Explore Charlotte

3 Locals-Only, Secret Stops For Food In Charlotte

The Queen City boasts amazing food from non-traditional kitchens

There are some travelers who like to hit up a town's newest, hottest, most talked-about restaurants just for the glory of saying "I ate there." There are others who seek out the James Beard Award winners and the Michelin stars for the security of a guaranteed-great meal (and, often, a hefty tab). And then, there are the explorers who go native, seeking out the off-the-beaten-path foodie spots where the locals eat over and over again.

For this latter crowd, we've taken our habitual investigation of the Queen City's dining scene one step further and unearthed three well-guarded foodie secrets that many Charlotteans don't even know about. Have we piqued your interest yet?

You won't need a reservation but you will need an appetite.

Shell gas station
A Shell station similar to this in Dilworth has been serving some of Charlotte's best spicy, fried chicken for decades. Yes, a gas station. (©Mike Mozart/Flickr, Creative Commons)

The Food Counter Inside A Gas Station

In Queen City, fried chicken is a staple, but Charlotteans know that some of the best can be found in a gas station. Yes, you read correctly.

The Quik Shoppe at the Shell gas station at the corner of East and South boulevards in the Dilworth neighborhood has been serving fried chicken since 1982 using the same recipe, and locals can’t get enough of the spicy chicken and wings. Do order the spicy version; it's delicious! A line starts to build early, usually around 10:30 am, so prepare to wait a few minutes for the best fried chicken you've ever had.

Find it: 201 East Blvd., Charlotte, 704.333.0807

Pull-ups In A Parking Lot

You’ve gotta be social to track down one of Charlotte’s best seafood joints—and it isn’t in a restaurant. Not even close.

Seafood Connection is a pop-up truck that serves fresh, delicious seafood in random parking lots all over time. When the menu is on, it announces its “pull-up” via Instagram and Facebook. Think amazing crab legs, shrimp and seafood salad, and then Uber on over.

Make sure to bring a roll of paper towels with you. Things can, and do, get messy.

Tamales on a plate
Savory, steaming tamales get served up in the Wells Fargo basement every Tuesday and Friday. (©shaynabright/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Burritos in the Wells Fargo Basement

In Charlotte, there is a market for a California-style burrito shop.

During the week, bankers, construction workers and tourists line up for Johnny Burrito’s signature wrapped hand-held, at lunchtime. Lines may look long, but, rest assured, they move fast. Typically, two to three customers get through the line every minute, selecting unlimited toppings in the fixins lane, including house-made salsa from mild to wild and the special, hotter than Hades “El Diablo sauce,” made of roasted chiles de arbol.

Locals know to go every Tuesday and Friday for homemade tamales, and they know to go early because the tamales sell out fast!

Find it: 301 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, 704.371.4448