Whether you’re from Charlotte, fairly new to Charlotte, or just pulled off I-85 and unpacked here yesterday, we’re all raising the next generation of Charlotteans, right? I’m from Charlotte, and my dad spent most of his childhood here as well. Before we landed Five Guys, Cowfish, Brixx, Cantina, and all the other regular family dining options, Charlotte had a few tried and true restaurants my family loved.
My parents and I were recently chatting about some of our old favorite family restaurants and decided we just HAD to share our list – these restaurants are where some of our fondest memories were made.
Hope this list inspires you to break out of your bubble and experience some Charlotte history first hand with the kids. Hey, we’ve got two full weeks of Christmas vacation – the perfect time to try a few out! If some of these are currently “in” your bubble, maybe you’ll look at them a little differently knowing that generations before you have raised their children in those exact same restaurants. If you’re from Charlotte, chime in! What restaurants MUST this younger generation of Charlotteans add to its list of “Must Eats”?
1. South 21 Drive-In (Home of the Superboy): We used to hit this gem in our cream Pontiac station wagon. We’d roll down the windows, order a Superboy burger from the drive-in menu, and relax until a waitress brought our food to the car. We were then allowed to eat in the car. Huge. The food is kid-friendly and the novelty of a drive-up is worth every penny. Plus, these days you can turn on a movie for the kids in the back seat and maybe actually have conversation with your husband. Located off E. Independence now (but used to be on South Blvd – hence the name).
2. Green’s Lunch: I’m not really sure what made Green’s so special to me – maybe it’s because it was a trip Uptown (pretty sure it was called “downtown” then). Maybe it was because I was almost always with my dad. Or maybe it was because we’d go to Discovery Place afterwards. Whatever “it” was, eating Green’s hot dogs and bologna sandwiches are some of my most vivid memories. Definitely worth a trip before or after a Discovery Place visit. Located Uptown on W. 4th St.
3. The Open Kitchen: This one is super nostalgic for my parents. They had their first date there. My dad had his first beer here at age 17 (Budweiser, 16 oz., two of ’em, he says). My parents took us to the Open Kitchen all the time growing up – we still eat there after visiting McAdenville so it’s become a tradition for my kids as well. The monkey on the high wire will never cease to amaze me. Good ‘ol spaghetti, pizza, garlic bread and more. Tons of wall decorations to keep the kids occupied. Oh yes, and did I mention a monkey on a high wire? Located on West Morehead St. Close to Uptown.
4. Charlotte Cafe at Park Road Shopping Center: The chicken wild rice soup. That’s what I think of with Charlotte Cafe. YUM. I remember going to Charlotte Cafe with my mom when my sister was in school and I wasn’t quite in kindergarten yet. That’s how much it’s engrained in me. It’s cozy, cheap, and delish. There’s more to the menu than the chicken wild rice soup. Located in Park Road Shopping Center and the Arboretum.
5. Providence Road Sundries: My husband asked my dad’s permission to marry me here. Probably after about 4 beers is what I’m guessing. It’s the perfect spot for a casual Sunday brunch or a loud family dinner. The food is delicious, and there are tons of TVs to keep everyone happy. Located off Providence Road near Queens.
6. Arthur’s SouthPark: Arthur’s 50 cent PBJ sandwiches saved my mom when we were growing up. We hit up Arthur’s ALL THE TIME. It was to my mom what Chick-fil-A is to me. Safe, yummy, and manageable with the kids. This was one of the only dining options in SouthPark back in the day. It’s now located in the basement of Belk at SouthPark. The best part is wine is available for moms when the kids get out of control. You won’t find THAT at Chick-fil-A (that doesn’t mean I don’t adore you, CFA!).
7. Great Wall of China: We weren’t too exotic in Charlotte in the late 70s and early 80s. The Great Wall of China was one of the only Chinese places around in my neck of the woods. It’s where I learned about those pillows of heaven called dumplings. It’s also where I discovered chicken and broccoli, and my life has never been the same. I remember asking for the “sticky rice they make at Great Wall” for my birthday dinner one year. My mom couldn’t do it. When you go, take a minute to thank them for expanding the horizons of hundreds of 1980s Charlotte kids. Located in Carmel Commons.
8. The Roasting Company: To me, the yummy Roasting Company was the first in fast casual Mexican (not sure if that’s official or not!) – actually I’m not even sure it’s considered Mexican, but it’s Mexican-like because they use tortillas. We hadn’t heard of Moe’s, Salsaritas, or Qdobas. The Roasting Company’s chicken wraps are some of the yummiest in town. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. Located on Montford off Park Road (which, trust me, was not NEARLY as hip as it is now).
9. Luisa’s Brick Oven Pizza: Luisa’s was my first taste of brick oven pizza. I thank her everyday for it. Up until that point, I had never seen such a thin, crispy crust. Truly authentic Italian pizza is what you’ll get at Luisa’s. Located right down Montford from the Roasting Company on Abbey Place, Louisa’s has some of the BEST pizza in Charlotte.
10. Lupie’s: Located in Elizabeth off Monroe, Lupie’s is the definition of a dive. Their chili will knock your socks right off. The first time I ate at Lupie’s I learned what Chili Mac was (for those of you who don’t know, it’s like a spicy piece of heaven in a bowl). Hey, I even named one of my sons “Mac” – coincidence?? 🙂 There’s more to the menu than chili – it’s just my fave. This is the PERFECT winter spot. It’s cozy and warm (literally – their spicy chili is HOT – you’ll be sweating on a 20-degree night).
There you have it! My fam’s Top 10 Must Eats in Charlotte. We were feeling very nostalgic that night and came up with a “Still in our hearts” list. So for those of you who grew up here, this will make sense. We wish these restaurants would come back and visit!
Still in our hearts…
– The Cafeteria at Belk SouthPark
– Hungry Fisherman in Lake Wylie (this is on my parents’ list because kids ate free!)
– Zarelli’s – an Opera-singing owner and delicious Italian food – how could you beat that??
– Herlocker’s at UNCC
We want feedback! What have we missed??
Eddies, Beef/Bottle, Fran’s Filling Station
Mr. K’s on South Blvd. They have been around forever and super nice!
My husband and I LOVED Zarelli’s back when we were dating!! The owner would always come over and make us sit closer together and he was always singing. What a wonderful place and I wish it was still here!
Love that, Candace!!!
Fenwick’s, Pike’s Old Fashioned Soda Shop, Price’s Chicken Coop!
Awwww I love all of these additions!!! Thanks!
the Light Rail Restaurant on South Blvd is my favorite spot for a ” meat and three” dinner. the waitress used to know us by name because we were weekly fixtures there when my kids were younger. This is a great list though!
Cheryl, our moms must have been in line together at a lot of those old restaurants. My favorite was the Barclay Cafeteria in Belk, and remember the S&W cafeteria where Sears southpark used to be? Also Slug’s Rib for prime rib:)
We still frequent Green’s–it is one of the kids’ favorites!
Ok here are some oldies- Athens restaurant, Anderson’s, Beef & Bottle, Barclay’s Cafeteria- every Sunday after church!!! Darryl’s near Eastland mall, Little italy- these are all part of my childhood!!! Love this!
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10 local eats the new generation of Charlotte MUST try | Charlotte Smarty Pants
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