The five best healthy lunch restaurants in South Charlotte
This one is all about the best healthy lunch restaurants in South Charlotte. Please enjoy, and make sure you’re following me on Instagram so you can catch all my healthy restaurant meals in real time on my Instagram stories.
I’ve only been living in Charlotte for just over two years, so I’m not a true expert in anything relating to the area. However, I have spent a lot of time trying to find healthy lunch restaurants — I love to go out for lunch on the weekends, and I like my lunch to be tasty and nutritious. I will tell you right away that there aren’t as many good healthy lunch restaurants here in South Charlotte as there were in the San Francisco East Bay, where I moved from.
Over the last two years, I’ve found a few that are solid and almost always deliver. But in order to find these, I had to visit some restaurants that were not so good. I won’t be mentioning the spots I didn’t enjoy, but I will be mentioning the five (actually more than five) healthy lunch restaurants in South Charlotte where I go frequently to get a yummy and nutrient-dense lunch.
The five best healthy lunch restaurants in South Charlotte
I’m sharing these best healthy lunch restaurants in order of preference, not in order of frequency that I go. Let’s do it …
Fast-casual Mediterranean street food
There are only three locations of Yafo Kitchen in Charlotte — one in South Park, one in Dilworth and one in Plaza Midwood — and I’ve eaten at them all. At Yafo Kitchen, you can get pitas, warm plates, warm bowls, and there’s a good kids menu.
Yafo Kitchen is a casual Mediterranean street food concept, and everything they serve is mouth-wateringly delicious. This is my favorite lunch (and even dinner) restaurant for a healthy meal.
There are tons of vegan, vegetarian and plant-based options, and all the meat is antibiotic free. Although Yafo Kitchen has an extensive list of items you can order off the menu (and all sound good), I always make my own bowl. And I load it up enough to have lunch for two days, because I always try to leave a little less than half. It is so darn good. Sometimes, it’s even better the second day too. And that warm pita as a side? Delicious!
I usually get half greens, half white rice, with all sorts of veggies, chicken, hummus and even sauce on top. And sometimes I splurge with the falafel too.
More often than not, we eat at Yafo, rather than take it away, but both options are good. There is a nice enclosed patio at the South Park location, a street-facing patio at the Dilworth location, and I would say the Plaza Midwood location is my least favorite and we’ve only been there once.
Head here to see the menu of Yafo Kitchen.
Chopt Creative Salad Co.
Fast-casual salads and bowls
There are several Chopt locations around South Charlotte (as well as in the Southeast). Here you can get salads, bowls and wraps (I’ve never had their wraps), and they have a kids menu.
Chopt is a salad bar, where you can make your own salad or you can order signature salads or warm bowls. I used to make my own salad, but now, I always order the warm Chopt Harvest Bowl or the seasonal Cran-apple Harvest Bowl, and it’s almost always delicious. It’s full of veggies, warm grains, lean protein and even some fruit. And I love a warm bowl that has it all.
The protein options at Chopt are grilled chicken, panko-fried chicken, falafel, bacon, shrimp and tofu, and the rest of the menu is plant based. The marinated shredded chicken in the Harvest Bowl is really tender and tasty, and that’s what I always get. Also, you get a little slice of bread with your meal, which is nice. The bread is just average though, but it serves as a vessel for soaking up the extra sauce at the end of a bowl or salad.
Chopt does not use artificial preservatives, and they focus on sourcing local ingredients (sourced from within 400 miles), which I’m into.
Overall, while you can certainly create an unhealthy mixture when choosing items for your own salad or bowl, I do think Chopt is a healthy place, and the food is tasty. Sometimes they are out of things, and you also need to be specific on how much dressing or sauce you need, so you don’t get over- or under-sauced (which can ruin the meal and has happened to me many times). Otherwise, Chopt is solid.
We often eat at the Blakeney location of Chopt, but we also pick it up to go, ordered via the app, which is very easy to do.
Bonus points for Chopt: If you sign up for the Chopt app and order through there, you can start to earn loyalty points. We often accumulate enough points to get a free bowl, and I love that.
Head here to check out the Chopt menu.
Fast-casual Mediterranean food
There are quite a few Cavas near us in South Charlotte, we most often eat at the one across from my gym, Life Time, in the Waverly area off Providence Road. Cava is a great choice. And Cava is a national chain with almost 400 locations.
At Cava, you can get have salads, pitas and warm bowls. I’ve ordered from the menu before, but I mostly like to make my own bowl. I love the sweet potatoes at Cava so much, and those always steal the show, when they are in season and on the menu.
Brady really enjoys getting a kids pita plate at Cava. And because they offer a free fountain drink with a kids meal (as does Yafo, by the way), Brady gets very excited to get the “juice” here, which is often something cool like Blueberry Lavender or Citrus Basil.
For my standard Cava order, I usually get half arugula, half basmati rice, with hummus, chicken, sweet potato, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickled onions and beets, with sauce on top and pita on the side. Depending on how generous my server is, sometimes I have leftovers for lunch the next day, but usually not.
While Cava is similar to Yafo, the food quality at Yafo wins out just a bit, and that has to be said. But Cava is always a decent option for a best healthy lunch in South Charlotte, and we go there often. They also have a drive-through at the Waverly location, and I’ve swung through there a time or too in a pinch (after ordering ahead).
Bonus points for Cava: If you sign up for the Cava app and order through there, you can start to earn loyalty points.
Head here to check out the Cava menu.
A quick-service Hawaiian bowl restaurant
Mahana Fresh is the restaurant that’s the closest to us, and we get it mostly as take-out, rarely eating there (the vibe is only so-so inside). Mahana Fresh offers nothing but bowls, all with a fresh island-inspired flair. You can make your own or order signature bowls off the menu, and they have a kids bowl, which Brady likes.
What I love about Mahana Fresh is that it’s a very simple meal, but usually very tasty. There aren’t a lot of extras in the bowl at all, and sometimes that’s just what I want (whereas at Yafo and Cava, I get a million things in my bowl).
Everything at Mahana Fresh is gluten free, and they have delicious protein options, including steak, tuna, tofu, shrimp and two kinds of chicken too. I’ve tried it all, and lately, I’ve been into the Key West chicken. Mahana Fresh has great sauces, and I love the coconut sweet potato sauce the best.
I almost always order the Mahana bowl, and I get to choose a base, two vegetables, a protein and a sauce. My usual order is half sesame noodles and brown rice, with Key West chicken, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and the coconut sweet potato sauce all mixed in. This meal is enough for one sitting, so I don’t have any leftovers when I order this.
There are about 10 Mahana Fresh locations or so across the nation, and only one in Charlotte, which just happens to be five minutes from us. We don’t eat here quite as often, but it’s usually very good. Except once we got Mahana Fresh for dinner, and the food didn’t seem quite as fresh — so I’d keep it as a solid lunch option only.
Bonus points for Mahana Fresh: If you sign up for the Mahana Fresh rewards program and enter your phone number at check-out, you often earn $3 off or 20 percent off your bowls. Love that.
Head here to check out the Mahana Fresh menu.
The Lights Restaurant
A locally-sourced breakfast and lunch spot (and wine bar)
I really like going to The Lights Restaurant, but this is the type of place I only want to go every once in a while. The Lights is a small sit-down cafe right near the border of where North Carolina and South Carolina meet in South Charlotte, and it’s a little over 10 minutes from us.
Everything made at The Lights is locally sourced, and it’s very healthy. I love to get a flavored oat milk latte and a grain bowl there, and this is a very dainty meal. I’ve never walked out of there full, and sometimes I’m in the mood for that and sometimes I’m not.
When you enter The Lights, you can tell you’re in a different type of place — it’s not a chain-like restaurant pumping out food quickly with servers in uniforms. Instead, patrons are hanging and chatting, the lattes are made with care, and there’s a little bit of a laid-back hipster vibe.
The Lights serves sandwiches, grain bowls, toasts, muffins, pastries, soups and salads, and you can order food until 3 p.m. They also have lattes, juices and even some desserts, but I’ve never tried the desserts. In addition, they sell wine by the bottle. They do not have a kids menu, but I usually order some type of toast for Brady.
To be totally honest, The Lights is a little pricey, especially because of the small portion sizes. But because everything is locally grown, and this is a one-off solo shop, I don’t feel bad spending a little more to support them in this healthy endeavor.
I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed my meals and experience here, and it’s definitely worthy of a mention on this list of best healthy lunch spots in South Charlotte.
Head here to check out The Lights menu.
Honorable mentions for delicious (and healthy) lunch restaurants in South Charlotte …
First Watch. I debated on whether or not to add First Watch to the list of top five or to have it as an honorable mention. I do believe that First Watch makes a super-delicious healthy lunch. This is the only spot that’s truly a sit-down restaurant, and we’ve only ever eaten there and never ordered to-go food. This is a national daytime chain, and they have amazing breakfast, brunch and lunch food. However, I always get breakfast, and the crab and avocado toast is my current dish of choice, and it’s incredible. We go to the First Watch near Waverly, and I’m always so happy with the food. Love it!
Smoothie King. Okay, so Smoothie King is a big national franchise, but I do love to get some smoothies there. You can earn free smoothies and dollars off by using the Smoothie King app too, and we frequent the location in Ballantyne near us in the summer months. They make a great smoothie. Lately, I’ve been getting The Activator Recovery Strawberry Banana, and it’s so good.
Sunflour Baking Company. This is a local bakery with some super tasty treats and items. I love to get the very simple egg, cheese and avocado sandwich on sourdough. While this isn’t the spot for a light and veggie-filled lunch, it’s worth mentioning. There are a couple locations of Sunflour Baking Company around Charlotte. We love to go here for an early Sunday lunch with the family.
Flower Child. Flower Child is amazing, but it’s not really in South Charlotte. It’s in Uptown. And if you want a delicious and healthy meal, this is perhaps the finest spot. I’ve only been once, and it reminded me very much of True Food Kitchen (a fancy, healthy sit-down restaurant in major cities), and then I found out the same person created both concepts, even though they don’t have the same owner. The lunch I had at Flower Child a while back is the best healthy lunch I’ve had in North Carolina, for sure. I need to go back ASAP.
PrimeFish. Honestly, I’ve never had lunch at PrimeFish, but I’ve had dinner there and Dave and I order take-out sushi from there almost every Friday. I’ve talked to so many people in south Charlotte who choose this as their favorite sushi spot, and I agree. It’s so darn fresh. I highly recommend this spot (it’s super small inside, but they have a few outdoor tables, and I always get the Prime Salmon roll — mmmm).
I’m always excited to hear new places are opening up, and I’ll continue to branch out and try other stuff. But most likely, on the weekends, you can find me eating lunch at one of the above spots.
And that concludes my list of the best healthy lunch restaurants in South Charlotte. Have an amazing day, and I’ll see you back here soon!
P.S. Also, just for fun: Here’s a list of the healthy lunch restaurants I’d like to see open in South Charlotte: True Food Kitchen, Mendocino Farms, Urban Plates and Tender Greens. I’m putting this out there in the world in hopes that one of these happen one day. 🙂
Other posts you may like
- Reflections from 14 months in Charlotte + what it’s like to move from California to North Carolina
- A look at two years of living in Charlotte (after moving from California)
- Review of the Museum of Illusions in Charlotte
- Review of The Ritz-Carlton Spa in Charlotte (and what to expect when you visit)
Questions of the day for you
What’s your favorite lunch restaurant in your area and why?
How was your weekend?
I love Yafo!! Even my kids like their food. We live on the far west side of Charlotte and I wish they had one closer to where we lived.
Me too! I wish there was a Yafo Kitchen on every corner hehe, but then I bet we’d be there way too frequently. Have a wonderful week, Catherine! Waving hello to you over there on the west side. 🙂 xoxo
I’ve been to both Yafo and Cava and I agree with you, Yafo is my favorite. They also have a rewards program and I got a birthday treat too. Two of my other favorite healthy options are The Greek Grill and Greco Fresh Grille. They both have delicious options (fresh seafood specials), salads, chicken, pita, etc. Yes, they have French fries but I can’t resist when there’s feta cheese drizzled over them!
Hi Joanna! Maybe we don’t go to Yafo enough to earn rewards? Thank you for telling me that! And now I want to get feta-drizzled French fries hehehe. Hope you are doing well, friend! 🙂 xoxo