THE FOLLOWING UPTOWN RESTAURANTS (defined as within the I-277 loop) are recommended by restaurant writer Helen Schwab.
HALCYON Sited in uptowns Mint Museum, this gorgeous space offers "farmhouse chic" -- a menu rich in seasonal area foodstuffs, with a playful bent. Dont miss the cocktails. Lunch ($7-$16), dinner ($11-$37). 500 S. Tryon St.; 704-910-0865; halcyonflavors.com.
HARVEST MOON Since the chef co-owns Grateful Growers, an area farm known for its pork, youll find plenty of that -- but also produce, cheeses and other proteins, most from around here, in this historic hotel setting. Earthy and usually simple. Breakfast ($6-$12), lunch ($6-$14) and dinner ($16-$21). 235 N. Tryon St. at the Dunhill hotel; 704-342-1193; harvestmoongrillecharlotte.com.
ROOSTERS Grab a seat at the bar if you want to watch this kitchen in action producing spit-fire-roasted chicken, leg of lamb, vegetables all sorts of ways and more. You can also loll at a table, but youll miss a good show. Lunch ($6-$13) and dinner (proteins $9-$18; sides $6-$10). 150 N. College St., 704-370-7667; roosterskitchen.com
MIMOSA GRILL A varied lineup with Southern twists, from Carolina Gold grits risotto to short rib with Anson Mills farro. Lunch ($10-$15) and dinner ($20-$34). 327 S. Tryon St.; 704-343-0700; http://www.harpersgroup.com/mimosa.asp
KINGS KITCHEN Chef-owner Jim Noble runs this bastion of well-turned-out Southern classics (notably skillet-fried chicken and killer cakes from next-door Kings Bakery) as a not-for-profit, aiming to help the hungry. Lunch ($6-$13) and dinner ($9-$24). 129 W. Trade St.; 704-375-1990; kingskitchen.org.
MERTS HEART & SOUL Southern food from varied influences soul food to NAwlins favorites to updated hybrids brighten the plates here, as does the sprightly decor. Cornbread, salmon cakes and perfectly cooked cabbage are standouts. Lunch ($5-$8), dinner ($10-15), weekend brunch. 214 N. College St.; 704-342-4222; mertscharlotte.com.
For BARBECUE, you've got two new uptown places specializing in it: CITY SMOKE (100 N. Tryon St.; 704-376-2295; citysmokeclt.com) and QUEEN CITY Q (225 E. 6th St.; 704-334-8437; http://www.queencityq.com). Here, we mean pulled pork when we say barbecue, but both also offer ribs, chicken and brisket.
BLT STEAK Next to the luxe lounge at the Ritz-Carlton hotel uptown is a steak place with plenty for the less beefily inclined, and an elegance befitting its setting. Dont miss Urban Sip upstairs (15th floor) for drinks, and Bar Cocoa offers desserts-etc. Lunch ($11-$26); dinner ($16-$55). 110 N. College St.; 704-972-4380; e2hospitality.com/blt-steak-charlotte.
BLUE A Mediterranean place uptown that means it, this incorporates dishes from Morocco, Tunisia and more, with both traditional preparations and contemporary spins, in a beautiful dining room. Dinner ($19-$35). 214 N. Tryon St. in the Hearst Tower; 704-927-2583; bluecharlotte.com.
LUCE An evocative, Murano-lit uptown haven of Italian fare from gnocchi to veal shanks, where small plates, pastas and entrees split the lineup almost evenly. Lunch ($10-$17) and dinner ($15-$30). 214 N. Tryon St. at the Hearst Tower; 704-344-9222; conterestaurantgroup.com/luce.
MCNINCH HOUSE In this intimate Victorian house in historic Fourth Ward are multi-course dinners by reservation only. Call and you get a list of entree choices; the kitchen sets the rest of the courses. $89 for seven courses (other options $59-$129). 511 N. Church St.; 704-332-6159; mcninchhouserestaurant.com.
STEAKHOUSES (national upscale chains, that is): BLT (mentioned above), Capital Grille (201 N. Tryon St., 704-348-1400; thecapitalgrille.com), Chima (a Brazilian churrascaria, in case you don't know it; all-you-can-eat meats served on swords!: 139 S. Tryon St.; 704-601-4141; chima.cc); Flemings (210 E. Trade St., 704-333-4266; flemingssteakhouse.com), Mortons (227 W. Trade St., 704-333-2602), Ruths Chris (222 S. Tryon St., 704-338-9444; ruths-chris.com).
New, eclectic, fun
5CHURCH Relatively new, with a creative chef and a jumbled but energetic interior, this offers eclectic influences. And skate. Lunch and dinner $6-$28; 127 N. Tryon St.; 704-919-1322; 5church.com
AMELIES This French-ish bakery/cafe/hangout spot is known as much for its eclectic clientele as its eclectic style. Soups and sandwiches, yes, but pastries and sweet fare are more notable (its other location, at 2424 N. Davidson St., about 10 minutes from uptown, is open 24-7). 330 S. Tryon St.; 704-376-1782; ameliesfrenchbakery.com
PURE PIZZA Locally grown and organic ingredients are trumpeted at this spot, appropriately lodged in uptowns 7th Street Market. Lunch and dinner ($6 for salads-$20 for 16-inch combo pies). 255 E. 7th St., 980-207-0037; purepizzaclt.com.
GREENS LUNCH Serving up for 70+ years, Greens is famous for hot dogs. Get one all the way: ketchup, mustard, fine-chopped sweet slaw, onions and orange-staining, fine-textured chili. Breakfast and lunch ($2-$6). 309 W. Fourth St.; 704-332-1786; Greenslunch.com.
VBGB A beer garden in all its stripped down glory, teeming with specials in both brews and food (from Zweigles dogs from New York to housemade chips and wings) order at the window before pulling up to the ice-railed bar for your brew. Dinner, weekend lunch and dinner ($6-$14). 920 Hamilton St. by the N.C. Music Factory; 704-333-4111; vbgbuptown.com.
BASIL THAI Thai goes uptown in this elegant space, with a smartly edited menu of classics and few less usual dishes thrown in. Lunch ($11-$23) and dinner ($12-$25). 210 N. Church St.; 704-332-7212; eatatbasil.com.
LEVANT The most easygoing of Middle Eastern fare, smooth hummus and smoky baba ghanouj to lamb chops, arrives in a quiet uptown setting of mother-of-pearl-inlaid furniture. (More-casual-sibling Kabob Grills work, too.) Lunch ($7-$13) and dinner ($8-$35). 501 S. Church St.; 704-333-0930.
MALABAR Spanish tapas, including Iberico ham, in pleasant profusion and varied price range, plus a few entrees (including paellas for two), make this uptown spot approachable. Lunch ($8-$18) and dinner (tapas and entrees $4-$18). 214 N. Tryon St.; 704-344-8878; conterestaurantgroup.com/malabar.
VIDA Upscale Mexican uptown means you can get spice-crusted ahi and an array of fancy tequilas, but also tacos and beer. Lunch ($9-$18) and dinner ($11-$26). 210 E. Trade St.; 704-971-8432; vidacantina.com.