Exploring the Delicious Cuisine of Charlotte, NC: What Makes it Unique?

Charlotte, North Carolina is a city that’s not just known for its Southern charm, but also for its mouth-watering cuisine. From barbecue to burgers, this city has a food scene that’s sure to satisfy any foodie’s cravings. In this article, we’ll dive into the unique culinary offerings that make Charlotte’s cuisine stand out from the rest. So, buckle up and get ready to explore the delicious world of Charlotte, NC’s food scene.

Charlotte’s Southern Roots

Charlotte, North Carolina, is known for its rich Southern heritage, and its cuisine is no exception. The city’s culinary scene is heavily influenced by its Southern roots, offering a wide array of traditional dishes that showcase the region’s unique flavors and culinary traditions. In this section, we will explore two iconic Southern dishes that are synonymous with Charlotte’s culinary scene: Carolina-Style BBQ and Sweet Potato Pie.

Carolina-Style BBQ

Carolina-Style BBQ is a staple of Charlotte’s culinary scene, and for good reason. This slow-cooked, vinegar-based barbecue is known for its tender, smoky flavor and tangy sauce. Must-try dishes include pulled pork, sliced brisket, and ribs, all served with a variety of sauces and sides, such as coleslaw, baked beans, and corn on the cob.

Some of the top BBQ spots in Charlotte include:

  • Lexington Barbecue: This legendary joint is known for its signature “Sauce” and “Cosce” sandwiches, made with pulled pork and coleslaw, respectively.
  • The Original Café of Charlotte: This family-owned restaurant has been serving up Carolina-Style BBQ since 1945, and is known for its mouthwatering chopped pork sandwiches and homemade chicken and dressing.
  • Smokeology: This modern BBQ joint offers a unique twist on traditional Carolina-Style BBQ, with creative dishes like the “Brisket Rueben” and the “BBQ Sushi Roll.”

Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet Potato Pie is a Southern staple that is beloved in Charlotte and beyond. This classic dessert is made with sweet potatoes, spices, and a flaky crust, and can be found in many variations throughout the region. From traditional pies to more experimental flavors, such as pecan and chocolate, the possibilities are endless.

Some of the best places to find a slice of Sweet Potato Pie in Charlotte include:

  • The Original Café of Charlotte: This charming diner serves up classic Sweet Potato Pie that is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.
  • Amelie’s Bakery: This popular bakery offers a variety of pies, including a delicious Sweet Potato Pie with a crisp, flaky crust.
  • Peculiar Pretzel: This quirky bakery offers a unique twist on the classic dessert, with flavors like cinnamon roll and apple pie.

Overall, Charlotte’s Southern roots are evident in its cuisine, from the tangy flavors of Carolina-Style BBQ to the warm, comforting taste of Sweet Potato Pie. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, exploring the city’s culinary scene is a must-do experience that is sure to leave you craving more.

Charlotte’s International Flavors

Key takeaway: Charlotte, North Carolina is known for its rich Southern heritage, which heavily influences its cuisine. Two iconic Southern dishes, Carolina-Style BBQ and Sweet Potato Pie, are synonymous with the city’s culinary scene. Charlotte also offers a diverse international flavor, with Asian and Latin American cuisines being particularly prominent. The city’s food scene is thriving, with farmers markets, craft breweries, and chef-owned restaurants providing unique dining experiences. Charlotte’s culinary future looks bright with the growth of emerging cuisines and its diverse population.

Asian Influences

Asian cuisine has made a significant impact on Charlotte’s culinary scene, with Japanese and Korean flavors being particularly prominent. From sushi to Korean barbecue, there is a wealth of delicious Asian-inspired dishes to discover in the city.

  • Japanese and Korean cuisine: Charlotte is home to a number of excellent Japanese and Korean restaurants, each offering their own unique take on traditional dishes. For sushi lovers, there are plenty of options to choose from, with everything from classic rolls to inventive creations featuring local ingredients. Korean barbecue is also popular, with many restaurants offering all-you-can-eat options featuring a variety of meats and vegetables.
  • Popular dishes and restaurants: Some of the most popular Asian dishes in Charlotte include ramen, udon, and bao buns. Many of the city’s best Asian restaurants specialize in these dishes, as well as offering a range of small plates and entrees that showcase the flavors of Japan and Korea.
  • Charlotte’s favorite Asian food markets: For those looking to experience the full range of Asian flavors, the city’s food markets are a must-visit. These markets offer a chance to sample a variety of dishes from different vendors, as well as shop for unique ingredients and cookware.
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Latin American Fusion

Latin American cuisine has also found a home in Charlotte, with Mexican and Central American flavors being particularly well-represented. From tacos to tamales, there is no shortage of delicious Latin American dishes to try in the city.

  • Mexican and Central American cuisine: Charlotte is home to a number of excellent Mexican and Central American restaurants, each offering their own unique take on traditional dishes. Tacos are a particular favorite, with many restaurants offering a variety of fillings and toppings to choose from. Tamales, enchiladas, and other classic dishes are also popular, as are the various salsas and other sauces that accompany them.
  • Charlotte’s best Latin American restaurants: Some of the city’s best Latin American restaurants include La Leyenda, Café Amelie, and Doski Bella. These restaurants offer a range of dishes from different regions of Mexico and Central America, as well as unique cocktails and other beverages.
  • Signature dishes to try: Some of the most popular Latin American dishes in Charlotte include ceviche, quesadillas, and empanadas. These dishes are often made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and are served with a variety of sauces and accompaniments.

The Best of Charlotte’s Food Scene

Farmers Markets

  • Locally sourced produce and products
    • Shoppers can expect to find an array of fresh fruits and vegetables, artisanal baked goods, and locally produced items such as honey, cheese, and handmade crafts at Charlotte’s farmers markets.
    • The Charlotte Regional Farmers Market at 1801 N. Mint St. is one of the largest and most popular farmers markets in the city, offering a wide selection of locally grown produce and products every Saturday and Sunday.
    • For a more intimate market experience, visitors can check out the 7th Street Public Market at 1601 E. 7th St., a European-style indoor market featuring a variety of vendors selling fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and prepared foods.
  • Tips for a great shopping experience
    • Arrive early to get the best selection of goods.
    • Bring reusable bags or backpacks to carry purchases.
    • Take cash, as some vendors may not accept credit cards.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask vendors for recommendations or advice on cooking and preparing their products.

Craft Breweries

  • A thriving beer scene
    • Charlotte’s craft brewery scene has experienced significant growth in recent years, with over 30 breweries now operating within the city limits.
    • Visitors can expect a wide variety of beer styles, from hoppy IPAs to rich stouts, as well as a welcoming atmosphere and knowledgeable staff at each brewery.
  • Top breweries to visit
    • The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, located in the South End neighborhood, is one of the oldest and most well-known breweries in Charlotte, offering a wide selection of traditional German-style beers.
    • NoDa Brewing Company, located in the trendy NoDa neighborhood, is known for its innovative and flavorful beers, including the popular Hop, Drop ‘Em, and Roll IPA.
    • Birdsong Brewing, located in the Elizabeth neighborhood, is a small, independent brewery with a focus on sustainability and community involvement, offering a unique and welcoming atmosphere for visitors.
  • Must-try beers
    • Visitors should be sure to try a selection of IPAs, stouts, and other popular beer styles at each brewery they visit.
    • The Carolina Heist at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery is a crisp, refreshing lager that is a local favorite.
    • NoDa Brewing Company’s Hop, Drop ‘Em, and Roll IPA is a bold, hoppy beer with a fruity aroma and flavor.
    • Birdsong Brewing’s Morning Gory coffee stout is a rich, flavorful beer with a hint of coffee aroma and flavor.
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Savoring the Experience

Food Tours

Exploring Charlotte’s culinary offerings is an exciting way to discover the city’s unique flavors and diverse dining scene. Whether you choose a guided tour or a self-guided adventure, food tours offer a fun and engaging way to experience the city’s best eats.

Here are some of the top food tours to consider:

  • Charlotte Food Tours: This tour company offers both guided and self-guided options, allowing you to explore the city’s best restaurants and hidden gems. You’ll taste your way through the city, from classic Southern dishes to international flavors.
  • Queen City Food Tours: This tour company offers a variety of food-focused adventures, including a “Sunday Fun Day” tour that explores the city’s best brunch spots, and a “Charlotte Brewery Experience” tour that visits some of the city’s top breweries.
  • Charlotte’s Got a Lot Food Tours: This tour company offers a range of themed tours, including a “Gastropub Crawl” and a “Food Truck Frenzy” tour. You’ll visit some of the city’s most unique and delicious eateries, all while learning about the city’s history and culture.

Chef-Owned Restaurants

Charlotte is home to many chef-owned restaurants, offering a unique dining experience that showcases the city’s culinary talent. From fine dining to casual eateries, these restaurants offer a behind-the-scenes look at the passion and inspiration that goes into creating delicious dishes.

Here are some of the top chef-owned restaurants in Charlotte:

  • The Asbury: This restaurant, located in the heart of the city’s South End neighborhood, is owned by Chef John Rush. The menu features Southern-inspired dishes with a modern twist, and the restaurant’s cocktail program is also top-notch.
  • Lulu’s Burger: This burger joint, located in the NoDa neighborhood, is owned by Chef Juju Wilson. The menu features creative burger options, along with classic sides like fries and onion rings.
  • Figure Eight: This restaurant, located in the city’s Elizabeth neighborhood, is owned by Chef Ari Feingold. The menu features New American dishes with a focus on locally-sourced ingredients. The restaurant’s atmosphere is chic and sophisticated, making it a great spot for a special occasion.

By exploring Charlotte’s culinary offerings through food tours and chef-owned restaurants, you’ll get a taste of the city’s unique flavors and diverse dining scene. Whether you’re a foodie looking for the latest culinary trends or simply looking to enjoy some delicious dishes, Charlotte’s food scene has something for everyone.

Charlotte’s Culinary Future

Emerging Cuisines

Ethiopian and Thai cuisine

As the population of Charlotte continues to grow and diversify, so too does the city’s culinary scene. Two emerging cuisines that are quickly gaining popularity in the Queen City are Ethiopian and Thai cuisine.

Ethiopian cuisine is known for its unique flavors and spices, as well as its traditional communal dining experience. In Charlotte, visitors can find a variety of Ethiopian restaurants offering dishes such as injera (a sourdough flatbread) and wat (a vegetable or meat stew) served with a variety of sauces and spices.

Thai cuisine, on the other hand, is known for its bold and spicy flavors, as well as its diverse range of dishes that offer something for everyone. In Charlotte, visitors can find a variety of Thai restaurants offering dishes such as pad thai, green curry, and tom kha soup.

Charlotte’s growing diversity

The growth of Charlotte’s population has been driven in part by an influx of immigrants from all over the world, bringing with them their own unique culinary traditions and flavors. This has led to a diverse and vibrant food scene that is constantly evolving and adapting to new tastes and trends.

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As more and more people from different cultures call Charlotte home, the city’s food scene is becoming increasingly diverse, with new restaurants and cuisines popping up all the time. This means that there is always something new and exciting to try for foodies in the Queen City.

What’s next for the city’s food scene

As Charlotte continues to grow and evolve, so too will its food scene. In the coming years, we can expect to see even more diversity and innovation in the city’s culinary offerings. Whether it’s new and emerging cuisines or new twists on old favorites, the food scene in Charlotte is sure to continue to be a source of excitement and inspiration for both locals and visitors alike.

Overall, the future of Charlotte’s culinary scene looks bright, with plenty of opportunities for growth and innovation. As the city continues to attract new people and new ideas, we can expect to see a wide range of new and exciting dining options emerge, making Charlotte a must-visit destination for foodies from all over the world.


1. What is Charlotte, NC known for in terms of cuisine?

Charlotte, NC is known for its diverse and vibrant food scene, which offers a wide range of cuisines to suit all tastes and preferences. However, the city is particularly famous for its Southern cuisine, which includes dishes like barbecue, fried chicken, collard greens, and cornbread. The city is also home to a thriving Mexican food scene, with numerous taquerias and restaurants serving up authentic Mexican dishes. Additionally, Charlotte has a growing international food scene, with options ranging from Ethiopian to Thai cuisine.

2. What are some must-try dishes in Charlotte, NC?

There are many must-try dishes in Charlotte, NC, but some of the most popular include Carolina-style barbecue, which is slow-cooked and typically served with a vinegar-based sauce; fried chicken, which is often served with a side of waffles or biscuits; and collard greens, which are a staple Southern vegetable dish. Other popular dishes include shrimp and grits, fried catfish, and banana pudding.

3. What are some popular restaurants in Charlotte, NC?

There are many popular restaurants in Charlotte, NC, but some of the most highly-rated include The Pecan Grove, which serves up Southern comfort food; Heirloom, which offers farm-to-table dishes; and The Southern Steak & Oyster, which features a variety of steak and seafood dishes. Other popular restaurants include Honeybee’s Kitchen, which serves up soul food, and Amélie’s French Bakery, which offers a variety of French pastries and desserts.

4. Are there any food festivals or events in Charlotte, NC?

Yes, there are several food festivals and events in Charlotte, NC, throughout the year. Some of the most popular include the Carolina Barbecue Festival, which celebrates all things barbecue; the Charlotte Restaurant Week, which showcases the city’s culinary scene; and the Taste of Charlotte, which features samples from numerous local restaurants. Other events include the North Carolina Wine & Cheese Festival and the Carolina Farmers Market.

5. How does the food scene in Charlotte, NC compare to other cities?

The food scene in Charlotte, NC, has been rapidly growing and evolving in recent years, with numerous new restaurants and food businesses popping up all over the city. While it may not yet be on par with some of the larger food cities like New York or San Francisco, it is quickly becoming a food destination in its own right, with a diverse range of cuisines and dining options to choose from.

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