Living Here Guide

Charlotte’s bucket list bars

Soul Gastrolounge on Central Avenue offers small plates and sushi, potent cocktails and a convivial atmosphere.
Soul Gastrolounge on Central Avenue offers small plates and sushi, potent cocktails and a convivial atmosphere. Courtesy of Balthazar

These days, it seems as if there’s a new bar or brewery opening every weekend. (Not that we’re complaining.) But it can be tough to keep up with the cocktail and craft scene.

Enter this list.

These 10 drinking holes are the hottest spots to grab a cool libation in Charlotte right now. From the city’s staples (hello, Selwyn Pub) to the cool and new (cheers, Workman’s Friend), these bars belong on your Charlotte bucket list.

The Punch Room

If you haven’t paid a visit to the Ritz-Carlton’s glamorous and gilded drinking den yet, you’re missing some of the city’s coolest concoctions. Renowned bartender Bob Peters creates inventive by-the-glass craft cocktails, often sourcing local farms and distilleries for his tantalizing drinks. And if some of the best beverages in town weren’t enough to tempt a visit, the roaring ’20s Gatsby vibe and stunning 15th-floor views should seal the deal.

VBGB

920 Hamilton St.; www.vbgbuptown.com.

If you’re coming to this laid-back bar and beer garden, come thirsty. The German-inspired venue features pints and pitchers of craft beers you’ll want to sip and sample. Luckily, lingering here won’t be a problem. Located at the NC Music Factory, the menu offers bites that are perfect for pairing with your brews (the pretzel is a must), and the beer garden features games and live music many nights.

Soul Gastrolounge

1500 Central Ave.; www.soulgastrolounge.com.

Maybe it’s the second-story location in an older building or the exposed brick walls and dim lighting. Or it could be the hip DJ booth or fashionably tattooed crowds. It might be the creative – and always tasty – selection of small plates and sushi. But we think it’s the potent cocktails, especially the classic ones, being served at this trendy bar that keep the crowds pouring in every night.

Growlers Pourhouse

3120 N. Davidson St.; www.growlerspourhouse.com.

Sure, there are plenty of breweries just down the street, but this cozy neighborhood bar on North Davidson serves up both neighborhood and national craft beers. Stop in to enjoy a pint or bottle, and stay for its bites paired perfectly for beer. From the (free) popcorn when you arrive to the mouthwatering brats, the food here was made for the beer lover. And with a convivial vibe and plenty of TVs, it’s the kind of spot that’ll fast become your favorite post-work watering hole.

The Workman’s Friend

1531 Central Ave.; www.theworkmansfriend.com.

The newest destination on the scene, this charming Irish-inspired spot on Central Avenue has become a fast favorite for the Plaza Midwood nightlife set. It just opened in June, but the folks behind it have long been known for their pub prowess as the owners of popular spots like Dandelion Market and Tyber Creek. A lively interior features dark woods and a long bar, while a patio beckons to the back of the space. Named for a pint of Guinness (the workman’s friend), the bar also serves creative cocktails, American and European beers, and Irish fare with a modern twist.

The Common Market

1515 S. Tryon St. and 2007 Commonwealth Ave.; www.commonmarketisgood.com.

Both locations of this eccentric neighborhood grocery-meets-bar are ideal for settling in for a drink and conversation – and occasionally live music. But it’s the tree-shaded patio at the South End location that lands it on this list. Stop in on Wednesday evenings for wine tastings ($5 for a flight) and on Thursdays for free beer tastings. From a creative craft beer selection to amusing gag gifts, the wares here set the scene for one of the most quirky and beloved bars in town.

5Church

127 N. Tryon St. #8; www.5church.com.

Don your most on-trend apparel because at this uptown bar, it’s the see-and-be-seen set indulging beneath this swanky spot’s feather chandeliers most evenings. And if you’re looking for the place to spot a local pro athlete or a visiting celeb, this is it. While you star stalk, plan on enjoying at least one of the creative cocktails, like the Rosemary Gin Fizz made with Hendrick’s gin, egg whites and rosemary simple syrup, or the New Fashioned, a twist on the classic with a crushed mixed nuts rim.

Heist Brewery

2909 N. Davidson St. #200; www.heistbrewery.com.

It’s a brewery with one of the best cocktail bars in the city. How can you go wrong with this choice? You can’t. From crowds catching the game on one of its big screens and enjoying its made-on-site brews to groups imbibing one of mixologist Stefan Huebner’s famed cocktails, the scene here is mixed and often boisterous. For a more laid-back drink, snag a seat on the patio and enjoy one of the tasty small plates alongside your boozy beverage.

Selwyn Pub

Consider yourself warned: This bar can at times feel a little like an adult fraternity party. There are a lot of pastels and khaki, and a few more bros than you might prefer. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a better deck for drinking in town. Couches, bars and tables are throughout the tree-shaded area where you’ll also find large screen TVs for catching the game. And, of course, there are plenty of local beers and strong mixed drinks for sipping while you mingle. When the weather is right, it’s an irresistible atmosphere.

Twenty-Two

1500 Central Ave.; www.facebook.com/twenty-two.

An art gallery might not be your first inclination when it comes to planning your drinking destination. But pull up a seat at this bar and you’re likely to change your tune. The gallery walls boast an ever-rotating selection of work from talented artists – often of the edgier variety. And the bar offers an impressive craft beer and wine selection, perfect for enjoying while you peruse the one-room gallery.

Sarah is executive editor of the Observer’s magazine division.

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