27. Opt for authentic Vietnamese food. Eat at Ben Thanh.
Unpretentious, cheap and delicious. Cuong Duong opened the restaurant in 2004 to exalt his mother's home cooking, and it has since earned praise from nearly every food critic and newspaper in town. But for some reason, it's always empty (not that we're complaining). We deemed Ben Thanh our Best Asian (other than Chinese, Japanese or Indian) restaurant in last year's Best of Charlotte, mentioning its pho, crispy quail, curry spiked with shrimp, yellow rice flour pancake filled with shrimp, hot pots and charbroiled chicken in lemongrass. 4900 Central Ave. 704-566-1088. www.benthanhcharlotte.com.
28. Strike up a conversation at La Shish.
For affordable Mediterranean food, check out La Shish Kabob. Anything shawarma or kabob is the way to go, and save room for the lentil soup. Head to the nearby Golden Bakery for dessert and sample some of the best Middle Eastern bread and sweets in town. Don't be intimidated by the foreign menu items; servers are more than happy to explain. 3117 N. Sharon Amity Road. 704-567-7900. www.lashishkabob.com; 3145-B N Sharon Amity Road. 704-537-4857.
29. Find Michael Jackson's coveted red leather jacket — or something like it — at Value Village.
Mostly for hardcore pickers, the second-hand store is a little dingy but worth getting lost in on a Saturday. The electronics and children's toys sections are plentiful. Just don't let a layer of dust discourage you from buying something. Soap and water works wonders. Plus, nothing is more eco-friendly than vintage shopping. 4451 Central Ave. 704-568-8896. www.carolinavaluevillage.com.
30. Fall in love with the eggplant Parmesan at New San Remo.
Next door to much-loved local eatery Landmark Cafe — go for the greasy breakfast and desserts — is New San Remo. The Italian joint doesn't look too special (seriously), but word has it the best eggplant Parm in town is here. We know, we know, eggplant isn't everyone's favorite, but give this crispy, flavorful version a chance. Even if you hate it, the late-night people-watching is unbeatable. 4439 Central Ave. 704-537-3131.
31. Marvel at the survivor spirit of Mecklenburg's oldest structure, the Hezekiah Alexander House.
Hezekiah and his wife Mary called this quaint little brick building home around the time Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. And it's the house that nothing — not their 10 children, war, weather or financial problems — can seem to tear down. The estate's overseer, the Charlotte Museum of History, closed in 2012 due to a decrease in funding. It reopened a year later and made the home its focal point, returning some of its original furniture to attract a new set of visitors. History junkies should also check out the museum's walking tours. Be sure to sign up early — tickets can sell out quickly. 3500 Shamrock Drive. www.charlottemuseum.org.
32. Get your vaquero on at El Potrero Western Wear.
Northern Mexicans are known for their flashy country western clothing — long, pointy ostrich-skin boots, crisp, rolled-up button downs — and there's no place better to check out this flair than El Potrero. If you really want to immerse yourself in the culture, ask about the next big-name Norteño band that's rolling through Charlotte. 3718 Central Ave. 803-937-1990. www.elpotrerowesternwear.com.
Putting together this year's neighborhood guide has really made me appreciate how cool this city is.