As one of the largest cities in the New South, Charlotte offers many authentic southern dining options. And whether your interest is in a palette-pleasing experience or just plain-ol' comfort food like Grandma used to make, here are my recommendations of some of the best places in the Queen City to get your basic "meat 'n' three", shrimp and grits or fried chicken.
Mert's Heart & Soul
Mert's Heart & Soul is Charlotte's go to for Southern food, from Panthers players to visiting in-laws. Whether you're visiting Mert's Heart & Soul for a workday lunch, a family dinner or a post-night-out meal, you will not be disappointed.
Georgia-native James Bazzelle and his wife Renee opened this Uptown staple in 1998 and have been acquiring accolades ever since for their southern menu filled with low country favorites like shrimp and grits. And while Charlotte may be landlocked you can still get your fill of seafood at Mert's with the fried catfish or the house specialty, the grilled soft-shell crab sandwich.
If you drive down Monroe Blvd. toward Uptown and blink, you'll probably miss Lupie's Cafe. In an unassuming whitewashed brick restaurant with a gravel parking lot and interior that has seen better days, it's a stark contrast to some of Charlotte's new and fresh dining experiences.
But don't be fooled: Lupie's is known for some of the best home-cooking food in the city. Since 1983, Lupie's Cafe has been famous for its award-winning chili served three different ways: Texas style, Cincinnati style, and Vegetarian.
Dish has been a Plaza-Midwood favorite since it opened in 2002. It's a friendly neighborhood joint with cooking that would make mom proud. Famous for their homemade chicken and dumplings, Dish's atmosphere is even reminiscent of someone's home with eclectic plates and clientele ranging from families, to business types to every point in between. And don't forget to finish the evening with Dish's famous strawberry shortcake or chocolate pecan pie.
With two South Charlotte locations now, owner Jimmy Roupas offers up three nightly dinner specials and a sampling of 30 "vegetables" or sides at Charlotte Cafe, including fried zucchini, baked macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy and baked apples.
Charlotte Cafe offers up some homestyle favorites like meatloaf, fried fish and salmon cakes. The meatloaf is savory and amply peppered and my kids love the homemade spaghetti. Bring a hearty appetite as there are no small portions.
Price's Chicken Coop
The no-frills chicken counter in Charlotte's South End neighborhood has built its reputation on the food alone. They don't take credit cards or checks, there's no "dine-in" option and your food comes in a simple paper bag.
But, Price's serves some of the best fried chicken on the planet (many celebs and Food Network shows agree). Even French fries are too fancy for Price's, which just serves tater tots. And as a side note... the chicken sandwich is bone-in.