3201 N. Davidson St.
Charlotte, NC 28205
One of NoDa’s most popular restaurants, Cabo Fish Taco serves a menu inspired by the fish tacos sold at stands along Southern California beaches. The menu features flour tortillas wrapped around a wide variety of fresh fish, including grilled salmon and tuna, blackened mahi-mahi and beer battered shrimp, plus tofu, steak and chicken options and daily specials. The kitchen is famous for its many different spicy sauces, including a honey wasabi sauce, a mango BBQ sauce that’s great on mahi-mahi and a kiwi-pineapple fajita sauce. Cabo’s bar is a favorite neighborhood hangout, thanks to its $4 tequila shots and lengthy list of margaritas, ranging from the always available El Cheapo priced at $5 to the $12 Perfect Wave made with blue agave tequila, Cointreau and Grand Marnier.
Captain Steve’s Family Seafood Restaurant
8517 Monroe Road
Charlotte, NC 28212
Formerly the Hideaway Fish Camp, this rustic spot off Monroe Road is a survivor from an earlier day in Charlotte dining history. The classic fish camp menu of fried seafood is supplemented by salads, steaks, burgers, chicken and pasta dishes, and any seafood item can be grilled for just one additional dollar. Portions are huge and prices reasonable, topping out at just $12 with the Fisherman’s Platter, overflowing with fillet of flounder, oysters, scallops, jumbo shrimp, baby shrimp and deviled crab. The salt and pepper catfish, baked stuffed flounder and hushpuppies are customer favorites. Kids enjoy watching the colorful fish in the 750-gallon salt water aquarium and eat free on Wednesday nights (10 and under). Capt. Steve’s serves no alcohol and is closed on Sunday.
Deep Sea Seafood Market
10020 Monroe Road
Charlotte, NC 28270
If you’re looking for a great, inexpensive and fast seafood meal, this owner-operated spot, considered by many to be the best seafood market in Charlotte, fills the bill. Although it only serves lunch, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Deep Sea’s menu is far from an afterthought, featuring perfectly prepared fresh tuna sandwiches and fish tacos accompanied by fresh salsas and aioli. The menu changes daily and is emailed to customers, but fish and chips, salads topped with grilled jumbo shrimp, mahi-mahi banh mi, catfish and alligator sausage po-boys and smoked salmon sandwiches all make regular appearances. Soup options change daily and include New England and Manhattan clam chowder, spicy zuppa de pesce and a unique seafood chili. If you arrive outside of lunch hours, check out the prepared seafood salad, crab cakes and baked potatoes stuffed with shrimp and bacon, as well as the extensive selection of fresh fish and shellfish, to take home.
Pier 51 Seafood Restaurant
8332 Pineville-Matthews Road
Charlotte, NC 28226
Pier 51 is another throwback to the age of fish camps, updated for today’s diners. One of the owners, Demetri Kakouras, is the son of restaurateur Steve Kakouras who opened the Captain’s Cap in Gastonia back in 1981, which now has three locations around the region. Pier 51 takes its lead from the family business, using many of the time-tested signature seafood recipes, and offering a 20-item salad bar, free with dinner entrees, and all-you-can eat combos. Senior citizens and kids each have their own menus, and daily specials at lunch and dinner offer great values. While most people go here for fried seafood, Pier 51 also offers an extensive list of broiled dishes, including a popular whole flounder and a salmon fillet broiled on a cedar plank, plus boiled green shrimp, steaks, grilled chicken and spaghetti. Beer and wine are available; closed Sunday.
6902 Phillips Place Court
Charlotte, NC 28210
One of Charlotte’s favorite restaurants for a special meal, this stand-out member of the Harper’s Group serves Pacific Rim-inspired seafood creations in an elegant setting, a combination that earned it the OpenTable.com Diner’s Choice Award in 2013. Much of the seafood served at Upstream is sourced from Carolina dayboats, ensuring the freshest taste. Line-caught flounder on a bed of truffle risotto, saki-marinated wild sea bass and a Hawaiian-style bento box are a few of the most popular entrees. The recently renovated bar area boasts an extensive sushi bar and a raw bar stocked with regional oysters as well as a popular nightly happy hour with special prices on appetizers, including a wonderful shrimp and avocado ceviche, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. to closing. Upstream recently added a unique Sunday brunch buffet that features made-to-order tapas such as pecan-crusted trout, in addition to the usual omelets and breakfast items.
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With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.