2017 was quite the year.It was both wonderful and incredibly stressful. I did a ton of traveling, a lot of personal and professional growth, and made a major move from Charlotte to Cleveland with my husband, Joe and our dog, Paisley. We have really loved living in Cleveland the past 6 months (even though it’s 4 degrees outside as I write this!) yet still find ourselves missing many of our Charlotte favorites.
As I reflect on 2017, I wanted to take some time to share with you a list of my favorite food, places, and neighborhoods around my former home town. Charlotte has a lot to offer, so this is a long one! You can also check out my version of Charlotte’s best bite’s on my friend Chrissie’s blog.
I never spent a ton of time in uptown but always enjoyed walking around, especially when we had visitors in town.
7th Street Market: a favorite spot for breakfast or lunch. I love that everyone can get something different and they house some of my local favorites – Not Just Coffee and Pure Pizza. The Local Loaf makes great sandwiches and Orman’s Cheese Shop is seriously special. This is a great place to take in the hustle and bustle of the city, and can be followed up by a walk in the park across the street. Pro Tip: you can validate your parking for 90 mins. inside the market.
The Mint Museum: I’ve been to the Mint Museum uptown countless times, often for their free entry night (it used to be on Wednesdays). It’s such a unique museum and I’ve always been impressed with their special exhibits.
Amelie’s: Amelie’s is a Charlotte institution. A French bakery famous for their salted caramel brownies, baguettes, and large creative menu. I am a huge fan of the decadent salted caramel brownie layered cake and their macrons. I also love the salads offered at the uptown location. There are now several locations around Charlotte with the original in Noda but I loved taking out-of-town guests to the uptown location most. It’s spacious, with plenty of seating, a full savory menu in addition to all the sweet goodies, a bar, and a window to the bakery so you can see the employees hard at work making delicious pastries.
Viva Chicken: Arguably our favorite spot in Charlotte and what we miss most. This fast-casual joint is just so unique and we haven’t found anything quite like it! I’m a huge fan of the Tacu bowl and Joe always ordered the Inca wrap. Most importantly, get a ton of the sauce! We loaded our food up with their yellow and green sauces, so darn good!
Sabor: Another fast-casual spot, and our favorite place to indulge on Latin Street Food. I loved the chorizo empanadas, chicken arepas, and my absolute favorite – the nachos! I always ordered nachos with pinto beans and vegetables (no meat), they’re the best and gigantic.
Earl’s Grocery: I spent a lot of time at Earl’s meeting classmates to get work done while grabbing a snack or healthy lunch. Their chilled noodle bowl was my favorite summer lunch of 2016. They offer really fun and free mixology classes once a month or so, as well as a large selection of artisan foods and groceries.
Not Just Coffee: My absolute favorite coffee shop in Charlotte. They have multiple locations but the South End spot at Atherton Mill Market was my go-to. I loved grabbing a vanilla sugar latte after a Saturday morning workout and while picking up my CSA from the market. Their iced caramel lattes are great on hot days. The space is nice for working, catching up with friends, or just sitting to enjoy a good cup of coffee.
Atherton Mill: This area has changed dramatically in the past year and half but it remains a special place to me. We picked up a CSA from Bell’s Best Berries at the Atherton Mill Market every Saturday for three years, and I always enjoyed visiting the market on Saturday mornings. The Mill now features several shops, including Anthropologie and Free People.
Living Kitchen: Also located at Atherton Mill, Living Kitchen (I still fondly call it Luna’s as it was once named) is a raw vegan restaurant. Don’t let that scare you, their food is outstanding, even for the most carnivorous among us. The space is full of light and art, and was my favorite place to enjoy breakfast or lunch solo. I love their version of Ceasar salad, the heirloom tomato tart, sweet potato sushi rolls, matcha lattes with coconut milk. They also offer delicious juices that you can grab out of the cooler and take to go, the Purple Rain is delicious!
Sycamore: One of our favorite breweries for the past several years because the beer is consistently good and the outdoor space is so much fun. We love grabbing a beer and sitting outside around the fire or at a picnic table listening to live music with our dog. Food Truck Friday is now hosted here as well so things are a bit crazy on Friday nights but the ambiance is something special (food trucks Papi Queso for grilled cheese and Tin Kitchen for tacos are the best!).
Lenny Boy Brewing Co.: Organic beer and kombucha brewery. Their new space is large and great to hang out. I love all the kombucha options on tap for when you’re not feeling beer. The ginger is my favorite, though they also have fun flavors such as beet and rose.
Rai Lay: Really delicious Thai food on South Boulevard and the only place in town that offers Koh Soi, a hearty curry dish with egg noodles that is typical of northern Thailand (I learned to make it when in Chiang Mai!).
Golden Cow Creamery: A newer addition to the neighborhood, I was thrilled to finally get some good local ice cream. Golden Cow offers fun and unique flavors, that you can enjoy on their rocking chairs outside. I was especially fond of their vegan offerings, as I could indulge without dealing with a stomach ache.
We rented a house for 3 years in the heart of Myers Park that put us within walking distance of all of the shops and restaurants listed below. The neighborhood is gorgeous, with old trees, friendly neighbors, and a great greenway. It will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Suárez Bakery: The best local spot to satisfy a (baked good) sweet tooth. We loved walking to grab a donut and cup of coffee on Saturday morning, or to pick up cupcakes for someone’s birthday. They also offer impeccably decorated cakes and sugar cookies.
Va Da Vie: In the middle of Park Road Shopping Center, Va Da Vie is a family owned and operated gelato shop. The owners are almost always there and super friendly, more than happy to bring out a dish of water to thirsty pups that made the walk over. They offer rotating seasonal flavors and incorporate local products into their quite authentic gelato. My favorites are the baccio – chocolate with hazelnut, lemon ricotta, and the cannoli with chunks of chocolate, pistachios, and orange.
Chopt: A national chain but new to us in Charlotte, this was our go-to for a quick and healthy lunch or dinner when we just didn’t have time to cook. Their huge made-to-order salads are always fresh and delicious and are totally customizable.
Corepower Yoga: I know, I know, another chain. Corepower opened in the Backcourt of Park Road Shopping Center just a couple of months before we moved and I enjoyed a membership for the last 2.5 months of our time there. I loved walking to class and getting a good sweat on. Their hot and fast-moving classes were unlike anything I’d tried before, and I really enjoyed my time there.
Midwood Smoke House: While the original location is in Plaza Midwood, we appreciate the space at the Park Road location, with the same great menu. For good southern bbq, this was our go-to. Favorites include the pulled pork, brisket, mac and cheese, and the most amazing pimento cheese fries (seriously, go and get them!).
Park Road Shopping Center: This wonderful shopping center is not only home to all of the places listed above, but so much more. There is a wide range of shops, from chain (J.Crew) to local (Park Road Books), and you can literally find anything you’re looking for. There are several great clothing stores, a hardware store, jewelry shop, home décor, Hallmark, a great garden center, and the Great Outdoor Provisions Co. There is even a very clean and nice movie theater!
Shops on Selwyn: Just down the street from Park Road, are several more great local shops on Selwyn Ave. Paper Twist is a favorite for gifts and cards, and Traveling Chic Boutique offers good prices on fashionable clothing. It’s a nice spot to wander and do some shopping.
Reid’s Fine Foods: Also on Selwyn Ave, Reid’s is a Charlotte staple. A gourmet market and café, this quite small location offers a large selection of local goods and produce, a huge wine selection, prepared foods, and great seafood and butcher case. Their burgers are the best, and I’m not a big burger person (Tuesday is discount burger night), and you can get them to cook at home or cooked to order in their café. I often stopped by for a couple of things, such as my favorite Queen Charlotte’s Pimento Cheese Royale, and grabbed a create-your-own salad.
Little Sugar Creek Greenway: Starting in the back of Park Road Shopping Center and winding its way through Charlotte, the greenway is a perfect place to walk or bike. We lived right on the greenway and enjoyed daily trips up and down the path with Paisley, our dog. There are benches along the way, good lighting for night walks, and free bags to clean up after your pets. The greenway goes right alongside Freedom Park as well.
Duck Donuts: A donut shop out of Duck, NC in the outer banks, we fell in love with these warm and fresh made donuts when a shop opened up in Charlotte. All the donuts are vanilla cake and the magic happens when you choose your combination of glaze, drizzle, and toppings. Our favorite glaze is the maple, hands down. They are super sweet and indulgent.
Dilworth Tasting Room: A newbie to the area not long before we moved, this was one of my favorite final date night spots with Joe. The space is gorgeous, both inside with a long bar and range of seating, and outside on the patio surrounded by gardens. They offer small plates, and a fabulous wine selection. It’s the perfect place for a full meal or to grab a drink and appetizer with friends or a date.
Freedom Park: We walked to Freedom park just about every week, often multiple times per week, while living in the neighboring Myers Park Neighborhood. It’s a great walkable park with a large pond in the middle and walking path all around. There are also areas for kids to play, soccer fields, volleyball courts, and a pavilion. We always enjoyed attending Festival in the Park in the fall.
JJ’s Red Hots: I never really liked hot dogs until JJ’s. They do hot dogs like no one does hot dogs, fresh and loaded with the best toppings. My favorite is the Carolina girl with pimento cheese, cole slaw, bacon, and spicy mustard. Sounds indulgent, and it sure is! Their vegetarian hot dogs are also delicious.
Sunflour Baking Company: While the original location is in Elizabeth, I love Sunflour’s second location the most. Located right on East Blvd in the hear to Dilworth on the first floor of an old house, the space was one of my favorites to grab breakfast, lunch, or a treat while getting some work done by the window. Weekend mornings are always busy for good reason; the food is fantastic. Don’t miss out on the cheddar biscuit breakfast sandwiches, whole wheat raspberry muffins, and vegan chocolate chip cookies. You really can’t go wrong with any of their scratch-made sandwiches or pastries.
Paper Skyscraper: Just down the street from Sunflour, Paper Skyscaper is a really fun store packed with everything you didn’t know you needed. They have one of the best selections of gifts I have ever seen in one place and you are bound to find something for anyone on your list (or just for yourself) at a wide range of price points. I also like this shop for “Charlotte stuff” – coasters, magnets, ornaments, etc.
Haberdish: Another fairly new restaurant that we are so glad to have dined at multiple times before we moved. Their menu is focused on southern food – perfect fried chicken, amazing fried cauliflower for a vegetarian option, creamy mac and cheese, buttery kale grits, tender biscuits. Seriously, the food here is divine and so fun to enjoy with guests visiting from up north. Their cocktails are also stunning and delicious (they make ice cubes with fresh flowers!).
Crepe Cellar: Owned by the same couple as Haberdish, Crepe Cellar offers really solid food for both brunch and dinner. We had one of our all-time-favorite brunches here and I enjoyed some fun nights out with friends enjoying their food and wine specials. There menu is much more than crepes, and the burrata appetizer is divine.
NoDa Company Store: This small old house is the perfect neighborhood hang out. They have a great bar and a few drink cases with plenty of local favorites. They also offer a couple of daily sangrias and are always hosting special events, such as free lunch on Sundays. You can grab a drink and sit inside, on the porch, or one of the swinging benches in the yard. I highly recommend stopping for a drink before or after dinner at Haberidsh down the street.
Birdsong Brewing: This is Joe’s favorite brewery in Charlotte as they feature his most loved and missed beer, Jalapeño Pale Ale. Almost always busy on the weekends, they have nice space both inside and out and often have food trucks on site so you can grab something to go with your beer.
Heist Brewery: Heist has a fabulous brunch buffet that is worth the indulgence. I haven’t been in a few years but enjoyed celebrating multiple birthdays there over mimosas and brunch. In addition to their beer they have the most delicious beer cheese with soft, warm pretzels. Every time I ordered that beer cheese I ended up mad I had to share, it is so so good.
Yafo Kitchen: This fast-casual Mediterranean spot opened in the summer of 2016 and quickly became a regular craving and go-to spot. Their food is always super fresh and healthy with tons of vegetables and quality ingredients. I always opted to make my own bowl, either with rice as the base or half hummus and half salad, and then piled on the toppings. Falafel were my favorite protein and Joe loved the flavorful chicken. Their bowls and sandwiches are served with laffah, a fluffy flat bread. If you like spice, make sure to get some schug, the jalapeño cilantro hot sauce.
The Cowfish: A really fun spot that offers both burgers and sushi, a strange and yet wonderful pairing. Perfect if you’re craving sushi with people who aren’t fans or just want to try a good food mash-up. I love the bento boxes with a mini burger, half sushi roll, sweet potato fries, and cucumber salad. They also have “burgushi” sandwiches that combine burger and sushi ingredients.
U.S. National White Water Center: Just west of Charlotte this is the place to enjoy a full day of action, or a relaxing evening of music. It only costs $5 per car to park, and you have access to great trails for running, biking, and hiking. They offer a full range of water sports, including white water rafting on their man-made course, and SUP on the river. You can also do zipline, rock climb, and do so much more. On Thursday and Saturday evenings they have great live music, a bar available, and dogs are welcome.
Kindred: North of Charlotte in the lovely town of Davidson, Kindred has earned well-deserved praise and fame. Their food is a bit pricey, especially for dinner, but really worth it if you’re looking for something special. Our meal there to celebrate my match (and reason for moving to Cleveland) was one of the best I’ve ever had. The restaurant if fairly small but really beautiful. We have also enjoyed lunch there a few times, which gives you a chance to really see the space, and your food, and to check out the town while you’re there.
So that’s it. A really long list, and those are only my favorites. If you can’t tell I loved living in Charlotte and remember the city fondly. I look forward to going back. If you’re there and visit some of my favorite spots, tag @the_mexitalian on social media so I can live vicariously through you!