Food & Drink

Uptown’s indoor/outdoor restaurant row

Before walking over to BB&T BallPark to watch the Charlotte Knights, families and young adults are stopping in at Brevard Court.
Before walking over to BB&T BallPark to watch the Charlotte Knights, families and young adults are stopping in at Brevard Court. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

If you work uptown, you know the lunchtime script: Pick a chain and throw down your money. Charlotte is a business town, so the center city has a certain style – a style that usually involves khaki pants and blue button-down shirts stepping out for a sandwich.

Isn’t there a place that’s a little different, maybe a little funky?

Of course there is, although it’s not one place, it’s two places in one: Latta Arcade and its kissing cousin, Brevard Court. They’re not the same space, although they’ve grown up together, and they’re not the same old place for lunch.

“I have the most perfect place to work in the world,” says Nancy Cutter, the owner of Court Travel in Brevard Court. “I’ve got 12 restaurants within 50 feet of me.”

The businesses include a lot more than eateries – you’ll find boutiques, hair salons, even a barber shop. But restaurants dominate the space. And here’s the thing about the restaurants: They’re diverse, mostly locally owned and many are international. Walk the long corridor that joins Latta Arcade to Brevard Court, the open-air, brick-lined space in the back, and you can pick Japanese/Korean, Indian, Turkish, Vietnamese, Italian, Greek, Irish – and more.

“This could be Carnaby Street in London, frankly,” says Cutter. “The Vietnamese guys (at Pho Plus), the Turkish guys at Metropolitan. And you know what’s fun? We have a wedding photographer right next to them. Everybody has a place in Brevard Court.”

Cutter and her husband, Bryant Cutter, are one of four owners of the buildings in Brevard Court. Bryant Cutter bought his first space there in 1976. Nancy Cutter’s hobby is what she calls urban archaeology, so she’s spent a lot of time tracking the history of both spaces.

With Latta Arcade celebrating its 100th anniversary this year (construction started earlier, but it officially opened in 1915), there’s been a lot of attention, but there’s confusion, too. People think Brevard Court was originally an alley (never) and that Latta Arcade was a cotton warehouse (no, although the offices used to include brokers who bought and sold cotton).

Cutter says the whole block originally was owned by Dr. R.J. Brevard, chief surgeon of St. Peter’s Hospital, the forerunner of Carolinas Medical Center, and mayor of Charlotte from 1891-95. Brevard Street, a few blocks away, was named for him. After Brevard died in 1906, his wife sold most of the block to Edward Latta, who built Latta Arcade, and George Stevens, a young entrepreneur who also helped to develop Myers Park.

Stevens had an idea that was unusual at the time, Cutter says: He parceled out his section almost like business condos, with a common walkway in the middle. A lot of influential Charlotte businessmen bought spaces. Latta Arcade was started in 1911, but Brevard Court may have been delayed by World War I – it wasn’t finished until 1921.

Cutter thinks individual ownership actually saved Brevard Court from uptown redevelopment.

“During the ’80s and ’90s, there was so much pressure – ‘oh, get rid of those old buildings.’ But having so many owners, that’s what saved it.”

Cutter says there’s a reason so many of the restaurants are international. Most of the spaces are small, so the rents are reasonable, making them good for small, family-owned businesses.

“Frankly, people from outside the U.S. look at this and it’s very relatable. In Paris, restaurants survive with 12 tables. For someone from another country, they go, ‘We can totally make a business with 12 to 15 tables.’”

Today, both spaces are showing new life. Charlotte Sallis, the property manager for Latta (that part is now owned by Northwood Investors of New York) says 3,500 people pass through every day, most at lunch.

With Romare Bearden Park and BB&T Ballpark across the street, a new crowd now packs Brevard Court’s outside tables at night. Although Latta Arcade closes at 6 p.m., Sallis has been talking to tenants about staying open later.

New businesses are popping up. In Brevard Court, QCBC – a new beer shop and chili place from the owners of Courtyard Hooligans and Valhalla – is expected to open this summer; Melt In Your Mouth Cupcakes has opened downstairs; and Rush Espresso has lines at breakfast and lunch. Crisp, the crazy-popular salad place in Latta Arcade, is moving into a larger space but plans to keep its original spot, too.

“People say we have nothing in Charlotte that’s old,” Cutter says. “Yeah, we do. We have Latta Arcade and Brevard Court. It’s cool-looking. Everybody wants exposed brick, that warm and cozy feeling, that little bit of informality.”

Purvis: 704-358-5236

Take your pick

You’ve currently got 16 places to eat or drink in Latta Arcade (LA) and Brevard Court (BC).

Belfast Mill (BC): An Irish pub with beer and an enthusiastic sports following.

Chick’s (LA): It’s known for American chicken dishes, but it has recently shifted to Chinese chicken dishes, too.

Clover Joe’s (BC): Every place needs a good burger, and a Philly cheesesteak, too.

Courtyard Hooligans (BC): Co-owned by Mark Krehbiel and Kristian Pedersen, this pub does a big business with soccer fans, even opening early on Saturdays for European games.

Crisp (LA): Until it moves into bigger quarters a few doors down, get to this custom-salad bar before 11:30 a.m. or after 1:30 p.m. if you don’t want to wait.

French Quarter (BC): The Photopoulos family, who also own Greek Isles, has owned this prime corner spot since 1986. Despite the New Orleans name, the menu is mostly traditional American with a little Greek thrown in.

Fujiyama (LA): It’s mostly Japanese teriyaki, but now it’s added a few Korean dishes, including a tasty Bibimbap, the vegetable-and-meat bowl with rice (definitely spring for the 50-cent cup of kimchi.)

Melt In Your Mouth (BC): It opened temporarily upstairs until the new downstairs shop was ready. Now it’s easier to reach and loaded with cupcakes and other sweets.

Metropolitan Cafe (BC): Turkish (doner kebab is popular, but don’t miss the smoky/hot eggplant salad). There’s a hookah bar at night.

Nefelie’s (BC): Greek-American, with the main restaurant upstairs and a few tables downstairs. Renovations are underway.

Persis Indian (LA): A take-out spot with the classics, including biryani (rice), daal and saag paneer.

Pho Plus (BC): The menu is short but well-made, focused on pho – noodle-based soup – and bahn mi sandwiches.

Pie In the Sky (LA): New York pizza fans know this place for the hot slices, calzone and stromboli.

Rush Espresso (BC): Buck the Seattle chains for a very friendly local shop with Lavazza coffee.

Salsarita (LA): Since it faces on the street, it’s easy to forget this is officially in Latta Arcade, too.

Valhalla (BC): Co-owned by Pedersen and Neil Patel, this is a pub and eatery, with a wine bar, Vintage Lounge, attached.

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