Sep 14, 2023 - News

26+ Hispanic- and Latino-owned restaurants to visit for Hispanic Heritage Month

Los Chamos

Los Chamos Venezuelan restaurant. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, is a time to learn more about and celebrate Charlotte’s Hispanic communities.

Why it matters: One of the best ways to do that is through food. As the Hispanic and Latino population continues to grow in Charlotte, so does our selection of restaurants.

Whether you’re looking for Venezuelan, Colombian, Cuban or Mexican, there’s an authentic and locally-owned spot for you in the city. Here’s a list of 26 of our favorite Hispanic and Latino-owned restaurants.

  • Of note: This is not a ranking.

Arbol

Chef Edwin Cruz of Edwin’s Organix created a healthy menu, including paninis and smoothies. But Cruz, who’s originally from Mexico, also wanted to bring “Latin flair” to Uptown with horchata and Cuban sandwiches. 

  • Of note: “Arbol” means “tree” in Spanish.

Location: Inside the Carillon Tower (227 W Trade St.)

Must-try item: The Cuban sandwich and the matcha love smoothie.

Go deeper: Arbol is Uptown’s new healthy takeout café

Arbol uptown
Arbol Cuban sandwich. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

The Batch House

Born and raised in Honduras, Cris Rojas Agurcia, AKA the Batchmaker, has been baking cakes and brownies since she was a young girl. The idea behind The Batch House bakery is that customers can come in for one sweet treat or a whole batch (go with the latter).

Location: 901 Berryhill Road.

Must-try item: The oatmeal creme pie.

Go deeper: New bakery named Batch House opens Saturday — menu includes dirty Oreo truffles, s’mores brownies and Snickers cheesecake

Batch house
The Batch House Oatmeal Creme Pie

Brasas Arepas & Grill

Brasas, originally called Arepas Grill, has been serving some of the best arepas in town for more than a decade. About three years ago, Colombia native Rafael Bravo purchased the restaurant from the original Venezuelan owner. Now the restaurant offers a variety of traditional Venezuelan and Colombian dishes.

Location: 4740 Old Pineville Road.

Must-try item: The churrasco steak with fried plantain, fries, avocado salad and chimichurri.

Churrasco from Brasas. Photo: Courtesy of Rafael Bravo

Cali Colombian Restaurant

At Cali, you’ll find traditional Colombian dishes like arepas, empanadas and the bandeja paisa. The restaurant also has an in-house bakery, with fresh bread and desserts baked daily.

Location: 5920 South Blvd.

Must-try item: The bandeja paisa, which has beans, rice, an arepa, chorizo, sweet plantains, chicharrón (pork rinds), avocado and beef.

Go deeper: Cali Colombian Restaurant is now open on South Boulevard

Cali Colombian
I tried the “limonada de coco,” a lemony and coconut drink. Also pictured here are the arepas and bandeja paisa. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

La Caseta

Expect arepas, pupusas and tacos at this Camp North End food stall, founded by Dalton Espaillat and his wife Miriam of Sabor Latin Street Grill and Three Amigos, among other restaurants. The duo, originally from the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, respectively, say they grew up around street food and see it as a place where communities come together. 

Location: 1801 N. Graham St.

Must-try item: Taco al Pastor is adobo pork carved straight off a “trompo” (Spanish for spinning top), served in a handmade corn tortilla with onions, pineapple, cilantro and salsa verde.

La Caseta
Photo: Axios archives

La Dolcekca Bakery Café

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Karina Cooper opened La Dolcekca in 2022 on Montford, where Jet’s Pizza used to be. In addition to serving Hispanic treats, empanadas and tres leches, Cooper takes inspiration from her travels around the world, so you’ll also find dishes like cajun chicken pasta and French toast bites. 

Location: 1607 Montford Dr.

Must-try item: The chimi sandwich, made with pulled pork, cabbage, pickled onions, tomatoes, cheese and condiments.

The chimi sandwich from Dolcekca Bakery. Photo: Courtesy of Karina Cooper

Dulce Dreams Cafe

Owner Norma Zuniga opened Dulce (pronounced dool-seh) Dreams as a pop-up bakery in December 2021. Less than a year later, the Mexico-born Charlottean quit her job as a lab technician to pursue her pastry-making passion full-time.

Location: Zuniga operates Dulce Dreams out of Sweet Spot Studio in Oakhurst.

Must-try item: One of her many concha sandwich variations like the Gansito concha.

Go deeper: Dulce Dreams Cafe brings flavors of Mexico to Charlotte

Dulce Dreams
Gansito concha. Photo courtesy of Norma Zuniga

El Puro

Named one of Charlotte’s best restaurants by our team this year, El Puro offers an experience meant to take you back in time to 1950s pre-revolutionary Cuba. 

Location: 5033 South Blvd.

Must-try item: If you’re going on a date, order this to share: masitas de la loma (tender pork shoulder chunks), a side of congrí (rice and beans), and maduros (sweet plantains). There’ll still be room for dessert, and maybe another cocktail to loosen you up before the salsa lessons start. 

  • Bonus: Don’t sleep on their brunch. Order the tres leches pancakes.

Go deeper: Havana Carolina owners open new Cuban restaurant in Charlotte

El Puro Tres Leches Pancakes
Tres leches pancakes. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

El Toro Bruto

El Toro Bruto gained a cult-like following when chef Hector Gonzalez-Mora co-ran the Chilito Taco pop-up. Now, Gonzalez-Mora has a restaurant inside Resident Culture South End, offering his iconic tacos plus an expanded dinner menu with starters, entrees and sides like ceviche mixto, gallina al pastor, sweet potato and mole, and pork belly en salsa verde.

Location: 332 W. Bland St., inside Resident Culture South End and as a food truck outside Resident Culture on Central Avenue. 

Must-try item: The Taco Bruto, which features crispy griddled cheese inside the tortilla with beans and protein.

Go deeper: El Toro Bruto breakfast tacos are back in Resident Culture’s new coffee bar

Resident Culture Brewing x El Toro Bruto South End
El Toro Bruto breakfast taco. Photo: Axios archives

Felix Empanadas

Felix Godward founded Felix Empanadas in 2017 as a food trailer. As the son of Argentine immigrants, he wanted to bring the same empanadas his grandmother would make during family trips to Argentina.

Location: 320 S. Tryon St. inside The Alley, formerly known as Latta Arcade, and at Optimist Hall (1115 N Brevard St.)

Must-order item: Carolina BBQ empanada, made with pulled pork and topped with coleslaw.

Go deeper: Felix Empanadas expands to Uptown with takeout available until 3am

felix empanada
Felix Empanadas. Photo: Axios archives

Havana Carolina

Owned by the same family as El Puro, Havana Carolina has been a family affair since the Maldonado family purchased it in November 2017. Before coming to the U.S., Idael Pérez Maldonado and his family owned a bed and breakfast in Cuba. A month after the Maldonados purchased the restaurant, Idael died tragically in a car accident. His wife and two adult children work each day to keep their father’s dream alive, as Axios contributor Ben Jarrell wrote in 2019.

Location: 11 Union St. S., Concord. 

Must-try item: Ropa vieja, Cuba’s unofficial national dish. It’s shredded beef brisket marinated and simmered in a homemade tomato sauce with onions and peppers.

Go deeper: The remarkable story of Havana Carolina, a Cuban restaurant where two UNC Charlotte students help keep their father’s dream alive

Havana Carolina sandwich
The Cuban sandwich flies off the menu. Photo courtesy Havana Carolina

Los Chamos

Co-owner Carlos Calzadilla immigrated to the United States from Caracas, Venezuela, in 2007. He grew up in the service industry and even met his wife Christina working at Cantina 1511. In 2022, the duo opened Los Chamos, an authentic Venezuelan restaurant on South Boulevard serving arepas, cachapa, pabellón, pepitos and picaña.

Location: 7001 South Blvd.

Must-try item: El Patacon — it’s like a burger with fried plantains instead of buns, and pulled skirt steak instead of beef.

Go deeper: Venezuelan restaurant Los Chamos opens soon in south Charlotte

Los Chamos
El patacoon. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

Lupitas Carniceria & Tortilleria

This takeout restaurant and butcher shop combo has a wide selection of meats and fridge staples like eggs and milk. The tortillas are all made in-house and meat orders are done by the pound, so you get to assemble the taco yourself.

Location: 5316 South Blvd.

Must-try item: Barbacoa de res on a corn tortilla.

Lupitas Carniceria & Tortilleria
Photo: Axios archives

Manolo’s Bakery

Manolo’s Bakery, formerly known as Las Delicias, was one of the first Mexican bakeries to open in Charlotte. Here you’ll find favorites like empanadas and tres leches cakes.

Zoom in: Its owner, Manolo Betancur is originally from Colombia. Known for his humanitarianism, Betancur has helped migrant workers in the Carolina foothills and most recently traveled to Ukraine to help a bakery recover from the Russian invasion.

Location: 4405 Central Ave.

Must-try item: A concha. It’s a traditional Mexican sweet bread roll with a crunchy topping.

Manolo's Bakery
Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios Archives

Maria’s Mexican Restaurant

Maria’s offers all of your Mexican favorites: seafood and meats plus vegan and vegetarian options. The family-owned and operated restaurant also has a full bar with pineapple coconut margaritas. 

Location: 5234 South Blvd.

Must-try item: The QuesaBirria, which is a meat-packed quesadilla/taco hybrid filled with cheese and beef stew served with beef broth for dipping.

Go deeper: 9 must-try Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants in Charlotte

Maria's Mexican Restaurant
Maria’s QuesaBirria. Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios archives

Muraya

This Colombian tapas restaurant recently opened in South End. It’s owned by Manny Pérez Ochoa, of El Puro, and his wife Carolina Maury, who was born in Barranquilla, Colombia. Expect Colombian dishes with a twist and vibey Latin house music.

Location: 200 E. Bland St., right off the light rail in South End.

Must-try item: The coctel de camarones (shrimp cocktail) with waffled tostones.

Go deeper: El Puro owner will bring a taste of Colombia to South End with new restaurant Muraya

Muraya
Coctel de camarones (shrimp cocktail) from Muraya. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

Que Fresa

Que Fresa offers tacos, bowls, sharable plates, sandwiches, wraps, and desserts. Owner Manuel Flores named the restaurant after his wife, who grew up in Mexico in the ’80s. “Fresa” means strawberry in Spanish, but it’s also Mexican slang for a preppy person. 

Location: 1500 W. Morehead St.

Must-try item: The skinny bowl, made with chicken or steak, quinoa, hard-boiled egg, roasted corn, spring mix, guacamole and radish pickled chiles. 

Go deeper: New Mexican restaurant Que Fresa opens in west Charlotte in former Picante spot

Que fresa
The skinny bowl with steak. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

Que Onda

Before there was Que Fresa, owner Manuel Flores opened Que Onda. Now, this local Mexican chain has several locations across the Charlotte area. The menu features street tacos, salads, tortas, enchiladas and burritos. 

Location: Que Onda has five locations in Uptown, Matthews, Highland Creek and University City, but we especially like its newest Plaza Midwood location because of its brunch menu.

Must-try item: The birria tostones, made with green plantain tostón, topped with guacamole, beef birria, pickled onion, Cotija cheese and crema.

Go deeper: Que Onda opens with a second-floor balcony and new menu in Plaza Midwood

Que Onda
If you go to Que Onda for brunch, try the steak and eggs. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

Sabor Latin Street Grill

Sabor offers pan-Latin flavors from around the world, pulling inspiration from Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, Venezuela, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, owner Dalton Espaillat's home.

Location: Espaillat opened the first Sabor in 2013. Now, there are 17 locations across the Carolinas.

Must-try item: The BYOB burrito, with your choice of protein, beans and rice, it comes with tomato, onion, cheese, lettuce and cilantro.

burrito-at-sabor-charlotte
Photo: Axios archives

Suárez Bakery

This bakery with Cuban roots has been in Park Road Shopping Center since the early ’90s. And it has a stall inside Optimist Hall. Known for its specialty cakes and pastries, tea cookies, and gourmet cupcakes, Suárez Bakery is iconic in Charlotte’s baked goods scene.

Locations: Suárez Bakery has locations at Park Road Shopping Center and Optimist Hall.

Must-try item: Tres leches cup. It’s a vanilla cake soaked in sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk, with whipped cream, caramel, and cinnamon.

suarez optimist hall pastries
Photo: Axios archives

Tacos El Nevado

For over a decade, Tacos El Nevado has been serving up authentic Mexican dishes. Christopher Santiago, the restaurant manager, tells Axios that being in business has been a bumpy ride. But he’s grateful for the support seen over the years, especially through the pandemic

Location: 4719 Central Ave.

Must-try item: Any of the tacos. Choose from asada (grilled steak), pollo (chicken), shrimp or fish, among other options. Pictured here, from left to right, are the campechano (steak and Mexican sausage), chicken, and steak tacos.

Of note: Many dishes at Tacos El Nevado originate from Oaxaca — a state and city in Mexico that is known for its food. In fact, it’s widely considered to be the gastronomic capital of Mexico.

Tacos El Nevado
Photo: Axios archives

Tacos Rick-O Food Truck

Ricky Ortiz started Tacos Rick-O Food Truck after being inspired by the bold street food flavors he enjoyed while growing up in Durango, Mexico.

Location: 402 Winnifred St., outside Hoppin’.

Must-try item: Any of the tacos. Add your choice of chicken, chorizo, shrimp or veggies.

Tacos Rick-O
Photo: Axios archives

Three Amigos Mexican Kitchen and Cantina

Before Dalton Espaillat and his wife Miriam took over Three Amigos in 2010, it was a struggling Mexican restaurant called La Casa de Las Enchiladas. With a lot of TLC, the Espaillats revived the authentic Mexican spot and it’s been a favorite on Central Avenue since. 

Location: 2917 Central Ave.

Must-try item: The enchiladas.

enchilada-three-amigos-mexican-restaurant-charlotte-nc
Enchiladas from Three Amigos. Photo: Axios archives

Vicente Bakery & Bistro

This artisanal bakery offers a globally inspired breakfast and lunch menu of breakfast sandwiches, flatbreads and all-day pastries, including 10 different croissants. Its named after Vicente López, a street in Buenos Aires’ Recoleta neighborhood in Argentina. 

Location: 2520 South Blvd., on the ground floor of the Seline at Southline apartments.

Must-try item: The cinnamon roll

Vicente Bakery
Vicente Bakery cinnamon roll. Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

Viva Chicken

This Peruvian rotisserie chicken restaurant has 17 locations across North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, but the OG spot is in Elizabeth. Its co-owner, chef Bruno Macchiavello, is from Peru and tells Axios that in his home country, rotisserie chicken is a popular street food. 

Location: 1617 Elizabeth Ave.

Must-try item: Peruvian rotisserie chicken, or pollo a la brasa. It’s marinated for 24 hours, cooked over charcoal and served by the quarter, half or whole bird, plus sides.

Go deeper: Chef Bruno Macchiavello of Yunta and Viva Chicken wants to bring more Peruvian cuisine to Charlotte

viva-chicken-menu-items
Photo: Axios archives

Yunta Nikkei

One of Charlotte’s best restaurants, Yunta offers Peruvian and Japanese cuisine. It’s owned by the same owners as Viva Chicken but offers a very different vibe. Rather than casual street food fare, Yunta is the kind of place you go to for a night out on a date or with friends.

Location: 2201 South Blvd.

Must-try item: The tiger’s milk ceviche, made with fish, golden fried squid, leche de tigre and tartara sauce.

Go deeper: Ceviche and house music are recipe for cool at new Charlotte hotspot Yunta

Tigers Milk ceviche. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

Here are some other must-visit Latino-owned restaurants in Charlotte:

And here are some Hispanic-owned businesses in Charlotte, as suggested by our Instagram followers: 

Learn more:

  • You can try various foods from more than a dozen Latin American countries at The Hola Charlotte Festival in Uptown on Saturday, Oct. 7, from 12-6pm.
  • Local Hispanic business owners organized a Hispanic Heritage Month Market Oct. 8 from 11am-5pm at Super Abari Game Bar.
  • Javier Morales, also known as QC Javi, always has a blast on his Instagram, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month. He also runs the account Latinos in Charlotte, which shares things to do for Charlotte’s Latino community.
  • The City of Charlotte has a guide of more ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month beyond food.
  • If you’re confused about the difference between Hispanic and Latino, here’s a great graphic. Hispanic is about language (countries where Spanish is the first language), whereas Latino is about geography (countries in Latin America).

Note: This story was originally published in Oct. 2020 and most recently updated Sept. 2023. 

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