Just minutes from Uptown and smack dab on the LYNX light rail line, location alone justifies South End’s rapid growth—but a quick commute isn’t all that’s stirring up this neighborhood. Beyond its historic vibe and established arts scene lies a fast-growing food culture. We’ve found the top destinations for lunch, trend-setting dining, and iconic eating, as well as soon-to-open spots to keep your eye on. Now all you have to do is make reservations.
Let's Do LunchPhat Burrito
Although Phat Burrito has not yet reached the venerable status of its fried chicken-hawking neighbor, Price’s, this Tex-Mex joint in the heart of South End is a Charlotte classic in its own right, with a loyal lunch crowd willing to wait in out-the-door lines for one of its infamous 7”x3” Phat Burritos. In addition to its namesake burrito, the restaurant also offers tacos, quesadillas, and salads, all in an “I’m too cool to care” dive atmosphere.
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The LibertySure, you could go for the more upscale pub fare like the chicken and dumplings made with tender orbs of ricotta gnocchi or the pan-roasted Scottish salmon featuring flavorful bites of the fish alongside mushrooms and carrots. But for lunch at this beer-centric restaurant, Chef Tom Condron’s burgers are nearly impossible to resist. Made with thick patties and piled high with indulgent ingredients like pimento cheese and house made chips, these decadent versions are perfect for pairing with one of the casual gastropub’s craft brews. www.thelibertycharlotte.com
Sauceman'sIt may not look like much from the outside, but this casual spot features unbelievably tender authentic Lexington-style barbecue slow smoked over hickory and white oak by the resident pitmaster. Lunch crowds include everyone from crowds off of one of SouthEnd’s many ongoing construction sites to suited uptown bankers looking for a bite. Seeking something other than the typical plate of chopped ’cue? Order up one of the create sandwiches like the Dixie Cuban featuring tender brisket, pimento cheese, and fried pickles, and then wash it down with a sweet house-made Arnold Palmer. www.saucemans.com
On TrendAtherton Market
Since opening in 2010, Atherton Market has become a locavore’s paradise. The open-air farmers market offers a variety of fresh food and produce, along with other non-food goods—all of which are locally sourced. Though all of the market’s merchants are top-notch, Saturday morning lines reveal that Pickleville, Beverly’s Gourmet Foods, and the newly opened second outpost of Not Just Coffee are fan favorites. Looking to add a little extra flavor to your fresh fare? Once you’ve filled your basket, step around the corner to the neighboring Savory Spice Shop for the perfect seasonings for your purchases.
Food Truck FridayBring a blanket and your appetite for what has become South End’s signature event. Each week nearly a dozen of the city’s mobile eateries gather on the grassy lawn at the cross-section of Camden and Park to serve their jazzed up versions of familiar favorites, like Papi Queso’s “Little Green Muenster,” a grilled cheese filled with muenster, avocado, spinach, and wasabi horseradish sauce. There’s something for every palatal preference, but no matter what you choose, be prepared to wait in line with the crowds at this popular gathering. www.facebook.com/foodtruckfriday
Luna’s Living KitchenLuna’s Living Kitchen opened in 2010 and is built around a commitment to serving organic, mostly raw foods that are free of refined sugars, preservatives, and animal products, like meat, dairy, and eggs. For the average omnivore, the concept sounds awfully esoteric, but Luna’s transforms the intimidating world of vegan eating into something that is both approachable and appetizing with its inviting interior, friendly staff, and understandable menu. On the go? Grab one of their signature juices in flavors like Pura Vida featuring carrots, apples, oranges, and lemons. www.lunaslivingkitchen.com
Iconic EatsPrice’s Chicken Coop
Ordered in three-word utterances— “Quarter white, please”—and served to-go in a cardboard box filled to capacity with tater rounds, coleslaw, hushpuppies, and a roll, eating fried chicken from Price’s Chicken Coop is a signature Charlotte experience and has been since the Price family opened shop back in 1962. Since then, nothing much has changed. The South End icon is still serving up hearty, quality meals at an affordable price to folks from around town, and judging by the long lines, Price’s won’t be stopping any time soon.www.priceschickencoop.com
Mac's Speed ShopLocated in a former transmission shop, Mac’s is a bonafide biker bar, but you can enjoy the joint’s authentic atmosphere, bevy of brews, and award-winning barbeque, no Harley required. A favorite of visiting chefs (Anthony Bourdain and Thomas Keller have both made stops here), the Big Pig barbecue sandwich is a must-order. Opt for a side of the crispy onion rings and wash it all down with one of their craft beers, and you’ll understand why this local favorite is almost always packed. www.macspeedshop.com
Common MarketCommon Market is cool, personified. Part bodega, part bar, this Charlotte starlet boasts a deli, an array of gourmet foodstuffs (celery bitters, anyone?), an impressive collection of beer and wine—sold by the bottle and the glass— plus, a picture-perfect patio. Keep an eye on its Facebook page for upcoming events like beer or wine samplings, or live music to really get a taste of the neighborhood. www.commonmarketisgood.com
Up NextNan and Byron’s
This highly anticipated new restaurant, which opens this month in the former Vinnie’s Raw Bar space, is from the creators of uptown’s ultra popular 5 Church. While Chef Jamie Lynch’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus are casual (think meatloaf, chicken wings, and hot dogs), the drink list here is packed with craft cocktails like a jalapeno-infused margarita. An interior featuring early 20th century design with reclaimed barn wood and Edison light bulbs offers a cozy feel, while an upbeat soundtrack with tunes from Marvin Gaye and George Harrison are set to keep it lively.www.nanandbyrons.com
Tupelo Honey CaféThe city mourned when 25-year-old favorite Pewter Rose Bistro closed. Known for its tasty scones and eclectic interior, the restaurant had long been a top brunch spot in town. But the anticipated arrival of this Asheville outpost in its former location has helped ease the pain. Known for its sweet potato pancakes, fried chicken, and family-friendly vibe, the bistro is a popular stop in the mountain town. Its second-story South End location is still in the renovation stages though so locals will have to wait awhile—or take a trip west—to indulge in its famed biscuits. www.tupelohoneycafe.com
The Unknown Brewing Co.With its industrial chic mill buildings and young neighborhoods, South End has long been a hub for Charlotte breweries. The latest one to set up shop has plans to open this fall in the 22,500-square-foot former South End Fieldhouse building on Mint Street—just down the road from Bank of America Stadium. Owner Brad Shell, who has worked for known names like SweetWater Brewing Co. and Terrapin Beer Co., is anticipating an October opening for the new brewery’s taproom. Craft lovers can look for brews like a Hefeweizen and a West Coast-style IPA, all just in time for football season. www.facebook.com/unknownbrewing
There are more than just great restaurants stirring up the scene in South End - check out these great bars, breweries, and bottle shops.