It’s summertime, it’s hot, and you wish you were on away on vacation, relaxing on a beach while sipping your favorite beverage. But alas, you’re spending the month of July at home, tending to the kids or covering co-workers’ business while they’re out of the office.

But perhaps you’re the lucky one, as this time of year is perfect for exploring the food scene in Charlotte. Don’t want to wait in long lines at popular restaurants that don’t take reservations (or do, but you missed the window and MUST have milk bread from Kindred immediately)? This could be your moment.

Grab the gal pals or beau and check out a few of these spots. While we can’t totally guarantee a reservation or a no-wait experience, we can bet you’ll enjoy every bite of your meal.

Kindred – 131 N Main Street, Davidson

Milk Bread from Kindred

A must-visit hot spot in Davidson and only a short 26 minute drive from Charlotte Center City (and hey, isn’t traffic lighter in the summer?). You’ve heard the wonders of their small plates, craft cocktails, and glorious milk bread, but you may be avoiding Kindred because of the hype. It’s time to give in.

Good Food On Montford – 1701 Montford Drive, Charlotte

Pork Belly Steamed Bun from Good Food on Montford

Honestly, I’m not convinced you won’t have to wait at Good Food. Is it ever not crowded? But if you really don’t want to risk a wait, show up right when doors open at 5:30 p.m. Then proceed to order a few small plates (get the steamed bun) and a few drinks, and you’re set.

Haberdish – 3106 N Davidson Street, Charlotte

Hush Puppies with Sweet Tea Butter from Haberdish

Taking a few personal days this summer to mill around town? You have to go to Haberdish. They serve weekday brunch from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. then re-open for dinner at 5:00. You must get a craft cocktail (good luck choosing just one) and an order of hush puppies with sweet tea butter. This meal will make you never want to go back into the office.

Barrington’s – 7822 Fairview Road, Charlotte

Flounder from Barrington’s

Heads up: Barrington’s only seats 45. So you may want to think about a reservation, even in July. This SouthPark favorite is the perfect spot with a date to celebrate a perfect occasion. Go here for classic dishes (scallops, quail, chicken) but get ready for delicious flavors and beautiful plating.

Soul Gastrolounge – 1500 Central Avenue, Charlotte

Cocktail from Soul Gastrolounge

I normally would never head to Soul Gastrolounge without entering my name in the NoWait app, but I may risk it in the summertime. This cool restaurant/bar has it all, from skewers to hummus and tzatziki to sushi rolls. And their cocktails are amazing. I’ve had nothing but delicious experiences here, so if you’re only going one place you’ve never been this summer… choose Soul.

Paco’s Tacos & Tequila – 6401 Morrison Boulevard #8A, Charlotte

Tacos from Paco’s Tacos

This one may seem a little out of place, but have you ever walked into Paco’s at night without a reservation, especially on a weekend? Don’t do it. This place stays slammed and for good reason (it happens to one of my favorite go-to joints). Go get a marg made with one of their many, many tequilas, snack on some chips and salsa (dare I say the best in the QC?) and order a Paco’s Taco. Done.

Zeppelin – 235 W Tremont Avenue, Charlotte

Small plates on the patio at Zeppelin

I’m really diggin’ Zeppelin. Their menu is full of creative dishes meant for sharing, and their cocktails are fantastic. I love the interior decor, but the patio is where you’ll want to find yourself. Soak up South End with a group of your closest friends over a plate of Point Judith calamari and a Giggle Water (a cocktail made with brandy and blood orange liquor. You’re gonna love it.)

Flour Shop – 530 Brandywine Road, Charlotte

Fresh-made pasta and house-made burrata? I’m sold. Flour Shop (by the creators of Customshop) caused quite a bit of excitement when it opened, often resulting in wait times (no reservations accepted here). So this summer, see if you and your dinner guest can squeeze in at the bar overlooking the open kitchen. That’s where you’ll find me.