Discover the Queen City’s Chain Restaurant Concepts
Fried chicken, bodegas, Latin street food and more–casual local food joints expand their footprints in Charlotte and beyond.
by Esther Pinto
As many restaurateurs know, Charlotte is a creative haven for foodies in the Southeast, welcoming dozens of new restaurants every month. But it’s not just new concepts that thrive here. Tried-and-tested Charlotte-owned food joints have been flourishing for years. These Crown Town eateries now claim two, 10 or even 600 locations in Charlotte and the Southeast.
With 600-plus locations, this Charlotte-born fast-food restaurant known for its Cajun seasoning and made-from-scratch biscuits now stretches as far north as Pennsylvania and as far south as Florida, yet it holds fast to its roots by retaining its corporate headquarters here.
Founded by Greek immigrant George Couchell, also known as “Mr. C,” Showmars has expanded from its original Independence Boulevard restaurant to 30 different locations in North and South Carolina. A combination of fast-casual and formal dining, this family-friendly diner has become known for its fresh food and great customer service, a standard set more than 30 years ago.
Brixx now shares its love of great pizza with more than 30 locations ranging from Atlanta, Georgia, all the way to Fishers, Indiana. All pizzas are cooked in their brick ovens, which give the crust a smoky, campfire-esque flavor. Despite this pizzeria’s rapid expansion, it keeps its community roots by supporting local schools, churches, nonprofits and other charitable organizations.
With five locations in both North and South Carolina, Midwood Smokehouse serves vinegar-based barbecue sauces in the heart of tomato-sauce territory, yet somehow locals don’t seem to mind. Wood-smoked meats, heady craft brews and finger-licking-good sides keep folks saving room for seconds.
With nearly 40 locations, this brunch joint can be found nearby in North and South Carolina as well as farther-flung places like California. Originally from Huntersville, Famous Toastery treats their guests to everything from avocado benedicts to black bean wraps. As a warm welcome in their newfound community, each time a location is opened, 100 percent of the first two days’ proceeds are donated to local nonprofit organizations.
This New York-style pizza place rocks a retro garage-theme at all 13 locations throughout metro Charlotte, Washington D.C. and New York. Though there is no arguing the pizza by the slice is a must, their award-winning wings are definitely a crowd favorite.
131 Main brings a ‘low country Charleston feel’ to four locations in the North Carolina region. Originally from Cornelius, the upscale eatery plates Southern delicacies like shrimp and grits and cast iron cornbread.
Recognized for their delicious-yet-massive burgers, Bad Daddy’s has 28 locations in both North and South Carolina, Colorado, Georgia, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Their whole idea is to create simple American-style dishes for guests far and wide to indulge in. Here you’ll find some of the messiest burgers in town like their Sam I Am burger, which is topped off with an over-easy fried egg.
This quaint French bakery, with eclectic furniture and quirky décor, has become more than a coffee-and-croissant shop. With its original location in NoDa, their 24/7 concept sparked a need for late-night sweets among many locals. Amelie’s now has six locations in Charlotte and Atlanta. As they continue to grow, so, too, does the popularity of their expansive menu options. In addition to an entire pastry case of indulgences, soups, salads and French-inspired finger sandwiches are served at all locations.
A Charlotte classic, Reid’s used to be known for their butchery and food deliveries. Today, this charismatic diner offers small plates like fried gulf oysters and crab cake benedict. You can enjoy a glass of wine at any of their three locations in the Charlotte area.
Although called “common” this space is anything but. Selling funky trinkets, craft beers, wide-ranging wine options and over-the-top sandwiches, this hangout invites guests to enjoy live music and hometown vibes in three different Charlotte locations.
Offering a menu of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern selections, fast-casual YAFO has expanded to three different locations around Charlotte. Pack your bowl Chipotle-style with versatile goods like hummus, rice, vegetables, meats and more.
This elegant and modern restaurant’s claim to fame is its celebrity chef: Jamie Lynch, a recent contestant on “Top Chef.” Serving everything from filet mignons to s’mores trifles, Lynch’s upscale steakhouse now claims three locations in Charlotte, Atlanta and Charleston. At the corner of Fifth and Church streets (get it?), 5Church charms diners with its sleek bar and floor-to-ceiling windows. Next door, Sophia’s Lounge, also serves 5Church fare.
Founded by Dalton Espaillat, a New York native raised in the Dominican Republic, Sabor dishes out a menu of options from all over Latin America: El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia. Popularized by its Taco Tuesday deal ($1 each, if you can believe it), the concept has quickly grown from one location in Elizabeth to 11 in the Charlotte region.
With two locations, casual bodega and bottle shop Rhino Market is a neighborhood hangout known for stocking Charlotte goods. The “deli” half of this whole is particularly beloved by locals. Rhino offers breakfast sandwiches and burritos as well as lunch sandwiches, salads and soups in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian varieties.
Known for their beer, bikes and barbecue, Mac’s offers everything from wings tossed in your favorite sauce to tacos and quesadillas. This edgy restaurant has expanded to eight different locations in both North and South Carolina.
Rice, beans, yucca, churros and more! This Peruvian rotisserie has planted 12 restaurants in North Carolina, Utah and Delaware and is widely recognized by locals for its three sauces: Roasted Rocoto Pepper, Mild Yellow Peruvian Pepper and Black Peruvian Mint, Fresh Cilantro and Jalapeño.
Stop by one of Clean Juice’s six locations in the Charlotte to enjoy in fresh and delicious smoothies, juices or acai bowls. This juice joint focuses on proving a clean yet yummy way to grub, so all locations also offer juice cleansing plan options for those looking to go the extra mile.