A Taste of Charlotte

The Queen City’s culinary credentials continue to mount

A spread of fried chicken, veggies, salad, and mushrooms on plates against a marble background

Photo: Coquette

Dinner at Coquette.

The prognosticators have been saying it for years: Charlotte, once a mecca for corporate chophouses, is poised to become the South’s next big food city. Or maybe it’s already achieved that distinction thanks to a thriving culinary scene known as much for authentic Vietnamese, Japanese, and Ethiopian flavors as iconic Carolina barbecue and, yes, great steak. No matter where you rank it, the Queen City is an increasingly unmissable destination for anyone who loves to eat.

Take it from Jon Dressler, the owner of Rare Roots Hospitality, operator of six Charlotte eateries. Dressler moved to Charlotte in 1997 to run Morton’s Steakhouse and has witnessed the city’s steady culinary evolution. “When I moved here, it was nearly only national chains. There were maybe half a dozen local restaurants that had good reputations. Flash forward twenty-seven years, and we have killer restaurants serving everything you can imagine.”

photo: Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
In the kitchen at Restaurant Constance.

Dressler is a big part of that scene, starting with Dressler’s Metropolitan, his classic white-tablecloth venue. “It’s not a traditional steakhouse, which is often dark and clubby. This is a light and airy place with different takes on food,” he says. Add to that two small-plate concepts, a bakery, a jazz club restaurant, and a Mediterranean spot, and he’s about as connected to the local culinary community as you can get. 

But perhaps his most brilliant concept was a tagline he came up with for his locally sourced menus: “Support the state on your plate.” There’s no trademark pending, but Charlotte might as well make it a city-wide motto. “Our farmers define the food we serve here,” Dressler says. That mantra is echoed at Restaurant Constance, a “no-concept” eatery where the season dictates the menu and where chef Sam Diminich relies on food grown by local farms to plate dishes like shrimp crepes, stuffed trout, and kuri butternut squash soup.  

photo: courtesy of puerta
The bar at Puerta.

Charlotte’s culinary renaissance extends beyond the fields into the explosion of eclectic new restaurants opened in the last year. Imagine spending an evening indulging in Colombian tapas like carrot barbecue at Muraya, then sipping a nightcap at Lorem Ipsum, the city’s inaugural Black-owned listening bar. Then waking up the next day for a brunch of oeufs à la ratatouille and crème brulée French toast at Coquette before brewery hopping and then, naturally, making the difficult choice of where to have dinner. Should it be a decadent fireside chop at The Fox & Falcon by David Burke, or do you treat yourself to late-night Mexican (and live deejays) at Puerta

photo: Justin Driscoll
Dinner at The Fox & Falcon.

“I believe so strongly that your food and beverage scene reflects the community you live in,” Dressler says. “We’ve got a vibrant scene with great local chefs pushing the envelope, from Peruvian to Cuban to Mediterranean to Ethiopian. Charlotte is just a cool city for food.”

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