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Shop (And Eat) Till You Drop 

Where to pause for nourishment

Shopping: Either you love it or hate it. In fact, these extreme responses are probably hardwired in our hunting or gathering DNA, and our preference is probably annually exacerbated by the approaching holiday deadline. The best way to survive your excursion -- or ordeal -- is to choose some fun spots to refuel along the way. Yet although convenient, food breaks don't have to be in the food court. Here are a few spots near some area shopping.

SouthPark Mall is morphing into the mall it always should have been -- is there any surprise Neiman's is coming? On the second story level of Nordstrom, just inside the parking deck entrance, is Nordstrom Cafe. This relaxed corner of the store is a refuge from the holiday shopping frenzy. If there's a line, it may be due to folks ordering at the counter rather than a wait for tables. Peek inside first. The Cafe has already become a fave among Charlotte fashionistas. The interior is warmly quieting yet trendy. Windows have lace-patterned shades while fretwork repeats inside the framed art and other decor details. One wall is lined with a comfortable banquette ended by large circular booths -- enough for a family of shoppers with bags. The dining room seems small but seats about 80. Once you order, seat yourself; the meal is delivered by a server. Their grilled salmon BLT is full of flavor, but then would you expect less from a cafe within a Seattle-based store? The menu has a well-rounded selection of sandwiches, including a turkey club panini, a cheesy pizza, and salads. Pastries are made for the cafe and appear in the front case.

Nordstrom Cafe, 4400 Sharon Road. Hours are 10am until 8pm Monday through Saturday and noon until 5pm on Sunday.

Also at SouthPark, in the Belk basement, is Arthur's. If you're new to Charlotte, this 30-something spot is a must-go. Those who have been in Charlotte for a while probably remember when Arthur's was in Ivey's. The line may wind out into the china shop at times, but it does move quickly. You order in line, and you may pay before your food is cooked, but a runner will bring it out to the table. Their fully loaded Arthur burger is well worth the wait, as are the salads and grinders. Kids love the grilled cheese here.

Arthur's, 4400 Sharon Road. Hours are 10am until 8pm Monday through Saturday; Sunday noon until 5pm.

If you're headed to the outcropping of big box stores in Matthews at Independence, stop in Ghali's Deli & Grill in the Matthews Festival Shopping Center. With just a few tables, this black and white deli makes some of the best wrap sandwiches around. Try the chicken shawirma with a smear of a light garlic sauce stuffed into a large pita or any of the signature Lebanese sandwiches or subs.

Ghali's Deli & Grill, Matthews Festival, 10416 East Independence Blvd., Matthews. Hours: Monday through Saturday 11am until 9pm; closed Sunday.

Near many shopping areas of town is the locally owned chain of Salsarita's, which makes a first rate Mexican-styled (not gourmet) burrito. Also on the menu are tacos, nachos, quesadillas and addictive chips and fresh salsas. Service is always fast and the food inexpensive. If shopping is getting to you, try a margarita or two.

Salsarita's, Cotswold Village Shopping Center, Quail Corners; Rosedale Shopping Center, Huntersville. Hours are 11am until 9pm Monday through Saturday (mall location opens at 10am); noon until 8pm Sunday.

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