Helen Schwab

Charlotte al fresco: Which patio’s right for you?


Now that we’re almost to sweater weather, it’s actually patio-terrace-outdoor-dining-space weather, too. (As opposed to when most people think it is, in Charlotte’s five-minute-long springs.)

We’ve broken this list up by interest. Share other favorites via email or online comments and I’ll pass them along. (And follow @hschwab on Twitter, where I periodically troll for suggestions.)

The uptown view: From a distance

The Peculiar Rabbit. From the rooftop, you can watch the sun melt into the skyline. Alternatively (or if a bar-ish menu doesn’t appeal), try its more creative meal, brunch.

Vivace at the Metropolitan. A handsome, urban setting, this seating area (and Hickory Tavern’s and Dressler’s) also look out on the gorgeous greenway. You’ll see walkers and bike riders, and the occasional duck if you’re attentive.

Luna’s Living Kitchen. A raw food menu, with a polished terrace that overlooks the light rail line. For more light rail, see also: Futo Buta, Big Ben’s.

The uptown view: Close-up

Fahrenheit. A stupefying view, fire pits, enough wind to make it just a little shivery up there on the 21st floor: It’s an elegant place and City Selfie Central. Get drinks.

Halcyon. Here, you’re gently lifted just above Tryon, at Levine Avenue of the Arts, so you also get a view of arts patrons heading to events.

Vida. Sip tequila at the EpiCentre and you can gaze down onto Trade and College traffic (and on a busy night, be happy you’re above the madding crowd). Relax.

Bonus upcoming: Sea Level. Look for a 500-square-foot patio overlooking Fifth Street at this new spot focusing on sustainable, farm(!)-to-fork seafood, slated to open at Hearst Tower in January. Paul Manley and Jeff Tonindandel (think Growlers and Crepe Cellar) plus Andrew Chapman and longtime restaurateur Dennis Thompson will offer Manley’s line of customized oysters, plus lots more (non-threatened species only) out of Sea Level, N.C., and other Carolinas coastal areas.


Zebra. In its new incarnation, the greenery-studded terrace offers a handsome fireplace, sparkly lighting and a restful feel.

All the area 131 Mains – Lake Norman, Blakeney and Dilworth – have fire pits, and though each space differs, all have a rustic and comfortable feel.

Village Tavern. This old favorite looks out over Symphony Park, has two fire pits, and has been one of the roomiest in town since the ’80s.

Unexpected tuck-aways

All three of these – Deejai Thai in Myers Park, Common Market in Plaza Midwood and Sir Edmond Halley’s on the back side of Park Road Shopping Center – surprise with their alcove/terrace/hideaways, each garden-y too, to varying degrees.

Spacious and gracious

RuRu’s. It took forever to complete, and the result is a beautiful space at the historic Reynolds-Gourmajenko House.

Selwyn Avenue Pub. A longstanding community favorite (so expect a crowd), it’s equipped with heaters and lots of screens.

And look for the new University area BluNotes to have room for 100 on its patio (target opening is early November) and to return Martine Johnson (of the defunct Bite Your Tongue) to cooking New Orleansian food (this time for another owner); press folk are promising “the next B.B. King” will perform at the grand opening (www.blunotes.com).

Urbane oases

Nolen Kitchen, Bonterra, Customshop, Napa on Providence and Terra share a certain savoir faire, along with upscale menus and some interesting alcohol choices.

Most-populated-by-patios stretch of town

Patios/outdoor areas where you’d actually want to sit, that is, and stroll between – I’d call this a clear win for the half-mile-or-so of Central Avenue and cross streets in Plaza Midwood (including but not limited to Pint Central, Fern, Bistro La Bon, Midwood Smokehouse, Soul, Thomas Street Tavern, Zada Jane’s and Whiskey Warehouse, plus others mentioned elsewhere here). Second place: East Boulevard (including but not limited to 300 East, Copper, JJ’s Red Hots and the Summit Room, plus others mentioned here; add Nan and Byron’s, Tupelo Honey and The Liberty if you’re considering ’round the corner on South). Montford Drive gets a nod with the tree-trunked Brazwell’s and game-y 10 Park Lanes among them.

Idiosyncratic options

Hare of the Dog. In the former Philosopher’s Stone in Elizabeth, this is in fact a dog bar, meaning the woodsy patio’s open to furry companions (and dogs, too!), as well as the back bar area. Food’s brought in from nearby sibling Jackalope Jack’s.

VBGB. A biergarten that adds supersize chess, Connect Four and Jenga games to the mix, at NC Music Factory (Note: No, we’re not listing all the breweries that have outdoor spaces, but plenty of them do.)


RockSalt at Park Road Shopping Center, with a greenway view; Toscana at Specialty Shops in SouthPark with an Italian-courtyard feel (and fountain) and Blue Taj at Ballantyne, for those who seek a changing-color light show.

Farther out

To the north: North Harbor Club in Davidson. “Dock and dine” if you’re boating to this place; otherwise, park yourself and enjoy the lakeside view.

To the south: Tapas 51 has a little deck out front and is in the process of setting up a second outdoor area, complete with fire pit and seating around it.

To the west: Stringbean in Belmont. Ten minutes down Wilkinson Boulevard from the airport (so: not so far!), this is spacious, shaded and offers a meat market/deli and wine/beer shop on the side.

Got one that’s out east? Or others you want to share? Email me at hschwab@charlotteobserver.com.

Readers add:

Georges Brasserie at SouthPark