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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.

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.

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