THE FOLLOWING are places outside the uptown area (bordered by the I-277 loop) recommended by restaurant writer Helen Schwab.
BARRINGTONS A tiny South Charlotte place with big style, where chef-owner Bruce Moffett leans toward oft-changing clean arrangements of a few fine ingredients: parmesan gnocchi with braised veal, or N.C. triggerfish sous vide with butternut squash. Dinner ($17-$35). 7822 Fairview Road; 704-364-5755; barringtonsrestaurant.com.
FIG TREE In a well-restored historic Elizabeth house resides a chef-driven menu with some flair: seasonal entrees using Berkshire pork, game and less-common fishes, with strong attention to wine. Dinner ($22-$42). 1601 E. 7th St.; 704-332-3322; charlottefigtree.com.
STEAKHOUSES (national upscale chains, that is): Weve got just about all of em the ones not uptown are Del Friscos Double Eagle (4725 Piedmont Row Drive; 704-552-5502; delfriscos.com), The Palm (6705-B Phillips Place Court, 704-552-7256; thepalm.com), Ruths Chris (6000 Fairview Road, 704-556-1115; ruths-chris.com) and Sullivans (1928 South Blvd., 704-335-8228; sullivanssteakhouse.com).
ZEBRA Contemporary French with an intriguing blend of formality and flexibility, this spot near SouthPark serves it all: foie gras flan, surf and turf, pheasant. Decor is black-and-white-and-wood-all-over. Breakfast, lunch ($9-$24) and dinner ($27-$44), plus multi-course packages. 4521 Sharon Road; 704-442-9525; zebrarestaurant.net/main.html.
Bistros, trattorie, etc.
BISTRO LA BON Tucked into an unlikely Plaza Midwood strip mall, this offers a short but diverse lineup from chef/owner Majid Amoorpour; Sunday brunch buffet is heralded but dont miss the dinner menus salmon or Swedish meatballs, and desserts. Lunch ($9-$12), dinner ($15-$29), Sunday brunch ($18). 1322 Central Ave.; 704-333-4646; bistrolabon.com.
CAFÉ MONTE Casual French fare, from crepes to bourguignon, in a gold/black/white café setting with plenty of mirror. Breakfast/lunch ($8-$16) daily; dinner ($14-24). 6700 Fairview Road; 704-552-1116; cafemonte.net.
CARPE DIEM With intricate woodwork and lighting, this Elizabeth restaurant offers New American cooking, with varied influences and a noteworthy support of the vegetarian. Save room for exquisite desserts. Dinner ($10-$30). 1535 Elizabeth Ave.; 704-377-7976; carpediemrestaurant.com.
CUSTOMSHOP Clear flavors, a little innovation and a funky wine list make this Elizabeth spot shine, but the environment -- candle- and mirror-strewn, with spare lines and attractive simplicity, makes it special. Dinner ($17-$29); Sunday brunch ($10-$15). 1601 Elizabeth Ave.; 704-333-3396; customshopfood.com.
FERN Vegetarian creativity, with an upscale-yet-chakra-conscious mindset, comes from this very green little spot in Plaza-Midwood. Look for daily "Buddha bowls" and if kales on the menu in any form, get it -- and those little beer donuts, too. Lunch and dinner ($9-$16). 1323 Central Ave.; 704-377-1825; fernflavors.com.
FIAMMA Uncommon Italian food, from risotti to orata to pizzas (plus specials), arrives in a comfortable and family-friendly setting. Lunch ($7-$15.00); dinner ($7.50-$27.00). 2418 Park Road; 704-333-3062.
GLOBAL Chef/owner Bernard Brunet tours the globe with panache in this tiny, personal, south Charlotte spot. Dinner ($22-$31) Monday-Saturday. 3520 Toringdon Way; 704-248-0866; Global-restaurant.com.
GOOD FOOD ON MONTFORD Small plates but big flavors emerge from the Moffett brothers kitchen, with international influences and a shifting lineup (look for lamb). Small plates ($6-$12) with a few entree-sized dinners ($17-$20). 1701 Montford Drive; 704-525-0881; goodfoodonmontford.com.
IL BOSCO A short lineup of Italian fare, pastas to main dishes, in a handsome but comfortable Davidson setting. Lunch ($7-$12) and dinner ($9-$29). 127 Depot St., Davidson; 704-987-1388; ilboscoristorante.com.
ILIOS NOCHE Versatile, smart and well-executed, from wood-oven pizzas to luscious lamb, the Mediterranean fare in south Charlotte bursts with bold flavor and simplicity. Lunch and dinner ($7-$28). 11508 Providence Road; 704-814-9882; Iliosnoche.com
THE LIBERTY Chef-driven, beer-centric fare ranges from a top-notch burger to English fish and chips (chef Tom Condron has the heritage for it) to Wagyu short ribs in South End. Lunch ($8-$14) and dinner ($10-$28). 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830; thelibertycharlotte.com.
LULU A fun list spanning duck to rabbit, steak to moules and frites, in an old-house-turned-bistro setting in Plaza Midwood. Lunch, dinner, weekend brunch ($9-$32). 1911 Central Ave.; 704-376-2242; Luludinewine.com
NEW SOUTH KITCHEN Southern fare with a touch of humor (witness the Redneck Cheese Board: terrific pimento cheese) and flair (such as glazed pork loin with collards and cherry marmalade) in the Arboretum. Lunch ($9-$13), dinner ($9-$27) and brunch ($7-$10). 8140 Providence Road; 704-541-9990; newsouthkitchen.com.
NOLEN KITCHEN With a tailored interior and sleek bar and patio, this Myers Park place also offers a stylish and eclectic menu, from creative sandwiches to Mediterranean-influenced entrees to vibrant desserts. Lunch ($8-$14) and dinner ($9-$29); brunch Sunday ($6-$14). 2839 Selwyn Ave.; 704-372-1424; nolenkitchen.com.
PASSION8 An idiosyncratic, Victorian-esque, dark little place (formerly a brothel!) with Italian leanings, an emphasis on local foodstuffs and an affinity for Slow Food. Dinner (menu changes constantly, but entrees run about $18-$45). 3415 Hwy 51, Fort Mill; 803-802-7455; passion8bistro.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). 6601 Morrison Blvd., 704-366-8688; roosterskitchen.com
SANTE Comfortable, classical flavors (honey-mustard-glazed salmon, beef medallions) and attentive staff make this Matthews spot noteworthy. Lunch ($8-$16) and dinner ($17-$26). 165 N. Trade St., Matthews; 704-845-1899; santeofmatthews.com.
SOUL An all-over-the-map menu sprawls from sushi to panini, lamb lollipops to "cupcakes a go go," and the artful interior and nightly music in Plaza Midwood have similar range -- energetic, a little chaotic and lots of fun. Dinner and Sunday brunch ($6-$20). 1500 Central Ave.; 704-348-1848; soulgastrolounge.com.
TOSCANA Sensual in both food and ambiance, this SouthPark restaurant speaks Italian in vivid colors and flavors, from osso buco to carbonara. Lunch ($9-$17) weekdays; dinner ($17-$31). 6401 Morrison Blvd.; 704-367-1808; conterestaurantgroup.com/toscana.
AMELIES Open 24-7 at the 36th location, 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. Breakfast, lunch, dinner ($2-$7). 2424 N. Davidson St.; 704-376-1781; ameliesfrenchbakery.com
BAD DADDYS Burgers of many stripes and in many combinations star at this always-busy spot that began in Dilworth and now has multiple locations; try the Sam I Am burger with an egg on top. Lunch and dinner ($8-$12). 1626 East Blvd.; 704-714-4888; 15105A John J. Delaney Drive; 704-919-2700; 8625 Lindholm Drive, 704-237-4055; and the airport (run separately) at 5501 Josh Birmingham Parkway, 704-359-4316; baddaddysburgerbar.com
BOUDREAUXS LOUISIANA KITCHEN With a lineup thats part Cajun, part Creole, part Mississippi, part wherever, this little NoDa restaurant offers traditional goodies like a killer oyster po boy and gumbos. Lunch, dinner and weekend brunch ($7-$18). 501 E. 36th St.; 704-331-9898; boudreauxs.com.
FRANS FILLING STATION Comfortable food good fries, hefty salads, big meatballs, chicken Milanese in a funky little neighborhood joint. Lunch and dinner ($8-$15). 2410 Park Road., 704-372-2009; fransfillingstation.com/full
GROWLERS Craft beers the star at this NoDa cubbyhole, with everything from an oft-changed lineup to a restored beer engine (if you dont know, ask), and a well-edited supporting menu of housemade sausages, chips and cheese-and-beer pairings. Dinner, weekend lunch and dinner ($6-$11). 3120 N. Davidson St.; 704-910-6566; growlerspourhouse.com.
LANDMARK Its THE place to go at when you cant decide if you want Belgian waffles or moussaka or a burger: It has all of those, plus pages more in its menu, and a gigantic dessert case. Breakfast, lunch ($2-$8) and dinner ($6-$14) and the place stays open until 4 a.m. Friday-Saturday. 4429 Central Ave.; 704-532-1153; 360charlotte.com/Restaurants/LandmarkDiner.html
LUNA The only place in town specializing in raw food and its notably friendly service makes this South End spot attractive for the non-raw crowd, too. Breakfast and lunch ($5-$13). 2102 South Blvd.; 704-333-0008; lunaslivingkitchen.com
LUPIES Coughing hot chili (with meat, beans, vegetarian soy whatever-it-is), soft mac-and-cheese, charred burgers, an assortment of actual vegetables and a diverse clientele make this joint special. Lunch and dinner ($5-$8). 2718 Monroe Road; 704-374-1232; and 101-A Old Statesville Road, 704-948-3959.
ZADA JANES Youll get a notion of the eclectic viewpoint here before you even walk in, from the shuffleboard and wild colors outside; inside, theres everything from espresso and big bacon biscuits (breakfast is served all day) to chicken sandwiches and hummus; dont miss Bunny Rancheros. Breakfast and lunch ($2.50-$10), dinner, but only Wednesday-Sunday ($7-$27). 1601 Central Ave.; 704-332-3663; zadajanes.com.
Local color: Cue, chicken and/or history
BEEF N BOTTLE Landmarks topple, downtown becomes uptown and still this South End stalwart serves up steak and seafood as it has since 78. Count on oysters Rockefeller and simple steaks. Dinner ($12-$48). 4538 South Blvd.; 704-523-9977; Beefandbottle.com.
BILL SPOONS BARBECUE Whole pig cooking, Eastern N.C.-style, is what youll get here nutty and rich, with just a bit of sauce. Its a plain setup, for plainly good cue. Lunch ($3-$13); but its served until 8 Thursday-Saturday. 5524 South Blvd.; 704-525-8865; spoonsbarbecue.com.
BROOKS SANDWICH HOUSE Here, youll find a classic, old-school, well-seasoned and inexpensive burger with the tang and crisp edges only a practiced hand (and grill) can produce. No tables, but theres a picnic table/counter outside. 2710 N. Brevard St.; 704-375-7808.
MACS SPEED SHOP Renovated transmission shop becomes biker-barbecue joint, with fancy motorcycles up front and smoky chopped pork, along with Texas-style brisket, smoked wings and more. Lunch and dinner ($2-$20). 2511 South Blvd.; 704-522-6227; 19601 Liverpool Parkway, Cornelius; 704-892-3554; 2414 Sandy Porter Road; 704-504-8500; macspeedshop.com.
MR. KS Soft-serve ice cream and fabulous, corny onion rings are standouts at this classic family operation, in business more than 30 years. Lunch and dinner ($2-$6). 2107 South Blvd.; 704-375-4318; mrkssofticecream.com.
OLD HICKORY HOUSE Dark with paneling and dotted with lamps made to look like little covered wagons, this institution (it began at a different site) has served sweet and sloppy barbecue for 40 years. Lunch and dinner ($6-$18). 6538 N. Tryon St.; 704-596-8014.
PRICES CHICKEN COOP Some of the best fried chicken in town since 1962, this Dilworth landmark offers takeout only; you run in from the street to get it, and its worth every grease spot on the cardboard box. Lunch and dinner ($2-$11). 1614 Camden Road; 704-333-9866; Priceschickencoop.com.
BIG BENS Fans of British classics will find them reasonably rendered here, with friendly service and a pubby atmosphere in South End. Lunch ($7-$10), dinner ($12-$19), weekend breakfast ($7-$10). 2000 South Blvd., 704-817-9697; bigbenpub.com.
CHO WON GARDEN Korean fare, from bulgogi to kimchee, comes toned down but with staff help for newcomers, in a comfortable east Charlotte setting. Lunch ($8-$13) and dinner ($11-$40). 2501 Crown Point Executive Drive, 704-845-6119.
COPPER Indian cooking, from contemporary to traditional to fusion-esque, emerges from the kitchen in this stylishly renovated historic Dilworth house. Lunch ($9-$13) and dinner ($15-$29). 311 East Blvd.; 704-333-0063; copperrestaurant.com.
CUISINE MALAYA A well-edited introduction in Elizabeth to the composite that is Malaysian food, from satays to the thin bread called roti canai to beef rendang plus sushi! Lunch ($7-$16) and dinner ($9-$25). 1411 Elizabeth Ave.; 704-372-0766; cuisinemalaya.com
DYNASTY CUISINE Diners seeking authentic seasoning will appreciate the Szechuan and Cantonese regional Chinese cuisine here, and you can get dim sum all the time (and from carts on the weekend). Lunch and dinner ($6-$20). 1709 Matthews Township Parkway, Matthews; 704-814-0288; thedynastycuisine.com.
GENAROS Peruvian delights, from the big Andean corn called choclo to rotisserie chicken to sauce made with the yellow chile calle aji amarillo, are served in a spare, diner-like setting, with warmth. Lunch and dinner ($8-$15). Two: 10405 Park Road, 704-752-1987; and Indian Trail at 14039 N.C. 74 E., 704-893-2744; genaros-rotisserie.com.
GREEK ISLES A real cross-section of Greek food lush seafood to staples like spanakopita and mousaka and amiable service produce a great South End introduction for those new to the cuisine. Lunch ($7-$11) and dinner ($12-$25). 200 E. Bland St.; 704-444-9000; greekislesrestaurant.com.
INTERMEZZO This little Plaza Midwood place serves a lot of nice thin-crusted pizza, but look for Serbian specialties like the cabbage rolls called sarma and ajvar, the red-pepper-eggplant sauce. Lunch and dinner ($8-$14). 1427 E. 10th St.; 704-347-2626; intermezzopizzeria.com.
LEMPIRA Hondurean offerings at this South Boulevard spot include marvelous and inexpensive baleadas (thick tortillas encasing fillings such as beans, fresh cheese and crema, or complete-breakfast-style sausage, eggs, beans and cheese) and tamales. Lunch and dinner ($7-$19). 5906 South Blvd., 704-552-1515.
LOS PAISAS proffers typical Colombian fare in Pineville, from a variety of arepas (little filled white-corn cakes) to picada (fried green plantains with meats) and more. Lunch and dinner ($7-$16). 8318 Pineville-Matthews Road; 704-542-5477; lospaisasrestaurant.com.
MESKEREM Ethiopian basics (lamb tibs, fitfit, doro wat and the lovely, crepe-like injera, in which to wrap bites of it all) arrive in a simple Midtown setting, served with warmth. Lunch ($7.50-$8) and dinner ($9-$13). 601 S. Kings Drive; 704-335-1197; meskeremincharlotte.com.
MUSASHI A lengthy sushi lineup, plus a full complement of traditional Japanese fare, make this simply appointed Pineville landmark worth bookmarking. Lunch and dinner . 10110 Johnston Road; 704-543-5181; musashi-nc.com.
TAQUERIA MEXICO Authentic Mexican in a plain, plain South Boulevard setting; dont miss braised pork tacos and chile verde. Lunch and dinner ($2-$9). 7001 South Blvd.; 704-552-2461.
TOMI Taiwanese food, with clear flavors in simple preparations, are key at this small, sweet place near SouthPark. Lunch ($7) and dinner ($10-$18). 7741 Colony Road; 704-759-1288.
VIETNAM GRILLE Lovely renditions of this cuisines classics, from bun to pho to lemongrass squid, in a simple and spare South Boulevard atmosphere. Lunch and dinner ($7-$15). 5615 South Blvd.; 704-525-2408.
WALDHORN Its a little secluded, but this spot in Pineville (pronounced Vahldhorn) offers traditional and contemporary German food (plus some American stuff): Yes, theres a sausage plate and lots of beers. Lunch ($7-$11), dinner ($10-$25); Sunday brunch buffet ($17). 12101 Lancaster Highway; 704-540-7047; waldhorn.us.
WOODLANDS PURE VEGETARIAN SOUTH INDIAN CUISINE The staples of south Indian cuisine, plus a few non-southern dishes, are done with verve and a warm welcome in this east Charlotte place. Pancake-like dosas, filled with onion and potato, are noteworthy. Lunch ($7-$12) and dinner ($8-$21). 7128-A Albemarle Road; 704-569-9193; woodlandsusa.com.
The BROOKLYNs This family of half a dozen pizzerias offers old-fashioned New York style and a family feel, from dough you can watch being tossed to Nonnas pie. Lunch and dinner ($6-$22). Locations near SouthPark in Charlotte, Cornelius, Denver, Indian Trail, Mooresville and Wesley Chapel; brooklynpizzaparlor.com.
LUIGIS With pizza heritage coming from both Italy and Bensonhurst (New York), the pies that emerge here are big, brash and delicious. Lunch and dinner ($2.50 slice to $16.50 20-inch cheese). Two: 8170 S. Tryon St., 704-504-2015; and 13551 Steelecroft Pkwy., 704-587-6010; luigis-pizza.com.
LUISAS BRICK OVEN Its wood-burning oven produced thin-crust pizzas with sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and Gorgonzola before anyone else in these parts, and still does a nice job. Lunch buffet ($8); dinner ($8-$17); a 15-inch plain cheese pizza is $11.75. 1730 Abbey Place; 704-522-8782; www.luisasbrickovenpizza.com.
WOLFGANG PUCK PIZZA | BAR What some might call California style pies are rendered here with bubbly, toothsome crusts and creative toppings (signature: smoked salmon, salmon roe and dill cream). Pastas, sandwiches and more also available. Dinner ($8-$28). 6706-C Phillips Place Court; 704-295-0101; bit.ly/Np6O2N