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Good Eats

Our critics' guide to recommended restaurants in the Charlotte area.

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LaVecchia's Seafood Grille, 225 E. 6th St., 704-370-6776. A haven for seafood lovers. Well-prepared, inventive dishes set in an upscale interior. For fun try the three coast raw oyster sampler. $$$

Mama Ricotta's, 910 S. Kings Dr., 704-343-0148. Small but imaginative menu of pastas, antipasti and pizza. $$

McNinch House, 511 N. Church St., 704-332-6159. Owner chef Ellen Davis offers a prix fixe dinner in a renovated Fourth Ward Victorian mansion with nine wood burning fireplaces. Known for romantic, and sometimes clandestine meetings, and exceptional service. Reservations required. $$$$

Melting Pot, Kings Court Plaza, Kings Dr., 704-334-4400. A Florida based franchise that has been around since 1975, but is now primed again to catch the latest fondue wave. You will find all kinds of fondues: cheese, beef, seafood, chicken, and, chocolate. $$$

Mert's Heart and Soul, 214 N. College St., 704-342-4222. Owners James and Renee Bazzelle create delectable Low Country and Southern country dishes. Service is solicitous, art provocative, food down-home and honest, and prices incredibly low. Open late weekends. $$

Morton's of Chicago Steakhouse, 227 W. Trade St. (Carillon Building), 704-342-4222. Well known for steaks and elegance. Morton's has restaurants in 50 U.S. and international cities. Dinner only. $$$$

Palomino Euro Bistro, 525 N. Tryon St., 704-373-9499. A Seattle-based chain which serves uncomplicated dishes in a warm, vibrant and inviting atmosphere. Delightful patio fountain. $$$

Phil's Deli, 105 E. 5th St., 704-347-0035. Authentic NYC-style deli (without NYC prices) with friendly service, fresh breads, and sumptuous cold cuts. $

Red Sea Restaurant and Bar, 206 E. Independence, 704-375-4999. Small, bare bones restaurant serving flavorful Ethiopian food. $$

Simmons Fourth Ward Restaurant, 516 N. Graham St., 704-334-6640. Classic Southern country recipes: smothered pork chops, mac & cheese, baked chicken with corn bread dressing, collard greens, barbecue ribs. $$

Sonoma Bistro & Wine Bar, 129 W. Trade St., 704-377-1333. Owner Pierre Bader and chef Tim Groody team up to produce innovative New American cuisine with locally grown produce in an urban atmosphere. Award winning wine list. $$$East Charlotte

Brazas Brazilian Grill, 4508 E. Independence Blvd, 704-566-1009. Meat runners brandish towering skewers of meat and add to the Carnival-like atmosphere. The price is fixed and it's all you can eat from a cold and hot buffet. Many dishes are Brazilian specialties, others are just plain good. $$$

Diamond Restaurant, 1901 Commonwealth Ave., 704-375-8959. Established in 1945, this is one of Charlotte's oldest restaurants. Good, solid homecooking with a down-home, almost small town touch. $

Dim Sum Chinese Restaurant, 2920-B Central Ave, 704-569-8959. Serves both excellent "real" and Americanized Chinese food with a wonderful dim sum assortment. Functional ambiance. $$

El Loco Pollo, 3124 Eastway Dr. 520, 704-568-3600. These Peruvian dishes delight with a flavor dance of salsas, a freshness to the cerviche, a crispness to fried items, and an earthiness of potatoes and corn. Low-key setting. $$

Gus's Sir Beef, 4101 Monroe Rd., 704-377-3210. Homespun Gus's is known for "Fresh My Farm" vegetables cooked without grease. If you want to be a Charlottean, you'll have to go for the fried squash. $

House of Chinese Gourmet, 5608 E. Independence Blvd., 704-563-8989. This friendly little place serves some dishes lacking in other Charlotte Chinese resaurants with helpful, friendly service. $$

Huong Viet, 4808 Central Ave., 704-537-8475. This little hole-in-the-wall serves up delicate, balanced Vietnamese dishes. $$

Kabob House, Persian Cuisine, 6432 E. Independence Blvd., 704-531-2500. An array of Persian delights: tender charbroiled kabobs, polo, and khoresht dishes, all reasonably priced. Building is not much to look at from the outside, but the interior is welcoming. $$$

King and I Restaurant, 4800 Central Ave., 704-532-7511. Small, pristine Thai restaurant with flavorful dishes, and a solicitous, knowledgable staff. $$$

Kyoto Japanese/Korean Restaurant, 6404 Albemarle Rd., 704-569-1954. The Korean dishes are so authentic that even the Korean menu is written in Korean script without benefit of translation. $$

La Canasta Dominicana Restaurant, 4808 Central Ave., 704-536-0009. Small, friendly, bilingual family-owned place offering well-prepared root and fruit island dishes. Seafood, stewed goat, and homemade desserts, too. $$

La Gran Havana, 5917 Albermarle Rd., 704-535-0223. Cuban chefs create island delights here. Wonderful black bean soup, golden maduros, mariquitas, and char-grilled pork with a tangy-sweet tamarind sauce. Bilingual menu. $$

Lang Van, 3019 Shamrock, 704-553-3864. Oldest Vietnamese restaurant in the city and has become one of the most popular ethnic restaurants, famous for their yellow pancakes. Delicious Vietnamese cuisine with lots of fresh herbs in creative combinations. $$

Mamma Lena's Pasta & Pizza, 5135 Albemarle Rd., 704-568-0000. Pizza (cooked in a wood-burning oven) and pasta are both terrific, as is fresh crusty bread. Unlimited salad or soup with entrees. $$

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