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Arts and funk welcome you home

I moved to Charlotte the summer before my freshman year of high school. I should re-phrase: My family and I moved to south Charlotte.

Because south Charlotte offered restaurants, school, church and so much wonderful shopping, I never ventured much outside the area.

That began to change after my first college internship, which was at the Charlotte Observer. That summer, in 2009, I learned much more about the Queen City than I had in six years of calling the place home.

The great thing about Charlotte is that while it’s a big city, it’s broken up into very distinct neighborhoods. Here’s a primer on fun sections of town close to the city’s heart, which we call uptown (don’t even try to say downtown).

Dilworth

Dilworth, situated south of uptown, is the section of town we call charming. Historic Dilworth is full of quaint bungalows, and the main thoroughfare is East Boulevard. On East, you’ll find a bunch of great restaurants, shops and boutiques (300 East is one of my favorite lunch places), and some of them are in converted Victorian-style houses.

Dilworth is also home to Freedom Park, which is my favorite in Charlotte. In the fall, the park hosts a free annual event, Festival in the Park, which features art, food and music. The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral on East Boulevard holds the city’s annual Greek festival in the beginning of September.

A popular hangout on the edge of Dilworth is the Dilworth Neighborhood Grille, which is also a good spot for watching college basketball games.

South End

South End has a trendy, artsy vibe that’s a touch grittier than neighboring Dilworth. As its name suggests, South Boulevard is the main drag of South End, and the area is chock full of good restaurants.

Don’t miss Food Truck Fridays (it’s BYOB, and that goes for picnic blankets, too), which are every Friday at Cameron Road and Park Avenue when the weather is warm. Atherton Mill and Market is a great spot for local shopping, and the market features local food and produce. On the first Friday of each month, more than 15 art galleries take part in the South End Gallery Crawl.

Mac’s Speed Shop, perhaps Charlotte’s only biker-barbecue joint, has some great ’cue, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Price’s Chicken Coop, which in 2007 the Food Channel called one of the top three places in the country for fried chicken (it’s No. 1 in my book). Newcomers take note: it’s takeout- and cash-only.

NoDa

NoDa is full of funk and arts. The historic mill village’s pulse is on North Davidson Street, intersecting at 36th Street. That street is how the neighborhood got its name, like New York City’s abbreviations of SoHo and TriBeCa.

Situated northeast of uptown, NoDa hosts art gallery crawls on the first and third Fridays of the month. For a taste of local music, check out the Evening Muse, which features live music at least five nights a week.

The neighborhood is home to a handful of fun dive bars (find games of all kinds, from pool to skee ball to corn hole at the Blind Pig). NoDa is also the place to get a pint of Coco Loco, a porter made by the NoDa Brewing Company and recipient of a silver medal at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival.

And you can’t talk about NoDa without mentioning Charlotte’s most famous bakery, Amelie’s. The eclectic French bakery is open 24/7, and I’m seriously considering having their salted caramel fudge brownies in lieu of cake at my wedding reception.

Plaza Midwood

Plaza Midwood is NoDa’s (slightly) less-hipster cousin that centers around The Plaza, Central and Commonwealth avenues.

The historic district has a neighborhood of pleasant houses and bungalows, and is home to the VanLandingham Estate on The Plaza, which is the former home of a prominent local family that now serves as a bed and breakfast.

Among several good restaurants and locally owned shops, the Common Market and Elizabeth Billiards are popular hangouts. Quirky places to eat include Zada Jane’s Corner Cafe (breakfast is delicious) and Dish, a down-home stop that won’t disappoint.

Some of the new parking spaces on the street can be a little tricky – you have to back in diagonally – but don’t let that deter you from visiting this funky neighborhood.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth is neighbors with Plaza Midwood, and is southeast of uptown. Much of it is residential, with many of its homes similar to those in Plaza Midwood and Dilworth.

Along Seventh Street (near the Caswell/Pecan intersection), there are a bunch of restaurants, offices and businesses, many of which are in renovated old houses. The Philosopher’s Stone Tavern has a large outdoor area and often features live music.

Elizabeth is also home to two hospitals, Carolinas Medical Center-Mercy and Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. Beyond the hospitals on Elizabeth Street are a handful of cool restaurants, as well as the Visulite Theatre, which is a live-music club. Inching up Elizabeth Street toward uptown is Central Piedmont Community College’s Uptown campus.

Myers Park and Eastover

Myers Park and Eastover both feel like the same neighborhood, but are divided by Providence Road (and are between Dilworth and Elizabeth). They are largely residential neighborhoods with beautiful homes and tree-lined streets.

You’ll find many people running, walking or biking the “Booty Loop” in Myers Park. That’s the 3-mile route for 24 Hours of Booty, which is an annual bicycling event that raises money for cancer research. In the heart of Myers Park is Queens University of Charlotte, a private liberal arts school with a lovely campus.

Myers Park is also home to the swanky Duke Mansion, which is an inn, meeting place and event location. The Selwyn Pub is a popular local choice, and it’s rumored to be a favorite of Michael Jordan’s.

In Eastover, check out the Manor Theater, which shows independent flicks, and the Mint Museum off of Randolph Road.

Lindsay is a reporter for the Observer.
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