10 places to turn your weekday lunch into a culinary experience for $20 or less

When you have an extra $20 laying around, why not leave that soggy sandwich or anemic salad in the fridge and turn your lunch into a culinary experience?

We’ve rounded up 10 Charlotte restaurants with lunch splurges that make your midday meal a unique treat — and might even leave you with leftovers.

(1) Aria

100 N. Tryon St.

Aria’s three-course express lunch provides a decadent three-course tasting of the menu for only $8.99. Portions are hearty enough to fill you up without leaving you in a food coma when you head back to the office. Mix and match the appetizers and main courses for a unique dining experience each time you come for lunch. Choose from the following options to curate your meal:

  • Choice of salad or soup:
    • Caesar – Romaine Hearts, Focaccia Croutons, Parmesan Dressing
    • Arugula – Gorgonzola, Salt-Roasted Beets, Poached Pears, Lemon Vinaigrette
    • Seasonal Soup
  • Choice of main:
    • Penne a la Vodka — Crushed Tomato Cream Sauce, Ricotta
    • Mimo’s Meatballs — Mascarpone Polenta, Red Sauce, Parmigiano
    • Carbonara — Handmade Fettuccine, Pancetta, Parmigiano, Cracked Pepper
    • Hand-made Orecchiette — House-made Fennel Sausage, Toasted Garlic Broccoli Rabe
  • Dessert: NY-Style Cheesecake — Dark Chocolate Sauce

(2) Copper

311 East Blvd.

Copper offers lunch-sized versions of both its traditional and modern Indian cuisine menus during the work week. Try one of Copper’s three traditional Indian meals served with naan bread, rice and a side salad or soup for $11 for a vegetarian entree or $12-14, depending on your choice of meat.

Traditional meal choices include:

  • Tikka Masala
  • Saag
  • Goan Curry
  • Punjabi Tadka Masala Vin d’ Alho

Adventurous lunchtime diners can choose from a limited selection of lunch-sized portions of Copper’s Modern Indian Cuisine menu, which are served with soup or a side salad. Options include:

  • Black Sesame-Apricot-Chili Glazed Chicken Tikka served with Roasted Pepper Creme and Market Vegetables ($14)
  • Amritsari Battered Cod, Nigella, Coriander, Makhani, Masala, Garbanzos ($14)
  • Goat Cheese Kofta, Potato-Goat Cheese Croquette, Semolina Crust, Tomato-Honey Sauce ($14)
  • Methia Kabab “Meatballs,” Lamb Meatballs, Fenugreek, Mushroom Medley Curry ($17)

(3) French Quarter Restaurant

321 S. Church St.

French Quarter Restaurant has a different home-style lunch special for less than $10 for each day of the work week.

Fans of New Orleans style cuisine should opt for:

  • Monday Red Beans and Rice- Cajun Style ($7.95) — served with your choice of andouille sausages or smoked cocktail sausages
  • Tuesday Chicken or Shrimp Creole Special ($7.95) — served over rice and topped with creole sauce

Those craving healthy comfort food will love:

  • Thursday Baked Chicken lunch ($8.50) — all natural, hormone-free chicken served with mashed potatoes and gravy and broccoli, topped with Hollandaise sauce

(4) Haberdish

3106 N. Davidson St.

Have a hearty brunch at Haberdish each Tuesday-Friday until 2 p.m. The Haberdish brunch menu features special weekday-only options like:

  • Daily Quiche du Jour (market price)
  • Tater Tot Benedict with Edward’s Country Ham ($13)
  • Chicken Biscuit Sandwich ($8) — served with slaw and house-made bread and butter pickles.

Don’t get too full on your entree — the brunch menu also features a limited dessert menu, with options like banana pudding ($6) and a waffle sundae ($8).

(5) Passage to India

9510 University City Blvd., #101

Lunch buffet highlights include:

Broaden your horizons with the Passage to India lunch buffet ($8.99) available Monday-Friday from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Even the pickiest eaters will find something from over 30 healthy and decadent Indian food and snack offerings, including vegetarian and gluten-free options.

  • Chilli Fish — tilapia with spices and peppers
  • Pani Poori — deep fried crepes with savory fillings
  • Vegetable Biryani — spiced rice with vegetables

(6) Pisces Sushi

1100 E. Metropolitan Ave., Suite 120

Pisces Sushi boasts an all-you-can-eat sushi lunch special ($12) from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Choose from over 25 sushi rolls from the menu and a variety of kitchen items such as:

  • Fried Pork Gyoza
  • Garlic Noodles
  • Fried Shrimp Shumai

(7) Sea Level

129 E. 5th St.

Sea Level’s lunch combination plates allow diners to choose from a selection of either one ($9) or two ($14) small plates, served with a choice of side. Entree choices include seafood favorites such as:

  • Fried Oyster or Fish Taco
  • Clam Chowder
  • Shrimp Steam Bun
  • Fried Chicken
  • Pork Belly Steam Bun

Southern inspired sides options include:

  • Adult Grits
  • Corn Fritters
  • Braised Greens

(8) Superica

101 W. Worthington St., Suite 100

At Superica, diners can mix and match items, such as this nachos and salad combination. JILLIAN MUELLER

Can’t decide what you want for lunch? Superica’s lunch special includes two entrees, rice and beans for $11.99. Come hungry or expect to bring your leftovers back to the office. Mix and match entrees from a selection of:

  • Enchiladas —Cheese, Picadillo, Mole, Chicken Verde, Chicken Suizas or Vegetable
  • Nachos — bean and cheese nachos, jalapeños, guacamole, sour cream
  • Salad — small house salad with creamy oregano dressing
  • Soup — cup of Chicken Tortilla Soup or Pozole Verde
  • Hard Shell Tacos — Picadillo or Chicken Tinga
  • Taco Al Carbon — pork carnitas with guava glaze, grilled chicken or steak, smoked onions, flour tortillas

(9) Thai Taste

324 East Blvd.

Thai Taste’s lunch menu consists of a variety of curries, noodle dishes and stir fries that are customized with your choice of protein. Each freshly cooked Thai lunch meal is served with a spring roll and jasmine rice. If you have time to dine in, Thai Taste will treat you to complimentary soup and iced tea with your lunch special.

Prices range from $10-$15, depending on whether your dish is made:

  • Vegetarian ($10)
  • With pork, chicken, or beef ($10)
  • Squid or shrimp ($12)
  • Seafood ($14)

(10) Zinicola

14835 Ballantyne Village Way, Suite 140

Let your sandwich special transport you to the Mediteranean at Zinicola. The Zinicola lunch menu is full of options for a properly portioned mid-day Italian feast, and all are under $15. Cheese lovers shouldn’t miss the

  • Caprese Panini ($9) stuffed with tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil and pesto served with roasted rosemary potatoes
  • Eggplant Lasagna ($12)
  • Chicken Parmesan with Penne Pasta ($14)