Janine Davis

woman eating at the table

Charlotte is known as the Queen City and is steadily getting noticed for its vast array of restaurants. But with all the excitement around NEW spots to eat, one can never forget about the eateries that have stood against the test of time, slick ads, and social media. They are iconic places to eat.

If you ask me, there appears to be a restaurant on just about every corner in Charlotte, just like churches. But these are the restaurants that have been around for the last 20 or 30 years. They have the staying power that keeps people coming back. And just what is that ‘staying power’?

Staying Power

According to restaurant service company Toast, there are some key elements to a successful restaurant. While it takes tons of behind-the-scenes work to make it all happen, these tips can help keep a restaurant open. And they are what the mainstays all have in common.

  1. Food – It sounds obvious and simple, but what good is a place where you go to eat and the food is no good? Many restaurants bring in an executive chef or someone who is extremely knowledgeable about food. In fact, most are passionate about food and its presentation.
  2. Strong restaurant identity – Having a long line out the door because the food is exceptional is great, but according to Toast, it takes more than just a loyal fan base. They say establishing a restaurant’s identity is critical and it starts with a good, well-thought out business plan.
  3. Location – Where your restaurant is located is an important factor. Can customers get to you without a hassle? Is there ample parking? Is it safe? Does it match your restaurant identity?
  4. Service – Toast says having happy people who work at your restaurant can keep you profitable. Staff members who are happy to come to work every day have a positive effect on the work morale. And that effect is reflected in the service they provide to the guests.

These elements and many more help to solidify the success of a restaurant. Which is why below are some of the must-try food spots in the Queen City that continue to check all the boxes.

  • Mama Ricotta's - Started in 1992

    If you’re in the mood for authentic, classic Italian food, this is the spot! My favorite is the traditional lasagna. The restaurant recently had a makeover to bring more of a modern feel to the interior. Located in Midtown, it’s great for a big family dinner or takeout or even a first date. Oh and did I mention the sangria? A must-try.

    Mama Ricotta’s
    601 S. Kings Drive, Suite AA
    Charlotte,  NC 28204
    (704) 343-0148

  • Sub-One Hoagie - Started in 1992

    The family-owned sandwich shop has been serving up subs for more than 30 years. Located in Fourth Ward, they are just blocks from the Bank of America Panthers Stadium. This has been a steak n cheese go-to for me since I moved to the Queen City. It’s a father and his two sons who make each hoagie with love that does it for me. Don’t bother trying to visit on the weekend. They are closed on Saturday and Sunday for religious reasons.

    Sub One Hoagie
    516 N. Graham Street, Suite A
    Charlotte, NC 28202

  • Red Rocks Cafe - started in 1992

    This a great upscale spot, but with a casual family-friendly environment. It’s American cuisine with everything from burgers, to salads and my favorite the crab bisque. They have two locations in premiere, upscale parts of town. One is in the newly renovated Birkdale Village. The restaurant sits right across from a new amphitheatre and other boutiques and shops. The newest location is in SouthPark, near the upscale mall. 

    Red Rocks Cafe (Birkdale)
    8712 Lindholm Drive
    Huntersville, NC 28078

    Red Rocks Cafe (Southpark)
    4223 Providence Road, Unit 8
    Charlotte, NC 28211

  • Selwyn Avenue Pub - started in 1990

    Every time I pass by this pub, it’s almost always packed. It’s full of young professionals and those sports fanatics who apparently come here for a good time and for good food and craft beer. It’s located in Quintessential Myers Park in a updated older house with a great front patio. The bar made a name for itself for its cheap Transfusion drinks . And I hear the food is so much better than your regular bar menu. So if you’re ever traveling through the Myers Park area, once you pass by the multi-million dollar homes, check out the older home packed with buppies dressed in sports gear and having a ball,  stop in. It’s likely Selwyn’s Pub.

    Selwyn Avenue Pub
    2801 Selwyn Avenue
    Charlotte, NC 28209

  • Thai Taste - started in 1988

    This Thai restaurant is a true staple in Charlotte. Located in the Dilworth community, it has managed to survive developers fancy new, shiny buildings and new construction. It’s actually history-making, serving as Charlotte’s first Thai restaurant. It has maintained the authenticity of Thai food, the service and most significantly, it’s location. It remains in the same brick and mortar that it began some 36 years ago.

    Thai Taste
    324 East Blvd.
    Charlotte, NC  28203


  • French Quarter - started in 1986

    Nestled in uptown Charlotte in an area known as Latta Arcade in Brevard Court, this family-run restaurant has been round since the mid-80’s. During the day, they cater to the work crowd serving comfort food like baked chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. At night, get their Cajun fish with red beans and rice dish and top it off with your favorite wine or beer on tap.  Either way, they never disappoint.

    French Quarter
    321 S. Church Street, in Brevard Court
    Charlotte, NC 28202

  • Cajun Queen - started in 1985

    If you’re in the mood for some real New Orleans-inspired food, like étouféé and cajun pasta mixed in with some live jazz, this is your go-to. Here you have a bonus to take in the history of this 100-year-old house. Combine that with good food and music, there’s nothing better for date night and even drinks and apps with your favorite group of friends. I am totally hooked on their fried oysters. And a new parking lot nearby makes it even more convenient to go there. 

    Cajun Queen
    1800 E. 7th Street
    Charlotte, NC 28204

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