Jackson's Java: When I can't get any work done, I go to Jackson's Java to finish it. It's in the same shopping center as the Harris Teeter right by campus. I never get anything fancy--usually just a vanilla coffee--but the environment is just so cozy and friendly. They also play really cool acoustic versions of popular music. Definitely a favorite study spot.
Boudreaux's: Located in the NoDa district about 15 minutes from campus, Boudreaux's is a delicious Cajun restaurant. I've been told their gumbo is pretty amazing, but I'm a big fan of their crab cake croissant and their cheese grits. One of the walls is just an old garage door...kind of bizarre. Definitely go to Boudreaux's if you want a cheap, authentic Cajun meal.
My Bento: This place is right next door to Jackson's Java. My roommates and I have a borderline obsession with good sushi, and My Bento's sushi is delicious. We've been there a couple times, and had the same waitress both times--she was really friendly and helped us navigate the menu. If you don't want sushi, you can also get a Bento box with noodles, meat, fruit, dessert, and a salad. The amount of food that comes with a Bento box meal is ridiculous (in a good way).
The Crepe Cellar: I've only been here once, but I can't wait to go back. I had the Queen City crepes, which have chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, and some sort of yummy sauce. Mmmmm. Then I shared the "Brownie in a Blanket" dessert crepe with my friend Claire. That was heaven. I think when I go back I'll skip dinner and just get dessert--it's that worth it.
The Penguin: The Penguin is an old drive-in that's now a small restaurant serving up just about every greasy and unhealthy, yet delicious food imaginable. My favorite is their fried pickles dipped in ranch dressing. Then again, I like just about anything dipped in ranch. The Penguin recently came under new management, and I'm not sure how much it's changed, but hopefully it's still serving up good southern meals.Fried Pickles
Hanging from the Spinning Penguin SignAmelie's: Okay, I saved the best for last--especially if you have a sweet tooth like I do. Amelie's is located right between NoDa and downtown. It's a French bakery done right. They have eclairs, mini tarts, petit fours, chocolates, and just about every other sweet imaginable. Their bestseller is a salted caramel brownie--which happens to be my favorite. If you actually want a meal, Amelie's has great daily soups and a variety of delicious sandwiches. I'd recommend chicken salad on a croissant for lunch.
If you're stuck on campus, there are still plenty of good food options--my favorites are Chick-Fil-A, Sushi with Gusto (both in the Cone Center), and Starbucks (in the Student Union). Crown Commons usually has something good to offer, too. We also have occasional "family dinners" in our friends' apartment. Even though their cooking utensils are scarce, it's fun to cook a real meal and sit down together to eat.
Basically, if you're in Charlotte, you're never far from good food!