Last Updated on April 12, 2023
Last Updated on April 12, 2023
On multiple weekends in Cleveland County, we’ve been fortunate to spend time at some truly fantastic restaurants in Shelby. Whether you are visiting Uptown Shelby from nearby Charlotte or elsewhere to visit the Earl Scruggs Center or any of the area’s annual events, chances are you’re going to get mighty hungry!
And luckily, Cleveland County has some delicious offerings everywhere from Uptown Shelby to Kings Mountain, Boiling Springs, and beyond. And it’s not all barbecue and livermush, though we’ll dig into those local favorites.
We’ll share upscale international eats, classic pub fare, and much more. So pull up a chair and a fork and let’s explore these fantastic restaurants in Shelby and Cleveland County!
Restaurants in Shelby and Cleveland County
Note: Just so you know, our food guides are always expanding. So if we left something off, it’s because our stomachs are only so big!
Facebook | 620 E Grover St
You can’t mention barbecue or even restaurants in Shelby without talking about the Bridges of Cleveland County. Their creations are a big part of why North Carolina barbecue made our bucket list of things to do.
Now, undoubtedly, someone will always get into an argument with you either a) to say that Red Bridges and Alston Bridges are related or b) to tell you which one is better. Well, Alston and Red Bridges are definitely not related.
Ironically, they both trained under Warner Stamey (one of the godfathers of Lexington-style barbecue) in the 1940s. And in fact, it was Stamey and Alston Bridges that were related. They were brothers-in-law!
Today, when you pop into Alston Bridges you’ll find the walls covered with family photos of the Bridges family. You might just even have a third-generation Bridges serve you your food, as I did!
Alston Bridges prefers short shank shoulders from the same distributor his grandparents did and continues the family legacy daily.
Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge
Website | 2000 E Dixon Blvd
Speaking of barbecue, you cannot leave Cleveland County without stopping at Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge!
Bridges Barbecue has been smoking meat over hickory all night and day for 72 years. In true Western North Carolina fashion, their pork is served chopped or sliced and comes with a thick tomato sauce and tangy red coleslaw.
One last thing: Don’t forget to leave room for that banana pudding!
Johnny Ray’s Smokehouse
Facebook | 4629 Fallston Rd, Fallston
Head to the northeastern edge of Cleveland County and you’ll find yourself in Fallston. It’s home to Johnny Ray’s Smokehouse, a true destination restaurant.
They don’t call themselves “farm-to-table” because instead, they’re a “farm and table” restaurant. The hogs come from co-owner Tyler’s farm down the road and then the other co-owner Johnny smokes them.
When eating Johnny Ray’s Smokehouse’s melt-in-your-mouth barbecue and enjoying any of their nightly specials, you’ll quickly see Tyler and Johnny know good food and why this is a true food lover’s place to eat.
Izzi ‘Que Barbeque
Website | 127 W Marion St
If you want good pub-inspired food while in Uptown Shelby, head to Izzi ‘Que Barbecue! Their incredible service is always a plus, but Izzi ‘Que is also known for handcrafted cocktails, draft beers, and smoking as much meat as they can!
Whether you’re talking about the wings, ‘cue, and even the chicken that goes on their chicken salad, smoking meat is what Izzi ‘Que does well!
My pick? You should at least stop by for some Pork Fries and delicious Danish Cut Baby Back Ribs.
Uptown Shelby Restaurants
The Shelby Cafe
Facebook | 220 S Lafayette St
And today, Shelby Cafe remains many people’s go-to in and around Shelby. This classic institution’s food is so good that everyone passing through Cleveland County must experience it at least once.
Personally, I think you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but an order of that mush is a must! If you don’t think livermush is a big deal, ask yourself, “why is it on these people’s NC bucket list?”
J-Birds Deli and Ales
Website | 106 W Marion St
The perfect balance to a weekend in Shelby is made whole and healthy by a visit to J-Birds Deli and Ales. The owner, Justin, was behind the bar when we ordered.
And from the moment we walked in, you could feel a chill and communal vibe to the place. J-Birds serves up gourmet artisanal sandwiches to accompany an impressive rotating tap and a great selection of beers.
We know it’s hard to choose between The Hot Chick and The Kamikaze so we recommend multiple trips to eat both and even complete a menu circuit!
Pleasant City Wood Fired Grille
Website | 233 S Lafayette St
Fun fact: You might get a little bit of a District 12 feeling while in Uptown Shelby. That’s because many of the Hunger Games outdoor scenes were filmed in the area.
While most of the production sets have been torn down, you can still feel like your right next to Katniss and Peta in Shelby. How? Head to the Pleasant City Wood Fired Grille and try the Hunger Games-inspired “Girl on Fire” pizza!
You also can’t go wrong with a half-and-half pizza like we did! On one side, there’s the hot and spicy Katniss inspiration and on the other side, traditional North Carolina Barbecue, sauce, and coleslaw!
Lafayette Street Grill & Pub
Website | 209 S Lafayette St
This classic pub is more than what meets the eye! Imagine fresh ingredients and homemade chips and Lafayette Street Grill & Pub offers up even more.
I’ll go back for mouthwatering wings, a great draft list, and an eclectic offering of Thai food! Lafayette is a great way to start your night in Uptown Shelby.
Website | 5 E Marion St #5
Toscanos Bistro brings together mouthwatering Italian and Greek options, making it a great and unique restaurant in Shelby! $5 burgers on Mondays and healthy salads every day keep things fresh and fun throughout the week.
And with affordable prices and vegetarian options, it’s easy to fill up quickly. Grab some Spanakopita or traditional Moussaka, but save room for some tiramisu for dessert!
Website | 213 S Lafayette St
Newgrass Brewing is first and foremost a locally sourcing brewery. However, it makes sense that they also use those methods to serve food!
By utilizing local grass-fed beef and cooking with only the best local ingredients, Newgrass Brewing is not just a place to kick back with a couple of brews. You can spend an evening dining here, too!
Weekly specials and events bring a crowd every night, so make sure to place your order for Irish Nachos as soon as you walk in the door! Chase it down with a cold Fiddler’s Dream and you’ll be in foodie heaven.
Uptown Sweets and Treats
Facebook | 221 S Lafayette St
And if you’re craving something sweet post-dinner, how about something sweet and savory? Uptown Sweets and Treats is where two cravings are more than met.
There, you can find scooped or soft-serve ice cream, thick creamy fudge, and delicious locally inspired cupcakes. They also have a wide variety of gourmet popcorns.
If you want a nice mix of flavors, grab a Cheerwine Cupcake and take home a bag of dill pickle popcorn. Ask for samples before you go for something wild!
Restaurants Outside Shelby in Cleveland County
Facebook | 201 York Rd, Kings Mountain
Searching for a great restaurant in Kings Mountain? You must first begin with Blackwood’s Drive-In. This old-fashioned American drive-in dishes out hand-pattied burgers sourced from local farmers.
It’s also home to the Lottaburger, two 4 ounce burgers served with tomato and slaw on a hoagie bun, you’ll find half of Kings Mountain in this joint during lunch!
So what are you waiting for? Stop by, grab a burger, and don’t skip the Cherry Lemon Sundrop!
Snack Shop Family Restaurant
Facebook | 103 S Main St, Boiling Springs
After a latte or a smoothie from KIND, pop next door for some down-home country cooking at the Snack Shop Family Restaurant. It’s a local diner feel but the food is fast and delicious.
And of course, the livermush is exactly what you need to start your day with!
Bonus: Two Awesome Wineries in Cleveland County
Website | 1549 Ike Brooks Dr, Kings Mountain
Veronét is 5 acres of picturesque family-run vines. Sip on a Viognier as you look out on to the vines with a panoramic view of Crowders Mountain.
Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard
Website | 3521 Fallston-Waco Rd, Lawndale
In the Fallston area, you’ll find the serene Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard, where grapes have been growing since 2003. With eight different grape varietals, Baker Buffalo has a wide range of wines from sweet muscadine to the peppery cabernet franc.
The perfect location for special events and weddings, Baker Buffalo is a relaxed and country local to sip the day away! All of this is a big part of why we considering Baker Buffalo among the best North Carolina wineries and vineyards.
Our Thoughts and Yours, Too!
As you can see, there are so many delicious restaurants in Shelby and around Cleveland County. Whether you’re looking for that classic and historic Lexington-style barbecue or hankering for some livermush, you know Cleveland County has you covered.
Just remember that this area also covers a lot more bases beyond those two staples. Enjoy eating your way through Cleveland County’s upscale pizzas, international food, and classic pub food.
No matter what, you’re going to come away from this area full and happy!
If you’ve spent some time here, what’s your go-to place to eat? For the first-timer, which of these restaurants in Shelby and beyond will you frequent during your visit?
Special thanks to Tour Cleveland County for hosting meals at many restaurants covered here. All opinions within this article are our own.