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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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Q.C. staples

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 2:59 PM

This weekend’s festivities were accompanied by some close friends visiting from college. While a couple of them had visited the Queen City before, it was one of my friends’ first time. It’s always great having old friends in town, but you immediately get tasked with the itinerary, which can be overwhelming. It’s especially true when you’re supposed to be somewhat of a nightlife guru and you’re constantly torn between turning up and sleeping all day.

Two out of my three friends arrived on Thursday. We met up at Brazwell’s Premium Pub on Montford where I was already too excited to put food in my stomach. Coincidentally, a co-worker who recently decided to leave my day-job company had already planned on spending the night in the area, so I could kill two birds with one stone. Before heading to Jeff’s Bucket Shop — that co-worker’s fave spot to get tipsy and sing Taylor Swift and Vanilla Ice unhindered — my college friends and I stopped by Barreled at the Lift.

After a couple of drinks and an orange mint hookah, we were reminiscing about the good ol’ days and walked to Jeff’s, also one of my favorite holes in the wall. While my friends were a little thrown off by the neon sign and narrow stairwell leading down to an even more sketchy alleyway, it was only a few seconds before one of them was ordering a round of shots — Jägerbombs to be exact. #triggergagreflex

Next thing you know, my alarm was startling me out of my sleep as I still had to adult and go to work. I managed to make it through the day with a mild hangover. All I could think about was heading to Soul Gastrolounge — the featured venue for the night.

Most of my friends and I are foodies so food is always at the top of the list when we are planning things to do on a visit. Soul being my absolute favorite restaurant in the city, I knew it wasn’t an option not to find time to go. If you’re familiar with the spot you won’t be surprised to know we had to wait for almost three hours. This meant grabbing a snack at Peculiar Rabbit and a beer at Twenty-Two while we waited.

Boy was that a mistake. I couldn’t even eat when we finally sat down in my favorite Q.C. staple. Seeing their excited reactions to the menu, however, was well worth it. Even after being super full, I managed to convince them to stop by L4 Lounge for the infamous Shark Attack — a fishbowl, most likely designed for sharing that I always encourage guests to get by themselves. #fridaynightsuccess

Saturday morning was a slow start, believe it or not. But there was no time for whining as we prepared for day drinking. After all, it was time for Rich & Bennett’s 16th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl, apparently the largest organized Patty’s Day crawl in the world? I hadn’t participated in the three years I’d lived in Charlotte, so I figured we should give it a try.

We opted out of getting t-shirts after realizing the $25 we were going to pay would only get us free entry into participating venues. And while we were nostalgic for collegiate days past, we knew we wouldn’t make it all day so I just picked out a few spots for us to go.

We fueled up at Common Market in Plaza Midwood and then grabbed a couple of craft beers before heading Uptown to the world of domestics. Our first stop was Istanbul Hookah Lounge. Greeted by hundreds of green t-shirt wearing drunkards, I was happy to learn this spot had rooms upstairs where we could hide from the aggressiveness in French Quarter.

Our group shared a couple hookahs, had our fair share of the featured drink — liquid Marijuana — and then took off to RíRá’s patio before catching Rooftop 210. My plan was to leave straight from EpiCentre and head to The Scorpio — Charlotte’s oldest LGBT dance club — to catch a show, but an extended break at my condo forced me to tap out.

My friends, however, were troopers and still made it. They even walked to Cook Out on Freedom Drive afterwards for a 3 a.m. taste of the South they had sorely missed.

We ended the weekend with brunch at Napa on Providence. The grilled hanger steak and eggs are amazing and bottomless mimosas are only $13?! Need I say more?

Where are your fave places to take friends and family when they’re visiting you in the Queen City?

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Something old, something new...

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2016 at 1:13 PM

Before the workday ended last week, I was anxious to get the weekend started. The terrible hangover from the weekend before was but a distant memory and I was ready to get the party started. The boyfriend’s younger cousin, a recent Charlotte import, was celebrating his birthday and had invited some friends into town, most of whom are still in college. Since they were not sure where the best places were to go are, the boyfriend and I were charged with figuring out plans for the night. Great. How were we going to find venues that would satisfy their youthful desires to turn up and our desire to stay balanced?

We ended up starting the night at the AvidXchange Music Factory. Label already had a line that was spilling onto the sidewalk and it wasn’t warm enough for VBGB, so we stopped in at Wet Willie’s for a frozen beverage. The crowd was older and they weren’t that busy, so it wasn’t long before we were making plans for the next spot. It took every bit of effort to chug a frozen pina colada before hopping in another Uber SUV to Prohibition Bar in Uptown.

If you’re familiar with the spot, then you know it’s the perfect place for anyone looking for a taste of college.
The venue is dark, filled with unhindered drunks filled with liquid courage and feelings and it’s usually wet — a combination of sweat and spilled drinks. The guy-to-girl ratio was about 3:1 but the cousin and his friends still seemed to be having a good time, so the boyfriend and I stood around awkwardly while searching for a buzz in Bud Light after Bud Light.

With just under an hour left in the night, we managed to get them to the last stop on the tour — Roxbury. I lost everyone for a few and all I had to show for the night were a few snaps of Michael Jackson and Destiny’s Child videos that I sent my mom before passing out at home.

Saturday morning was a nauseous one but I had to suck it up to meet the P.I.C. and her family to check out The Book of Mormon, a Broadway musical produced by the creators of South Park, at Blumenthal Performing Arts.

This was going to be the first time I’d seen a musical in years and I was nervous. I’d never been a fan of singing plots or intermission, so in South Park, non P.C. fashion, I had put this activity on the long list of things black people don’t do.
But I’d been promising myself I would step outside of my comfort zone at some point and see a show in the artsy fartsy Queen City.

After hearing from friends and co-workers, who’d already seen the show, that it was hilarious but riddled with unchecked commentary on religion and race, I put on my thick skin and headed to pregame with the P.I.C. and her fam.
I must say, after a couple glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon — a terrible drink choice when you’re going to be sitting still in the dark for a couple hours — my sense of humor was much more open to the tongue-in-cheek nature of the dialogue.

I laughed with everyone as an unsuspecting pair of Mormon missionaries get sent to Uganda, of all places, to spread the Good Word. A hilarious, but twisted, journey of faith, Star Wars, lies, sexual humor and race, I left feeling like I had conquered a bucket list item. And buzzed of course, they serve alcohol at the theater, who knew?!

After the show, we headed to Growler’s Pourhouse with her fam for food and more drinks. Side note: I totally thought grabbing a bologna sandwich would set a good base, that is, until I woke up the next morning nauseously burping up sandwich meat. That night was filled with basketball rivalry — Duke vs. Carolina — a broken glass at Blackfinn — where I was celebrating yet another birthday — and stumbled steps into Tilt Uptown.

Sunday was supposed to be reserved for naps and recovery after stopping by Heist Brewery for lunch. But one flight, turned into one beer turned into Red Bull vodka at Slate in South End.

Next thing you know, I’m startled of out of my sleep Monday morning by an alarm set for 7:30 a.m. Time for work. I nervously brushed my teeth waiting for my uneasy stomach to settle, grabbed what was left of a Gatorade and hopped in my car to start the day.

And guess what? This weekend is the Patty’s Day bar crawl, so you know what that means!

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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

CIAA brings a hangover, without the parties

Posted By on Tue, Mar 1, 2016 at 1:48 PM

It’s Monday morning and I’m still a little shaky from being hungover after shenanigans on Saturday night. While engaged in beginning-of-the-week email cleanup, I realized just how many event emails I received last week about things to do in the area that I didn’t take advantage of.

I had every intention of joining in on the CIAA festivities, even if only for a day party. But I never made it that far.
(For those of you who weren’t in the city this past weekend or didn’t pick up CL’s previous issue, CIAA is a big basketball tournament weekend held in Charlotte. And the parties, are even bigger.)

Friday afternoon I got off of work early, grabbed a mimosa at my hair salon and thought I was ready for the turn up. But the boyfriend didn’t get home until 9 p.m. and after a couple beers, the last thing on my radar was going out. I announced my decision not to participate in nighttime revelry early on and next thing I knew, I was waking up on the couch around 12 a.m. Yep, night number two of CIAA was a dud.

The next day, the plan was to check out the free day party at Rooftop 210 in the EpiCentre. If you’re at all familiar with entry during CIAA then you know anything featured as a free event is a huge deal! (After all, tables are sold for thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars during this weekend.)

Not to mention, I found out 2 Chainz would be in attendance, so I’d be getting a free show. But you have to be strategic when you plan on attending a day party and then going out later.

You have to get there as early as possible so you can leave in time to get dinner and take a break from drinking before turning up that night.

Since brunch lasted a bit longer than I had anticipated and then I came down with “the itis” — the drowsy feeling that follows a large meal — I opted for an afternoon nap instead.

I did manage to get in the mood around 3 p.m., however, so me and the boyfriend headed to French Quarter on S Church St Uptown.

I’ve stopped by a pub or two on this intimate strip of bars and restaurants lined with string lights.

It seems as though the area came to be named not only because it resembles the look and feel of New Orleans but because French Quarter Restaurant, and its forest green and white striped awning, is the first thing you notice as you drive by. (Apparently, it’s actually supposed to be called, Latta Arcade/Brevard Court. Who’d a thunk?)

We grabbed a drink at Valhalla Pub & Eatery, as well as a pregame meal, before heading to grab hookah at one of my fave spots, Barreled at the Lift.

After that, we caught the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder game at Blue Olive in Ballantyne. And before you knew it, it was time to make plans for the night.

One of the most popular nights in the city during CIAA, it was pretty much a given that we’d be waiting in line wherever we decided to go. (It’s pretty much common knowledge that anyone avoiding CIAA parties ends up on the outskirts of Uptown: Elizabeth, Plaza Midwood or Montford to name a few.)

So, our group decided to avoid center city and head to Montford — Angry Ale’s to be exact.

While the line wasn’t ridiculous, we still had to wait a few minutes to get in.

Angry Ale’s can get packed on a Saturday night, but you could definitely tell Montford was one of the night’s popular choices for escaping the congestion of Uptown.

A couple shots and RBVs later, and I could tell I was well on my way to the hangover I said I never wanted to see again.

Needless to say, Sunday was a sluggish day. I managed to catch some beautiful QC weather on the patio of Heist Brewery in NoDa (in between vom sessions) while the boyfriend enjoyed brunch, but after that the day was pretty much a dud.

It was the longest walk of shame that has now poured into Monday morning and I have nothing to show for it with regards to CIAA activities.

Next year I vow to make it to at least one game — yes, actually make it to the tournament—and a day party. Hopefully, Lil’ Wayne will make a return to the city, and then my life will be complete.

Did you end up having an epic CIAA weekend? I’d love to hear about it so I can plan for next year!

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