Written by: Jaii Fredregill
Destination: Charlotte, NC
Visited: December 2017
I don't often get lonely when I travel solo because I interact with a lot of people and I'm typically busy. But, we all have to eat, and hunger on the road always lets me know it’s just about time for another awkward table for one moment.
Some cities are kinder to strangers than others. Charlotte, NC is the friendliest destination I have visited recently. It would take years to try all of the restaurants, bakeries, and bars in this city, but here are a few I found exceptional in both food and service.
I made a return visit for the french onion grilled cheese and I would do it again
The Peculiar Rabbit
1212 Pecan Ave, Charlotte, NC 28205
I wandered into The Peculiar Rabbit for a dirty martini, but after a friendly waitress brought me the menu, I decided to come back for lunch the next day to try the french onion grilled cheese.
This sandwich is nuts. It's like a patty melt had a baby with a french dip, and if you can eat it all by yourself, you should feel very proud, and very full.
Even in early-December, it was still warm enough to enjoy the outdoor patio, and if I'm back in the summer, I will be heading to the rooftop seating area for sure.
What’s good: Dirty martini, French onion grilled cheese USD 13.00 with Mama’s Little Yella Pils USD 6.00 made by Oskar Blues Brewery, celebrated by hipsters everywhere for their Dale’s Pale Ale.
I don't even like hushpuppies and I like the hushpuppies at Midwood Smokehouse.
1401 Central Ave, Charlotte, NC 28205
Midwood Smokehouse has multiple locations including one in nearby Columbia, SC. I have been to two and both are comfortable eating houses serving their signature Bar B.Q. in traditional and modern preparations.
What’s Good: Hushpuppies, ½ Order USD 3.00, Brisket USD 13.00-18.00 and Banana Pudding USD 2.50.
Enjoy The Diamond's extended hours until 4 am Friday and Saturday.
The Diamond Restaurant
1901 Commonwealth Ave, Charlotte, NC 28205
I always have and always will love American diners. The Diamond’s menu is a mix of American comfort food and a few traditional Greek plates that were added to the menu in 1984 when a gentleman of Greek heritage named Gerry Pistiolis bought the business. You will eat well here any time of day, but for a late night breakfast once the bars have closed this is the place to be. There is also a full bar for those who would rather skip the bar scene.
What’s Good: Burgers USD 5.95+. The Diamond in the Rough waffle sandwich loaded with eggs, bacon, and cheese USD 7.95. All perfect for sharing, especially after a night of cocktails.
Make new friends at Common Market.
The Common Market
2007 Commonwealth Ave
The Common Market has multiple locations, but they all seem to receive high praise from the locals. The Midwwod Plaza location is a great neighborhood place with a funky punk rock vibe for friendly people looking for somewhere to kick it. I initially thought it was just a deli and went in to buy milk for my morning coffee. When I realized what a cool, down-to-earth spot I'd found, I stuck around to enjoy a couple of pints of Hoppy Holidays made by NoDa Brewing Company. Here is a link to the market's drink specials and what’s on tap http://commonmarketisgood.com/our-story.
What’s Good: Beer and milk (consumed separately).
Word on the street is the best time to check out NoDa Bodega is for weekend brunch complete with a full Bloody Mary bar.
1200 E 36th St
I pulled into a parking lot to answer my phone and as I hung up my Facebook app stalked me and alerted me that I was about 100-feet from the NoDa Bodega, so I decided to check it out. Inside I found everything you could ever want in a deli. There’s an assortment of chips so vast that it takes up nearly an entire wall, a cooler full of drink selections on par with the chip options and a well-stocked display case packed with deli indulgences like potato salad, deviled eggs and desserts all made in-house from scratch.
I ordered the chicken salad melt from the rotating sandwich menu and took a seat at the old school lunch counter. The owner was in that day and was kind enough to chat me up about Charlotte's history and current demographics. On another trip to Charlotte I stopped in and was happy to see they had deviled eggs available. If you're a fan of updated comfort foods, this bodega is probably for you.
What’s Good: Deviled eggs and the Chicken salad sandwich USD 8.00.
The Living Kitchen's vegan burrito wrapped in a collard leaf for those looking for a lighter option.
Located in Atherton Mill
2000 South Blvd #300
I needed a break from meat and beer, so I decided to try out Charlotte’s vegan scene and was happy to find that there are a lot of options for vegetarians and vegans in this city. The food scene is multi-cultural so Indian, Greek and Latin food is plentiful for non-meat eaters. There is also a thriving scene for the health conscious. Vegetarian and plant-based options are available at most eating establishments, and several places serve only vegetarian and vegan fare.
Luna’s Living Kitchen in the Dillworth neighborhood was one that came highly recommended. When I came across their vegan burrito wrapped in a collard leaf I knew this was the place, so off I went.
It may not seem like it's possible, but this was very filling vegan burrito. Be sure to try the fire and brimstone hot sauce if you like a little spice. When you’ve finished your belly will be satisfied, and your hands will smell like you’ve eaten a super burrito from San Francisco's Mission district.
What’s Good: Living Burrito USD 10.50 and Pura Vida Juice USD 8.95
Back to meat and beer at Mac's Speed Shop.
Mac’s Speed Shop
2511 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203
Mac's, like Midwood Smokehouse, has multiple locations and is often a given as a recommendation for BBQ in Charlotte. People flock here not just for the food but for the atmosphere. There's a full bar that includes several beers on tap. Sit at this bar, and you are very likely to find yourself engaged in conversation with the other patrons in no time flat.
What's Good: Lean Carolina brisket served with a slice of white bread USD 12.00 per person and Collards USD 2.00 per person.