If you want to find the best spot in a city how do you go about that? I’d start by asking a person where they’d go if they would only eat one meal in that location. Which begs the question, if you only have one meal in Charlotte where should you eat it? Perhaps you’re on a long layover, or stopping through on a drive. In a city with endless options for meals, how do you know where to pick? I like to avoid chain restaurants or at least ones I can eat at home, when I travel. So that rule applies here as well, with one exception. But in order to correctly answer this question I first have to ask one of you. Which meal are you eating? That of course factors into where I’d tell you to go.

So I have your answer, but it’s all based on that meal. But don’t worry I’ve answered the question for every possible meal- breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, cocktails, small plates/apps, and more. You’ll find 11 different restaurants or in some cases bars below that I, as well as some trusted confidants, feel are the best choices of where to go in Charlotte. Of course, these may not be every single person’s favorites but I can bet they are places you’ll enjoy. So if you’re traveling through Charlotte or just attempting to find the best of the best of the city’s culinary scene this is for you.

So now it’s time to answer the question, if you only have one meal in Charlotte where should you go?

  • Breakfast - The Original Pancake House

    This breakfast spot with locations in Southpark and Midtown is the best around and has been for 20+ years. All the dishes are made from scratch, and if you can think of a flavor of pancake they probably have it. Other favorite menu items are eggs and omelets, crepes, homemade waffles, and crepes. My personal choice? Try the pumpkin pecan pancakes, and of course, get a side of their delicious bacon. They also serve lunch, though I had admittedly never tried it. The Original Pancake House doesn’t take reservations so you may have to wait, but it’s worth it!

    View the menu here.

  • Brunch- Snooze an A.M. Eatery

    The difference between breakfast and brunch? Well mimosas of course. And the ones at Snooze are top notch. The key to a wonderful mimosa in my opinion is the ratio of juice to champagne. You also get bonus points for juice offerings that aren’t just orange. Snooze checks both of those options. I order the “Just A Splash” with whatever juice I’m in the mood for that day. Luckily I can walk home! The food is fantastic as well. Try the OMG French Toast or Strawberry Pancakes for a sweet tooth and combine that with the Smashed Avocado Benny or Habenero Pork Benny. There are several locations including Southend, Plaza Midwood, and SouthPark.

    View the full menu here.

  • Lunch- Optimist Hall

    Was this kind of the easy way out? Maybe. But it also felt like the only correct option for lunch. Optimist Hall is a food hall located in Charlotte’s Camp North End Area. It features a variety of food options from restaurants many of which have full service Charlotte locations.If you’re like me and want to sample a little bit of everything or split with your friends this is the way to go. Try Papi Queso Grilled Cheese, Famous Harriots Hamburgers, or Boxcar Betty’s. Wash it down with a drink from the Spindle Bar or Billy Sunday, and then you have some great dessert options from Suarez Bakery and Honeysuckle Gelato.

    View all the tenants and their menus here.

  • Dinner- Supperland

    It will cost you but I promise it’s worth it and this is the choice if you only have one meal in Charlotte. Located in a restored mid-century church in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood neighborhood, Supperland is a southern steakhouse with a self-described “unusual, whimsical menu”. Try the oysters or Sausage Gravy Croquettes for an appetizer. For dinner go with one of the steak options or the Wagyu Pot Roast. The sides are shareable southern comfort foods with a twist including Miso Mac & Cheese and Bonemarrow Brocolli. 

    View the full menu here.

  • Small Plates- The Degenerate

    I haven’t tried anything at the Degenerate that wasn’t fantastic. This is the local spot to go to for tapas or small plates. Bring a group to share or heck order it all for yourself. Who am I to judge? Some of my favorites include the Churrasco Steak, pork lettuce wrap tacos, gnocchi, and pan-seared duck. Save room for dessert because the churros are to die for, and I’m not even a big churro fan.

    See the full menu here.

  • Bar Bites- Selwyn Pub

    For snackable bar bites perhaps washed down with their signature transfusions, look no further than Myers Park Neighborhood staple Selwyn Pub. Think of your favorite go-to bar bites such as wings, fried pickles, a combined basket of fries and tots, mozzarella sticks, and toasted ravioli, it’s all so good. Parking and spots on the patio can be at a premium but you’ll enjoy your time and live like a local.

    See the full menu here.

  • BBQ- Noble Smoke

    I sort of invented this category as it’s not really a meal but it felt like a crime to include a BBQ spot on this list. It just didn’t fit in any of the obvious categories. Whether you want pork bbq, chicken, turkey (a sleeper favorite for sure), or incredible brisket, you’ll find it at Noble Smoke. The menu also includes homemade sausage, wings, and ribs. Choose a few and and on some southern sides like collard greens, butter beans, slaw, or mac and cheese. They have a great selection of locally brewed beers. And the daily pie is a great choice for dessert.

    See the full menu here.

  • Cocktails- The Cotton Room at Belfast Mill

    You could easily walk right past The Cotton Room but that would be a mistake. If you’re looking for a place to get notable craft cocktails in Charlotte, this is your place. This Southern Speakeasy is home to numerous unique cocktails that will have you dreaming of coming back until you get the chance to. Perhaps your drink of choice is a unique twist on an Old Fashioned, The Wild Thyme pictured above, or the Smoke & Mirrors.

    View the full menu here.

  • Beer- Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

    Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

    Charlotte is home to a plethora of breweries, it can be hard to go wrong. But if you only have the chance to visit one, it’s got to be the original- Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Grab a flight and enjoy it in their spacious outdoor are. The most well known and popular beers include Copper, Captian Jack, and Hornet’s Nest.

    See the full beer list Here.

  • Wine- Dilworth Tasting Room

    If there is any category I’m qualified to make my opinion known in, it’s this one for sure. If you’re going to have a glass of wine in Charlotte it needs to be on the patio at Dilworth Tasting Room’s Dilworth location. The back garden patio as pictured above, is the perfect backdrop for any glass of wine. And the ones you’ll try at Dilworth are top notch. I’d recommend a flight, or they have specials on Rose on Thursday. If someone you’re with isn’t a big wine drinker they have some high-quality cocktail options as well. And what’s wine without charcuterie?

    See the full menu here.

  • Late Night- Midnight Diner

    If your one meal in Charlotte happens to be late night then Midnight Diner is the place to be. This classic diner recently relocated but it’s as good as ever and open 24 hours. Get your breakfast fix, try a burger, some firecracker shrimp, spaghetti, grilled cheese, or a fish plate. In true diner fashion whatever you want they probably have it. Making Midnight Diner the late night go-to in Charlotte.

    See the full menu here.

  • Dessert- Amelie's French Bakery

    I’m a lover of macarons (among other French pastries) so Amelie’s is my obvious choice for dessert. My go-to is the salted caramel macaron, but perhaps I can interest you in a lemon bar, Oreo Entremet, or brownie cheesecake tart? Amelie’s has several area locations.

    See the full menu here.

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