Throughout the year, Charlotte Magazine looked at the most buzzed-about openings, the most talented chefs, and the most interesting food trends. Their visits are anonymous, and each restaurant is locally owned (so no national chains). This list is Charlotte Magazine produced is based on quality, creativity, ambience, and service, and it’s in no particular order.
Below, you’ll find restaurants that opened in the past year, that not only made Charlotte Magazines list but are also some of our agents top picks!
The sun reflects off Lake Norman and fills Hello, Sailor with natural light—which is ideal for the dozens of Instagram shots diners take inside this chic fish-fry restaurant. Joe and Katy Kindred’s second restaurant is nothing like Kindred or The Rusty Rudder, which once occupied this space. But while you’re eating calabash shrimp in a mid-century modern dining room with a view of the lake’s ripples, you wouldn’t want Hello, Sailor to be anything else. 20210 Henderson Rd., Cornelius, 704-997-5365.
The flower-shaped Sakura sushi roll is the most beautiful dish on YUME’s menu, but the Sora box sushi—a square-shaped roll with tuna, eel, and avocado—packs the most flavor. And if ramen noodles are more to your liking, the vegan ramen’s spicy miso can be adjusted to suit your taste. The drink menu doesn’t offer standard domestic beers, so instead ask your server to recommend a Japanese lager or cocktail. 1508 Mint St., Ste. A, 980-858-5678
Mean to Be Shared
Ordering a cocktail can take some time at Zeppelin, but when a smoky old fashioned comes out on a platter, the hold-up makes sense. Don’t overlook the food, though. The fried green tomato caprese is an inventive take on the Southern starter, and Notorious P.I.G. puppies put a barbecued spin on hush puppies. The sweets change periodically, but don’t skip dessert if the Krispy Kreme and brioche bread pudding is on the menu. 235 Tremont Ave. 980-209-0008.
Not Your Mama’s Pasta
The pappardelle Bolognese and cioppino at Angeline’s are both excellent, but if you’re feeling adventurous, order a few of chef Robert Hoffman’s appetizers. The whipped ricotta with sourdough, lavender honey, and pistachio is an unexpected sweet-and-salty combo, and the lamb and pork meatballs are great for sharing. Ride the elevator to the 19th floor of the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel for a nightcap from its sister cocktail bar, Merchant & Trade. 303 S. Church St., 704-445-2540.
Foraged isn’t a word that chef William Dissen uses lightly on the menu at Haymaker; he actually combs through North Carolina for the best fungi for his foraged mushroom toast dish. Such details make Dissen’s restaurants (including The Market Place in Asheville and Billy D’s Fried Chicken at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro) a success, even as the new guy in town. For the main course, try the roasted pork shoulder with flowering cauliflower and cider jus. 225 S. Poplar St., 704-626-6116.
French food had a moment this year, especially if the crowds at uptown’s La Belle Helene tell us anything. There’s a lot to take in at LBH: the massive, bull’s-eye chandeliers hanging above, the rotisserie chickens twirling gently on a spit, the bartenders pouring the gin-based South Side cocktail. But there’s even more to eat; try a mix of pour commencer and plats from its Parisian menu, piloted by chef Michael Rouleau. 300 S. Tryon St., Ste. 100, 704-969-2550.
Raising the Bar
Brewers at 4001 Yancey
This LoSo brewery has more than just beer. Chef Drew Ward’s menu adds Southern flair to shareable dishes like the fried pork rinds and fries topped with jalapeño gravy and bacon crumbles. The Victory pretzel and Ward’s pizzas are all made with Victory Helles beer dough. For an entrée on the lighter side, try the Power Ahead salad with your choice of kale or lentils. For something more substantial, get the 8 Days a Week fried chicken with bacon and scalloped potatoes. 4001-A Yancey Rd., 704-452-4001.
For a printable checklist version of this list, click here.