Charlotte: My Favorites

Recently, a friend pointed out that while I often post about where to go in other cities, I’ve never written on here about where to go and what to do in my home town of Charlotte. This is, of course, because if you’re interested in that kind of thing, you should be purchasing 100 Things to Do in Charlotte Before You Die.

While you’re waiting for it to arrive (via Amazon Prime!) though, here’s a list of my favorite spots around town right now. Because Charlotte is growing insanely fast, this list is subject to change (possibly tomorrow), but for now, here are the most fun, tasty, cool, and, yes, Instagrammable spots around the city.

STAY

IMG_1764.JPG
Breakfast in bed at Kimpton Tryon Park

Kimpton Tryon Park: Kimpton hotels are always great (dog-friendly and stylish!), and this one is no exception. Request a room with views of Romare Bearden Park and plan on at least one sunset cocktail at its see-and-be-seen rooftop bar, Merchant and Trade.

Ivey.jpg
Bathtub views at The Ivey’s Hotel

The Ivey’s Hotel: Housed in a historic department store building smack in the middle of Uptown, this hotel has equal parts character and style (think exposed brick walls and luxe linens). Pro tip: Its cocktail bar, Sophia’s Lounge, shares a kitchen and a chef with next door’s 5Church restaurant, which means top quality fare alongside your drink.

EAT

Soul Gastrolounge (All Time Favorite): This edgy small plates restaurant opened up one month before I moved just down the street from it ten years ago. And for ten years, it’s remained my favorite Charlotte restaurant. There’s seriously nothing on the menu I don’t love, but—like everyone else who has ever tasted them—I’m obsessed with the watermelon pork belly tacos.

Haberdish2.jpg
Haberdish

Haberdish (Best Brunch): There’s not a bad time of day to venture to this bright and airy NoDa restaurant, but Southern brunch on their popular patio is just the best. Leave the diet at home and order the deviled eggs, fried chicken biscuit, and a classic Bloody Mary.

The Stanley (New Favorite): It’s hard to get reservations, but the marble bar is the best seat in the house anyway. This got a well-deserved James Beard nominee nod this year for the country’s best new restaurant.  Order the surf and turf (a magical dish featuring layers of beef tartar and fried oysters).

Kindred2.jpg
Kindred’s amazing fried oysters

Kindred (Worth the Drive): Sure, it’s in Davidson (30 minutes north of town). But this little college town is adorable. Take a stroll down its charming Main Street before dinner. And then prepare yourself for what will undoubtedly be one of your best meals ever. The Milk Bread lives up to its national rep in this unbelievably innovative and chef-driven restaurant.

Lincolns.jpg
The coffee bar at Lincoln’s Haberdashery

Lincoln’s Haberdashery (Casual lunch): Part gift shop, part wine store, part bakery, part coffeeshop, and all amazing, this trendy spot is known for its sandwiches on freshly baked bread. The grilled cheese with gruyere and shallots will change your life.

DRINK

Bardo (Cocktails): I know there are a ton of bars in town focused entirely on cocktails, but I seriously think that Amanda Britton, the mixologist at this tiny, eclectic South End spot, is doing it better than anyone else. Her drinks are inventive and seasonally-focused, and it’s hard not to order every one on the menu just to taste.

DTR.jpg
The patio garden at Dilworth Tasting Room

Dilworth Tasting Room (Wine): I’ll be honest. I know almost nothing about wine. But I do know some things about charming white-string-lit gardens and heaping plates of cheese and charcuterie. And this cozy wine bar tucked into the Dilworth neighborhood offers both those things.

Craft (Beer): I recently heard we have more than fifty breweries built or in the works right now around Charlotte. That’s insane. I could obviously do an entire additional list for breweries, but if I want a great beer in a chill atmosphere, I always opt for this cool little bar in South End.

Undercurrent.jpg
Matcha and avocado toast at Undercurrent

Undercurrent (Coffeeshop): Charlotte has hopped on the coffeeshop craze with the rest of the country/world and while there are so many excellent options (Basal, Not Just Coffee, Hex), I just really love this one. The matcha latte with oat milk and avocado toast is my favorite (very green) order.

NoDa Company Store (Vibe): I didn’t really know where to put this on this list, but as it’s my absolutely favorite place to go have a cold glass of prosecco on a warm afternoon, I felt I should mention it. If you can, snag one of the porch swings on the side or a picnic table out back. This is the kind of place you’ll end up spending a few lazy hours.

SHOP

Moxie Mercantile: This cute little gift shop (next door to Undercurrent Coffee) is the best place for fun barware and super stylish locally-made jewelry.

Paper Skyscraper: More gifts! This Dilworth institution has been Charlotte’s favorite gift shop for forever, but it’s so on-trend it feels like it could have opened yesterday. Its books, cards, and candles are my favorites.

Mint Museum Gift Shop: Museum gift shops are the best part, right? Housed on the ground floor of the Uptown museum, this gift shop has the coolest finds like fashion books, chic stationery, NC pottery, and jewelry. And they have the best kids’ gifts in town—hands down.

Sleepy Poet Antique Mall: If you’ve got a rainy afternoon in Charlotte, there’s no better place to wander around than this massive antique mall filled with booths that range from records to vintage clothing to mid-century modern decor. On Saturdays there’s usually a food truck or two in its parking lot.

poole-shop-charlotte.jpg
Eye candy at Capitol

Capitol: To be clear, I can’t afford anything in this store. Not one single thing. I spend all my money on the aforementioned food and drink. But man, if you love designer clothes and shoes—or, like me, just love looking at them—this gorgeous SouthPark store is worth a visit as a fashion tourist destination if nothing else.

DO

Ritz-Carlton Spa (Best Indoor): Book a $45+(on weekdays) or $100+(on weekends) treatment at the luxe spa housed inside this modern Uptown hotel and you get access to the spa’s gorgeous penthouse pool and facilities. (I don’t understand the Himalayan Salt Room, but I love it.)

WWC.jpg
Friday night yoga at the Whitewater Center

US National Whitewater Center (Best Outdoor): I wish I could rename this place because visitors and newbies see this name and think “I don’t want to go whitewater rafting,” but oh my gosh it is so much more (and better) than that. I like going for kayaking on the river, walks on the trails, beers next to the water, dinners on the decks, yoga in the woods, and live music in the grass. It’s my favorite place in Charlotte and literally never disappoints any visitor.

Carrigan Farms.jpg
Carrigan Farms

Seasonal Spots: In the summer, go for one of the open swim days at Carrigan Farms Rock Quarry. It’s the perfect family-friendly day outside. In the spring, spend an evening at a Knights game in BB&T Ballpark. I don’t care about baseball even a little bit, but I love games in this city center park. In the fall, plan on at least one hike through colorful leaves on a sunny day at the nearby Crowders Mountain (Kings Pinnacle trail is tough towards the end, but so worth it for the view). And in the winter, don’t miss Olde Mecklenburg Brewery‘s German Christmas Market. It’s cheery for even the Grinchiest of us.

IMG_7179.JPG
The book you need to order

Looking for more? I believe I may have mentioned purchasing 100 Things to Do in Charlotte Before You Die. I’d also recommend checking out Charlotte Agenda and perusing the #exploreCLT hashtag on Instagram. Enjoy Charlotte!

After watching this TED talk, I’m ready to for Stacey Abrams to give up on the Georgia Governor role and just go for President. But maybe wait until 2024 when like 47 other Democrats haven’t already announced their candidacy.

Sunny Seattle

IMG_1881

Earlier this month I spent a long weekend in Seattle—a place generally known for its rainy, grey days and (directly related) good coffee. However, North Carolina has been hogging that weather this winter and so when I went it was all sunshine and blue skies, which made for a beautiful weekend in one of my favorite cities.

I’ve visited Seattle quite a bit in the past. You can find my recommendations for favorite spots here and here. But I went to a few new places on this trip, so I thought I’d share.

Eat & Drink

I’d been wanting to go to Il Corvo ever since Aziz Ansari mentioned it in his Modern Romance book. He described it as having amazing housemade pasta and a long line. Both proved to be true. It’s only open for lunch on week days and you’ll want to be in line by 10:45 for when it opens at 11. Go hungry—it’s worth the wait.

We just happened to drive past this Starbucks Reserve Roastery on our way to Melrose Market (another fun destination for food and drink in Capitol Hill) when I was in some IMG_1864serious need of caffeine. I could not have been happier that we stopped in. Apparently, there are only a few of these in the world and they are AMAZING. I’m not even that into coffee, but I am into cool places that serve tasty things and are full of passionate people. This checked all those boxes. You can do coffee flights and exclusive tastings. Or, if you’re a coffee novice like me, you can just order the Undertow—an espresso, half and half, and vanilla bean syrup mixture that was like melted coffee ice cream.

Just as I began making dinner reservations for the trip, James Beard announced their semi-finalists and Sawyer made the list for best new restaurant. The fact that it was in one of my favorite Seattle neighborhoods—Ballard—IMG_1893was just icing on the cake. It lived up to its nomination with a bright and cheery atmosphere, creative (but remarkably low priced) dishes, and a steamed buns appetizer that is making my mouth water at the memory.

I feel like Taylor Shellfish doesn’t need any more publicity from me, but I’m going to recommend it as a snack time spot. There are several locations around town and it’s the perfect place to pop in during an afternoon of sightseeing for a briny, plump oyster and a chilled glass of wine.

Finally, everyone who goes to Seattle goes to Pike Market. It’s a must. I’ve been to Seattle nine times in five years. I’ve been to Pike Market nine times in five years. Personally, I think the best way to do it is to get there just before it opens. First, go to Le Panier, a cozy and fragrant French bakery, grab a warm Almondine and a creamy latte and snag a seat at the window-side bar to watch the market wake up before you go explore.

Do

This trip was my first visit to the San Juan Islands and now I see what all the fuss is about. We did it in a fun way—taking a ferry to Whidbey Island, driving all the way up the island to see Deception Pass, and then taking another ferry to Orcas Island. It was the most charming place with a little waterside town full of classic Americana shops and restaurants, a fun brewery, and gorgeous scenery. This was a full-day trip (and could easily be overnight), but totally worth it.

IMG_1937

 

Day Trip to the ‘Burbs

1200px-Historic_Downtown_Belmont__28right_side_of_street_29_-_9-20-2014

I’m chatting on Charlotte Today this morning about fun ways to spend a day in some of Charlotte’s most charming suburbs (I’ll post the link to the segment once it’s up). In the meantime, because I talk fast and you guys always ask, I’ve put links below to everywhere I’ll be mentioning on the show. Hope this helps and happy day-tripping!

Belmont

Mugshots Coffee and Tea. Caravan Coffee and Dessert Bar. Cotton Candy Factory. Tastebuds Popcorn. Belmont General Store. Nellie’s Southern Kitchen. The String Bean. Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Catawba River Antique Mall.

Matthews

Your Mom’s Donuts. Matthews Farmers Market. Renfrow Hardware. Matthews Heritage Museum. Matthews Visitor Center. The Loyalist Market.

Waxhaw

Crossroads Coffee House. Historic Foot Bridge. Provisions. Museum of the Waxhaws. Alphabet Museum. Mexico-Cardenas Museum.

Davidson

Summit Coffee. The Pickled Peach. Davidson Farmers Market. Main Street Books. Elizabeth Rose. Moxie Mercantile. Davidson Ice House. Kindred.

 

I read an article recently that described grief as a shaking box with a pain button on one interior wall and a ball inside. Initially, the ball is so large that it’s constantly bumping up against the pain button. As time goes by, the ball gets smaller so that it hits the pain button less. But, when it hits it, the pain is no less intense than that first hit.

This feels like the perfect description.

IMG_1666

On Saturday, I went to my parents’ home to put Rosie’s grave marker on her brick-covered grave. It was raining and cold, and Pawley and my dad and I walked down to the edge of the garden where we’d buried Rosie under a cherry tree on the sunny Wednesday that she died last month.

I felt sad then, as I placed the bright daffodils on her small stone. But the ball is shrinking and the pain button wasn’t being hit. Later though, when it was time to go home and for the first time in 12 years leaving my parents’ house didn’t involve a dachshund rushing out the door ahead of me and barking with excitement, the ball hit the button. And it hurt just as much as that sunny Wednesday.

It’s a good image though—the ball and the box—because it reminds me that the pain comes less often. And there’s a lot of promise and hope in that.