant, 5906 South Blvd., 704-522-1515. Sushi chefs produce deftly cleaved wondrous rolls that taste sparklingly fresh. Robata grill, too. $$$

Mojo Restaurant & Spirits, 1812 Montford Drive, 704-523-0474. Not much in decor or ambiance, but a neighborhood spot to listen to music and feast on standard bar fare. D $$

Monsoon, Thai Cuisine Restaurant, 2801 South Blvd., 704-519-0066. The lush kang panang with chopped kaffir lime leaves and holy basil is a gift to the senses. The key to eating well here is going with friends and sharing a spate of dishes. $$$

Nectar, 1730-A E. Woodlawn Rd., 704-519-4174. A delightful neighborhood spot to refuel on global, but gussied up, fusion foods. Appetizer dishes to try include the Caribbean crab and shrimp cakes, and heady shrimp and chicken spring rolls. $$$

The Peaceful Dragon, Restaurant and Cultural Center, 12610 Steele Creek Rd., 704-504-8866. Chef Geoff Bragg, a Johnson & Wales culinary graduate, presents delightful Asian dishes, which are not only pretty on the plate, but good for you - in this vegan restaurant. $$

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

Portofino Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, 5126 Park Rd., 704-527-0702. Wonderful rustic Neapolitan dishes at incredibly low prices. Served in a casual atmosphere. New York style pizza (large is 16 inch). Take out, too. $$

The Press Box, 1627 Montford Dr., 704-523-4981. With a pub-like interior, this meeting place is a Charlotte tradition for burgers, sandwiches and salads. L, D $$

Restaurante Mi Tierrita, 5033-G South Blvd., 704-525-5781. The place is simple. The food is simple and is, perhaps, more comfortable with village tradition. But this is a fun place to explore rural Colombian cuisine. $$

The Roasting Company, 1601-A Montford Dr., 704-521-8188. Rotisserie chicken that falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. Excellent cornbread. $

Saigon Palace, 5215-B South Blvd., 704-529-0098. Delightful frothy tropical fruit shakes and hardy bowls of steaming 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 Rd., 704-525-2555. Quaint neighborhood pub ambience, but the food here is good. Caters to beer savants pouring seven drafts including Watney's and Whitbread. $$$

Sushi 101, Noodle & Sushi Bar, 1730-F East Woodlawn Rd., Shops at Woodlawn Rd., 704-672-0990. This upbeat spot offers a balance of conviviality, energy and informality with dishes that are uncomplicated and well-priced. Patio. Delivery available. $$

Villa Antonio, 4707 South Blvd., 704-523-1594. A wide ranging, expertly prepared selection of Northern Italian specialties and a fine wine list. Great service tops it off. $$$$

SouthPark/Cotswold

Baoding, 4722 Sharon Rd., Suite F., 704-552-8899. Named for Charlotte's sister city, this place offers funky, haute Chinese with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and unusual vegetarian selections. $$$

Barrington's Retaurant, 7822 Fairview Rd., 704-364-5755. Place is small, the wine list brief, but the food is powerful. Chef and 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 Blvd., 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 $$$

Hotel Charlotte, 705 S. Sharon Amity Rd., 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 Blvd., 704-364-9334. A SouthPark landmark bar known for salads, onion rings, and Pittsburgh-style steaks. $$$

Metropolitan Bakery, 7810 Fairview Rd., 704-362-1660. Breads baked in a Tavailler oven, European-influenced pastries and select gourmet products unavailable elsewhere in Charlotte. Some seating. Sandwiches. $$

Noble's, 6801 Morrison Blvd., 704-367-9463. A local version of award-winning Triad restaurant featuring American Regional cuisine in a graceful interior. $$$$

Original Pancake House, 4736 Sharon Rd., 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. B, L $$

P.F. Chang's China Bistro, 6809-F Phillips Place Court, 704-552-6644. Arizona chain. Upscale ethnic eatery, very popular with SouthPark work crowd. L, D $$$

Palm Restaurant, 6705 Phillips Pl. Ct., 704-552-7256. National chain excelling 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., 704-552-7256. Authentic NYC-style deli (without NYC prices) with friendly service, fresh breads and sumptuous cold cuts. $

Rick's Mediterranean Cuisine, 4219-3 Providence Rd., Strawberry Hill Shopping Center, 704-366-6887. Dine on an array of Med-rim food that is satiating, but not startling, and much of which is quite good. Located off a charming secluded piazza. L, D $$$

Shun Lee Palace, 4340 Cotswold Rd., 704-366-2025. A neighborhood tradition for dependable Hunan, Mandarin, and Szechuan cuisine. $$$

Upstream, 6902 Phillips Place Ct., 704-556-7730. Streams have always been an important component of Charlotte's geography and this stylish interior reminds one of a mountain stream. Executive Chef Tom Condron's dishes are delightfully harmonious and visually pleasing. L, D $$$$

Zebra Restaurant & Wine Bar, 4521 Sharon Rd., 704-442-9525. Chef and partner Jim Alexander's cooking is classical and luxurious, and the wine list is deep. Although located in an office building, the pine paneling and fireplace give it an intimate feel. B, L, D $$$$

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  • Good Eats

    Our critics' guide to recommended restaurants in Charlotte
  • Good Eats

    Our critics' guide to recommended restaurants in Charlotte
  • Goodeats

    Our critics' guide to recommended restaurants in Charlotte
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