Charlotte’s restaurant scene continues to get a whole lot of national buzz with Food and Wine recently asking if 2018 will be the year Charlotte “breaks out.” Those of us who live here would say we’ve been a foodie town for a while now, but the so-called “experts” seem to just be catching on. Here are some of the most buzzed about openings that have locals – and national peeps – excited.

Zinicola

14835 Ballantyne Village Way, Ste. 140, Charlotte, NC 28277 • (980) 299-2979
Hours: Monday through Thursday and Sunday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to midnight

Executive Chef Richard Cranmer is using locally sourced ingredients and the old family traditions and recipes passed down from his Italian grandmother from San Giorgio a Liri, Italy, to create a seasonal menu full of pasta, pizza and seafood. “Every meal at her table was a celebration that brought people together without pretense or pomp. It’s Zinicola’s mission to bring such familiarity mixed with finer dining to the city of Charlotte,” Chef Cranmer says. The Ballantyne Village restaurant includes antipastos, salads, wood-fired pizzas, handmade pastas, fish and meats available in a mix of entrees and small plates.

Indulge your Italian cravings at Zinicola.

Toucan Louie’s Café And Roastery

2753 Rozelles Ferry Road, Charlotte, NC 28208 • (980) 209-9791
Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Housed in a renovated gas station in Charlotte’s Smallwood neighborhood, Toucan Louie’s offers fresh-roasted coffee and a menu designed for guests to dine in or grab and go. Breakfast ranges from a spinach-mushroom goat cheese sandwich to house-made granola to a vegan coconut congee. Lunch includes burgers, Cuban or Caribbean pork sandwiches, a grilled-cheese sandwich that throws Gouda and Havarti into the mix, a Caribbean jerk chicken salad with coconut, dried cherries and toasted almonds, and they even have homemade peanut butter and pimento cheese.

Reigning Doughnuts

3120 N. Davidson St., Charlotte, NC 28205
Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“Our main goal with the doughnut shop was really just to add something fun and unique to the neighborhood,” says owner Jamie Brown of the new NoDa shop, Reigning Doughnuts. But “shop” might be a bit of an overstatement. Jamie, who also co-owns Crepe Cellar and Growlers in the same hood, says the tiny space is set up like an “unmovable food truck.” They offer plain, chocolate and cinnamon sugar every day, and then there’s always a rotating special flavor of the day. Look for flavors like peanut butter icing with banana chips, hot saucy icing with crispy skins, and lemon poppyseed.

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Reigning Doughnuts.

Hello, Sailor

20210 Henderson Road, Cornelius, NC 28031 • (704) 997-5365
Hours: Monday, 5 p.m. to close; Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to close

Hello, Sailor may have been the most hotly anticipated restaurant in the Lake Norman area ever. Joe and Katy Kindred still get a lot of love for their first restaurant, Kindred, that opened in Davidson three years ago. Hello, Sailor, a totally different concept, opened in December in the old Rusty Rudder and features a much more laid-back vibe, a menu to match and even an old-school photo booth. Joe has described it as a “modern play on a fish camp.”

Image: Kyo H. Nam

Hello, Sailor is a fabulous Lake Norman eatery. Image: Kyo H. Nam

RELATED: Why Hello, Sailor Will Become Your Favorite Lakeside Hangout

Flour Shop

530 Brandywine Road, Charlotte, NC 28210 • (980) 299-3754
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The kitchen is the draw here. The latest restaurant to open in the backlot at Park Road Shopping center has a really cool kitchen – set right in the middle of the restaurant, with seating around it. Flour Shop is the second restaurant from Trey Wilson, the chef at Customshop in Elizabeth.  Choose from shared plates like roasted lamb croquettes and acorn squash, or enjoy fresh-made pastas, barbecued octopus or grilled salmon.

Zeppelin

235 W. Tremont Ave., Charlotte, NC 28203 • (980) 209-0008
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.

New restaurants and bars keep popping up in South End but Zeppelin is one of the first upscale, chef-driven restaurants in the booming neighborhood. Zeppelin offers craft cocktails and sharable plates and has a great 750-square-foot patio. “Our group has made every effort to preserve our historic building and the Queen City’s own 1900s history through our steampunk interpretations,” said Managing Partner Jonathan Swope. “We’re honored to be a catalyst for the massive growth of South End’s West Tremont Avenue corridor, through our beverages, delectable food options and great conversation.”

Zeppelin

Enjoy the spread at Zeppelin.

Fresh flavors abound!

Haymaker

225 S. Poplar St., Charlotte, NC 28202 •  (704) 626-6116
Hours: Breakfast — Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. (grab-and-go pastries, breakfast sandwiches and Counter Culture Coffee drinks); Lunch — Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Dinner — Daily, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Brunch — Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Popular Asheville Chef William Dissen is bringing his Southern flare to the first floor of the new Ascent Uptown at the edge of Romare Bearden Park. Haymaker Restaurant is a chef-to-table restaurant that will be ingredient driven and may even work to build a community garden in the park. William says, “My wife used to live and work in Uptown Charlotte, and I used to visit a lot and fell in love with the Queen City. I’ve lived in some other large cities like New York, and love the energy of a growing urban core. Charlotte is really on the rise, and it’s an exciting time for the community.” Haymaker is slated to open next month.

Haymaker offers fresh flavors and an ingredient-driven menu.

Fin and Fino

135 Levine Avenue of the Arts, Charlotte, NC 28202
Hours: Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. until; Saturday, 5 p.m. until 

Jon Dressler is getting ready to open his fifth restaurant – the first with a seafood concept. (Dressler owns the popular Dogwood, Dressler’s and The Porter’s House restaurants.) Jon says his latest menu will be full of fish and will offer a lot of small plates meant for sharing. He expects to open in April in the old e2 Emeril’s Eatery (Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant) in uptown at the Mint Museum.

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Update From October 2017

From a secret society to a bar with breathtaking views, Charlotte is now home to a host of new restaurants that, once again, do not disappoint. For the last few years the Queen City has upped the ante when it comes to the food scene, and this latest round of openings just adds to the crown. And of course, this wouldn’t be Charlotte if there weren’t some new beers (and breweries) on tap.

New Charlotte Restaurants

Subsecreto

325 East Ninth St., Charlotte, NC 28202
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The secret is out about uptown Charlotte’s coolest new coffee/gift shop. Subsecreto “magick” and coffee shop is the strange and unusual brainchild of local creatives Caleb Clark and Corri Smith. It opened in August near First Ward Park. The retail store serves craft coffees and curiosity – complete with a secret society pin for certain members. Co-owner Corri Smith says Subsecreto (meaning “in secret” in Latin) was inspired by secrets and created as a special place for the offbeat, eccentric thinkers and doers.

New restaurants in Charlotte

Mystery awaits at Subsecreto, Charlotte’s new coffee and gift shop located near First Ward Park. Image: Katherine Kirchner

SouthBound

2433 South Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28203
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight

They’ve only had their soft opening, but already the owners of the uber popular BBQ joint Mac’s Speed Shop are getting a ton of buzz for their newest restaurant concept: SouthBound, which they just happened to open right next door to the original Mac’s in South End. That might be because Dale Jr. leaked the fact that Jimmie Johnson is part owner of the new Southern California-style restaurant on Twitter, and legions of fans promptly came to sip tequila and taste the tacos at the taqueria. The relaxed vibe and made-from-scratch Southern California street food highlights a menu loaded with locally sourced vegetables, handmade corn masa, slow roasted mole and fresh pressed juices.

Enjoy fresh SoCal flavors at SouthBound. Image: Facebook

Hyde Brewing and The Suffolk Punch

2911 Griffith St., Charlotte, NC 28203
The Suffolk Punch hours: Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dinner — 5 p.m. to midnight.

A hybrid culinary cafe, taphouse, coffee bar and fermentation lab, there’s a little something for everyone here. Whether you’re an early riser looking for a cup of coffee, or you and your colleagues are in search of a lunch spot or after-work drinks and a dinner destination, this place really has it all. There’s a seasonal dinner menu but you can always find staples like the house burger and veggie burger, croquettes and house-cut fries.

SB TIP: The restaurant has been packed since opening and they suggest you use the Nowait app to help get you in for dinner. Or you can grab a group and sit at one of the many picnic tables out on the heated patio. But heads up: You can’t order food outside.

New restaurants in Charlotte

The Suffolk Punch has been packed since opening — and it’s easy to see why as it has a bit of something for everyone. Image: The Suffolk Punch

Tavolo

300 N. College St., Charlotte, NC 28202
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

The folks at Tavolo like to say they offer food your mother would make. The Italian-American menu incorporates traditional family-style fare, and their bestseller is the Arancini, a light and flavorful blend of creamy risotto and fontina cheese, rosemary and white wine, which is rolled into a bite-sized two-bite ball and fried to golden crispy perfection. (Fried cheese. Period.) Combine that and their motto “A tavola non si invecchia,” which translates to “at the table no one grows old,” and you’ve got a win-win.

Whether you're craving pizza, pasta or any other decadent Italian-inspired dish, Tavolo has you covered. Image: Tavolo

Whether you’re craving pizza, pasta or any other decadent Italian-inspired dish, Tavolo has you covered. Image: Tavolo

The Toasting Co.

Grabbing a bite at The Toasting Co. is like sitting by a campfire – only better. The Toasting Co. is a mobile food cart (picture a hotdog vendor) offering three different types of s’mores each day. The signature menu item is the classic s’more, made with homemade honey graham crackers, milk chocolate and handcrafted vanilla marshmallows. You can actually watch as they use a handheld kitchen torch to toast the marshmallows. Bonus: a Charlotte high school senior came up with the concept!

You'll feel like a kid again when you indulge in a delectable treat from The Toasting Co. Image: Facebook

You’ll feel like a kid again when you indulge in a delectable treat from The Toasting Co. Image: Facebook

Angeline’s

303 S. Church St., Charlotte, NC 28202
*Set to open any day now. (Breakfast and dinner and eventually lunch)

Just across from Romare Bearden Park and inside the brand-new Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel, you’ll find this modern American-Italian restaurant. The menu focuses on rustic, seasonally driven, inventive cuisine with simple, flavorful dishes like roasted branzino with roasted red pepper coulis, Parisian gnocchi, green onion emulsion and salmon roe. You can also count on daily house-made bread and pasta as well.

Merchant & Trade

303 S. Church St., Charlotte, NC 28202
*Set to open any day now. Hours: Monday through Wednesday,  4:30 p.m. to midnight; Thursday through Saturday, 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. 

Everybody loves a rooftop bar and this one does not disappoint. Merchant & Trade is pure sophistication and located 19 stories above uptown Charlotte inside the Kimpton. The rooftop bar and lounge offers light bites and expertly crafted cocktails, all to be enjoyed with stunning city views.  Look for dishes like raised lamb belly steam bun with house kimchi and mung bean sprouts, fritto misto with fried calamari, shrimp, and oysters.

SB TIP: There is also a VIP private terrace and a semi-private events lawn perfect for chic gatherings.

Southern Tier and Victory Brewing Companies

With plans to open next year, Southern Tier and Victory Brewing Companies will actually bring two known brewers under one roof. Located in the South End (already home to a host of other popular breweries), the 28,000-square-foot facility will feature a brewhouse, tasting room, front patio with skyline view and indoor/outdoor private event space. Look for fan favorites from each brand such as Southern Tier’s Nu Skool IPA and Pumking alongside classic Victory beers like Golden Monkey and Prima Pils.

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