Even though I’ve worked in uptown for years, I rarely take my kids there. Which is a mistake, because it’s a great day out. I love the bustle of the professional crowd during the week, and so do my boys. It’s an adventure outside of our suburban day-to-day.
When we do go, we might hit some of the bigger attractions, like Discovery Place or ImaginOn, but often we just walk around, hit a park or two and then eat lunch. Here are three great spots for a kid-friendly lunch where you won’t drive the bankers bonkers:
Located: Right on Tryon Street, between Dean & Deluca and JA Biztown, 201 S. Tryon.
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Vibe: Vapiano describes itself as “Euro-chic,” and it is, but it’s also “cafeteria style,” so exhale a sigh of relief. Basically, it works like this: You get a plastic card when you arrive. You go up to the counter of your choice - pizza, pasta, salads - and order with a chef. You tap your card on some gizmo and you’re charged for that order. You then get a pager and wait for the chef to make your food on the spot! It’s a bit confusing at first, but you get the hang of it.
The room is wide open with long wood tables that easily sit 6-8 people. A few smaller tables are on the patio fronting Tryon. It’s noisy and busy, which is perfect to mask the noise of children.
Food: First, everything is made fresh at ordering. No heat lamps here. The pizzas are big enough for two people and are of the crusty, wood-fired variety. There’s a kids menu, but my boys always order adult pastas, which come with bread. The salads are great, as are the appetizers, especially the bruschetta. We’re all always stuffed.
Fun fact: As you pay, there’s a dispenser of FREE gummy bears. I think it’s gross to eat a lot of gummy bears after stuffing myself with pizza and salad, but the boys dive in and leave with a big fistful (which is gross in another way). https://www.facebook.com/VapianoCLT/
Located: Across the street from the NASCAR Hall of Fame, 300 S. Brevard St.
Vibe: This is a meat and three vegetables sort of place, so think cafeteria style and utilitarian tables. Always busy.
Food: Love this stuff. I often get a veggie plate with greens, black eyed peas and cabbage. Boy No. 2 loves the fried chicken (and I love sneaking bites). The chicken and dumplings is particularly wonderful. There’s also a grill with burgers and grilled cheeses and salads, if that’s more your style.
Not-so-fun fact: Get to Lola’s while you can. The restaurant will have to move soon as its building owner raises the rent. Bummer. http://www.lolascharlotte.com/
Located: Third floor of Founders Hall in the Bank of America Corporate Center, 100 N. Tryon St.
Vibe: Again, cafeteria style ordering, but more upscale than a Lola's. This is meant for the working crowd looking for a $10 salad or fresh sandwich. Plenty of tables on third and fourth levels.
Food: Pick your station and order fresh. I always get the caprese sandwich, made on a baguette, but there’s often a special at the hot station that is particularly exotic. Everything is so well made here. And your kids can order to spec.
Fun fact: Sit on the patio outside the fourth floor seating area. You’re nestled amid several of uptown’s taller buildings, giving you that full city experience. https://www.facebook.com/tastecafeCLT/