Top new restaurants? These NC spots rank among the best in the South. Here’s why

North Carolina boasts two of the best new restaurants in the South, new rankings show.

Bird Pizzeria in Charlotte and Queeny’s in Durham made it onto a list of regional eateries that are offering top-notch food and customer service within years of opening their doors, according to results published Wednesday, Aug. 23.

To create the list, the magazine Southern Living turned to editors to pick 25 restaurants that stand out from the crowd.

“Our editors wanted to feature a broad range of establishments (cuisine, price point, type of restaurant, etc.) to show the wonderful diversity of food in the South,” a magazine spokesperson told McClatchy News in an email. “The time frame includes restaurants that opened between 2021 and 2023.”

Why the NC restaurants were named favorites

Two North Carolina restaurants landed among the 25 winners, which weren’t listed in ranking order. Bird Pizzeria in Charlotte received a nod after getting its humble start in 2021.

“If a meal is a reflection of the love that went into it, then Bird Pizzeria certainly mirrors the passion of the Thompson family,” the magazine wrote. “When married couple Kerrel and Nkem Thompson opened the petite pizza spot in Charlotte, it was the clear result of the strength of their partnership. They were the restaurant’s only full-time employees for its first five months.”

The business, which started as a pop-up restaurant, is now a favorite shop in the Optimist Park neighborhood, CharlotteFive reported. Customers can choose from three different East Coast-style pizzas and add on toppings, including mushrooms and hot honey.

Bird Pizzeria made it onto a list of top-notch restaurants that recently opened.
Bird Pizzeria made it onto a list of top-notch restaurants that recently opened.

Also making the list of the South’s top new restaurants was Queeny’s in downtown Durham. In addition to serving food, the business was recognized for offering drinks, a podcast studio — and even a space for book lovers.

“The real kicker? Nearly everything on the menu is under $10,” Southern Living wrote.

Sean Umstead and Michelle Vanderwalker opened the East Chapel Hill Street restaurant in 2021 after drawing inspiration from diner food, The News & Observer and Southern Living reported. The menu includes sandwiches, salads and other fare in the space above the business partners’ Kingfisher cocktail bar.

For the list of top new places to eat, Southern Living considered restaurants in Washington, D.C., and the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

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