Whether for business or pleasure, lunch in Charlotte doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, there are several options for less than $10.
Think the only way to cut down on the cost is to bring it in a brown bag, find a fast food value menu of regret or just skip it altogether? Think again Charlotteans. Our fair city has tons of midday grub options at affordable prices and they don’t involve a drive through. With a few simple tricks and a little research, the indulgence of restaurants doesn’t have to be a drain on your wallet. You can save money without sacrificing the experience by knowing where to go:
- Join the club. Many places have loyalty or punch card programs, and if you are eating out a lot, these can add up quickly and you could score three or four free lunches every month.
- Split the difference. With large portions, à la carte add-ons and combo specials all over the place, whether you’re dining with a co-worker or a date, look at the menu together and see if there are some menu items that you want to team up on, or even literally split down the middle.
- Make it special. Many places have weekly specials, some every day of the week. Some will even offer a two-for-one option, so keep an eye out and plan your lunch dates accordingly.
Check out this list of area favorites for an affordable lunch and see if your favorite spot made the cut.
Aunty’s Island Grill
345 S Kings Drive
Charlotte, NC 28204
Aunty’s was formerly known as Austin’s Caribbean Cuisine, conveniently located on Kings Drive in a small strip mall. The sign still says “Austin’s” and the location may appear unassuming, but the jerk and curry dishes are outstanding. This is a takeout-only restaurant. A small plate with red beans and rice and another side of your choice is generous at $7.50 and soft drinks are from $1.50 to $3 for Jamaican beverages such as ginger beer (non-alcoholic despite the name) and “Ting.”
Emperor Chinese Restaurant
337 S. Kings Drive
Charlotte, NC 28204
On the other end of the strip mall from where Aunty’s is located, the Emperor Chinese Restaurant serves a diverse lunch crowd of medical professionals, construction workers, couples and people of all ages who just wander in. The options are eat in, take out or delivery for a $12 minimum and a $1 delivery fee within a three-mile range of the restaurant. An order of soup, a lunch combo choice and drink will get you change from a $10 bill. Just about 35 lunch combinations served with fried or white rice and an egg or spring roll are listed from $5.25 to $6.15. Lo mein instead of rice costs $1 extra. Add deliciously brewed tea for $1. If you eat in, you get unlimited drink refills. An online order option is offered on the website.
115 E. Carson St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
Open 24/7, this diner, a real silver coach, can’t be missed at its location on Carson Street near the arts district. A multitude of offerings – a dark quarter of Chef Lee’s famous chicken, burgers, salads, wraps and sandwiches – are priced at $7 to $8 and include sides. Low-calorie meals at $5.49 to $6.99 are good for the wallet and waist measurements. Coffee, tea and Red Bull are $1.99 to $2.99 and beers and premium alcoholic beverages start at $3. Desserts look tempting, so be careful not to get carried away and blow your budget and your diet.
Picante Mexican Grill
1500 W. Morehead St., Suite A
Charlotte, NC 28208
Let the staff know what you want as you stroll past the steam table loaded with chicken, steak, ground beef, pork, fish, grilled veggies, rice, two kinds of beans and all kinds of sauces. Your food will be folded into a wrap the size of a small, thick purse or served in a burrito bowl. Picante has a couple of special workday features. Salads, tacos and burritos range from $5.89 to $6.15, but Tuesdays are $5 burrito or burrito bowl days. On Thirsty Thursday, customers get a free soft drink, usually $1.99, with their burrito or burrito bowl. Picante also makes daily specials and homemade popsicles in tropical flavors. A customer loyalty card provides a free meal after 10 visits.
2328 N. Graham St.
Charlotte, NC 28206
Drive a few minutes on Graham Street away from Uptown and you will find Tatsis’ big blue and white sign over a modest looking building. The overflowing parking lot is filled with vehicles driven by police, construction workers and city employees, a sign that the food is good. Tatsis is known for great breakfasts and lunches. Its all-American menu offers daily specials with the requisite sweet tea and cornbread or biscuits. There is also Greek fare, including its Greek salad, gyro platter or gyro sandwich. One of the least costly but satisfying offerings is a hot steak sandwich or a hot roast beef sandwich with fluffy mashed potatoes and a river of brown gravy for $4.60. Fried fish is another popular menu item. Beverages range from $1.10 to $1.60 with unlimited refills.
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Jacquelin Celeste Peters has produced award winning radio programs at WPFW Pacifica-Washington. She is a Culture and Events Examiner in Charlotte, North Carolina, which she calls home. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.