By Chrissie Nelson
You know how it goes; it’s not your first trip to the “where should we eat?” rodeo. You’re with a friend or your significant other and as your hunger consistently grows, you have an indecisive back-and-forth deliberation that ultimately ends up back at square one, your stomach grumbling and no dinner reservation in sight. If deciding on a local restaurant for dinner has become the world’s most impossible dilemma, we’re here to help. Before you start your next dinnertime debate, all you need to know is what kind of mood you’re in. Leave it to us to pick the perfect cuisine to match it.
Your mood: “I don’t want to change out of my sweatpants, much less leave the sofa.”
You’re craving: A feast that you can get to go and then serve up on the coffee table for movie night.
With its quick counter service and casual, friendly vibe, Pure Pizza fulfills all of your pie-on-the-fly needs. Pure’s pizza is best described by its own moniker. The menu highlights pure, organic, farm-fresh and local ingredients. Translation: piping hot pizza piled high with flavorful spices, cheeses and proteins.
Chinese takeout and movie night at home are a traditional winning combination, and Baoding in South Park has all of the Chinese classics for a cozy night on the couch. Make sure the stellar Singapore Rice Noodles make the trip home with you. There’s no guarantee they’ll last until the Netflix is geared up.
With just a handful of tables in its small, intimate space, it’s clear that Ajbani Moroccan Cuisine’s focus is carryout fare. A wide array of fresh Moroccan salads and sides, creative couscous entrees and traditional tajines are just what the doctor ordered for your next TiVo binge.
Too lazy to even bother with a “proper” balanced meal for dinner? Skip supper and go straight for dessert. While you could easily spend hours gazing at Amélie’s French Bakery’s gorgeous bakery cases, trust us with a quick tip: pick up the café’s signature salted caramel brownie and a few other sweet treats for a quiet night at home.
Your mood: “I want to go out but I refuse to change out of my favorite jeans.”
You’re craving: A casual, fast restaurant that doesn’t skimp on quality or flavor.
Enjoy a long summer evening with a cold one and your pick of comfort food that ranges from gooey grilled cheese sandwiches to tacos, bahn mi and smoky barbecue. Those staples headline the menus of the famed food trucks that fill the lots during Food Truck Friday in South End or Plaza Midwood. Make sure you get there early; you can enjoy a few brews and get your first choice before the trucks run out of the fan favorites.
Make your own spring rolls, slurp up a bowl of hot pho or indulge in some traditional Vietnamese bun at Vietnam Grille. The Number 31 Deluxe Pho or the Number 33 House Special Vermicelli will pair perfectly with whatever beer or wine you crave–and your distressed jeans. Take advantage of the house BYOB policy and no corking fees.
If you’re looking for a chill vibe, good beer and delicious sandwiches, pull up a barstool in the taproom or park it on the relaxing patio at Sugar Creek Brewing Co. Treat your palate to a pint or sample a flight of Belgian-inspired beer, pairing it with a hot-pressed panini; the Belgian Dip, Hot Hen and Thermal Nuclear Kraken all feature bold flavors and lots of melted cheese.
Sabor Latin Street Grill is affordable and quick. Order your food at the counter, make a pit stop at the salsa bar and savor a margarita infused with fresh lime juice while you wait. The $1 tacos on Tuesdays are a must, but bear in mind that the menu is defined by much more than tacos. Be sure to order one (or all) of the authentic street food items, like the famous empanadas or Latin corn on the cob. The best part? Your grungy gear is completely welcome.
Your mood: “I’d like to get dressed up for date night, but we forgot to make a reservation.”
You’re craving: A sophisticated spot with a couple of cozy corner booths; no pre-planning necessary.
Nestled on the corner of Central Avenue and Pecan Avenue, funky Soul Gastrolounge serves up great food, cold drinks and sweet tunes. Soul’s cool decor and live DJ infuse the space with a relaxed, intimate lounge vibe. Sip on a signature craft cocktail and be prepared to share; Soul’s adventurous and eclectic menu features creative small bites, like Asian-glazed pork belly tacos and sushi. Plus, the side porch boasts a killer view of the skyline.
When you step into Crêpe Cellar Kitchen & Pub in NoDa, you’re instantly transported into a quaint, romantic European bistro. Toast cocktails crafted with small-batch bitters to a night on the town before the appetizers arrive. Split the soft, silky burrata or the guilty pleasure pesto brie fries to start and follow up with something hearty; you can’t go wrong with a signature crepe, stuffed with flavorful offerings, or a mouthwatering burger as your main course.
The Cellar at Duckworth’s is a basement speakeasy spot that’s saturated in low-key sophistication. Without a TV in sight and bartenders sporting suspenders, you’ll think you’ve been transplanted back to the 1920s. And touches of old brick, dim lighting, a carefully curated cocktail selection—all of which are served in era-appropriate glassware—a sensational tapas menu and a vintage-style beer cellar chock full of the rarest of brews plant your senses right in the midst of Prohibition times.
Linger, sip and savor at South Park’s sophisticated wine studio, Corkbuzz Restaurant & Wine Bar. With a focus on wine, the warm and welcoming space doubles as a restaurant that dishes up delicious European and American cuisine with a nod to Southern cooking and seasonal, local ingredients. It’s also a home base for wine education, classes and events.
Your mood: “I’m celebrating a special occasion. Give me good food, fine wine, the whole nine yards.”
You’re craving: A special, one-of-a-kind dining experience.
Perched atop the 27th floor of the Charlotte Plaza building, Bentley’s on 27, which boasts incredible panoramic skyline views of Uptown, elevates the dining experience to new heights—and not just literally. The French and American culinary mainstay is a go-to for the most romantic occasions. An extensive wine list, intimate setting and classic French tableside service round out the sophisticated restaurant’s offerings.
Treat yourself to 12 phenomenal courses at Heirloom Restaurant, where the seasonal tasting menu, featuring the freshest fare from North Carolina farmers and artisans, changes on a daily basis. Warm lighting and wood accents make Heirloom a cozy, comfortable space to enjoy each other’s company and North Carolina’s finest ingredients.
Featuring classically prepared dishes with a French influence and a down-home twist, dinner at McNinch House Restaurant isn’t just a meal; it’s an experience. From your plush chair in a historic Fourth Ward Victorian home, you’ll depart on a multicourse culinary journey, with a side of elegance, romance, carefully paired pours and classic Southern hospitality.
The 30-minute drive north from Center City to Davidson is definitely worth it to enjoy a meal at Kindred Restaurant. Celebrate your special occasion at the equal parts refined and inviting eatery by ordering The Bartender’s Choice, a custom cocktail concocted with your preferred liquor and flavor profile and a spread of simple yet sophisticated farm-to-table tapas. And, we can’t stress this enough: Save room for the infamous milk bread.
This feature ran in the July 2016 issue of Happenings magazine.