Hey there everyone! It has been a bit since our last post because Morgan and I have officially moved in together!
Up until now, I have lived in Charlotte for 2 years. Unfortunately, my time there has ended and we are beginning a new chapter in Raleigh, NC. I grew up here so it is a bittersweet move, but the Oak City has so much to love!
However, if you are reading this you probably like to experience new foods in the cities you travel, or you are our friends. Either way, I hope this guide helps you learn a little more of the side of Charlotte that rarely makes the “Top Ten” lists of what to do and where to eat. These are little gems of the city, if you will.
Today, I will be doing an overview of some restaurants and activities that would be categorized more for a casual or quick weekend trip, or maybe even a staycation.
Rise Biscuits & Donuts
This Durham-based restaurant chain’s slogan is “The Best Dang Biscuits & Donuts!” and they are definitely not wrong. Rise is open for breakfast and lunch but the line is already out the door at 8 am. I was jumping for joy when they finally opened up a location in the Ballantyne neighborhood of Charlotte. Some favorites are a white cheddar, chicken and honey biscuit or a classic sausage, egg and cheese biscuit with pesto. My favorite donuts are the salted caramel and vanilla sprinkles. However, their apple fritter and a plain glazed are also worth trying! Don’t forget to try the potato hashcake in case all of this wasn’t enticing enough!
Where to even begin? You guys have seen this on my instagram more than once. This was hands down my favorite breakfast spot in Charlotte. They had two locations, one near my house and another near my office, so it was hard to resist eating there everyday. They get very busy around 9-10 am so get there early! They have everything from mini quiches to avocado turkey melts to buttery pastries. Basically Sunflour is the catch-all for breakfast, lunch and your afternoon coffee. My favorite breakfasts are the bacon and gruyere on a croissant or a ham, egg and avocado on a cheddar biscuit. Lunch has great choices with a wide variety of hot and cold sandwiches. Favorite pastries have to be the dark chocolate cookie with fleur de sel and the massive cinnamon roll.
Price’s Chicken Coop
This Charlotte staple is perfect for a casual lunch. It is located in Charlotte’s Southend neighborhood. Unfortunately, a whole bunch of new apartment buildings crowd this small building and make parking a challenge depending on when you go. However, the food is quick, delicious and there is no bs about this place. My all-time favorite is the chopped barbecue sandwich with coleslaw and fries! Made North Carolina-style with vinegar, it melts in your mouth and you will not go hungry! Morgan’s favorite is the wing sandwich – but don’t be fooled. It is 3 fried bone-in wings on a hamburger bun. This small joint does not disappoint. Make sure you bring cash!
Another restaurant success story, this Peruvian eatery has become a Charlotte staple and they have multiple locations throughout the city so you can always get your fix! In fact, there was a location just steps from my office building in the Elizabeth neighborhood. Needless to say, I went there probably more often than I should have, but #noregrets. You literally could not go wrong with anything on the menu here, but some of my go-tos are the Sopa de Pollo (Chicken and Rice Soup), The Great (chicken, lettuce and avocado on ciabatta or a wrap), or the Tacu Bowl (this inspired the Peruvian Rice Bowl that we shared a few weeks ago!). Get some plantains or battered fries on the side also! Lastly, finish your meal with a specialty drink (Mango is my favorite) or Tres Leches dessert if you’re feeling frisky. Oh, and the SAUCES! Yes, so much, yes.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? I hope not because this place is the king of unlimited options. Crisp has a few locations, and yes, it may be similar to other mix-and-match salad bars, but it’s on the list and I miss it so, yeah. They have amazing pre-determined salads you can get, with or without protein. Or you can make your own. Choose from different lettuce mixes, probably 30+ different toppings and a wide variety of proteins. Chicken, steak, salmon, they have it all! No lie, this place made me crave salads. All salads come with an amazing dressing of your choice and a toasted piece of bread. Definitely worth trying if salads are your thing, or even if they aren’t and you don’t want your dog to steal your food. Cause let’s be real, dogs don’t like lettuce. My favorite salad is the F.C.N. which stands for Fruit, Cheese, Nuts. It is bomb. Or grab the Asian salad with some glazed salmon. The possibilities are endless!
Mac’s Speed Shop
I know, another barbecue place?! I am giving you the chance to still get some delicious North Carolina barbecue in case you didn’t trust me with Price’s. Mac’s has so many options and their food is what Instagram foodie dreams are made of: delicious, colorful and overflowing. The patio alone is a great reason to make Mac’s a stop on your restaurant list! It has cute picnic tables with string lights above, and is the perfect place for a casual dinner yet still worthy of a date night! To start, try the brisket, beef & black bean chili with all the toppings or the smoked sausage sampler (mix-and-match!). If you are into fusion cuisine, try the Mexicue tacos and quesadillas! The catfish tacos are especially delicious! However, my favorite thing to do is order a huge platter and split it with Morgan. Basically it is meat, with a side of meat, another side of meat, and… one more side of meat with a side of your choosing. Choices include pulled pork, catfish, two types of ribs, chicken and beef brisket. I highly suggest the mac n cheese for your side. The burned bits on the top are choice. These recommendations only scratch the surface, so check them out for even more options!
You’ll come to find out that Morgan won’t let me go even a few days without eating Mexican food. Therefore, it was inevitable that we would find the perfect Mexican restaurant in Charlotte. This small restaurant moved into a location in Uptown Charlotte that struggled to keep other businesses there. So when this was the 2nd restaurant in 2 years to be at this location, I shrugged them off as cursed to fail. On a whim, we tried it one day after doing some suit shopping. THANK GOODNESS. We split an order of 3 tacos (mix-and-match!) and got the queso dip with chorizo. The taco choices are so creative and none of them taste similar so you can really get a variety! Some favorites are the coca-cola carnitas and the braised beef. But if you do anything when you come here, get the queso dip with chorizo. HEAVENS, we still have dreams about that. Stay on the lookout, because we are going to try to replicate it and share the recipe with y’all! Lastly, if you are more of a sandwich person, the cubana torta is seriously perfect.
Like any big city these days, Charlotte is teaming with a variety of breweries that have great atmospheres and even better beers! The first brewery I ever went to in Charlotte was Sycamore Brewing. Located in Charlotte’s Southend neighborhood, this brewery boasts a huge outdoor space with picnic tables and string lights. They even host a Food Truck Friday that is extremely popular! Food trucks, beer and dogs everywhere; can it get any better?! Another one of my favorite breweries is Heist. When you first walk in, it feels small, but the back main space is a massive and beautiful hall. Their beers and their food are both top of the line. I recommend the Burger Burger Burger, a trio of three creative sliders. Also, if you live in Charlotte or will be there during the week, check out Heist for their Trivia Night! But bring your A-game because it is challenging. Other great breweries of note are Birdsong Brewing Co., Old Mecklenburg Brewery and Unknown Brewery.
While in Charlotte, burn some calories going to the Whitewater Center. You can do everything from whitewater rafting or kayaking to high ropes courses and a zipline. On Thursday nights in the summer, they even have bands come out! If you didn’t get enough beer at the breweries, they have that too! Another local favorite is Freedom Park. It is a small but beautiful park. It has an awesome jungle gym area for kids and nice walking paths around a small lake.
If sports are something you love to watch, Charlotte has it all! Going in the summer? The Knights play in the middle of Uptown next to Romare Bearden Park, another beautiful space. Going in the Fall? The Panthers may have had a rough 2016-2017 season, but Cam Newton will rise above! Their stadium is right in Uptown as well, so the city is vibrating by the time it’s NFL Sunday. Going in the winter? Michael Jordans’ Hornets always give the fans a good game. This past year all of these tickets were easy to score, but if you want to go to a game, plan ahead so you don’t miss out!
Lastly, for music and comedy, check out Charlotte’s Music Factory. They have multiple venues there with concerts and comedy shows happening every weekend and even some great ones during the week!
I hope you all found this a helpful guide for Charlotte’s hidden gems!