What's happening, raji?
Being from Vermillion, South Dakota, I can't exactly say that I am local!
However, the gf's family lives in Charlotte, and I have been there numerous times throughout the last 3 years. While she goes to see her parents and brother, I go along for the food!
As far as fine dining goes, the best experience I have had thus far is Zebra
restaurant. Chef/Owner Jim Alexander (a former GA seafood chef champion and national Taste of Elegance winner) is doing some fantastic things with formal and accessible contemporary French food. We had the Chef's Grand Tasting with wine pairings, and the butter poached lobster on creamy risotto haunts me with its deliciousness to this day. A contender for best food around, and a huge wine list with options for all price levels. Definitely a must for the hardcore foodies visiting Charlotte.Upstream
is another wondeful establishment and is currently one of the more trendy spots to eat in Charlotte. Upstream is definitely an upscale locale, with Chef Tom Condron preparing grade-A day-boat seafood. The gf and I had our first great meal in Charlotte here; we began with some fresh crudos, for mains she had a perfectly cooked mahi mahi with mango and hearts of palm, and I had a "surf and turf" of grilled filet and two monstrous seared scallops. Another gem, and a very beautiful interior. This place is owned by a restaurant group called Harper's who, coincidentally, also own a gem called M5.
The other great Harper's establishment, M5
, is more of a lounge than a restaurant, but we had a nice dinner there the last time we were in town (late Dec.). I really enjoyed the setup of the menu, which is divided into starters (obviously), then meats, fish and sides depending on whether you wanted roasted, grilled, etc. To begin, we had the garlic chile shrimp. I got one of the nightly specials (often including special ingredients priced insanely cheap) - a mixed dish of shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops and lobster together with rice in a spicy marinara sauce...rich, filling, outstanding comfort food. One of the coolest things about M5 is their wine service. They have an option called "Wine Journeys" where you receive 3 pours of 3 oz. each of wines from a certain region. I chose the Red Journey to Spain and the gf went with the Journey to Greece. This was a great deal, as it allows you to try different wines, and the pours are most certainly more than 3 oz.! On a side note, we had the best server we have had in our entire Charlotte dining career at M5 - definitely try to get Matt, he's the man.
Another high end dining experience can be found at Noble's
- Chef Jim Noble's self-named flagship restaurant. We ate here after the Meineke Car Care Bowl in December, and this is what I consider to be the "nicest" restaurant in Charlotte. A beautiful interior, gorgeous presentation and the most extensive menu showcasing local and organic ingredients. As we were intending to go out for the night, we were looking for something that wasn't too heavy. I was a bit disappointed with the crispy fried calamari, but only because I had been expecting to be blown away - there wasn't anything wrong, per se, but I just wanted more from a restaurant of this caliber. The crabcake was quite good, with large chunks of crab in a very light and crispy exterior, but the sweetbreads stole the show - easily the best sweetbreads I have ever tasted. We also had the tasting of Noble's charcuterie, which was fine, and a crispy fried oyster salad, of which the oysters were fantastic. Noble's is a great experience overall, but you definitely pay the price for it.
On the opposite price spectrum, we had a romantic dinner at Luce
, which I consider to be the premier Italian joint in town. The high ceilings and soft yellow interior make for a beautiful dining experience, but the pasta is the real star here. A nice beef carpaccio was the starter, and the fresh shaved parmiggiano and truffle oil definitely elevated this dish. Mains were a veal piccata with lemon-caper butter sauce for me, and cheese-stuffed rigatoni and canelloni for the gf. Delicious pasta carries the day, and the low prices make this a must-try in Charlotte.
For the usual steakhouse, etc., we go to Ruth's Chris uptown, but Morton's, The Palm, and Sullivan's all get a lot of press for being top-tier steak restaurants.
If you are just looking for a great burger, a beer and a fun atmosphere, Big Daddy's Burger Bar
is the place to be. Hands-down, the best burger I have ever had - hugely customizable 100% grass-fed hormone free beef, with all kinds of condiments and add-ons at no extra charge. A very fun place to grab a bite to eat.
My favorite place in Charlotte, the one that I absolutely have to go to every time I am there, is Ilios Noche
. It's a Greek place that specializes in classic Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, and man do they do it up right. From the must-trys (saganaki, the octopus, souvlaki, whole striped bass, and the steak marsala) to the traditional Greek dishes like braised lamb shank and lamb oreganata, this place is the best food for the money in all of Charlotte. The most expensive thing on the menu is under $30, and the gigantic wood-burning stove and beautiful chandelier make dining here a treat!
Charlotte definitely has numerous great food options for all price ranges, and is a wonderful dining city! Let me know if you have any more questions about the scene...hope this helps!
Edited by lhollers, 04 February 2009 - 12:41 PM.