Charlotte isn’t the state capital of North Carolina, but you’d be forgiven for thinking so. Known as Queen City (after Queen Charlotte, after whom it was named), the southeastern hub’s skyline rises with taller and taller towers each year – a transformation that has accompanied explosive population growth. Real gems worthy of Charlotte’s hubbub lie much deeper in the ground, however, tucked away in the vibrant neighborhoods surrounding the office-crammed Uptown Center. As the city changes, only time will tell if Charlotte can maintain its current reputation as a hidden gem in the face of ever-increasing population growth and rising rents. But in the meantime, the following are places Charlotteans regularly enjoy.
The bar in Supperland
It doesn’t take much adventure in Charlotte to realize that, aside from great barbecues and certain architectural styles, the city doesn’t offer the stereotypical “Southern charm” that many visitors would expect. Over the years, it’s increasingly traded its roots in other cities around the Carolinas, like Charleston and Greenville, for more cosmopolitan fare. However, one facility is anchored in classic charm: the bar in Supperland. Attached to the restaurant that bears his name, this absolutely gorgeous establishment will transport guests straight into paisley prints. Come for craft cocktails, beautiful design and fantastic southern comfort cuisine from Supperland.
The Giddy Goat Coffee Roasters
Giddy Goat is a coffeehouse and roastery in the leafy Charlotte area of Plaza Midwood, known for its retro looks and vibe. The bright, spacious store has a variety of seating options for groups or the ubiquitous telecommuter. Its coffee is considered by many city dwellers to be some of the best in town. Customers can even watch the staff carry out the roasting process, which takes place right on site. This level of commitment to authenticity is probably unsurprising given the great coffee, but what many might not expect is the fantastic food, which includes empanadas and breakfast burritos.
Grand Bohemian Hotel, autograph collection
While other cities might surpass Charlotte with its sheer volume of inspired accommodations, the Queen City still has plenty to offer. Uptown’s Grand Bohemian Charlotte, Autograph Collection is an Argentinian-inspired property filled with vibrant colors and unique furnishings and treatments. MICO Restaurant serves Argentinian fare, and the rooftop Buho Bar offers panoramic views paired with tapas and craft cocktails. As part of the Kessler Collection hotel group, which will look familiar to those in the Southeast, everything comes together to create something spectacular.
OMJ Clothing is a men’s bespoke tailor located down an alleyway in Charlotte’s historic South End. Coupled with the brand’s extensive customization options, OMJ’s apparel portfolio seems limitless. What makes their offering even more special are the various accessories, merchandise and wellness products that can be found on the store’s shelves, ensuring that every visitor finds something unique. There are also many local themed articles here.
The Paper Skyscraper is located on Dilworth’s main thoroughfare, East Boulevard. The colorful outpost’s name hints at its roots in the stationery world; While that’s true, there’s a lot more here. Delve deeper into the store’s many nooks and crannies, and you’ll be treated to an abundance of goodies and merchandise from small businesses and brands from across Carolina. This is the true spectacle of Paper Skyscraper and what likely keeps the place in a near-constant state of being frequented by Charlotteans.
Optimist Hall offers more than a dozen answers to the question, “Where do we go when we don’t know what we want?” From great dishes that span cuisines and cultures to excellent and unexpected drinks, there’s something for everyone. From Neapolitan pizza at Ava to delicious ramen at Bao and Broth, to Indian street food at Botiwalla and authentic Cuban delights at Suarez Bakery, this former gingham mill has drawn restaurateurs from around the world. Many shops in the hall also have brick-and-mortar locations across the city, but visiting Optimist is an easy way to visit them all if you only have a day or two to explore.
Ed’s Tavern is a laid-back neighborhood hangout that combines good drinks and food with great gaming. It’s a classic in Charlotte. Located on the edge of historic Dilworth, Ed’s offers upscale bar food without sacrificing a neighborhood feel. It’s a hotspot for weekend brunch or a relaxed meal and a game of pool.
The Coin Museum Uptown
Charlotte’s uptown neighborhood is home to a growing number of towering corporate headquarters, but thankfully it continues to grow as a center for arts, culture, nightlife, and culinary gems. A must-stop on its leafy avenues is the Mint Museum Uptown, a beautiful Brutalist building that houses multiple floors of unique exhibits, the Mariposa restaurant, and a rooftop venue. Inside, there’s something for everyone, including many fascinating pieces by North Carolina artists, complemented by a wide range of artwork from around the world. Wednesday evening is free for all visitors.
Resident Culture Brewing
With locations in Plaza Midwood and the South End, Resident Culture is a local favorite. The brewery offers tons of interesting and innovative beers, craft cocktails and carefully curated menus. The South End location has an on-site coffee bar and taco counter, while Plaza Midwood is regularly frequented by various food trucks that are well known around the city. South End also has great music and dancing for the late night crowd.
Hero image by Matthew Spadaro