We're in the midst of an exciting time in Charlotte, despite COVID-19, where restaurants are branching out, doing cool new things — whether it be extraordinary culinary creations or fun concepts we haven't seen yet. I believe we're seeing chefs and restaurant owners step more into who they want to be, take hold of their creativity, and take risks.
The two restaurants that I'm currently obsessed with not only have in common that they seduce me with their earthy open fire, wood-burning kitchen aromas, but also they are the product of already established restaurants/groups taking hold of their creativity. When people ask me what my current favorite restaurants are, these two are in my top three answers.
Read more about why I love these places, which are both great for indulging in flavorful shareables/family-style meals.
This restaurant opened up just about a year ago, from the team behind Bardo. With a rustic interior and elevated, rustic inspired food, this is the place to go for quality, flavorful dishes that is down to earth without all the fancy extras that come with a fine-dining restaurant. The drink menu has PBR and Miller High Life on it...so this place isn't trying to be anything but approachable, fun, and adventurous in its offerings. You could come here for a casual drink at the bar or for a nice meal in casual clothes, making it a restaurant fit for becoming a regular at.
When it comes to the food, you get the fine dining experience that comes with well-executed flavors and unique dishes without having to dress to the nines or feel like you have to pronounce fancy ingredients — the menu items list simple, approachable ingredients to give you an idea of the basics of the dishes; then when the dishes comes out to your table, you get wowed by the creative additional ingredients and complex flavors.
When you walk through the door of Vana, the ambiance makes you feel at home or like you're at someone's warm farm cottage. The atmosphere is comfortable and settles you in perfectly for the tasty culinary ride you're about to embark on. Because the menu is often too simple in its descriptions, making it hard to choose what you want, don't be afraid to ask your server for recommendations. I was so happy with the veggie dish and dessert dish that was recommended to me on my first visit. Two dishes and a dessert were the perfect amount of food for a light dinner between two people, but I could have comfortably shared a third savory dish.
For a drink, like I said, you can get something as simple as a PBR or local craft beer, or as refined as a nice glass of wine or fun cocktail. The cocktail menu is impressive with an array of flavors and liquors that will quench any taste bud.
While the concept here at Vana seems simple, the execution of the food experience is super thought out and very intentional; even down to the hooks on the side of the tables to hang your menu, so that it doesn't take up space for the spread of culinary delight you're sure to order.
Looking for a new place to brunch? I've heard phenomenal things from fellow food bloggers about Vana's brunch but have not yet made it over myself to try it out. If you do, let me know what you think!
This restaurant has been open less than 6 months from the couple behind NoDa neighborhood staples Haberdish, Crepe Cellar, Growlers Pour House, and Reigning Doughnuts. They describe themselves as a cross between a southern steakhouse and church potluck, and their dishes are definitely inspired by all of the above; however, they really take it back to southern basics and thoughtfully elevate them with layered, rustic flavors. I have not put one bad or mediocre thing in my mouth when I've dined here. I'm even in love with their wallpaper and plateware, which is etherial and custom made in London.
So let's dive into that wood-fired cuisine...Must order items on the starters menu are the Roasted Oysters with smoking ember butter and the Sausage Gravy Croquets with sage and black pepper gravy. For mains, the Pork and the Pot Roast are savory and delicious. For sides, you can't miss the super creamy Miso Mac & Cheese, as well as the Bone Marrow Broccoli and the Warm Corn Salad with bacon. If you've never had Ambrosia Salad growing up, or even if you have, their version is worth a try with the homemade whip cream and the unique toasty flavors of the charred pineapple and the toasted coconut.
Drink wise, Supperland has put a lot of thought and time into their cocktail program at The Bar, so a cocktail (or two) is worth a try! Colleen Hughes is behind the amazing and creative cocktail programs at both Haberdish and Supperland, so she's garnered quite the resume for herself (she recently won Mixologist of the Year from NCRLA Chef Showdown).
If you are a wine lover, their wine collection is pretty impressive with over 200 bottles — just take a step downstairs to the private dining room to see the floor to ceiling wine collection. They have in-house Sommelier Michael Klinger (I know him from my days practically living at Corkbuzz, taking every wine class I could get my hands on), who will give you a perfect wine recommendation to pair with any dish on the menu or just for indulgence sake.
The beauty of the restored church and mid-century architecture is enough alone to visit this gorgeous restaurant. Owners Jeff and Jamie poured their hearts into making this place a culinary destination worthy of the Plaza Midwood neighborhood. Such a destination, though, that you will need to make reservations almost a month ahead of time in order to dine, so plan accordingly.
If this place didn't sound perfect enough, they recently revealed the huge secret they've been keeping since opening: they have a basement Speakeasy with a two hour $115 tasting menu experience that will open this fall. You can get in by reservation only, as there is a limit of 10 seats available at each sitting. The menu is set to rotate every few months. I love culinary experiences, so this is one I cannot wait to put on my list to try!