I’ve been asked to provide five things you ought to check out while you’re in the Queen City for the NCAA tournament – which I didn’t even realize was going on until I got this assignment. But I make up for my lack of knowledge about athletics with what I know about Charlotte food and drink. I know even less about math than I do about sports, so this list may contain more than five things.
1. Eat local
▪ One of the all-time great dives, Comet Grill, is tucked in a strip shopping center not far from uptown. It feels clandestine, and it sort of is. The best deal in town is the $6 cheeseburger and (homemade) fries every Saturday. 2224 Park Rd., cometgrillcharlotte.com▪
In the mood for something fancier?The Fig Tree
in the historic Elizabeth neighborhood is refined and ridiculously good. You may find trout picatta, elk and veal osso bucco.charlottefigtree.com ,
1601 E.7th St.
▪ For Southern comfort food uptown, try Mert’s Heart and Soul. Choose from fried catfish, fried whiting, fried chicken … you get the idea. mertscharlotte.com, 214 N. College St.
▪ Just a quick drive is more comfort at dish. Try fried green tomatoes, collard dip, deviled eggs, the fried egg and bacon sandwich or homemade chicken and dumplings in Charlotte’s funky Plaza Midwood neighborhood. eatatdish.com, 1220 Thomas Ave.
2. Find hip in Noda
(That’s short for N. Davidson St.) If you blink, you might miss a lot of hipness. Go hungry and get a fish taco, crepes, pizza, oysters, burgers or sandwiches. Catch a band at the Neighborhood Theatre or The Evening Muse. Get a tattoo. That’ll be an NCAA souvenir you never forget. noda.org
3. Quaff local brews
NoDa – where you’re going to get a dose of hipness – is home to more than just bars, coffee shops and eateries. NoDa Brewing Co. (nodabrewing.com, 2229 N. Davidson St.) offers Cavu (a blonde ale), Jam Session (a pale ale) and Hop Drop and Roll, a World Beer Cup Gold Award-winning IPA. There’s also Heist Brewery and Birdsong breweries.
South End – If the weather’s nice, people may be spilling out onto the courtyard at Triple C (triplecbrewing.com, 2900 Griffith St.). Saturday, there’s live music from 4 to 7 p.m. The biergarten at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (oldemeckbrew.org, 4150 Yancey Rd.) is a great spot to enjoy Fruh Bock, a springtime lager with citrusy notes.
4. Snap a selfie
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art – Even if you don’t stop in to see the art books of Henri Matisse, take a selfie with the 17-foot “Firebird” sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle.Philadelphia has the LOVE sculpture, Wall Street has the charging bull, Charlotte’s got “The Firebird.” bechtler.org, 420 S. Tryon St.
5. Go to the Beav
Thirsty Beaver Saloon. Its reputation is big enough that The New York Times mentioned as an activity during the Democratic National Convention in 2012. They mentioned it again in a recent article about what to do with 36 hours in Charlotte, so this little hole-in-the-wall has hit the big time. 1225 Central Ave.
Have fun, y’all. We’re glad you’re here. Tell all your friends back home about us. If there’s one thing – besides entertaining – Charlotte excels at, it’s boosterism.