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Good Eats

Our critics' guide to recommended restaurants in Charlotte

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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. L, D $$

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. L, D $$

Linares Mexican Restaurant, 4918 Central Ave., 704-535-6716. Small, comfortable family place offering northern Mexican comfort food, specializing in chicken and seafood, offered in hearty portions. Helpful, but not necessary, to be conversant in Spanish. $$

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 the fresh crusty bread. Unlimited salad or soup with entrees. L, D $$

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. L, D $$

Namaste India Bar & Restaurant, 4508 East Independence Blvd., 704-568-7979. This welcoming space offers a delightful riff on traditional northern Indian cuisine. Buffet offered at lunch. $$

Pho An Hoa, 4832 A-B Central Ave., 704-537-2595. Very tasty Vietnamese soup shop. B, L, D $

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 Salvadoran treat, and other Central American favorites. $

Saigon Bistro: Fine Vietnamese Cuisine, 3145 N. Sharon Amity, 704-536-5888. The Nyugen family offers a customer friendly, comfortableatmosphere in which to enjoy subdued, yet creative Vietnamese cuisine. $$

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. L, D $

Taste of Havana Cuban Restaurant, 5534 Albemarle Rd., 704-535-0223. Owner Carol Torrez offers hearty black bean soup and other homespun Cuban dishes at reasonable prices. Flamingo guitar on Saturday nights. $

Woodlands Pure Vegetarian South Indian Cuisine, 7128-A Albemarle Rd., 704-569-9193. Featuring excellent vegetarian idlis, 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. D $$$

Carpe Diem Restaurant, 1535 Elizabeth Ave, 704-377-7976. With art nouveau ambience, this locally owned spot is known for its warm goat cheese salad, pan-seared trout, buttermilk fried chicken, and comfortable atmosphere. $$$

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

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. $

Dish, 1220 Thomas Ave., 704-344-0343. With an easygoing, yet retro, atmosphere and simple, but satisfying Southern including Low Country, Cajun and Tex-Mex fare this is the perfect neighborhood joint. $$

Ethan's of Elizabeth American Bistro, 366 N. Caswell Rd., 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. $$$

Hawthorne's NY Pizza, 1701 E. 7th St., 704-358-9339. This corner spot offers stone cooked pizzas, salads, stromboli, calzones, and fried cheesecake. It's just the kind of restaurant you want to live near with a funky bar and a friendly buzz. $

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. B, L $

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, chili and vegetarian chili in town. L, D $

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. B, L, D $

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. $$Lake Norman

Brooklyn South Pizzeria & Italian Eatery, 19911-C N. Cove Rd. (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. $$


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