Hawthorne's New York Pizza & Bar's dough-slingers serve a piping-hot menu of pasta, heroes, and hand-tossed pizzas, earning a 2011 Charlotte Magazine Voters' Choice award for best pizza. Edible disks are spooned with sauce and configured for specialty deliciousness with such options as the luau pizza⎯a blend of pineapple, bacon, smoked pulled pork, and caramelized onions wrapped up in a grass skirt ($9–$18)⎯and the Sicilian's thick, square crust clad only in mozzarella ($14.50). Herbs and gorgonzola cheese roam across hills of pasta and valleys stuffed with chicken or sausage in the gorgonzola pasta ($10.50), and the philly cheesesteak hero ($8.85) laces standard white american cheese with the illicit flavors of chipotle mayo. Chefs layer eggplant rollentini ($11) with a blend of mozzarella, ricotta, and romano cheeses before spackling it with pesto and oven-baking it to monumental deliciousness.
Chef Imani pays homage to his Southern roots by infusing his classical culinary training with Southern flavors. He whips up sandwiches and salads for lunch and hosts Sunday jazz brunches during which guests dig into jerk shrimp with fried cheese grits or blueberry pancakes. Chef Imani’s signature dessert—a housemade bread pudding—embellishes an old family recipe with a Jamaica rum sauce and spices of his own devising.
It’s hard not to feel nostalgic at Jake’s Good Eats. For starters, the cozy eatery is housed in a converted 1930s gas station, and—with vintage Coca-Cola and motor-oil signs scattered across its whitewashed walls—it's decorated to match. But the nostalgia doesn’t hit full force until the first bite of Jake and Gordon Stegall's homestyle Southern food. Bone-in, maple-glazed pork chops dotted with candied apples, free-range chicken with andouille sausage, and blackened grouper smothered in the house's original crawfish sauce are just a few menu highlights that have made Jake's worthy of a feature on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and a place on Guy Fieri's speed dial. And that’s just the Stegall brothers’ take on what they call “more refined country cooking.” They also assemble oyster po’ boys, pit-smoked barbecue sandwiches, and even hot dogs—in homage to their days as car-show vendors—topped with chili and slaw.
Best of all, from the brown sugar to the blackening rubs, the brothers make practically everything from scratch. And what they can't handle, their Mama Jean can; according to Creative Loafing Charlotte, she bakes all the biscuits and desserts, including banana pudding and chocolate-peanut-butter pies that “are everything to make your mouth happy.”
Most American chefs never even flirt with the ingredients Cho Won Garden’s chefs rely on heavily, from the garnish radish kimchi to their popular Bulgogi dish, which consists of sliced, boneless prime beef. They also serve meat, rice, and vegetable medleys in traditional stone pots—the very vessels in which the earliest cooks in human history learned how to boil down rocks into pebbles.
At just 18 years old, Mena's Mediterranean Grill owner Mena Effat has two goals: serve delicious, yet healthy food at affordable prices, and stand as an inspiration to young female entrepreneurs. Inside her restaurant, Mena oversees a menu built around Mediterranean specialties, with a hint of Mexican for good measure. On it, shish kabobs, seafood platters, and potatoes stuffed with ground beef populate the entrée section, while sweets such as baklava and apricot pudding headline various desserts. Fruit smoothies carry Mena's health-attentive tune, including freshly cut mango, strawberry, and lemon.