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The Best Cheap Eats in Charlotte

Because of its designation as one of the fastest-growing cities in America, finding quality yet cheap eats in Charlotte has become easier over the years. While the ‘80's culinary scene meant mostly "meat and potatoes" on the menu, the establishment of Johnson & Wales University and the Carolina Panthers football team has turned the city into a foodies’ haven. A visit to Charlotte means everything from classic burgers to Venezuelan arepas without a hefty bill. Plus beer enthusiasts can take their pick of the many craft breweries in town. But which restaurants attract the smartest and savviest diners from across North Carolina? Welcome to our Tastemakers List. We've gathered data from thousands of America's best eateries to discover where OpenTable's most knowledgeable diners love to enjoy their favorite meals. Check out these cheap eats in Charlotte for mouthwatering, yet affordable options. Then book a table and knock that hunger out of the park!

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The OpenTable Team
20 Restaurants
Updated October 01, 2021
Restaurants:The Foundry at Trilogy® Lake Norman, Ri Ra Irish Pub - Charlotte, 37sol Southwest Kitchen & Tequila Bar
Price Range:$$ - $$
Cuisines:American, Irish, Mexican / Southwestern
Neighborhoods:Denver, Uptown, Charlotte
A photo of The Foundry at Trilogy® Lake Norman restaurant

The Foundry at Trilogy® Lake Norman

$$$$
American
Denver
4.5
768 reviews
Those who have tried food at The Foundry at Trilogy were no doubt surprised that taste and cheap eats in Charlotte could work so perfectly together. The eatery offers healthy twists on Southern delicacies, and everything from fish tacos and Carolina Wings to Brussels sprouts and hummus are available on the menu. The interior décor is as contemporary as anyone could ever imagine, and patrons will want to get the variety of eclectic lighting fixtures in frame when they’re taking photos. Add in eating by the lake surrounded by serene settings, and this restaurant surely can’t be missed.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Ri Ra Irish Pub - Charlotte restaurant

Ri Ra Irish Pub - Charlotte

$$$$
Irish
Uptown
4.1
645 reviews
This eatery is so authentically Irish that it was restored in Ireland before being shipped to America. Chandeliers, stone fireplaces, a soft ambiance at the bar and a flair for decorations on holidays round out the experience at Ri Ra Irish Pub. The incredible interior is only rivaled by genuine overseas dishes like pub burgers, the publican Reuben, banger bites and potato cakes. Those who typically rise early, though, may just enjoy the All-Day Irish Breakfast for a proper fry up.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of 37sol Southwest Kitchen & Tequila Bar restaurant

37sol Southwest Kitchen & Tequila Bar

$$$$
Mexican / Southwestern
Charlotte
4.5
416 reviews
The dedication to made-from-scratch dishes at 37sol Southwest Kitchen surely stands out more than their cheap eats in Charlotte designation. They offer Southern versions of Southwest fare, so anyone who enjoys eclectic cuisine will not be disappointed. Homemade salsas, lobster & roasted corn quesadillas, chicken chimichangas and green chile bison burgers are just a few of the options that really stand out. The new-age exterior design is hard to miss from the road, and the fire pit tempts many to enjoy their meals in the outside dining area. Everyone should come by close to Christmas just to see their enormous tree!

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Cantina 1511- Mooresville restaurant

Cantina 1511- Mooresville

$$$$
Mexican
Mooresville
4.2
131 reviews
Anyone seeking the best cheap eats in Charlotte has no doubt visited a Mexican restaurant. If they haven’t gone to Cantina 1511, though, something is missing from their lives. The exterior building is a simple American take on south of the border design, but the food is as authentic as it comes. From slow cooked short rib to Mexican Barbacoa, the variety of tastes offered is impressive. Those who have never tried al pastor – or Cantina 1511's al pastor marinated salmon, for that matter – need to drop what they’re doing and head over to the Mooresville location.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Nellie's Southern Kitchen restaurant

Nellie's Southern Kitchen

$$$$
Southern
Belmont
4.4
947 reviews
The giant spoon and fork outside of this location may not scream ‘Southern fare,’ but all that changes the moment guests walk in. Nellie’s Southern Kitchen definitely qualifies for cheap eats in Charlotte, but no one would believe it when enjoying tasty dishes like pecan crusted green tomatoes, pimento cheese fries, meatloaf, fried catfish and – of course – Nellie's Chicken 'N' Dumplins. Even better, all ingredients are locally sourced. Those who show up on the right night are even treated to live music!

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A photo of Reid's Fine Foods restaurant

Reid's Fine Foods

$$$$
American
SouthPark
4.6
716 reviews
For cheap eats in Charlotte, wouldn't it be easier to visit a grocer? At Reid's Fine Foods, that's exactly what patrons do. Reid's sells a variety of items to take home, but they also offer menu service every day of the week. This menu includes Nashville hot chicken, trout, the Country Cuban and even "almost half price" steakburgers on Tuesday nights. Guests also love the simplicity and Southern flair of the interior – where they see everything from common-man works of art to country lighting.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Rusty Bucket - South Park restaurant

Rusty Bucket - South Park

$$$$
American
SouthPark
4.4
300 reviews
The extravagance of Rusty Bucket’s exterior – calling out in all directions thanks to its corner location – is enough to bring in even busy passersby. The interior is able to fully pay the check that the outside wrote with remarkable lighting fixtures, a huge television behind the bar and a collection of sports memorabilia and vintage photos lining the walls. Add in great dishes like Baja fish tacos, New York strip steaks, fish 'n chips and a wide variety of burgers and pizzas, and patrons are left wondering how this cheap eat in Charlotte can taste so high-end.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Harry's Grille & Tavern restaurant

Harry's Grille & Tavern

$$$$
American
Steele Creek
4.4
490 reviews
The bottom floor of a three-story building – complete with hard-to-miss red and black awnings – is where patrons come to enjoy Harry’s Grille & Tavern. Inside, the big red wall features caricatures of America’s most historical figures. Seating throughout the restaurant also perfectly matches the color palette of the wall. The impressively consistent color scheme may become barely noticeable, though, when trying the Mapleleaf Farms duck wings, tavern dip sliders, sliced ribeye flatbread or the delicious black Angus filet mignon au poivre.

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A photo of Trio Restaurant - Charlotte restaurant

Trio Restaurant - Charlotte

$$$$
American
Charlotte
4.5
662 reviews
Brick oven pizzas – like the Mediterranean and roasted vegetarian – are far from all that's offered at Trio. Those who aren't feeling like Italian can enjoy Greek veggie wraps, Cajun shrimp and grits, sweet pepper fried chicken and the delectable meatloaf trio. The luscious landscaping outside is nearly as impressive as the menu options, but the eatery’s placement as a cheap eat in Charlotte completely outshines the well-pruned bushes. Patrons can also enjoy dining surrounded by four walls or sit near the wood-fire stove with no barrier between them and outdoor seating. The best of both worlds!

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Pisces Sushi Bar & Lounge restaurant

Pisces Sushi Bar & Lounge

$$$$
Sushi
Midtown
4.3
598 reviews
Sushi lovers who want a little something extra will love Pisces Sushi Bar & Lounge. In addition to their culinary namesake, the eatery offers taste-bud-titillating options like soft shell crab, pork gyoza, curry chicken, the wagyu cheeseburger and even hibachi. Guests who show up for lunch, though, are treated to an all you can eat buffet that makes this restaurant an undeniable cheap eat in Charlotte. All of this is enjoyed in a completely contemporary setting equipped with private booths encircled within the walls. Guests should prepare their Instagram for awesomeness.

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A photo of Red Rocks Cafe - Charlotte restaurant

Red Rocks Cafe - Charlotte

$$$$
American
SouthPark
4.7
2466 reviews
A bright red covered patio, umbrellas and awnings are enough to draw anyone’s attention towards Red Rocks Café. The color scheme remains consistent on the inside – sticking to the eatery’s namesake – with modern art scattered throughout the dining area. The menu features a wide range off foods and prices, but considering what guests are treated to, it's still within the range of cheap eats in Charlotte. Enjoy anything from Jim Kallam's Angus Burger to Mattei's Filet & Lobster. There’s a little something for everyone!

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Bulla Gastrobar - Charlotte restaurant

Bulla Gastrobar - Charlotte

$$$$
Spanish
Charlotte
4.8
1885 reviews
In addition to a variety of imaginative cocktails, Bulla Gastrobar serves guests up with a contemporary and unique spin on traditional Spanish tapas. Grab the garbonzo frito, 'Bulla' Burger and a delicious churros con chocolate for lunch, or head in later for the cured meats, shrimp fritters, bistro steak and chicken paella offered on the dinner menu. The presentation of every dish is immaculate, but it's rivaled by the contemporary bar seating, unique lighting and vintage photos lining the walls.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Zen Fusion restaurant

Zen Fusion

$$$$
Fusion / Eclectic
Dilworth
4.7
725 reviews
The soft lighting, relaxing colors and peaceful Buddha statue inside the entryway’s fish tank all help Zen Fusion live up to the former half of its name. When it comes to the latter, the combination of upbeat lounge and urban trendy are a sign of what's to come from the fusion of Spanish and Asian cuisine on the menu. Guests will find an extensive selection that includes options like Chinese stir fry, Japanese hibachi, Spanish Vieiras de Miro and Vietnamese beef. This is all while retaining its title as one of the cheap eats in Charlotte.

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A photo of Firebirds Wood Fired Grill - Charlotte - Northlake restaurant

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill - Charlotte - Northlake

$$$$
American
Charlotte
4.4
1469 reviews
Although it has locations scattered across America, North Carolinians and guests would view the Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in Northlake Mall as the one and only. Who doesn’t enjoy eating out after a day of shopping? The Pretty Bird and Liquid Sunshine stand out on the cocktail menu, but patrons are usually raving about the lobster spinach queso, seared ahi tuna, chile rubbed delmonico and the unique Philly cheesesteak egg rolls. Enjoy these delectable dishes while surrounded by exceptional art and a relaxing ambiance.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Essex restaurant

Essex

$$$$
International
Uptown
4.4
1464 reviews
The international cuisine offered at Essex manages to hold its own against their impressive cocktails. Labeled as part lounge, part meeting place and part bistro, the eatery has a wide range of offerings that include falafel, samosa bites, wild mushroom flatbread, eye of ribeye and grilled octopus. No one should leave, though, without enjoying a lobster roll. The décor is eclectic – featuring vintage lighting, alternative art and even what appear to be a ton of mathematical equations on one fascia board.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Village Tavern - Charlotte restaurant

Village Tavern - Charlotte

$$$$
American
SouthPark
4.4
1212 reviews
Smack dab in the heart of Southpark, the Village Tavern offers some of the most impressively plated dishes and a menu with offerings often unheard of in North Carolina. These include Thai chicken nachos, Shanghai flash-fried calamari, a variety of street tacos and grilled meatloaf. The exterior is so fancy that someone might think only Wall Street executives ate there, but it remains one of the most delicious and cheap eats in Charlotte. Enjoy the fountains outside or contemporary appeal on the interior.

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A photo of New South Kitchen & Bar restaurant

New South Kitchen & Bar

$$$$
Southern
Arboretum
4.7
1070 reviews
With fare created by a homegrown chef, New South Kitchen & Bar focuses on ingredients that are always sourced locally via natural farming techniques. This means seasonal menus that can change with the tides. No matter when guests show up, though, they’re treated to tasty fare that often includes fried green tomatoes, Southern wontons, crab cakes, heritage pork tenderloin and North Carolina mountain trout. Guests can also enjoy the unique ambiance while exploring the gluten-free menu if they have dietary restrictions.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Bakersfield - Charlotte restaurant

Bakersfield - Charlotte

$$$$
Mexican / Southwestern
Charlotte
4.7
285 reviews
Few restaurants have the byline ‘Tacos. Tequila. Whiskey.’, but that’s what makes Bakersfield so appealing to many. They specialize in Mexican street fare - something that's hard to come by in the South - and have more than 100 tequilas and American whiskeys behind the bar. Menu items include aguachile, milanesa tortas, a large range of taquitos and no shortage of flavorful tacos. When guests spot the black stone building with wood awnings situated on the corner lot, they know it’s time to pull over and enjoy one of the best cheap eats in Charlotte.

At the moment, there's no online availability within 2.5 hours of your request. Do you have another time in mind?

A photo of Stone Mountain Grill restaurant

Stone Mountain Grill

$$$$
American
Ballantyne
4.2
1015 reviews
The front entryway of Stone Mountain Grill screams ‘Southern vintage,’ and the inside stands firmly by this motif by featuring a working stone fireplace, gorgeous nature paintings and folksy overhead lighting fixtures. The menu also maintains that classic country appeal with offerings like fried pickles, buffalo wings, the Daisy Duke chicken sandwich and the Grouper New Orleans - featuring scallops, Gulf shrimp and mussels all in one. The cheap eats of Charlotte offered here are impressive, but you shouldn’t leave before checking out their affordable and surprisingly expansive wine collection.

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A photo of Civetta Italian Kitchen - Permanently Closed restaurant

Civetta Italian Kitchen - Permanently Closed

$$$$
Italian
Provincetowne
4.3
329 reviews
The lighting, industrial overhead and worn-brick archway give Civetta Italian Kitchen + Bar the appearance of being pulled from a Mediterranean film noir. This unique décor provides a relaxing spot to enjoy a delicious cocktail while guests wait for their meals. The expansive menu has a variety of pastas, salads and entrees which include Tuscan salmon, caprese salads, fried calamari and Fettuccine Alfredo. For a place described as an upscale casual restaurant, Civetta manages to remain one of the great cheap eats in Charlotte.

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