Head chef Jon Martinson and owner-sommelier David Soper incorporate fresh local ingredients into a menu brimming with unique tapas, flatbread pizzas, and other seasonal bites. Warm up with an order of rosemary-brown-butter roasted nuts ($5), or submerge tooth divers in the Cajun sweet corn and crab dip ($6). For the main course, shareable small-portion tapas entice diners with a spectrum of unique tastes. Mussels perform tableside feats of strength with a topping of red curry dashi, coconut milk, and miso butter ($8), and grilled flank steak teams up with a locavore-pleasing Clover Farm mushroom and spring-onion bread pudding ($12). At lunch, Nanny’s margherita flatbread tut-tuts unruly hunger ($6), and a mouthwatering pulled-pork sandwich served on a soft bolillo roll dives playfully into tomatillo-ancho chili sauce ($10).
A new player on Charlotte's vibrant culinary scene, El Camino greets diners with a menu of fresh, scratch-made Tex-Mex dishes that are as innovative as they are family-friendly. Meals often start with the kitchen's signature guacamole, which contains traditional ingredients—hand-smashed avocados, fresh tomatoes, and cilantro—but with a creative addition of roasted peppers. Warm flour tortillas play triple duty; they envelop spinach and cheese to create quesadillas, hold unusual fixings, such as fried chicken or beef brisket, inside half a dozen taco varieties, and wrap themselves around nine kinds of overstuffed burritos. The El Camino kitchen prepares north-of-the-border specialties as well, including Cowboy Burgers topped with pepper jack cheese and a West Texas chili made with five varieties of peppers.
Executive chef and owner Jim Alexander has created an upscale dining experience worthy of a world-class New York or London eatery, with a menu of contemporary French cuisine that remains accessible to all diners. Educated at New York’s Culinary Institute of America, Alexander has been widely recognized within the restaurant industry, including earning a stint on the 1996 gold-medal-winning US Culinary Olympic Team. His mastery of the kitchen shines not only in the well-flavored meals, but also in Zebra’s characteristic artistic presentation. Most dishes benefit from ambitiously sculpted food combinations, each a brilliant array of colors, shapes, and textures.
The amicable staff at The Wine Dive prepares a tailored menu of bistro fare that reels in hungry passersby and warms them like the reassuring glare of a grandmother’s laughing emerald eyes. The panini club ($8–$10), part of a revolving roster of paninis, tightly enfolds savory selections such as salami, ham, turkey, and provolone in a bear hug of hearty italian bread, enabling one-handed or even hands-free munching. Diners can elegantly sip on port-wine cheese dip ($6) or nibble a plate of colby and pepper-jack cheeses and zesty olives ($6). The Wine Dive supports local artists by decorating its crimson interior with their paintings and sculptures, and live musical performances each Friday inspire passionate, beat-driven chewing and sipping solos. Outdoor patio seating presents guests with a direct view of the Lake Norman Marina and a viable escape route for those pursued by bee swarms.