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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Getaways in the Queen City

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 7:00 AM

This past week was emotionally draining to say the least. Reading about recent events across the United States on all of my social media platforms and favorite news outlets had left me feeling a combination of confused, angry and helpless. There’s nothing like real world drama to slap you back to the reality of how insignificant everyday complaints of having to go to work, finding a happy hour spot or being hungover really are.

Needless to say, I went to work on Friday overwhelmed with thoughts that teetered between making significant social change and finding ways to escape. As I slowly wrapped my mind around tackling the workday, I ran across an article about North Carolina waterfalls that are only a few hours away. I thought to myself, ‘What a great idea for getting away from the city and unplugging for a minute.’ But my boyfriend and I had already made plans for Saturday and Sunday, so I knew a last minute trip was going to be impossible.

Instead, I spent the entire weekend lusting for places unseen and dreaming about moving to a remote island and opening my own business. By Monday, I was officially yearning for some much needed rest and relaxation, so I decided to come up with a list of ways to escape, mentally and physically, in or around the Queen City.

1. Take a hike. No seriously. After walking in circles attempting to make it to the pinnacle of Crowders Mountain State Park, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fan of the outdoors. But there’s something truly refreshing about taking a hike in a place you’ve never been, turning off your cell phone — except when you capture the moment once you’ve reached the top — and only focusing on your internal thoughts. Throw “where to hike near Charlotte, NC” into Google and plan your next hiking adventure.

2. Take a dip. If you’re at all like me, you may be terrified of the possibility that brain-eating amoebas are salivating every time you step into a body of water. But I must say, since I started dating my boyfriend, I’ve been obsessed with going to the lake. On the water, all you need is sun block and a case of beer to have a good time. Grab your suit and head to a local lake or river. No phone service necessary.

3. Treat yourself. I’ve racked up my fair share of gift certificates to local spas but haven’t set aside any time for myself. Dig through your gift card drawer, browse Groupon for deals and plan a day at the spa. Ballantyne Resort and The Ritz-Carlton are two of my favorite places to rejuvenate. Those two are pricey so make sure you do some research and price comparisons before you break the bank. And if you really want to make a day of it, live it up by booking a room for the night.

4. Plan a lunch date. While day drinking at Common Market or one of the many breweries popping up in the city can be a lot of fun, consider grabbing a bottle of wine and heading somewhere different for lunch. I’ve been meaning to plan a visit to Treehouse Vineyards, pack a lunch and rent a tree house for a couple hours. There’s also a ton of bed and breakfast spots in the area that will make for a quick lunchtime escape.

5. Organize a last minute trip. My friends love last minute trips to places like Asheville, where the booze, live music and nature are plenty. A four-hour round trip, you’ll be surprised how positive your perspective will be when you come back to the city after a day trip. Pack up your favorite snacks, hop in your car and head to a nearby city or beach for a change of scenery. Want to stay a night for cheap? Download Airbnb!

6. Join a volunteer group or organization. If you, too, find yourself feeling down or helpless when you look at the bigger picture called life, consider giving back to the community or joining an organization. Spend a day on a Habitat for Humanity project, or find a local group to become a part of. You’ll feel rewarded helping others or expressing yourself with likeminded individuals. As you can imagine, Charlotte has more than its fair share of ways to get involved and make a difference.

What do you do when you need to getaway in or around the Queen City? Share your ideas with me at backtalk@clclt.com.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

July 4th in the Queen City

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2016 at 2:31 PM

As I stood in line on Friday afternoon waiting on Vic the Chili Man — my fave hot dog stand Uptown, and arguably all of Charlotte — I laughed as he prepared a patron for the side effects of his homemade hot mustard (a rough exit after digestion). I immediately thought ahead to my weekend of booze and July 4th celebrations and decided I should tell him to hold the spice.
This time last year, I was just getting settled in a new relationship with my current boyfriend and preparing for fireworks (wink, wink) on Lake Wylie as we made plans to a party on his friend’s pontoon boat. There was fun in the sun all day long.

It was my first time being on a boat since I almost drowned in Lake Norman at a Memorial Day outing in 2015, so I was bit nervous. Who wants to ask the person they’re dating for a life jacket when no one else is wearing one? Not to mention, I could tell from the looks on everyone’s faces as my cousin and I stepped on the boat —scantily clad — that we were going to stand out.

And to top it off? This black girl fulfills the stereotype of not liking to get her hair wet or get in water. That meant no bonding with new friends over a tube ride. Now, talk about awkward.
But the day and night went on without a hitch. As I prepared for not seeing fireworks, which my family makes an effort to see every year, we made our way across Lake Wylie to the perfect open viewing spot for catching the show put on by the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Date tip: fireworks under the stars makes for an unforgettable first date.

(Disclaimer: I’m writing this before the weekend has even started. Hence, the future thoughts in past tense.)

This year’s July 4th celebrations, on the other hand, were going to be interesting, to say the least. The weekend was going to be filled with juggling multiple friends and family — good friends, old roommates, old best friends, frenemies from college and my parents. Why you may ask? An old roommate was getting married and decided that all of these people needed to be in the same place at the same time. Lucky me.

I wasn’t looking forward to the fake smiles and awkward conversations combined with an open bar. I couldn’t even imagine what arguments were in store for me, especially if I decided to go on the limo party bus to Uptown on that Friday night for pre-wedding festivities.

I was, however, looking forward to taking my parents to pre-game for the wedding at Foxcroft Wine Co. in Dilworth. I had been craving a meat and cheese board after stalking the many Charlotte foodie Instagrams and my partner in crime had just tried it out on the previous weekend. She raved about her experience so much that I knew it would be the perfect place to unwind before the wedding.

I was also excited about the fact that my parents were finally going to go on my boyfriend’s boat. We’d already planned out the entire day, when my mom said, “Uh uh, I’m not getting in that water.” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Outside of the fact that she was still traumatized by my almost-drowning on Lake Norman, she was also mortified by the recent death of the teenager who contracted a brain-eating amoeba after a visit. And I must say, that terrified me too. But after a lot of pursuit, we had convinced her that she still had to experience the boat ride, with or without actually getting in the water — in a bathing suit.

I was most looking forward to repeating last year’s feature: watching yet another fireworks show in the middle of Lake Wylie under the night sky. I thought about the fact that on that night last year, I was forced to get in the water to pee and how scared I was that a fish or alligator was going to devour my bottom half. This time, I was going to pace my drinking so I could avoid any pee breaks in the water, especially at night. I’m a self-diagnosed hypochondriac, though I had not (and still haven’t) read up on what exactly the deal was with amoeba.

Nevertheless, I knew one thing for sure — I didn’t have to go into work on Monday. That meant one less day sitting in the office, and one less day sitting in the office hungover!

How did you end up spending your Fourth of July weekend in the Queen City? Share it with me at backtalk@clclt.com.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

From Disney to busy

Posted By on Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 1:40 PM

Last weekend I was out of town at Disney World with my family. And while that sounds awesome — especially given the marvelous wonder that is Harry Potter World — the truth is, I needed a vacation from vacation by the time I got back to the Queen City on Wednesday night. That’s why this past weekend, I was committed to having an all-about-me weekend. Not to mention, my boyfriend was going out of town for a tournament. 

While Thursday was my first official night all to myself, I opted out of Alive After Five festivities and dodged a volleyball game to sit at home and re-watch episodes of a favorite show until 1 a.m. On Friday morning, I was ecstatic to wake up refreshed and ready to tackle a short work day with my eyes focused on the prize: an epic weekend.

After work, I made my way to Sycamore Brewing in South End, a popular spot for beer lovers, dogs and humans with babies. I’ve always been a bit frustrated with the layout of the venue, especially on busy weekend nights. It’s almost impossible to find space at the bar and the bathroom lines are always lengthy. Plus, they close at 11 p.m., which always sneaks up on me. On top of that, since it was a Food Truck Friday night the congestion felt like it had tripled.

Nevertheless, the atmosphere was filled with those kind of warm summer vibes that consist of laughter and live music. By the time I finished off the first IPA — Sycamore’s Mango Grapefruit Imperium, weighing in at hefty 9.1 percent ABV — I’ve ever loved, I didn’t care that I had to wait for what seemed like forever to close my tab or that I had to use a Porta-Potty with only my phone as a guiding light. All in all, it was a pre-game success.

I hopped in an Uber to meet my partner in crime at her place Uptown. She lives less than a couple blocks away from Tilt on Trade, so it wasn’t long before we stumbled onto the patio. It’s not necessarily my favorite venue in the heart of the Queen City, but I must say I’m always “on tilt” when I leave. And after a couple drinks, I make line dancing a thing. (Yes, I wobbled and cupid shuffled.)
Saving myself time, money and an intense hangover the next day, I made a mad dash to Pita Pit at 1 a.m. for my usual — Philly steak with mayonnaise and honey mustard — before hopping in another Uber and heading home.

The next morning I woke up on the couch with my half eaten pita lying next to me. I warmed it up, and prepared for another fun-filled day. I kicked off the day at Rooftop 210 for Creative Loafing’s Margarita Wars. Even though the event started at the same time as a co-worker’s birthday party at VBGB Beer Hall & Garden, I couldn’t turn down trying an assortment of margaritas. I snagged the drink tickets and hopped in line. The sun was blaring, but I still managed to bare the heat long enough tp try two tasty margaritas before heading from EpiCentre to AvidXchange Music Factory.

After two beers and more time in the sun, I needed a nap. Somehow I managed to sneak in two hours and still make it back out that night — like I said, I was on a mission. I had promised one of my best friends that we would relive the cultural vibes of Su Casa at Petra’s in Plaza Midwood. And since they only do it once a month, I refused to miss out. If you haven’t given it a chance and you love the combination of Afrobeat and great vibrations, you’re missing out. I even got my face painted — twice, because the first piece was sabotaged by a hilarious man pretending he could paint after a few too many glasses of wine.

At 2 a.m. the music was turned off and the lights were turned up. That was my cue that I needed to turn down. I called an Uber, but instead of going home, I politely asked my driver to wait patiently while I grabbed something from Pita Pit again.

On Sunday morning my boyfriend was heading back to town. When he arrived complaining about being tired and missing out on brunch, I assumed it would be a short day spent on the couch. Not so. Instead Sunday turned into another fun day with a couple shots and double mimosas. The night ended with a makeshift Waffle House dinner and an exhausted party animal (yes, that’d be me).

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Drinks on the boss are the best

Posted By on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 at 12:26 PM

The best thing about working for a company that is primarily composed of twentysomethings is that grabbing drinks after work is not only acceptable, but a regular occurrence.
 
It’s definitely something we look forward to as the work day comes to a close. Not to mention, team happy hours on the company card are always a celebrated after work activity that adds to employee morale.

(Disclaimer: “Happy hour” is traditionally referred to as a period of time in which a public venue offers discounts on alcohol and food items. In North Carolina, however, a public venue can’t offer discounts on alcohol from say, 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Any specials that NC bars and restaurants offer have to go all day long. So when I say “happy hour” below, I’m simply referring to “after work drinks.”)
Last week, my boss asked if I would find somewhere for our team to go for happy hour.

While I love exploring the latest venues in the Queen City, I’m still learning how to apply my nightlife skills to diverse crowds, so I get a tad nervous when anyone asks for my advice on where they should go. And I was extra nervous when I found out I was coordinating happy hour for almost 30 people.

My first thought was, “Where’s the most convenient venue we can go that will be large enough to accommodate a large crowd and also offer decent drink specials?” Now that our office is located Uptown, the possibilities were seemingly endless, but as I went down the list of familiar spots, my options started wearing thin.

After all, who wants to have a semi-professional happy hour in the same place they were making out in, or arguing with bartender just a few short days ago?

I decided to play it safe and suggested we go to McCormick & Schmick’s, which was only a two-floor elevator ride away. They offer a wide variety of cocktails, wine and beer specials all day long, as well as a few discounted food options from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. starting at $3. (Note: food specials are only available at the bar and on the patio).

On Wednesdays, it can get really crowded at McCormick’s because they also offer $1 shrimp and oysters. I decided to call and make a reservation. The very next day, the sales manager called me back to confirm my reservation. Talk about fancy! She was very professional and patient despite my inexperience coordinating something quite like this. She explained our options and sent over a contract.

When the clock struck 5 o’clock on hump day, we had our very own private room (secured without a rental fee from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. and a commitment to a $350 tab minimum — not too shabby). Tucked in the back right corner of the upscale restaurant, I crossed my fingers that everything would go down without a hitch, especially since I didn’t check out the room before hand.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I entered the room and was welcomed by an intimate atmosphere sprinkled with cocktail tables, the perfect environment for sharing laughs over a few drinks with co-workers. A few minutes later, our team members were rolling in and waiting as patiently as possible for our first drinks of the night.

I glanced at the featured cocktails on the happy hour menu and decided on one with tequila — in spite of our rough history — and orange juice.
Surprisingly, it was refreshing and not heavily tainted with the robust flavor that I was familiar with when I’d had tequila shots in the past.

Before you knew it, most of us were two drinks in, shaking off the work day and letting go of the awkward discomfort that comes with chatting with new faces. Even though we didn’t fold an appetizer buffet into our contract, the staff was more than happy to accommodate the hungry tummies that convinced our boss to add a few food trays to the mix. Calamari, bacon-wrapped shrimp and quesadillas — talk about mouth-wateringly delicious!

Needless to say, happy hour for our teams was a humpday success. And my team, the real “original gangsters,” shut the shindig down as we were the last to walk out the door.

What are some of your favorite happy hour spots in the Q.C. and what do you like best about those spots? backtalk@clclt.com.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Flight will have you flying inside

Posted By on Fri, Jun 17, 2016 at 4:33 PM


While the Northside of Uptown has seen its fair share of closes (Cosmos and Re:Public both shut their doors in January), there appears to be a sign of fresh new life at 314 College Street. The space that formerly hosted the beat-throbbing dance club Re:Public is now occupied by Flight, a beer/concert hall with more than 90 beers - most of which come from local and regional craft breweries and indoor/outdoor German-style table seating.

Though Flight officially opened in April, the venue is having its Grand Opening party on Saturday, June 18 — and all are invited to celebrate. (Tip: RSVP to amy@flightclt.com for VIP tickets, which include complimentary food and beer from 8 p.m.-9 p.m. Folks can also enter the grand prize drawing for a chance to win tickets to Carolina's Aviation Museum and for a helicopter ride for two via Queen City Helicopters).

We hit up Flight prior to the weekend's festivities and here are five reasons we think you should check it out this weekend.

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1) It's a craft beer hub in Uptown. While neighborhoods like South End and NoDa have breweries within walking distance of one another, Uptown has been pretty stagnant in terms of stops that provide craft beer with a brewery-like feel. Flight feels like a brewery mixed with the Music Factory's VBGB, only bigger and nestled in the heart of Uptown. 

2) You can drink and play. Giant Jenga, board games and other activities are there to give patrons something to do while they drink. And, you know how much adults like to play these days. There's "Name that Tune" trivia on Tuesday nights, too.

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3) Lots of live music is slated to go down on the venue's indoor stage. We can't promise it'll be good music, but since this new spot is coming during a time when some local venues have closed and others are struggling to stay open, we're pretty excited about the potential. There's Country Night on Thursdays, in addition to more live music of varying genres on Fridays and Saturdays. Flight also hopes to launch Live Band Karaoke, as well as an In-Flight Movie Night in the future.

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4) They have a full kitchen on site and the menu is full of options. Would you prefer something to nibble on like IPA-battered asparagus, potato pancakes or a Local Loaf soft Belgian style pretzel or are you in need of a loaded brat (so many ways to customize these babies), a burger or sandwich? if you're hungry, you won't need to stray.

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5) Local art is all over the walls. Check out the celebrity corner on the back wall by the stage where there is also a smaller bar with music memorabilia. Nicole Desourdy pays tribute to music legends like Amy Winehouse, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Madonna, David Bowie and more.

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Look closely and for preliminary sketches of future additions. Matt Moore and Matt Hooker, known simply as "The Matts" in the local art community, have also painted the area behind the main bar, as well as the painting of the girl on the rocket at the venue's entrance.
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Flight is located at 314 College St. Hours: Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-12 a.m. 980-474-1551. www.flightclt.com.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

From booze to babies

Posted By on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 11:13 AM

“Whew, it’s Monday.” That’s all I could think while sleep walking into the office after a long weekend. Unlike most of my Monday mornings, I wasn’t hungover from boozing it up all weekend. Instead, I was simply exhausted.

Friday, the last official day of the work week, started as any other — filled with excitement and wanderlust for the weekend. In good spirits, I made my way from the light rail to my office on South Tryon in Uptown. I was pleasantly surprised when the roads were blocked off thanks to yet another festival — Taste of Charlotte — on our busy street.

While I can understand how frustrating it may be for those driving to deal with the changing traffic patterns Uptown on event weekends, I personally love the fact that I can walk right out of my office at lunch and be welcomed by the exciting sights and sounds of hundreds of Charlotteans, warm sunshine, live music, food and, of course, wine.

For those who didn’t head Uptown this weekend, Taste of Charlotte happens once a year during the summer. The popular festival features local restaurants and businesses in the area and spans six blocks from Stonewall Street to 5th Street, across Tryon Street. There is no entry fee, but you have to purchase coins in order to take advantage of activities and buy food.

While I would have loved to partake in the festivities, my bank account and anxiety about finishing up the work day early took precedence. Not to mention, one of my closest friends at work was celebrating his last day with our company and we were on a mission to find hot dogs.

The usual mobile vendors strategically placed along Tryon Street were nowhere to be found due to the festival. We got lucky, however, when we found out that one of the mobile vendors, Green’s Lunch, had a storefront just a couple blocks away at the corner of W. 4th Street and S. Poplar Street. We grabbed a hot dog, chips and a drink for $4.23 (talk about cheap) and went back to the office to finish up work so we could prepare for yet another night out in the Queen City.

After getting off semi-early, I hopped on the light rail to Pineville, grabbed my car and scooped my ex-coworker for his goodbye/see you later celebration at All American Pub in South End. A lot of our friends were meeting us so we were excited to see a few faces we hadn’t seen outside of the office in a while. And I was extra antsy to get the night started since I knew my boyfriend and I were going to be babysitting all day Saturday, which meant we were going to miss out on a premier party night.

We were actually early for once, so the three of us stuffed our faces before everyone started showing up — the Philly cheesesteak with honey mustard is my jam. And before you know it our table was spilling onto the patio, filled with RBVs, empty shot glasses and beer. Just when things were starting to heat up and the drinks were flowing, my group announced they were planning a move to The Gin Mill South End, another popular spot around the corner. This made for the perfect Irish exit — departure without telling any friends — for my boyfriend and I.

Saturday at 9 a.m. we pulled up at my boyfriend’s sister’s house. She has two beautiful bundles of joy, a two-year-old and a three month old. We spent a decent amount of time brainstorming ideas for child-appropriate fun beforehand, but once the door closed and we were left alone staring at two active boys, we decided house arrest was best.

Around five baby naps, one toddler nap, two adult boyfriend naps, seven dirty diapers, five bottles, three episodes of The Octonauts and two episodes of “Maya the Bee” later, we were exhausted. I think it’s safe to say the best birth control in the world is actually having to take care of kids. By the time 1 a.m. rolled around and his mom showed up to take over, we barely wanted to look at each other, let alone end the night grabbing a drink at a nearby bar, so we called it quits.

It wasn’t until some friends and I hit up Lake Wylie for Sunday Funday that I realized how tired and sore — from holding a baby pretty much all day (yeah, I know, I should be working out) — I really was. Needless to say, hitting the sack after getting some work done later on that night was a dream come true.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Introducing new venues to Charlotte’s nightlife

Posted By on Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 6:10 PM

The warms vibes of summer are officially here in the Queen City. Everyone seems to be buzzing with energy in Uptown. Nine-to-fivers pile out of the skyscrapers we’ve all come to recognize as the heartbeat of Charlotte and head to happy hour after work. And what’s most exciting? All the newness and unfamiliarity that comes with new venues as the city continues to grow.

This past week it was my mission to try something new. While going out and consuming my fair share of beverages gives me something to look forward to after a long work day, or week, it’s completely normal to get tired of the same ole, same ole.

First on tap, was coordinating a happy hour with my team. We didn’t want a venue where we would feel uncomfortable or dressed down, so we went carefully through a list of unfamiliar venues. Since they were a younger group, with less experience going out in Uptown, I had no qualms with suggesting Flight Beer Garden & Music Hall, which opened a month or so ago.

If you’re familiar with the ever-changing nightlife scene in Charlotte, then you know that venue names change pretty regularly. Flight is the newest update to the ongoing College Street renovations. It was previously Re:Public, an urban nightlife spot. I had visited the popular venue a couple times before when an old roommate worked the door. I was shocked at the changes as we pulled out our IDs at the door, entered the courtyard and filled out an info sheet before receiving our membership cards. (Sidenote: Most places are doing membership cards around the city now, so prepare for more than flashing your ID.)

We grabbed a seat at one of the many picnic tables — which coincidentally, were purchased from one of my teammates’ previous employer — inside underneath a skylight and pulled out the drink menu. The inside bar features more than 80 different local beers, so of course the first thing I searched for was a sour ale. Luckily, there was more than one. I grabbed Sierra Nevada’s Otra Vez and kicked off happy hour with the team.

A laid-back and bright atmosphere during the early evening, we could all definitely say we’d be back for drinks after work in the future. And it wasn’t until I returned Friday night, when I met up with my partner in crime, that I noticed the outside bar. I flashed my ID and stepped through the doorway welcomed by a much more familiar vibe — dim lighting, contagious laughter, drunken conversations and live music. Overwhelmed by the amount of people inside, I opted for waiting for my friend at the more anti-social bar outside.

Since it was also her first visit, she too, was impressed by the overall look and feel of the only beer garden and music hall Uptown. While she didn’t remember much about the time when we’d come to Re:Public together, we both agreed the change was a good one. And for those that like food and games, there’s cornhole and a full menu that features a tantalizing mac and cheese that I’ll be ordering the next time around.

The highlight of my week, however, was attending the grand opening of nightlife siblings, Craft City Social Club and City Lights Uptown. The first, is located on the first floor of the Sheraton, alongside a pool. The second offers an immaculate view of the skyline from the rooftop of Le Meridien next door.
With more free time than normal, my boyfriend surprised me when he suggested we check it out on Thursday night. While it was rainy Thursday afternoon, the drizzle stopped enough for us to enjoy a couple cocktails at both venues. We parked in the lot to the right of the Sheraton, grabbed an umbrella and headed toward the entrance.

The key takeaways:
* Each venue features a different drink/food menu (prices ranging from $7-$17 for food and $9-$26 for cocktails).

* Craft City Social Club, downstairs in Sheraton, features games such as darts, pool, shuffleboard, Connect Four and Jenga.

* Did I mention the best part about being poolside? There’s pool access and cabanas available for rent.

* While the rooftop bar, City Lights, doesn’t have beer on tap (making for a more expensive night), this bar is home to a popular cocktail concoction — bubbly with your choice of a popsicle.

* Lastly, the rooftop patio atmosphere and skyline view is amazing.

Have you tried a new spot in the Queen City? Share it with me at backtalk@clclt.com.

Friday, May 27, 2016

How to get in bed before 12 a.m. on the weekend

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 6:35 PM

Once again I got an early start to the weekend after getting off work at a decent time on Friday. I had originally planned on a night at Strike City in EpiCentre, but opted for some much needed alone time — after all, I’m an only child. But that didn’t last long. After a couple glasses of wine at my condo, I decided to venture out on my own.
I hit up Hattie’s Tap and Tavern located on The Plaza. I reviewed the spot shortly after they opened last year and have made an effort to check in every once in a while. An intimate spot featuring live music, games and an outdoor patio, it’s the perfect place for one-on-one’s or quiet time by yourself. The patrons are friendly enough to have a conversation with but aware enough to know when you don’t want to chat — qualities that I love when I’m out by myself.
I managed to finally meet the owner, Jackie DeLoach as she ran home to prepare for the night’s entertainment — a Prince tribute band and local DJ, That Guy Smitty. Two vodka grapefruit juices later, I was thoroughly engaged in an entertaining conversation with a couple who worked for an event set-up company. They shared some of Charlotte’s best-kept secrets that they’ve stumbled upon while working. That conversation really left me intrigued. (Sidenote: Be on the lookout for a later column on underground spots in Charlotte.)
After finishing up my last drink I decided against keeping the party going. Feeling like an adult, I headed home. For the first time in a while, I exercised self-control, hopped in the shower and turned in before 12 a.m. on a Friday night.
The next morning my boyfriend and I had to coordinate a trip to Rock Hill, South Carolina, for yet another basketball tournament he was coaching at. In between games, we decided to check out a local spot. On the way to The Pump House — the area’s newest on-the-water restaurant and bar — we passed a wine bar. Who needs food when you have wine right? We grabbed a couple stools at Grapevine, a wine shop and bar just a hop, skip and a jump away from The Pump House.
A beautiful venue featuring industrial accents, an outdoor patio, charcuterie, cheeses and a vast selection of wine and beer, I was more than satisfied with the switch in our choice of venue. And I was even more satisfied once my eyes settled on a sour ale I haven’t tried. I chatted a bit with the bartenders about nightlife in Rock Hill, but from the sounds of it, outside of quirky little spots like Grapevine, there isn’t much of it.
The next morning I woke up without a hangover, which felt amazing. After my boyfriend’s second game ran late, nachos from Duckworth’s and a movie sounded like a dream come true, so that’s what we did. We were much more excited for Sunday Funday as the rainy weather started to clear up. I made reservations for us and few friends to grab brunch at 5Church.
A popular spot for drinks and food, I was ecstatic to add another brunch spot to my list. I was worried that we were going to run into issues making a reservation so late in the day, but after calling to secure a spot for six at 2:15 p.m. with no problem, I was relieved and looking forward to the experience.
The last time I had the pleasure of stopping by, bottomless mimosas were still a thing. But apparently a law was passed in North Carolina preventing that this year (talk about a buzzkill!). No real happy hours, no bottomless mimosas and legal discrimination in public bathrooms, North Carolina apparently just doesn’t want us to be great.
Nevertheless, a mimosa is only $2.50 at 5Church during brunch. Quite a deal if you ask me, and they also offer $28 pitchers for those that like sharing. If we all could grab a few of those bad boys at that price regularly, I guarantee we wouldn’t be worried about which bathroom we needed to use once the seal was broken. Did I mention the food was awesome? Try the croque madame.
After 5Church my plan was to head back home, but my crew was more interested in keeping the party going. We decided on VBGB Beer Hall and Garden for drinks and then ended the night at The Workman’s Friend in Plaza Midwood for dinner. This all left me exhausted and I ended up falling asleep on the Uber ride home. But guess what? I still managed to get in bed before 12 a.m. — that’s three times in one weekend! I think it’s safe to say I’m finding a balance between nightlife shenanigans and being an adult.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Fun with the family goes without a hitch

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2016 at 10:37 AM

Why is it that every Monday, no matter how long the weekend was, is accompanied by a sinking feeling of what’s to follow? That’s how I felt walking into work at 7:30 a.m. this past Monday after a four-day weekend. I had taken Friday off for my cousin’s graduation from Winston Salem State University and ended up working from home for three days. You would think that I would’ve been well-rested at the start of the week but that wasn’t the case.

On Thursday night, my nightcap included three glasses of wine, and a late bed time — I didn’t fall asleep until 2 a.m. on Friday. So, it’s not surprising that when my alarm went off around 7:15 a.m., I was startled. Feeling a little queasy, I rolled out of bed and threw on my outfit for the graduation. We arrived at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston Salem for the ceremony around 9:30 a.m. and I was feeling anxious to see my cousin walk across the stage, so we that we could get back on the road to Charlotte.

Five hours later — yes, I said five — the “Dirty Dozen,” as my family is often called, was packed and headed to the Queen City. If you picked up last week’s article then you may remember I talked about how hard it was to find things for a large family, with diverse interests, to do in the city. But then, I stumbled upon Blue Restaurant & Bar in Uptown.

As you can imagine, travelling with a large family is challenging. Disorganization, food and gas means an hour-and-a-half trip can easily turn into a three-hour adventure. After getting settled at Aloft in Epicentre, we quickly realized that dinner reservations in Ballantyne would have to be cancelled. Instead, we opted for Blackfinn Ameripub since that was just a hop, skip and a jump away from the hotel. Despite having heard great things about their food, I was still surprised at how delicious everything was — especially my blackened brie with sliced apples and apricot cranberry chutney. Not to mention, we snagged the perfect people-watching spot on the patio.

Of course my family was moving slow, so my pops and I closed out and walked ahead to make sure all was well with our reservations at Blue. Being situated on the corner of East 5th Street and North College Street, made Blue easy to find. The venue was beautiful featuring white linen, mood lighting, a fully stocked bar, a private dinner room and a lounge area. We were walked to couches situated to the right of the bar where the marketing and events coordinator, Deborah, sat after a long day. She was extremely accommodating and friendly — even helping us move the couches and chairs closer together for my family.

A grapefruit vodka and sour apple martini later, the crew started to arrive and, they too, were in awe of the atmosphere. They were having an event “A Night in Ecuador,” an earthquake relief fundraiser, so the live music feature was a Latin band instead of their usual jazz — they’ve been awarded “Best Place to Hear Jazz” in Charlotte — but we were still impressed by the vibe they created. The skinny on the spot? If you’re planning a special date, looking for a place to host a private party or you’re interested in an alternative to sloppy nightlife, Blue Restaurant & Bar has a lot to offer.

After Blue, we were hungry again. They weren’t serving food since the fundraiser was going on, so we decided on Enso Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar in the EpiCentre. This is one of my parents’ favorite spots to go to when they’re visiting the Q.C. That’s not just because almost everything we’ve tried on its Pan-Asian menu is amazing or because of the dimly-lit electronic house party feel. It’s because they love to watch the drunk people stumbling through EpiCentre while nestled on the patio right out front.

We ended up grabbing a couple more drinks — a mistake I regretted until 8 p.m. the next day — and two orders of Mongolian beef (my absolute favorite dish on their menu). Before long, we were asking the waitress if we could pick up wings from Wild Wing Cafe and bring them back.

As you can expect, the night ended on a boozy note. Most of my family retired to their respective hotel rooms while I grabbed my luggage and parked myself in front of a galaga machine in Tin Roof until 2 a.m. Though I’m still exhausted, I can honestly say weekend fun with the family in the Q.C. was a success. I popped my family-friendly nightlife cherry and now I’m up for the next challenge.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Dirty Dozen visits the Queen City

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2016 at 1:46 PM

Believe it or not, I kept it low-key this past weekend. The work week consisted of a schedule adjustment consisting of early mornings and late nights in order to accommodate my boyfriend who needed to borrow my car. That meant only a few after work excursions — obviously — which included a couple margaritas on Cinco de Mayo and book club, my newest “adult” activity.

By the time Friday arrived, I really didn’t feel like socializing at all. And even though I got off work early, the commute home via light rail and a lost Uber landed me on the couch a full two hours after leaving my office. No nap after a long week equals an antisocial Friday night vegging in front of the TV. Not to mention, the next morning I was leaving the Q.C. to visit my mom for Mother’s Day.

I woke up the next morning, hopped in my car and headed North on I-85 towards the family home, an hour or so away. Shortly after arriving, my mom asked, “Have you found a place the family can go after graduation?” I let out a huge sigh.

My cousin is graduating from Winston Salem State University this coming weekend and the entire family is coming to Charlotte afterwards to celebrate. Things to note: Yes, Charlotte is a celebration destination when you’re from the country. Secondly, when I say the entire family, I’m referring to more than 12 people — we even get called the “Dirty Dozen” when we travel for vacation. Since my mom tasked me with finding a place for everyone to enjoy nightlife in the city, I was — for the first time, in a very long time — in uncharted territory.

Where could 12-15 people go for after dinner for drinks and entertainment in a family-friendly setting? I was perplexed since I’m the only heavy partier in the fam. So, I decided to do what any rational Charlottean would do during this dilemma, online research. My aunt had mentioned wine and jazz so I started my search with “live jazz in Charlotte, North Carolina.” The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art came up fairly quickly and I thought, ‘This is it!’ But after clicking the link, not only did I find that live jazz shows require tickets (at $14 a pop), but the events only occur on the first Friday each month and we’re planning for the second. And another sigh.

After realizing we were eating dinner in the area, I thought I would try searching for, “jazz in Ballantyne.” I came across an event in Ballantyne Village at D’vine Wine Café and again my hopes were lifted. Nope, that event was over a year ago and they’re closed now apparently. I decided to check out event calendars on Charlotte Culture Guide and Charlotte’s Got A Lot, clicking the “Kids and Families” tabs, which felt so strange.

In any other situation, I would have let my parents fend for themselves while I partied it up at Silent Disco’s ‘Rave the Roof’ party at Rooftop 210 at EpiCentre for my friend’s birthday. But this time, I have my whole family’s entertainment to worry about. My goal was to find a lounge-like place with live music and drinks that was large enough to accommodate them all. But most of the venues I’ve been to like this, are small and intimate.

My last ditch effort was going to be Blue Restaurant & Bar located in Hearst Tower in Uptown. While I was weary about the fact that it was a restaurant, I decided to check out its website. Anxious to find out whether this was going to be the winner, I headed straight to the “Events” tab.

The first thing I saw was, “Join us for Live Jazz on Fridays with Buff Dillard (every other week) at 9 p.m.! No cover charge necessary, first come first serve. Free parking for Blue customers validated in the Hearst Tower or complimentary valet.” I scrolled down to view the dates, and what do I see? May 13th! As excitement started to build, I clicked “Contact” and saw the venue had won a “Best Place to Hear Jazz” award. Yes!

I called the Blue to see if I needed reservations for my large party. And guess who scored an 8:45 p.m. reservation for the bar-lounge area featuring couches and chairs that supposedly can accommodate up to 15 people? That’s right, yours truly. And the best daughter of the year award for planning an epic family night out goes to ...

What’s even better? I still may make it to Silent Disco after all. Tell me, where have you taken your large family in the city? I’d love to know for the next time around.

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