On-campus eating is not half bad. SoVi is actually pretty great. We have Chick-fil-A, Bojangles’ and my personal favorite, Panda Express. But there are days when you want to venture off campus just for fun. In that case, check out these two options.
Option 1: Cheap, close and good
These are the local spots “where all the college kids go” because they’re cheap and sometimes have student specials.
Monterrey Mexican Restaurant
Located behind the Harris Teeter on University City Blvd, Monterrey is your typical Mexican restaurant, but it’s consistently good and you get a sit-down meal for roughly $10 plus tip. Gather with a group of friends — maybe your new roommates — and chat over a bowl of chips and salsa. Most students go for the $9.99 Special 49ers ACP, an entree featuring grilled chicken over Mexican rice covered in queso.
Kabuto Japanese Steak House
Also behind Harris Teeter, Kabuto is the spot on Wednesday and Thursdays for their half-off sushi. You’ll get more sushi for your buck than what you’d pay at a grocery store. A half-off roll is around $3-4, so most people order two or three.
Macado’s has specials all week long, but the most popular is the 39 cent wings. This college student dream goes on Thursdays from 4-9 p.m. and Sunday from 1-7 p.m. If you aren’t a wing fan, then you have the comfort of knowing the lengthy menu also has reasonable prices on wraps, sandwiches, quesadillas and pasta dishes.
Light rail stop: J.W. Clay Boulevard/UNC Charlotte
Boardwalk Billy’s is perfect if you’re looking to make dinner a night-long event. Go here and order a burger, wings or seafood. Though, the best part about this place is its location. Right outside is a boardwalk and pond where you can rent paddles boats. Then, stroll on over to Ninety’s Ice Cream next door and get one of their instagramable deserts: cereal milkshakes, cookie dough pops and yum-ee buns (Chinese sweet buns stuffed with ice cream and coated with toppings). It’s a date.
Option 2: Charlotte’s best
If you want to venture outside university city — which is easy now, thanks to light rail — go for Option 2: all the great food Charlotte has to offer. The Queen City has some of the best food in the state. Just ask Guy Fieri; He’s a regular.
Cabo Fish Taco
Light rail stop: 36th Street (NoDa)
This is the first place that pops in my mind when people visit from out of town and want to grab a bite. Cabo Fish Taco never disappoints. The go-to meal is two tacos with a side (I recommend the spicy avocado salad). Plus, these aren’t your ordinary tacos; They’re barbecue Mahi, lemon grilled shrimp and honey soy glazed salmon. Chips and corn salsa come soon after you sit down. Also, this place is in the heart of the arts district known as NoDa, so you can admire the mural-filled walls on your walk to the restaurant.
Price’s Chicken Coop
Light rail stop: East/West Boulevard
Price’s Chicken Coop is a Charlotte icon known for serving up the best fried chicken in the state since 1962. This cash-only spot has no customer seating, so finding a spot to eat is your job. I picnicked at a nearby park I found on Apple Maps, but you’ll see people eating off the hood of their cars in the parking lot. Fried chicken meals are served with coleslaw, hushpuppies, french fries and a roll.
When Barack Obama visited the Queen City in 2016, he told the crowd he loved North Carolina for its food. “In fact, I will find someplace to stop and get some food before I head back to D.C,” he said. He ended up at Midwood Smokehouse in Plaza Midwood with Hillary Clinton for some barbecue. This restaurant pulls inspiration from all across the south, from Texas to the Carolinas.
Light rail stop: Charlotte Transportation Center/Arena Station
This place isn’t exclusive to North Carolina, but there’s only a few in the world. If you’re exploring Uptown and want to grab an affordable Italian lunch, this is your spot. They do things slightly different here; You order your meal at a station depending on what you’re ordering (pasta, pizza, etc.) and swipe a card you get when you first enter. Then, the chef creates your dish in front of you. You take it to a seat (I like to sit outside so I can people watch in the city) and at the end of your meal, you hand the hostess your card and pay. Don’t forget to grab a cupful of free gummy bears on your way out.