The Art & Soul of Southern Cuisine in Charlotte
Smoked or deep-fried meats, classic sides, and plenty of love in each bite you take: it’s all part of Southern food culture
by Charlie Leonard
In Charlotte, business owners have gained citywide and national recognition for delicious soul food, taking local Southern cuisine to the next level. Whether you’re looking for classic soul food or modern Southern restaurant concepts, Charlotte has you covered.
Neighborhood: Wesley Heights
The basics: From their small white building off Tuckaseegee Road, Cuzzo’s Cuisine has proudly served some of Charlotte’s best seafood and wings. Chef Andarrio Johnson moved to Charlotte from Charleston, South Carolina, in 2011. Originally opened as a food truck in 2014, before opening the brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2016, Cuzzo’s has quickly gained a loyal following thanks to loyal followers and legendary Lobster Mac & Cheese.
What to order: Their famous Lobster Mac & Cheese—rich and creamy mac & cheese topped with succulent pieces of fresh lobster. Order it on its own or pair it with wings or seafood.
Neighborhood: Plaza Midwood
The basics: Nestled in the heart of Plaza Midwood, Dish serves up wonderful southern comfort food in a comfy setting reminiscent of your grandmother’s kitchen. Mouthwatering southern dishes await you at this local favorite that’s served everyone from Charlotte locals to Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.
What to order: Try the deliciously seasoned Fried Green Tomatoes to start. For your entree, choose the Cajun Meatloaf & Mashed Potatoes, Chicken and Dumplings, or Pot Roast—all served with a deviled egg and fresh-baked biscuit.
Neighborhood: South Park
The basics: Opened in 2014 by Charlotte's own Jon and Kim Dressler, Dogwood Southern Table and Bar is a modern Southern kitchen in the heart of Midtown Charlotte. Using local Carolina products in a chef-driven environment, Dogwood strives to provide delicious regional cuisine in a warm and friendly atmosphere.
What to order: Begin with house favorite Crab & Chorizo Hushpuppies, then try the Duck Breast or Prime KC Strip. Or make a reservation for “Dinner with Jonny,” a three-course tasting experience with beverage pairings at the Chef's Counter.
The basics: Despite being nestled in a small shopping center in Uptown, nothing about Freshwaters is small or ordinary. Come inside to discover a menu jam-packed with authentic Southern and New Orleans-style cuisine. Freshwaters is also well-regarded for its fantastic ambiance inside. Enjoy the soft jazz music playing in the background while you receive loving customer service from the staff—and the owners themselves—that are as welcoming as the comfort food on your plate.
What to order: There’s a medley of seafood that stands out here. Try the Handmade Crab Cake for an appetizer, and go with the Blackened Cajun Catfish or the Shrimp or Catfish Étouffée—delicious pan-seared fish that’s topped with a homemade New Orleans brown sauce and served over a bed of white rice—for dinner.
The basics: Haberdish is a mill town southern kitchen and craft cocktail bar that serves Carolina inspired cuisine with southern hospitality. Their bartenders will gladly shake, stir or pour you seasonally crafted apothecary cocktails that pair perfectly with the best-fried chicken in town.
What to order: Don’t miss their perfectly crispy Fried Chicken with a choice of eight different sauces. Enjoy with a side of Sweet Potato Dumplings or Mac & Cheese with spicy crispy chicken skins.
Neighborhood: South Charlotte
The basics: Since 2001, La’Wan’s has been one of the premier soul food restaurants in the Charlotte area. A myriad of customers from everyday Charlotteans to celebrities and sports teams have come to La’Wan’s for a taste of what’s cooking. That would include “home-style family recipes'' with a “new modern twist.” You’ll find classic soul food recipes like beef tips, fried fish and chicken on the menu.
What to order: Order their World Famous Pork Chops—fried in their in-house breading or grilled in their seasoning blend. For your side, choose their collard greens and pinto beans with a side of cornbread.
Neighborhood: Camp North End
The basics: Leah & Louise is a modern juke-joint—an informal establishment in Southern Black culture for eating, drinking, dancing, and conversation—in the burgeoning Camp North End area. Despite only being open for a year and a half, Leah & Louise has already garnered national and international acclaim for its modern interpretation of classic Southern dishes. Owners Greg and Subrina Collier are also the creators of the BayHavenFood & Wine Festival, a showcase of Black culinary experts that’s the first of its kind in Charlotte.
What to order: You can’t go wrong with the Oxtail and Dumplings—consisting of an oxtail burgoo “stew,” red rice calas, carrot escabeche, and chile oil. If you want great sides, opt for Leah’s Cabbage or the Down & Dirty that features slow corn roasted grits.
Neighborhood: Northwest Charlotte
The basics: Take exit 16 off of I-485 and travel up Brookshire Boulevard to find Londa’s Place. It’s a no-frills space that feels just like home to those in the know. That’s because Londa’s serves big portions of delicious comfort food each day, and no matter who you are, you’re going to be treated like family. Londa’s customers, the metaphorical family members in the Londa’s family tree, come from as far as South Carolina for a taste of its soul food staples.
What to order: Try the Meatloaf with a side of mashed potatoes for dinner and Banana Pudding for dessert.
Neighborhood: Wesley Heights
The basics: Crab cakes are to Maryland what pork BBQ is to North Carolina. Owner Jay Davis, a Baltimore native, brings his mother’s traditional crab cake recipe to Lulu’s Maryland Style Chicken & Seafood in Wesley Heights. A traditional, homemade crab cake recipe in an inland town has proved to be a huge hit. Rave reviews and effusive praise are a normal day’s work at this new jewel in the Charlotte culinary crown.
What to order: Stop what you’re doing and order their MD Style Crab Cake Platter. Get it with a side of their Mac & Cheese or Garlic Mashed Potatoes for one of your two sides.
Neighborhood: Charlotte area
The basics: Chef Micheal Taylor brings gourmet, Southern cooking on the go in the Charlotte area. Open for close to two years now, Taylor’s catering-style and meal prep accessibility have impressed everyone from wedding guests to professional athletes for the Panthers and Hornets. There’s quite a variety to choose from, and thankfully, you can’t go wrong with any of his custom creations.
What to order: Choose the Buttermilk Chicken and Churro Waffles with Tarragon and Vanilla Creme Angelisè or the Seafood Medley that’s packed with all sorts of delicious seafood selections.
The basics: Opening in 1998, Mert's Heart and Soul is led by James and Renee Bazzelle and a dedicated staff who are committed to providing customers with a memorable experience each and every time they visit. Mert's distinguishes itself from traditional soul food restaurants by offering Low Country and Gullah-inspired comfort food dishes that have been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
What to order: Start with the Soul Rolls; then savor some of Mert’s Famous Salmon Cakes, Shrimp and Grits or Red Beans & Rice with Turkey Kielbasa. Be sure to try a side of their award-winning macaroni and cheese.
Neighborhood: West Charlotte
The basics: Owner Kiana Morrison learned soul food cooking from her grandmother. Now, she’s blessing the entire city of Charlotte with her grandmother’s recipes. Kiana and her husband Shawn have run Nana Morrison’s from a local shopping center since 2011. In that ten year time period, they’ve wracked up a host of “Best of” awards and plenty of happy customers.
What to order: Choose the fried chicken or the smothered pork chops with a side of mashed potatoes, collard greens, or yams.
The basics: Opened in 2016, the inspiration for this restaurant comes from Nellie Jonas, the grandmother of Kevin Jonas, Sr. who is father to the Jonas Brothers pop trio. Nellie, who lived in Belmont until she passed away in 2011, is remembered as an incredible cook and a gracious hostess who focused on simple, fresh ingredients and making people feel like they were at home. The unique and beautiful atmosphere and decor are something not to be missed and features live music five days of the week making Nellie's a lively spot for all ages.
What to order: Begin with the Pimento Cheese Fries or Fried Squash and follow it up with Nellie’s Chicken and Dumplins, Hawg Hill Sandwich, or Chicken and Waffles. Be sure to leave room for dessert because Nellie’s has an amazing Banana Pudding.
The basics: Alicia Pincham, the owner of the A Pinch of Soul food truck, grew up eating good food no matter what the occasion was. Flash forward to today, and she’s sharing her soul food creations with everyone in the Charlotte area. That includes Saturday prayer meetings, corporate events, and everything in between.
What to order: Try their fried whiting, shrimp, or crab legs in a basket with seasoned fries.
Neighborhood: East Charlotte
The basics: Blink, and you might miss Queen’s Soul Food right off of Independence Boulevard. But you’d be sorry if you did. Owner Tony Nguyen’s cafeteria-style restaurant has been serving soul food classics for years. You’ll find everything from oxtails and curry chicken to smothered pork chops, fried chicken, and ribs.
What to order: Get their incredibly tender oxtails with a side of fried okra and collard greens.
The basics: The Southern Pecan is a casual restaurant celebrating the Gulf Coast cuisine that the owner, Monte Smith, grew up with. The relaxed ambiance is created by artwork and music that pours blues and jazz into your visit.
What to order: Try the Seafood Gumbo, Fried Shrimp, or Southern Fried Catfish. They also serve fresh salads with a delicious house-made cilantro pecan vinaigrette dressing. Finish off your meal with the Southern Pecan Praline Cheesecake.
Neighborhood: Plaza Midwood
The basics: Supperland is a southern steakhouse with an unusual, whimsical menu that draws inspiration from the restored, historical church building where it is located. The grounds extend across two old church buildings and include an expansive main dining room, vibrant southern garden, wide outdoor patio, champagne nook, and a private wine room located in the basement.
What to order: Try the Baked Brie Bites or Sausage Gravy Croquettes to start. For your entree order a slow-cooked Wagyu Pot Roast or the fire-grilled Pork Can Can with a side of Miso Mac & Cheese or Mushroom Risotto.