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Good Eats

Our critics' guide to recommended restaurants in Charlotte

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La Gran Havana, 5546 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 Dr., 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. $$

Mariscos La Mexicana, Mexican Seafood, 4400 Central Ave., 704-531-4500. Mexican coastal cuisine, primarily seafood, served in huge portions at reasonable prices. Bilingual menu and staff. $$

Pho An Hoa, 4832 A-B Central Ave., 704-537-0060. Very tasty Vietnamese soup shop. $

Portofino Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, 3124 Eastway Dr., 704-568-7933. Wonderful rustic Neapolitan dishes at incredibly low prices. New York Style Pizza (large is 16 inch). Take out, too. $$

Restaurante El Pulgarcito, 4816 Central Ave., 704-563-6500. A bare bones shop specializing in pupusas, an El Salvador treat, and other Central American favorites. $

South 21 Drive In, 3101 E. Independence Blvd., 704-377-4509. Charlotte landmark since 1955, serves great burgers, fries, onion rings, etc. and still wins awards every year from our readers. Drive in or take out. $

Woodlands Pure Vegetarian South Indian Cuisine, 7128-A Albemarle Rd., 704-569-9193. Featuring excellent vegetarian idis, vadas, sambars, and rasams of Udipi, south India, served up with a flair. $$$

Elizabeth/Plaza-Midwood

Cajun Queen, 1800 E. 7th St., 704-377-9017. Friendly atmosphere, jazz, and terrific service highlight the complete New Orleans-style menu. $$$

Cuisine Malaya, Malaysian Cuisine & Japanese Sushi Bar, 1411 Elizabeth Ave., 704-372-0766. Charlotte's only Malaysian restaurant seving first rate Roti Canai, Satay, Char Kway Teow and Beef Rendang. Sultry, yet sophisticated ambiance and fine service. $$$

Ethan's of Elizabeth American Bistro, 366 N. Caswell Road, 704-375-3007. Located in a charming old house in one of Charlotte's quaint neighborhoods, this comfortable bistro features the creative abilities of chef and owner Mark Martin who produces well- executed New American cuisine. $$$

Ibex Ethiopian Restaurant, 3200 Monroe Rd., 704-333-1818. A tasty berbere is used as the base for the piquant dishes. The twelve-seat mesab room where the coffee service ceremony is held becomes a buffet at lunch; the main dining area is sparse. Ethiopian beer available. $$

John's Country Kitchen, 1518 Central Ave., 704-333-9551. A reminder of a culinary tradition we're quickly leaving behind. Brains and eggs, country ham, grits and gravy. Open for lunch too. Cash only. $

Lupie's Cafe, 2718 Monroe Rd., 704-374-1232. This funky, semi-legendary place is home to an eclectic, down-home hip clientele and a kitchen full of some of the best burgers and vegetarian and non vegetarian chili in town. $

Nova's Bakery, 1511 Central Ave., 704-333-5566. A great Eastern European bakery. Wonderful cranberry pecan and orange chocolate bread, focaccia, baguettes, country bread, brioche, potato pizzas and more. $

The Penguin, 1921 Commonwealth Ave., 704-375-6959. Reopened in 2001 after being refurbished to the original red, black, and chrome 1950s interior. Menu features burgers, foot long hot dogs, Eastern-style barbecue, veggie burgers, fried pickles and pimento cheese sandwiches. $$

Swing 1000, 1000 Central Ave., 704-334-4443. Familiar dishes in a glamorous neo-1940s/Lounge/Rat Pack setting. Entertainment and dancing with a dose of swank. $$$$

Lake Norman

Brooklyn South Pizzeria & Italian Eatery, 19911-C N. Cove Road (Cornelius), 704-948-7728. A typical New York style, family-owned, neighborhood pizzeria where items are served in large shareable portions and kept at a minimal price. $$

Ferrucci's Old Tyme Italian Market, 20910 Torrence Chapel Rd. (Cornelius), Shops on the Green, 704-896-3190. A few tables let you eat some of their homemade lasagna in-house, or take home some eggplant parmesan, or meats, cheeses, and cold cuts. They grind their own Italian sausage. $

Greg's Famous B-B-Q, 233 S. Broad St. (Mooresville), 704-664-4848. The menu has everything from barbecue to lasagna, chicken to foot long hot dogs and all at unbelievably low prices. $$

Kudzu on South Broad, 259 S. Broad St. (Mooresville), 704-663-1859. Chef-owner Chip Potts filters his culinary training in classical cuisine through his Southern heritage to arrive at a unique combination of tantalizing and mouth-watering dishes. Situated in a quaint Victorian house. $$$

Mama Mia Too at the Holbrook House, 101 Maxwell Ave. (Huntersville), 704-875-0505. New Yorkers love this place primarily featuring Southern Italian cuisine in a charming house in the center of town. $$$

Mickey & Mooch, 9723 Sam Furr Rd. (Huntersville), 704-895-6654. This stylish locally-owned restaurant has an infectious energy. Steaks and chops are served Pittsburgh style. Menu also has many Low Country dishes, pastas, barbecue baby back ribs, chicken, and seafood. $$$$


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