Inside the Charlotte city limits, you can find just about any type of restaurant to suit your mood and taste. Happily, the vibrant food scene doesn’t stop inside the Interstate 485 loop. Thoughtful, local, chef-driven restaurants have sprung up in neighboring towns and suburbs, meaning you won’t need to head uptown for that next great dining experience.
Here are some notable places to get you started.
20517 N. Main St., Cornelius; 704-655-7465.
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The list of local farmers and purveyors that Fork! utilizes is almost as long as the menu itself. But make no mistake, chef Tim Groody could not work his magic without them. Among some of the more bewitching choices on the brunch and dinner menu: cheddar and herb biscuits with turkey sausage gravy; yellowfin tuna tartar with crispy wontons; goat cheese macaroni and Certified Angus beef tenderloin medallions.
131 N. Main St., Davidson; 980-231-5000.
Kindred, opened in February by Joe and Katy Kindred, was recently named No. 7 among the country’s top 10 new restaurants by Bon Appetit. There is definitely a Southern flair in the food here thanks to chef Joe Kindred, who grew up in Davidson and went to Johnson & Wales when it was in Charleston. The BLT is presented open-faced with smoked pork belly, heirloom tomatoes and a creamy remoulade – basically a glorified mayo. A baked egg is served with pork sausage, hominy and pickled squash. The food may sound down-home, but the atmosphere is most definitely skewed toward the high-end. But if you’re going to eat peach cobbler with a sweet corn gelato, why not do so while dabbing crumbs from your mouth on a cloth napkin, while reclined against a handsome leather-backed seat.
755 Pitts School Road, Concord; 704-786-1123.
The barbecue is served Eastern style here – which means expect a vinegary twang and a bit of spice – and the pork comes chopped or sliced. True enough, trays and plates of the pork and the pork sandwiches are the stars, but there is also chicken, Brunswick stew, brisket and a slew of sides (fried corn on the cob anyone?). The restaurant’s name is short for Robert and Robert – and named for owners Rob Emore and Bob Critz.
Heritage Food & Drink
201 W. S. Main St., Waxhaw; 704-843-5236.
Heritage’s seasonal menu features familiar food all gussied up. Mixed green salad with blackberries, walnuts and goat cheese; oysters with caviar and champagne; duck with grits, okra and blueberry barbecue. If you’re curious about where chef Paul Verica sources his food, you need only look at the restaurant’s website, where local farmers receive hearty shout-outs. Heritage is open for dinner and brunch – and if you should visit for the latter meal, the fresh-baked doughnuts are certainly worth a try.
3415 S.C. 51 North, Fort Mill; 803-548-1612.
The menu (designed by chef Aaron Rivera) is classified as modern Hispanic and features small, vivid, tightly focused plates. Octopus and shrimp ceviche benefit from the juice of oranges. Brisket tacos team up with a charred onion chimichurri, queso fresco and avocado. You may be familiar with risotto, but Tapas 51’s version incorporates saffron butter, green peas and tomato jam. It’s conceivable you won’t have room for dessert; still, you may want to while away the evening with the restaurant’s Colombian coffee.
1912 Mount Gallant Road, Suite 108, Rock Hill; 803-792-4449.
Chef Greg Collier is a Tennessee native who’s done stints at fine-dining establishments. But he and his wife, Subrina, have a “love affair with breakfast,” so The Yolk is all breakfast all the time. Collier’s menu includes Mo-Joe Hash – which brings together coffee marinated steak, diced sweet potato, roasted mushrooms, scallion pesto and eggs over easy – and chocolate pancakes with white chocolate chips and milk chocolate buttercream.
The String Bean
106 N. Main St., Belmont; 704-825-3636.
If you’re ordering in at this combination market/restaurant, consider the 3 Little “Cow” Pigs. Part of the fun of these sliders is that neither you nor the server knows what you’re going to get – the kitchen staff decides how to prepare them. In any event, pair them with duck fat fries. Should you want to take something home to cook on your own, steaks, chicken, fish and deli meats are available. Finding something to drink shouldn’t be a problem, either: The String Bean carries 200 beers and 400 wines.