When thinking of Charlotte, I thought of the Carolina Panthers, and that’s pretty much it. I have driven by Charlotte hundreds of times passing from Charleston, SC north to my parent’s house, and I always said, “Charlotte looks like a cool city, we should stop sometime.” Well, oh boy was I right! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Charlotte and if you only have 48 hours to be there I have some great spots that you can’t miss!
We checked into the Hilton City Center, which is located smack dab in the middle of the city and dangerously close to their renowned bakery Amelie’s (more about that later). It is around the corner from the NASCAR Hall of Fame and basically in walking distance to all things uptown and a short Uber ride to all other areas. Perfect location for all your Charlotte needs.
Stop 1: Haberdish
Haberdish is a new restaurant, opened December of 2016, in the up and coming trendy area of NoDa, short for North Davidson. Although, this restaurant was newer, it ran smoothly with cordial and knowledgeable staff. Haberdish is starting to be known for its craft cocktails with a modern take on good old fashioned meals. We started with two of their recommended cocktails, Planes and Trains and Secret Surf Spot. Oh man, were these drinks delicious and did I mention gorgeous? The ice cube had a rose frozen inside of it! Perfect presentation.
Have you heard of Dilly beans? Yes, that means green beans pickled with dill…oh so good. Plus, the name is super fun to say! Now for the entrees, well let me tell you that I am still dreaming about their Chicken Fried Cauliflower. Once again, you heard me correctly! CHICKEN FRIED CAULIFLOWER!! It’s a large slice of Cauliflower… chicken fried… and topped with Chimichurri sauce! Let’s just say, there wasn’t anything left of the Cauliflower and I slapped my husband’s hand away when he went for a second bite! My husband (who is apparently nicer than I am) let me try some of his fried chicken and it was the perfect amount of tender. The sides came family style and we had the charred okra (it’s a southern thing) and the pickled cole slaw. We may have a slight problem with loving things pickled!
Stop 2: Noda Brewing
First Brewery stop in Charlotte was at Noda Brewing Company. They recently moved to a larger building which from the street looks like a factory, but when you pull back into where the actual front door is, you will see how incredibly large this place is. They have a nice outdoor area with turf for grass which would help keep the kids from getting dirty, a musician singing, lots of outdoor seating and a food truck was present. Gearing towards really anyone.
It was mighty busy when we showed up, but luckily they had 2 bars open and the lines moved very quickly. Courtney, the head Bartender, was awesome. She got us set up with a flight of some of the local favorites including the Bandito, Jam Session, Rainbow on Red, and the Premium Roast. They were all pretty smooth, but the dark beer lover in me liked the Premium Roast the best, that is until she sent me the Samoan Blonde. Now, I was struggling to choose my favorite. Don’t worry Courtney said, I have an idea. Have y’all ever heard of Suicides? You know, where you go to the Gas station fountain drinks and mix and match all the sodas/pop (let’s not get into soda vs pop right now)? Well, guess what, Noda will do that too. Courtney mixed the Samoan Blonde with the Coco Loco and holy goodness… I was in love!! NoDa has a vibrant scene and is really great for everyone to enjoy, and a must stop for breweries! They have an award winner called the Hop, Drop and Roll which is very popular. Oh, and I almost forgot, they have a rotating beer that gets released every Tuesday and pours out of their original tap! Pretty cool!
Stop 3: Free Range Brewing
Free Range is also in the NoDa area of Charlotte and is about to celebrate it’s 2 year anniversary this July with a celebration on July 15th from 12-11 pm. This place, although looks small from the outside, is quite large and roomy.
Jason and Jeff, the owners and Brewers were there to meet us. They are two brothers with very diverse backgrounds, but seem to complement each other well. Plus, they still like each other which says so much when it comes to business and family. Speaking of family, Free Range is uber family friendly! They even have a non-alcoholic juice made from fresh local fruit and veggies sweetened with a touch of honey on tap to pour for kids (or adults) to drink. What a great idea! They also have cold brew coffee on nitro pour which was also tasty and I might add an excellent alternative for those who want to drink something but maybe don’t want another beer.
Now for their brews, in general once a brew is gone, it is GOOD AND GONE. Occasionally, they will bring a popular beer back into the tap line, but that is never guaranteed so if you like it, you better get some to go. They have only one house staple and it is called the Cream of the Crop. I am in general not an IPA fan, but I did like their “you know what makes me feel good” IPA, maybe the named swayed me a bit. My favorite was the “Rice, Rice, baby” a collaboration with BirdSong and yes, you are now singing the Song “Ice, Ice baby” in your head… you are welcome for that! For me, a close second was their “Seas of Companions” a Carolina oyster stout (ahhh… the Carolina girl in me needs this one)! My husband enjoyed the Carolina Apple Graf the best. Free Range is a laid-back brewery with lots of character! They support local artists, local athletics, and other local breweries. Definitely, a MUST stop on your brewery hop through Charlotte!
Good Morning! Time to walk off those beers last night and tour the city.
Stop 1: 7th street market and Walking tour
We first went to the 7th street Public Market in the morning for a quick coffee and look around. It is less than a mile from the Hilton City Center and passes some fun city sky lines and places along the way. We grabbed our coffee from, Not just Coffee and went with the cold brew nitro pour. No cream necessary for this one!! It tasted so good. We sat outside on the patio for a little while before heading out to walk about the city. We used a walking tour map and found the Spirit square, Discovery place Science, Dunhill Hotel, Sonia and Isaac Luski Gallery, Bank of America Corporate Center, Wells Fargo Plaza, First Presbyterian, and Settlers’ Cemetery before heading to our Brunch Reservations at 5Church.
Stop 2: 5Church Brunch
I have visited 5Church Charleston, SC many times, so I was looking forward to this brunch. This is the original 5Church named for its location on the corner of 5th and Church St. The décor is very similar to the one I have been too which I would describe as modern and stylish décor with beautiful lighting and some artsy flair.
The food…. Oh the food! I am a huge brunch fan! I mean, who isn’t?! I truly love anything brunch related. Alli, our waitress, did a great job steering me towards the double Mimosa (why waste time refilling a single mimosa) and the Bloody Mary for our drinks. Plus, they really make pictures look great.
Now for the brunch items! My husband went with the English Breakfast and loved his eggs/potatoes and bacon. Remember that whole, I’m not good at sharing thing? Well I went with the Poached eggs on top of crab cakes. Let that just sink in for a minute. Doesn’t it look beautiful? Almost too pretty to eat… almost! This crab cake and poached egg combo was as delicious as it looked. By far, one of the best brunch options I have ever had the pleasure of eating and yes, I let my husband have a very small bite!
3 stops allocated for the brewery tour, and these stops vary pending what is going on in the community. Our guide, Aaron Cook, was both entertaining and educational. That’s right, I actually learned quite a bit on our brewery tour. Including this little tidbit about 18 breweries in Charlotte proper as well as the full process of making the beer while walking around backstage (where the magic happens)! We were driven around in a lovely large caravan with air conditioning, bottles of water, and Cheez-its. That last one comes in handy near the end of the tour! Let get right into the breweries we visited.
BirdSong Brewing Company:
As you may recall, Birdsong did a Collaboration with Free Range (from Friday night) so I had heard of the brewery and was looking forward to their beer. Birdsong is one of the oldest breweries opening many many years ago… not really. It’s 6 years old opening in 2011, and it still sits as one of the oldest. There are 7 breweries within 2 ½ miles of Birdsong which doesn’t seem to slow down any business as it was packed. Chris and Tara a husband and wife team, along with 6 investors opened this brewery and here’s the real kicker… they are all still friends! Birdsong started when Chris and Tara would exchange eggs for Connor’s home brew and then a brewtiful friendship began as did the idea for the Brewery.
This is Birdsong’s second location and it is a bigger one keeping 5 brews all year round and at least 1 cider. Most beer is sold in and around North Carolina. Now I am going to have to tell you, that one of the best beers I have tasted in awhile was the Jalapeño Pale Ale. Remember when I said I don’t like Pale Ale’s or IPAs… I wasn’t lying. Trying to figure out if North Carolina puts magic into their Pale Ale and IPA. That is the only reasonable explanation! In any case, Birdsong has a great indoor and outdoor area with games, food trucks and seating… oh my. It’s worth a stop for the magic!
A new one here in Charlotte at just over 1 year. Blue Blaze is set back into what feels like a lodge overlooking the trees with big wide windows and lovely wood bringing the outside in.
Blue Blaze Brewery is named after the Appalachian Trail with each beer named after a marker. For example, blue blaze means water source or camp ground or special interest. It also means a German style Alt Beer at this brewery. The head brewer hails from Colorado and the owners Sven and Craig enjoy all the outdoor activities that are available. They’re situated right next to the light rail walking trail so people can easily walk to and from town. Great for families with snacks and outdoor corn-hole (bags), rocking chairs and picnic tables. The loft overlooks the brewery to one side and the tree line to the other. Definitely a charming stop on the brewery tour.
The tour met at Heist but then also ended here. Heist is a very large Brew-Pub one of the few that also serves a full menu along with the in-house beers. A high top table was waiting for our group to arrive and the beers were poured and into our hands within a few minutes. The beers included the Brunch Junkie, Mocitra, Thirst, and B-Wheezy, and luckily the pink beer matched my outfit… what are the odds? In addition to the beer, they had an Irish Whiskey Flight too, in which the Bachelor party decided they needed to partake in! We didn’t eat any food while we were there but their pretzels with beer cheese smelled and looked amazing and I regret not getting them! It was a great final stop for the brewery tour.
We thoroughly enjoyed our Brews cruise, it is a great way to hit a bunch of breweries in a short amount of time, learn some history, all while having a Driver. It was fun to meet some people who enjoy beer just as much as we do and everyone had a great time. There may have been just a little beer spilled but not until the very end! Highly recommend this and if you get Aaron as your guide, you are sure to love it!
Stop 4: Bonterra
Bonterra is in the South End area of Charlotte, which has a completely different feeling then the NoDA area. It is what some of the diners call a Legacy restaurant being one of the longer lasting in the area. We opted to sit at this bar for this one (mostly because of lighting, always need my pictures), and because it was open and the waitress was very pleasant. You can order from the Bar Menu or from the set menu while sitting at the bar.
It was dressier than most of the places we had been prior (but mostly because we were at breweries) with a business casual look. It is set in old church that was redone and changed into a restaurant. We met some people sitting at the bar who said they often come here and sit at the bar for drinks and appetizers and then offered up some suggestions for us to go to later in the night. We enjoyed a slight change from beer with Wine and Prosecco to go with our charcuterie board.
Stop 5: Wooden Robot
Yes, we kept going. We were like the energizer bunny! We had been told by a few people not to miss the Wooden Robot, so we walked (in heels, well I did but my husband didn’t) from Bonterra to the Wooden Robot. It actually isn’t very far, I just like to point out how tough I am compared to my bearded husband! It was well worth the trip. It was buzzin’ at the Wooden Robot, but the bartender was very patient and provided me with a couple of her favorites.
This was the first sour we had seen in Charlotte so my husband jumped on that. Swarmi, the Assistant Manager, was fantastic and took us back into the backroom of the brewery and showed us the system. I really liked their Good Morning Vietnam which happens to be the biggest seller as well. You definitely will enjoy this stop! Plus, they have a Robot in the tap room that works via a control. Kind of funny to watch when people aren’t expecting it!
Stop 6: Fahrenheit
Nope, I’m not joking, We went somewhere else! We went to the top of Fahrenheit for the view and oh what a view it was! We were not disappointed. This view is probably the best I have seen within the city.
We went at night and it was starting to get fairly busy when we got there around 10:30. The drinks were more expensive which is too be expected for the view. We did not eat there, but we enjoyed the end of the night looking over the Queen City talking about our great day and the fact that we didn’t know that Charlotte had this great of a scene. We walked back to our hotel which was just a few blocks away and turned in for the night! I would recommend Fahrenheit maybe a little earlier if you want to avoid a crowd. I bet sunset is breathtaking.
Woke up a little late, and by late I mean 7:30! We tend to be early birds over here. Well, luckily we were right across the street from our first stop for Sunday.
Stop 1: Amelie’s
If you haven’t heard of Amelie’s you have been missing out. It’s a place where when you walk in you automatically gain at least 3 lbs from just the smells of fine chocolate decadence, pastries, breakfast entrees and coffee. So, so many choices, we made our best attempt to try as many as possible! Salted caramel brownies are totally acceptable for breakfast, right?
I am a huge French press girl, and was excited that they would give the whole carafe to us. My husband fell over when the breakfast sandwich with bacon, ham, and egg came. I enjoyed the quiche as well as my brownie and of course a chocolate éclair and almond croissant. Yes, we did order all of those things and yes, we did not eat lunch! By the way, GO HERE!
Stop 2: NASCAR Hall of Fame
I am not the biggest NASCAR fan, really I just don’t know that much about it (GASP). I know, I am in NASCAR country and I don’t watch NASCAR. I am surprised they didn’t know when I walked in the door. I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed my time there.
The most enjoyable of the activities at the Hall of Fame was the NASCAR simulator. First you need to qualify for the race (learn how to use the electronics) and then you get to race in a car with graphics that include all the other people racing. I came in second place…right after my husband and right before no one else! We were the only ones there so basically, I lost. Five minutes of running into and racing your husband was well worth it! If you go to the simulator first thing in the morning you won’t have a line, but you also won’t race anyone other than the people with you. Even if you are not a NASCAR fan it is still a fun experience, so if you are a fan you will be in heaven!
Phew… this weekend went super fast! I can’t believe how much we saw in 48 hours. I hope you enjoyed my fast track through Charlotte. I highly recommend a trip to Charlotte, tourism will continue to grow with all it has to offer. I will be back to see what I missed because although I tried my best, I didn’t see everything and Charlotte truly does “gotalot”!