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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.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Overbooked

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2016 at 5:28 PM

This past work week was spent like every other one. I crawled out of bed on Monday said every curse word possible and I spent the majority of my days wishing for the weekend. So when Friday arrived, I was more than eager to get my mini-vacation started. There was only one problem: all I wanted to do was sleep.

My boyfriend and I had stayed out kind of late watching the NFL Draft 2016 — I’m starting to realize there is no break from sports — at The Roasting Company Thursday night and before the clock struck 10 a.m. I was already exhausted. Despite the urge to turn up, I opted for vegging out in front of the T.V.

On Saturday morning the boyfriend, who wears far too many hats, had yet another AAU tournament but I decided to take time for myself. This led to a three hour shopping trip to Target looking for condo decorations using the Cartwheel App. After that, all I wanted to do was take a nap, but that wasn’t going to happen. My partner in crime’s birthday is almost exactly a week after mine so that meant we were going to be celebrating all night long.

To begin the evening, my boyfriend and I hopped in an Uber with his friend and headed to the first stop on her itinerary: Wooden Robot Brewery in South End. On the way we made nice with our driver and were having a great conversation when all of a sudden I hear my boyfriend shout and realized we were swiping another car as we turned on to the street. Talk about awkward. What exactly do you do in this situation? We ended up giving our numbers and walking the last portion of the trip before arriving at Wooden Robot’s door.

I was excited to finally have the opportunity to try out one of the newest breweries to hit the QC craft beer scene. A great venue for grabbing a pre-game drink or a brewery tour date, you’ll fall in love with the raw décor and beer selection. Unlike at other breweries I’ve visited and sampled at, I felt like each brew had a truly unique taste. My fave was a sour ale, my current beer family of choice, called the Peachy Apribot.

After stopping to give the police a statement about the wreck, we headed to Gin Mill, where I played Galaga and managed to spill a drink only a few minutes into play. That meant double fisting before being rushed off to the next stop, Tilt on Trade. My P.I.C. managed to snag a birthday table so it wasn’t long before we were stomping around between the bathroom, dance floor and DJ booth.

I woke up the next morning and walked nauseously downstairs to grab water when I noticed a half eaten steak and cheese pita that I begged my boyfriend for from Pita Pit. Just as I was settling into the idea of a lazy, rainy Sunday I realized I had long ago RSVPed to a friend’s graduation/engagement party. Le sigh.

I hadn’t even packed a presentable outfit so I went with the time tested church expression, “Come as you are.” I hopped in my car to head to Draught Charlotte. Even though I was underdressed, and without a shower, I was early for once. At least I scored brownie points with the family.

What started out as, “Aerin, you’re only going to have a mimosa, say congrats and head home” quickly turned into, “It would be silly to not take advantage of a $15 bottle of champagne.” Next thing you know, I’m talking everyone in the family’s ears off, texting my boyfriend, “I’m getting drunk btw” and begging him to stop by.

To give you an idea of how that went, the party started at 2 p.m. and by 6 p.m. we were being shuffled upstairs away from the event room downstairs. By 7 p.m. I’m shedding tears that were a combination of excitement over my friend’s long-time coming engagement, bitterness that I’m not engaged and, of course, way too much alcohol.

The night ended with silly arguments and confusion over “Fear the Walking Dead” followed by a nightcap consisting of take-out meat loaf, mashed potatoes and collard greens from Draught that led to a terrible tummy ache Monday morning. After getting a call in the middle of the next workday from my sweet but distraught Uber driver who had the brush up, I thought, “That little accident foreshadowed a rough weekend and workweek ahead.”

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A PG-weekend surprise

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 1:39 PM

Last Friday was a busy one, as I prepared for a weekend of celebrating my birthday. Unlike the past few years of birthdays spent with as many friends as possible, this weekend was going to be different. My parents and two of my cousins were going to be visiting. And while part of me wanted to be selfish and revert to the usual, only-child “it’s all about me routine,” I decided to give the more “family-oriented” birthday a try. I crossed my fingers for a great weekend despite a rough start, and terrible weather.

I managed to get my work done early on Friday, so I headed to a hair appointment in NoDa. While there, one of my closest childhood friends called me and said she was going to meet me for dinner and a drink. Even though she lives in Charlotte, we don’t get to spend a lot of time together so I was ecstatic to share a drink with her — especially since it was her birthday weekend, too.

We met at Jack Beagles and snagged a seat at the bar on the back patio. Since it’s one of my favorite spots to eat in the area, I ordered a hotdog knowing it was a good idea to set a solid base for the night’s shenanigans. We reminisced about our childhood, laughed at the poor decisions we made and before you knew it my parents were getting into town.

I said goodbye to my bestie and headed home. Tired, and ready for bed, they decided to get some rest instead of turning up so I called my partner in crime and we headed to The Local on 5th. I was recently reminded of how much I loved the spot and thought it might make for a good pre-game spot. The past couple times I’ve visited the music selection and atmosphere have been a refreshing alternative to the sloppiness you’ll often find at Prohibition and Connolly’s late at night.

After heading to Slate Billiards for a couple more drinks and staying up late talking to friends until 3 a.m., I decided to grab an Uber and head home. The next morning the parental units were up early looking for breakfast, so I forced them to try my new favorite brunch spot Little Spoon Eatery. While they loved the atmosphere and Hip Hop playlist, they also loved the “basic” Southern breakfast, consisting of grits, eggs and bacon. Though if you’re familiar with the brunch spot or you’ve taken a gander at its menu, you’ll notice it’s anything but basic.

“What’s a coddled egg?” my parents asked. And when my mom found out a bowl of grits wasn’t a possibility, they were all but ready to head somewhere else. That is until Luke Kuechly walked in. Needless to say, my parents happily placed an order as we sat in awe of the Carolina Panthers’ linebacker. They reminisced about meeting him at a playoff game two years ago — they even had pictures with him on their phones. So, of course, we couldn’t leave without the parentals stopping to give him a good ol’ Southern, “Hey!” To which Luke responded with a genuine smile and handshakes. Not a bad start to a Saturday hangover!

After a cleaning session at the condo, my mom and I put on our Sunday best and hopped in an Uber headed to Bojangle’s Coliseum for Tyler Perry’s Madea on the Run. Our family has followed Perry since the beginning of his career and loves his his hilariously famous plays. For years, my mom has been talking about seeing one of his stage plays live and since she was going to be in the Charlotte, I couldn’t imagine a better time to go.

We ended up getting tickets late, which put us in the balcony, but finally seeing Tyler Perry play the witty, loud, not-your-average grandmother-figure Madea, was still the highlight of my weekend. Many years of rainy, family vacation days spent watching the characters sing, laugh and cry were finally brought to life in front of me. And the best part? Hearing my mom sing some of her favorite old-school ballads with the cast, including “Purple Rain,” as a tribute to Prince. And I’ll never forget her screaming, “I love you Tyler!” as the cast took their final bow before the curtains closed.

After the show, it was time to head over to Cajun Queen, where we had reservations. I was excited to try the chicken pasta at the New Orleans style restaurant. I’d only been to the quaint, historic house, nestled on 7th Street once before, and both times were great. If you’re looking for the perfect date spot, grab drinks at the bar upstairs or snag a patio table there.

After hookah at my favorite spot, Barreled at the Lift, and another brunch on Sunday, I ended the weekend on a high note. Not too shabby for an intimate weekend of celebrating my birthday with family in the Q.C., which I now call home.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Thank God for Snapchat

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 5:34 PM

On Sunday morning, I laid in bed trying to decide if I was hungover or not. I started to review the amount of free drinks I had consumed and tried to remember the last few moments of my night. Finally, I recalled staring at my snoring boyfriend and eating leftover meatloaf and mashed potatoes in bed while Avatar played in the background. I wasn’t sure what time I’d actually fallen asleep after that, but I knew it had to be around 12:30 a.m., an early night for us.

I started piecing the night together as I reached for my constantly dying phone to review my Snapchat story. The best part about this social media app? Each picture or video is only available for 24 hours. It’s perfect for people like me who want to easily document their days, track who’s viewing my story and live without the terrifying feeling that I’ve uploaded something during a drunken stupor that I can’t take back — kind of. Did I mention the filters are on point?!

The first snaps were all dedicated to early Saturday morning adventures at the 13th annual Miller Lite Weekend Warrior Flag Football Tournament at Bank of America Stadium. I didn’t go on my own volition (in case you’re wondering), I was invited to support the boyfriend who’s been participating for years.

I’ve really never been the type that wanted to engage in extracurricular physical activities. And now that I work full time, you definitely won’t catch me playing outdoors. Needless to say, when he woke me up around 7 a.m. preparing for the tournament after a late night, I was unamused.

After a couple pictures and videos of the early morning game prep, I came across a picture of me sitting in the grass with my legs crossed, a Miller Lite pint can in front of me and the caption, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” That was around 11:30 a.m. After his final game, there was a snap of grilled hanger steak benedict and bottomless mimosas at Napa on Providence. By this time, we were only three hours away from a wedding ceremony we were planning to attend. That meant, nap time.

Before we knew it, we were rushing to get ready and head to the church. On the way there, I shared memories from my first adult wedding experience last year. Long story short, I was running late and I ended up walking into the ceremony after the bride had walked down the aisle — fitting for a “#awkward.” As it turns out, we made yet another tardy wedding arrival. As we walked in, we watched the bride enter the church.

Nevertheless, we managed to sneak in for the remainder of the ceremony and even catch the sights of the bride and groom as they exited the church. My boyfriend fist pumped the groom as he passed. The groom leaned in smiling and whispered, “Better late than never.” (Note to self: next time leave 20 minutes earlier than planned.)

After the ceremony, we were shuttled to the Duke Mansion for the reception — I managed to snag a “we”-fie (instead of selfie) of the boyfriend and I before things got hazy. An absolutely breathtaking bed and breakfast featuring 20 guest rooms, the secluded location and green landscape can make it easy to forget you’re even in Charlotte. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I came across a snap of the backyard as the sun set and guests enjoying cocktail hour. Did I mention, there was an open bar?

A couple grapefruit vodkas later, we gathered in the main dining area as the bride and groom shared their first dance. And by this time, it seemed everyone was feeling the stimulating effects of alcohol consumption. The boyfriend and I laughed as we realized how quickly this wedding was going to shift in energy from quiet to rowdy, and we weren’t complaining.

As I continued to review my Snapchat story and the night’s excitement started flooding back, I relived the point at which I had gone from classy to trashy in a series of snaps, all of which featured feet. The first was of my feet in a pair of gold pumps and a caption with dogs and crying faces that read, “my dogs were aching.” The second was of an older lady’s one-inch heels and it read, “I’m actually jealous of her kitten heels.” The third, was a picture of my bare feet on the black and white marble floor of the Duke Mansion, inscribed with “#basic.”

The reception concluded after what seemed like hours of dancing barefoot surrounded by other bare feet, young and old. Honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of weddings, but if every one of them, including my own, ends with barefoot dancing in a beautiful venue, I won’t complain.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Remember that all free drinks comes with a price

Posted By on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 11:22 AM

“Have you ever bought a drink for a girl knowing she was uninterested in anything other than getting a free drink?” I tipsily asked my boyfriend while waiting for the light rail. “That’s a good question,” a passerby said as he chuckled at my conversation. I guess I’m not the only one who grapples with this dilemma. To get a free drink or not to get a free drink, that is the question. Now let me explain to you why the question, “Can I buy you a drink?” was on my mind that night. *Cues background music, T-Pain’s “Buy U A Drank.”*

If you were Uptown after work last Thursday then you probably noticed the swarms of nine-to-fivers piling into the EpiCentre after work for the kickoff of Alive After Five. The event was originally scheduled to start on March 31 but was postponed due to rain. With the boyfriend occupied at one of his many extracurricular activities, I was able to take advantage of some girl time with another partner in crime. We’d been planning a get together and thought that going to AA5 would be perfect since we’d made so many memories from going weekly a couple years ago.

It was windy outside, but the rain forecast had subsided, so it almost made for a perfect kick-off. After getting my nails done and a productive work day, I was so excited that I could barely sit still while waiting for the clock hit 5 p.m. The P.I.C. had an after work meeting and parenting duties — that is, taking her dog out for a walk — so I began wandering the office looking for anyone who might be heading that way. I got lucky as I ran into a few co-workers packing up for the walk to Epicentre.

I had never been to AA5 immediately after work, so it was nice to be able to walk right up to the bar without having to fight my way through a crowd of drunken people who tend to hover even after they’ve gotten their drinks. I glanced at the drink menu and was reminded of how drink specials really aren’t a thing at AA5. And after my friend paid $9 for a Red Bull and Vodka, I thought I should limit myself to the $15 in cash I had brought in my pocket before forcing myself to leave.

I checked out the menu once more and noticed what I thought was a “signature” drink for $5. Nope, it was a shot, and it was gross. But I thought, ‘Oh well, here goes $10,’ as I reached for another $5 bill and ordered a Bud Light.

As I was finishing my beer, the P.I.C. showed up and we ordered a beer together — my last drink purchase. We were reminiscing about the good ol’ days when a gentleman butted into on our conversation. Unlike my P.I.C., I tend to have resting bitch face during these unwelcoming interactions so I tried my best to not judge his intentions before hearing him out. But it wasn’t long before he popped the question, “Would you ladies like to grab a drink with me at the bar?”

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. “We were about to head somewhere else and find specials,” I responded curtly. But that wasn’t stopping him. He insisted that “we” have a drink in eight minutes and informed us that he would be right back. As soon as he left we started talking about the awkward interaction.

I turned to her and said, “Should we ditch him? Just make a run for it? I hate when someone buys me drinks and I feel like I owe them.”

“Well, the drinks are free,” she laughed. But just as we were about to say forget it, the ninth minute approached, and the gentleman returned. After awkwardly waiting with him behind the bar, he passed us drinks — the wrong drinks, might I may add — and we walked to a less crowded area. His co-workers joined our circle and soon after that I was regretting not forcing my P.I.C. to keep it moving.

At first I thought he may have been recruiting for a new career venture they’d recently started Uptown. But then I caught the group of friends awkwardly glancing and nodding at one another, as if they were being coached through a pick-up tactic. And that’s when I looked at my P.I.C. and said, “I’m going to the bathroom, do you want to go?” Even she seemed to breathe a sigh of relief as we basically ran to the bathroom in the back corner of the area. And just like that, my “nothing is free” policy was reaffirmed. Talk about awkward.

What are your thoughts on getting free drinks from strangers? I’d love to hear your thoughts, escape techniques, great conversations or horror stories.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Drinking when angry

Posted By on Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 1:43 PM

Fighting with the boyfriend is always a great way to start the weekend. Psych!

After finding out Alive After Five (AA5) was postponed due to the rainy weather, Thursday night was supposed to consist of a cooked meal, watching a bit of TV and going to bed as early as possible. But after getting into a tiff with the boyfriend, I made the decision that I was going to partake in libations as soon as I got off work. And even though I knew I should get food — especially since making food a priority was supposed to be me turning over a new drinking leaf in the New Year — I was on a mission to de-stress. Luckily a co-worker decided to join me and we decided to head to Tin Roof where I had my first drink — an RBV.

Once my co-worker started fumbling around, I pretended to be over drinking so he could leave without feeling guilty.

I walked reluctantly to the light rail feeling a slight buzz. Just as I was about to feel bad for myself, I realized I had gotten a text from another friend who was headed to Abari Game Bar and Snug Harbor. Now I could avoid angry drinking alone.

Still ignoring my grumbling stomach, I headed home to change and grabbed an Uber to Abari. Despite being in a bad mood, I was excited to check out the newest addition to North Davidson Street.

I had a chance to sit down with the owner, Zach Pulliam, a while back before he was even sure everything was going to be approved to begin renovations. He had already purchased many of the gaming consoles and was pretty stressed about everything coming to fruition. Seeing him in passing on Thursday, I could tell the stress was still alive and well, but Abari is officially open!

I’m a huge fan of Galaga but not a huge fan of playing games I’ve never played before. My friend, however, got me out of my comfort zone and I ended up having a blast playing games I either hadn’t played or hadn’t played in a while.

This is why this place is great for just about anyone — even kids on a Sunday afternoon. Whether you’re planning a first date or you’re a video game nerd, there’s something for everyone at Abari.

After Abari, we headed to Snug Harbor in the hopes we could catch a drag show. I haven’t managed to stop by Snug during the week but had heard a lot about their events so I was excited to see just about anything.

I was hoping the show would’ve started by the time we arrived so I could head home — the lack of dinner was starting to weigh on me. But it wasn’t until after 12, maybe even 1 a.m., that a queen appeared. By then, the tall figure strutting down the runway the crowd had created was just an apparition as I struggled to keep my RBV down. So I grabbed an Uber and headed home.

The next morning, I woke up regretting my decision to “drangry” — drink angry — but figured I’d been more hungover before, so I should suck it up and take on the day.

I managed to make it all day without racing to the bathroom, but prepping to get ready for yet another night out in the Q.C. was slow to say the least. I managed to get my mojo after realizing the fun would have to end early due to an early Saturday morning doctor’s appointment. So, I forced myself to put on a smile and decided to dance the night away.

Tinder dating for friends means playing wingman, so our first stop was Rí Rá Irish Pub — that’s where the swipe righters had decided on meeting.

We skipped the first floor which smelled of vomit and settled at the bar on the second floor. It wasn’t long before everyone had drank the long work week away as we took over the dance floor.

And then we slowly made our way to The Local on 5th. Another spot, I hadn’t been in a while, I was pleasantly surprised when I was greeted with my fave Lil’ Wayne, Beyoncé and Rihanna tunes as soon as I walked through the door.

After long conversations and quality time making up with the boyfriend, I was pretty much drained. So, I decided to refrain from nighttime fun on Saturday night. Instead, I looked forward to a boozy brunch at Little Spoon Eatery on Selwyn. And I must say, hip-hop music + brunch is never a bad idea.

My only complaint? No bottomless mimosas! Not too shabby of a week-end after a rough start on Thursday if I do say so myself.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The return of AA5

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 12:17 PM

If you’re new to the area, Alive After Five — more commonly referred to as AA5 — is the largest after-work gathering in town that happens every Thursday during the summer on the rooftop of the EpiCentre.
Now called, Rooftop 210, if you’re a happy hour fanatic, AA5 is the place to be on a Thursday night, especially for young professionals. The free, weekly event features live music and a casual atmosphere, so it’s great for unwinding after work, networking or meeting a Tinder date.

A couple of years ago, I lived in a three-bedroom place on the South side of Charlotte with two roommates. I worked with my Partner in Crime (P.I.C.), and together we discovered AA5.

Every Thursday during the hot summer, I would head home to find something to wear as quickly as possible. Then I would head to Plaza Midwood where the P.I.C. lived to pregame for AA5 at the EpiCentre Uptown.

We had it made in those days — we worked our 40 hour week into four days so we could take Fridays off. This meant we could go to AA5 with no inhibitions since we could be hungover all day on Friday.
And to top it off? We were both single and ready to mingle. So, we would take shots of peanut butter vodka — don’t ask — and then grab an Uber to Uptown.

Unhindered by having to get up the next morning, you can imagine Charlotte sunsets quickly faded into 3 a.m. nights and that’s when I fell in love with Queen City nightlife. We would spend hours on the rooftop and then hit up quite a few spots which we soon became regulars at.

That’s the beauty of having AA5 at the EpiCentre. You can start the night out in a professional, networking atmosphere and then get down and dirty late night. Not to mention, on Thursdays you rarely have to worry about paying a cover fee — now your AA5 wristband guarantees free entry.

We would always exit on the side where Vault was, so that would usually be our first stop. After running into professional swimmers and getting invited to tables, it definitely was worth a peek every time. Or we would check out Suite Charlotte or Bubble — whichever didn’t have a long line — for dancing.

Somehow, we always managed to pop into Tin Roof where the security and bartenders took good care of us. Needless to say, there was never a dry moment before standing in the longest line of all — Libretto’s Pizza — to drunkenly munch on a slice while waiting on Uber surges to drop.

Whether you’re getting off work, or meeting up with friends after a long day, you’ll enjoy unwinding on the rooftop as the sun sets on the Queen City. And guess what? It starts this week!

Here’s a couple things to keep in mind as you prepare. After all, you don’t want to look like an amateur.
1. Transportation. Drinking and driving should be avoided at all times. Not to mention, the EpiCentre parking deck can be a nightmare (and expensive) for newbies or tipsy folk. Walk, take the light rail or Uber, you’ll thank me later.

2. No specials. “Happy Hour” isn’t even legal in North Carolina, and even though people refer to AA5 as happy hour, you’ll find no real specials awaiting you on Thursdays. More like tall boys and those annoying plastic “cocktail” cups at normal prices. So, pregame if you can or limit yourself to a couple drinks, your pockets will thanks me later.

3. Live entertainment. Not every band will be your cup of tea, but try to make it in time to catch the live entertainment. We had the terrible habit of showing up late and missing out on the action. Experience AA5 in full.

4. Friday is right around the corner. Chances are, you don’t have the setup me and the P.I.C. had. Don’t let the exciting atmosphere of the EpiCentre fool you into thinking you don’t have to go to work the next day. Early evenings have a way of becoming early mornings when you partake in Q.C. nightlife.

5. Explore the EpiCentre. Not only will you find better drink deals, but you can grab dinner or go bowling and make a night of it.

Now that you’re prepped and ready to go, the AA5 memories — or lack of memories — are slated to begin this Thursday March 31st featuring live music from Groovetown on the rooftop stage and Live Big on the plaza stage. And now that my office has officially planted itself Uptown, you’ll probably catch me and the P.I.C. there regularly. Cheers to an amazing summer!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Not so Sunday funday

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 12:23 PM

“What smells like hot mustard?” my friend asked as we waited by the bar for a beer. “Me. That would be me,” I said as I looked down at my leggings where fallen mustard had dried. It was Sunday around 6 p.m. and I was starting to think maybe I didn’t need that beer after all. My plan for staying fairly sober and not spending a lot of money all weekend had officially been thrown out the window. Whoever thought “Sunday funday” was a good idea definitely lied.

Literally a week ago, I was attempting to gather myself after a long brunch filled with bottomless mimosas. I had a few college friends visiting from out of town, we were celebrating St. Patty’s Day, drinking as if we were still in school and getting very little sleep. On Monday, before heading back to their respective homes, they dropped me off at my company’s new office Uptown. Every day, I had to wake up an hour earlier than normal to make sure I wasn’t late and secure public transportation.

(Side note: Parking is ridiculous Uptown. There is not one, but two trolleys, the red line and the gold line, that provide free transportation in the city. And the light rail only has a handful of stops where you can “Park & Ride.”)

Needless to say, by hump day, I was exhausted. The boyfriend and I were looking forward to a weekend of sleeping in with few commitments.

We’d spent the past month spending more money, eating out and consuming more alcohol than we’d liked. So we were excited about an adult weekend where going out wasn’t the focus.

Friday was a win. We both got off work early, he packed a bag for my place and then headed home where we ended up passing out before 10 p.m.

The next morning, we visited the newest addition to his family, a beautiful second nephew and headed to Harris Teeter for breakfast ingredients. I made my version of croque madame and we napped the afternoon away. Even after he left for a basketball tournament, I remained immobile in front of the TV. When he returned, we warmed up a Teeter meal and passed out. And just like that, Saturday ushered in yet another win.

By Sunday, there was a spirit of anxiety as we left an early morning basketball tournament and his friend turned and asked, “Where are y’all going to watch the game?” I thought to myself, “Uh-oh. This isn’t going to be good.” The Ohio State-Florida game started at noon, right when you can legally be served your first drink in North Carolina. Not only did that mean there was no time for a nap, but Sunday funday would be in full effect.

Hoping to avoid the hoopla that is associated with All American Pub and Slate Billiards on a Sunday in South End — and to choose a spot with tastier food — I suggested Draught in Third Ward right outside of Bank of America Stadium. I hopped online to check out their brunch menu and immediately spotted faves for the boyfriend and I: French toast and corned beef hash. Yeah, it was definitely happening.

Apparently, if you get to Draught around noon you can snag a table or seats at the bar which is a big deal considering how packed they can get on game days. As soon as we sat down I knew what kind of Sunday brunchday it was going to be. The DJ was blasting the perfect combination of old school faves and new school mixes. And then our bartender uttered the words, “Bottles of champagne are $15.” And when I say a mimosa consisted of a splash of OJ, I mean a splash. Uh-oh.

Before I knew it, the game was over and we were headed to The Blind Pig in NoDa where I was dragged into playing beer pong — a game I never resort to playing when I want to get drunk. Two rounds and two Gatorade shots later, I had only hit one cup — that was out of play — and was starting to drunk Snapchat.

Not long after, we were in line at VBGB in AvidXchange Music Factory ordering brats and boneless chicken tenders.

While attempting to nestle our order number in my boyfriend’s arm before heading to the bar, I knocked an entire side of mustard out of his hand and onto my leggings and shoes. Did that stop me from ordering a shot or another beer? Nope.

It wasn’t until the quiet ride home after a drunk argument with the boyfriend that I realized, Sunday really isn’t a funday or smartday for drinking. And Queen City brunch will continue to be the death of me.

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