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MONTERREY MEXICAN RESTAURANT 10707 Park Road, 704-541-6664. Full array of Mexican specialties, including fabulous Margaritas. $$
MUSASHI, JAPANESE RESTAURANT 10110 Johnston Road (in Hannaford Plaza Shopping Center), 704-543-5181. Small intimate space, wonderful service and outstanding tempura. Sushi is an exquisite balance of color and flavor. $$L, $$-$$$D.
NAKATO 8500 Pineville-Matthews Hwy., 704-543-8899. Fine implement-juggling routine, as well as a floating sushi bar and a Tatami room with four tables for those nights when you just don't want to eat with your shoes on. $$$
THE PEACEFUL DRAGON, TEA HOUSE AND CLUTURAL CENTER 8324 Pineville-Matthews Road, 704-544-1012. Light vegetarian fare. All dishes made from scratch, including the veggie burger. Many vegan items. $$
TRIO RESTAURANT 10709 McMullen Creek Pkwy., 704-541-8000. Friendly place for an imaginative and eclectic selection of entrees, gourmet pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, salads and pastas. Emphasis on creative taste combinations. $$
TSUKIJI 8320 Pineville-Matthews Road, Pineville, 704-543-4081. Cheaper than most sushi bars and usually less crowded, Tsukiji's sushi is as good as any you'll find. There's a regular Japanese menu too, including tempura for those who won't touch raw fish. $$-$$$
WALDHORN RESTAURANT 12101 Lancaster Highway (Rt. 521), Pineville. 704-540-7047. Biergarten, beer, music, and inspired German cuisine produced in a masterful kitchen under Chef/Owner Thomas Maier's attentive care makes this a hot spot. $$$
WAN FU 10719 Kettering Drive. 704-541-1688. One of the city's favorite Chinese restaurants with a wider variety than most. Everything is beautifully presented and complemented by great service. $$-$$$
AZTECA 116 Woodlawn Road, 704-525-5110. Unlike many Mexican restaurants, at Azteca you'll actually spend some time mulling over the menu. Fine cuisine with a wide variety. $-$$.
BANGKOK OCHA 7629-B Pineville-Matthews Road. 704-544-7770. Thai dishes of complex intensity and flavor set in a small, but polished restaurant. $$$
BILL SPOON'S BARBECUE 5524 South Blvd, 704-525-8865. For nearly 40 years, this 65-seat pork parlor has been packed at lunch. The place to go for die hard Eastern barbecue aficionados. $
BOMBAY GRILLE INDIAN CUISINE 8706 Pineville-Matthews Road, 704-542-3933. Spice laden entree dishes evoke familiar taste memories. The chicken tikka masala and house made mango chutney is second to none in town. $$$
BOURBON STREET STATION 6101 Old Pineville Road, 704-522-0231. Good Cajun-style food is served up here, with an emphasis on a fun and friendly ambience. You can't miss; just keep your eye out for the old train. $$-$$$
THE CUPBOARD 3005 South Boulevard, 704-523-9934. One of the best, and busiest, of Charlotte's many home cooking restaurants. Great daily specials (don't miss the chicken pan pie) and legendary coconut pie. $
DON QUIJOTE, RESTAURANTE ESPANOL 4640 South Boulevard, 704-529-5959. Exceptional Northern and Southern Spanish cuisine. One could readily make a meal by choosing a variety of the 15 tantalizing Tapas items. And there's more: paellas, fabulous fish dishes, Spanish wines, and a large deck. $$-$$$
FOSTER'S TAVERN 1601-B Montford Drive (downstairs). 704-527-1456. 56. Foster's offers the closest thing to a great friendly neighborhood bar, with good food to boot: wings, burgers, soups, etc. are all palate pleasers. $
HARPER'S RESTAURANT 301 E. Woodlawn Road, 704-522-8376. Wide-ranging menu and excellent service puts this restaurant in the top echelon of the popular salad-chicken-burger-seafood-etc. places. Good desserts. $$
HARRIGAN'S GOURMET DELI 5033-K South Boulevard, 704-522-3550. Traditional cold cut sandwiches on round bread, ad, speciality "Dilbert" sandwiches, es, housemade salads, and daily specials. $
JAIPUR INDIAN CUISINE 5909 South Boulevard, 704-646-1421. Don't let the exterior put you off. Inside you'll find balanced Indian dishes from all parts of the subcontinent. Reasonably priced, too. A great weekday lunch buffet, and a great dinner buffet on weekends. L$$, D$$-$$$.
LA CASCADA-CHICKEN TO GO 5033-G South Boulevard, Seneca Place Shopping Center, 704-523-1011. Explore the freefall of South American comfort food with dishes from Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, with a few specialty dishes from Bolivia. $$
LUISA'S BRICK OVEN 1730 Abbey Place, 704-522-8782. Brick oven-baked pizza plus other Italian dishes. Pizza available with innovative topping alternatives (roasted eggplant, roasted garlic, etc.). No delivery, but take out orders are prepared quickly. $-$$
MAI JAPANESE RESTAURANT 5906 South Boulevard, 704-552-1515. Modest prices -- for a Japanese restaurant, that is. Sushi chefs produce deftly cleaved wondrous rolls that taste sparklingly fresh. Robata grill, too. $$$
MOJO RESTAURANT & SPIRITS 1812 Montford Drive, 704-523-0474. Not much in decor or ambiance, but more than just a place to drink and listen to music. The dinner menu is short, yet surprisingly ambitious; the food is quite good and reasonably priced. Late night bar menu, too. $$