Charlotte Mediterranean Restaurant Guide: Flavors are vast, and so are the options in Charlotte

By Beth Mack

May 12, 2021 (updated)

On the surface, Mediterranean cuisine may seem pretty straightforward to most Americans, but it’s more complex than that. Mediterranean cuisine is not the product of a specific culture or country. Rather, it’s a result of the culinary trends and influences that have been shared for thousands of years by a vast variety of people and cultures that surround the Mediterranean Sea.

The area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea is home to some of the world’s earliest civilizations, bringing with them a vast history of religious and cultural conflicts over the years that have helped shape Mediterranean cuisine. Additionally, the area also served as the crossroads to Europe, Africa, and Asia, leading it to become a trading hub for a large portion of all of the world’s cultures. Inhabitants were exposed to spices, cooking methods, and recipes from all over that have influenced what we now know was Mediterranean cuisine.

Mixed Appetizers Plate – Hummus, Baba ganoush, Falafel, Grape leaves, Cacik

Often when we think of Mediterranean cuisine, we think of Greek food such as baklava, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), falafel, and hummus, but those iconic dishes actually originated in what we geographically know today as Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Iran, Cyprus, and Turkey. As civilization and trade expanded from the Middle East and North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea, so did its food. This has led to what we have come to know as Mediterranean cuisine. It is a flavor-forward cuisine of grilled meat, stewed legumes (chickpeas, lentils, and fava beans), cheese made from sheep’s or goat’s milk, rice, pita bread, and vegetables (eggplant, tomato, olives, cucumber, and onion) all of which are brightly flavored using an array of fresh herbs and spices, lemon, tahini, and olive oil.

With a high Muslim population, many Mediterranean restaurants with a more Middle Eastern influence only serve halal meats and do not serve alcohol. While there are some country-specific dishes, there are many ubiquitous Mediterranean dishes that transcend all borders such as hummus, grape leaves, falafel, kebabs, shawarma, gyros, baklava, and Turkish coffee (also called Arabic coffee).  

Le Kebab Grill

When owner and chef Nabil Alnatsheh arrived in Charlotte in 2007 he wanted to put Mediterranean food on the map and had the experience to do so, having worked as a private chef for the American ambassador in his home country of Jordan. Located in the University area, La Kebab Grill offers the usual suspects of appetizers, salads, kebabs, and gyros all with halal meat, but what sets them apart is the chef’s specialties menu. This menu features dishes that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else in Charlotte.

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350 E McCullough Dr.
Charlotte, NC 28262
(704) 547-7217

Mixed grill over veggies at Le Kebab Grill

Halal Food Cart

Originally opened on the corner of Trade and Tryon in 2016 by husband and wife duo, Khuram Bashir and Damaris Bashir, the red and yellow Halal Food Cart has now expanded into multiple brick-and-mortar locations. While they offer a couple of varieties of gyros and Philly cheesesteaks, the real stars of the show are their rice dishes. Choose from chopped chicken, lamb, or falafel served over Mediterranean-flavored basmati rice and topped with their house-made hot sauce and white sauce (reminiscent of tzatziki) for an addictive flavor combination. 

Halal Food Cart
101 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28202

Halal Street Food
Connection Point Blvd Suite B
Charlotte, NC 28212

Halal Street Food
701 Keswick Avenue Suite 101
Charlotte, NC 28206

Photo: u/cowley10 via Reddit

Kabab-Je Rotisserie and Grill

Brother team Yasser and Ali Sadek opened Kebab-Je in 2013 with a goal of bringing the taste of the Mediterranean to Charlotte.  Specializing in Lebanese cuisine, you will find more than just shawarma and charcoal–grilled kebabs on the menu. Try out one of the Lebanese-inspired appetizers such as kibbeh (Lebanese croquette), moutabal (smoked eggplant dip), or jawaneh (Lebanese marinated charcoal-grilled chicken wings). For freshness, try out traditional Lebanese salads such as tabbouleh or fattoush. If you didn’t fill up on appetizers, you surely will with any one of their extensive list of kebabs featuring chicken, beef, lamb, shrimp, salmon, or scallops, all served with basmati rice and grilled vegetables. No visit to Kebab-Je is complete without their velvety smooth hummus and homemade pita.  

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2233 Matthews Township Pkwy
Matthews, NC 28105
(704) 845-0707

Veggie plate (hummus, fried cauliflower, fattoush, falafel) and Kibbeh.

Jasmine Grill

Just down the road from the Mad Greek on South Boulevard is Jasmine Grill. Owner, Mohammad Khaled Mahrousa, emigrated from Aleppo, Syria with cooking and baking in his blood. Prior to opening Jasmine Grill in 2013, Mohammad employed his baking talent at Charlotte’s Middle Eastern and Mediterranean bakery, Golden Bakery. Walk in the door and you are greeted by the sight of meat cooking on the spit and kebabs cooking over an open flame on the grill. Jasmine Grill’s menu offers a great blend of iconic Levant dishes ranging from Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and beyond. Browse the menu and you will find iconic Mediterranean dishes such as baba ganoush, tabbouleh, fattoush, shawarma, and grape leaves, as well as some lesser-known dishes such as koba (type of kibbeh), sambousa (Arabic eggroll), and ful medames (stewed fava beans with onion, herbs, and spices). While Jasmine Grill boasts a menu of 100% halal meat, they offer plenty of options for the non-meat eaters, including a vegetarian moussaka. With Mohammad’s extensive background in pastry, be sure to indulge in a baked pie (chicken, beef, veggie, or cheese), baklava, or made to order knafeh paired with Arabic coffee. With a second location on Central Avenue, be sure to check them out.

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5033 South Blvd
Charlotte, NC 28217
(980) 207-1859

2920 Central Ave suite B
Charlotte, NC 28205
(980) 236-7116

Roasted lamb shank with veggies served with a veggie soup.

Zeitouni Mediterranean Grill

Another great Mediterranean spot is Zeitouni, located in Ballantyne. Zeitouni not only pays homage to Lebanon through its food but also with a mural of the country adorned on the wall. The menu is littered with classic Lebanese delicacies such as tabbouleh, fattoush, and labneh (creamy yogurt dip) along with an assortment of kebabs, gyros, and shawarma. Unique dishes that Zeitouni offers are the Zataar (commonly called manakish-toasted flatbread topped with olive oil, za’atar, feta, mint, and tomatoes) and their signature item, shish tawooq (chicken skewer marinated in lemon, yogurt, and garlic instead of traditional shawarma spices). Complement your meal with their Turkish coffee, imported Lebanese beer (Almaza), or try out imported Lebanese wine.

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3419 Toringdon Way A124
Charlotte, NC 28277
(704) 752-4245

Mixed platter with spicy roasted hummus and tabbouleh. Photo: @ZeitouniGrillCLT

King Kabab

A newcomer to the Charlotte Mediterranean food scene is King Kebab. Opened in December of 2020, you can find King Kabab in Ballantyne sandwiched between an Indian restaurant and a pizza joint. While King Kabab does offer a large selection of chargrilled, halal kebabs and meat entrees, they also offer salads, shawarma, and wraps. They also offer house-made hot sauce, toum sauce (creamy garlic sauce), laban (yogurt and cucumber sauce), and tahini sauce to kick up the flavor on any dish. This family-owned, fast-casual spot is a welcomed addition to the Ballantyne Quad.

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14027 Conlan Cir Suite A2
Charlotte, NC 28277
(704) 900-5190

Steak kebab from King Kebob.

La Shish Kabob

Twenty-three years after opening his first restaurant in Jerusalem, owner Izzat Freitekh brought the taste of Mediterranean and Middle East to Sharon Amity Road in 2008. Comb through their menu and you will find a heavy Lebanese influence thanks to Izzat’s mother and also discover that all of their meats are halal. La Shish Kabob, of course, offers shish kabobs in addition to shawarma, falafel, and baba ghanoush as well as many harder-to-find dishes. These dishes include mansaf (lamb cooked in a yogurt sauce served over rice), moulkhia rice (layered rice dish with meat and vegetables that is flipped upside down when served), sambusak (cheese turnovers), or desserts such as knafeh or worbut (similar to baklava but filled with custard). As Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, look for them to resume their halal buffet for lunch and dinner Friday through Sunday.

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3117 N Sharon Amity Rd
Charlotte, NC, 28205

(704) 567-7900

Mixed Kebab at La Shish.

Cedars Specialty Grocers and Restaurant

Located in a strip mall on the bustling Central Avenue is Cedars Specialty Grocers and Restaurant (formerly known as Cedar Land). Specializing in Lebanese cuisine, Cedars started as a falafel shop and has since grown into a one-stop shop offering a large grocery section of imported Mediterranean groceries and a halal butcher shop with a gourmet olive bar. The self-proclaimed falafel kings offer a modest menu of appetizers (kibbeh, baba ganoush, grape leaves, and hummus), soups, salads, shawarma, gyros, kebabs, rotisserie chicken, and grilled meat platters. You can call your order in ahead of time or order at the counter when you arrive and peruse the grocery aisles as your food is prepared to order.   

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4832 Central Ave
Charlotte, NC 28205
(704) 535-9662

Mix Grill with Baba Ghanouj at Cedars Specialty Grocers and Restaurant

Little Village Grill

Little Village Grill has been Uptown Charlotte’s go-to spot for gyros and Greek salad since 2005. This fast-casual restaurant serves up a menu of no-frills Greek and American food of salads, pita sandwiches, American sandwiches and, of course, gyros. 

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901 East 4th St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 595-3749

Gyro with salad from Little Village Grill

The Mad Greek

For the complete Greek experience, The Mad Greek is the place to go. Greek immigrant brothers, Chris and George Limberakis, have been serving up the authentic flavors of Greece since 1991. With the exterior painted none other than Grecian blue, you can’t miss it. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner you can get your Greek fix any time of day. Browse the menu and you will find iconic Greek dishes such as souvlaki (Greek marinated meat), pastitisio (Greek lasagna), and spanakopita in addition to the ubiquitous Mediterranean offerings of kebabs, gyros, falafel, grape leaves, and pitas. If you choose to dine in, you can try out their offerings of imported Greek beer (Mythos, Aris, Fix, and Zeos) and Greek wine. Round out your meal with baklava, galaktoboureko (baked phyllo dough filled with an orange-zest custard), or one of their other desserts and pair it with one of their Greek coffee beverages.

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5011 South Blvd
Charlotte, NC 28217
(704) 523-8296

Falafel Pita and tomato and cucumber salad.

Greco Fresh Grille

Owner Vasilis “Bill” Pahountis takes no shortcuts when it comes to bringing fresh, authentic Greek cuisine to Charlotte. From the hand-cut fries to hand-shaken Greek frappes, no detail is overlooked. Greco Fresh’s first location opened in 2011 and five additional locations have been added since. Their robust menu features salads, pitas, gyros, and kebabs, and be sure to check out seasonal specials such as pastistio (Greek lasagna), avgolemono (chicken lemon soup), and their rotating flavors of hummus. For dessert, Greco Fresh offers baklava made by Bill’s wife, Irene, loukoumades (fried dough balls topped with cinnamon and honey), and galaktompoureko (baked phyllo dough filled with an orange-zest custard) to round out the experience.

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