A Perfect Weekend in Charlotte, NC If You Love Craft Beer & Being Active
Nov 05, 2019
If you're new around here, you might not know that Work For Your Beer was actually founded in Charlotte, NC back in December 2016 by co-founders Mel Fox and Alicia Valenski (aka, yours truly!).
Mel and I spent four glorious years living in Charlotte together before my husband and I moved to Richmond, VA. And during that time frame, we became very familiar with THE absolute best things to eat, drink, and do in the Queen City.
So now, we'd like to share that knowledge with you! Whether you've just moved to Charlotte, you're planning a weekend trip there, or you're a long-time resident just looking for some fresh new spots to check out, you're in the right place.
WHERE TO EAT
My husband is a staunch New Yorker, and he is incredibly picky about the bagels he'll consume when he's not at home on Long Island — but the steamed bagels at Owen's pass his test! He likes to order his as a sandwich (a classic bacon, egg, and cheese) but I prefer just a schmear of plain cream cheese on an Everything bagel. Yum.
This cozy spot in the Elizabeth neighborhood has a little something for everyone. You can choose from freshly baked pastries, hot meals like breakfast tacos or a morning scramble, and all sorts of caffeinated beverages and juices. Walk up, order what sounds good to you, grab a table, and enjoy a leisurely morning.
One of Charlotte's classic breakfast spots for a reason, Zada Jane's offers traditional breakfast items (like eggs and toast your way, a variety of breakfast meats, French toast, and the like) as well as their own wildly popular creations like the Bunny Rancheros and Booker T's Eastside Hasher.
Not sure what you're hungry for? Then this is the spot for you, my friend. Choose from sushi, burgers, pizza, pasta, soup, sandwiches, crepes, acai bowls, freshly pressed juices... All kinds of options await at this Uptown food hall. Don't forget to swing by Tank's Tap for a beer or Assorted Table for wine while you're there — or swing by Not Just Coffee for a little pick-me-up.
The beauty of Sabor Latin Street Grill (aside from their insanely delicious food and low prices) is that there are locations all over the city. So whether you're in Elizabeth, NoDa, SouthPark, or basically any other part of town, you can find a Sabor near you and scarf down some delicious arepas, empanadas, tacos, nachos, and more. Mmm. Delicioso.
What do you get when you combine brioche buns from a nearby Charlotte bakery, burgers from the highest quality Black Angus in the region, and unique sides and toppings from local farms and purveyros? Some of the best burgers in the Queen City, that's what. Chef Joseph Huang is a culinary genius.
If someone asked me the one place they HAD to eat while they were in Charlotte, this NoDa eatery would be the answer. Expect family-style, Carolina-inspired cuisine like Grandma used to make (like crispy fried chicken, sweet potato dumplings, kale grits, and more) and an ever-changing list of craft apothecary cocktails (the punch bowls are second to none). Pro tip: snag a place in line on Yelp to avoid a wait when you arrive.
The tapas at this chic second-story Plaza Midwood spot are the stuff of legends. Local favorites include the Dirty South Nachos (fried chicken skin ‘chips’ with a pimento cheese fondue and jalapeño pickled okra) and the Asian Glazed Pork Belly Tacos (on flour tortillas with watermelon salsa). You can't go wrong with the sushi rolls or the skewers on the menu, either.
This Korean-Southern fusion restaurant is smack dab in the heart of South End, just blocks from some of the area's best breweries. One of the top menu items here? The chicken wings — they're massive, each one even bigger than your fist. Pair them with pulled pork, bao buns, collard greens, and ramen mac and cheese. If you're still hungry, there's plenty more where that came from.
Ice cream lovers, this one's for you. This local, Charlotte-based ice cream shop offers 30+ homemade flavors in three spots: Plaza Midwood, South End, and nearby Mooresville. A few of our favorite flavors: Krazy Kake, Cookie Monster, and Strawberry Cheesecake. If you happen to visit in the fall, be sure to give Not Your Mama's Pumpkin Pie a try!
For just about every other dessert under the sun, this French bakery (with locations Uptown, in NoDa, on Park Road, and in nearby Fort Mill) is your best bet. They're known for their macarons, salted caramel brownies, eclairs, and tarts — and that's just the beginning.
Two words: alcoholic cupcakes. These boozy handcrafted desserts can be found in Plaza Midwood and include flavors like Lemon Drop Shot (citrus vodka soaked lemon cupcake topped with lemon frosting & lemon sawdust), Margarita (tequila soaked lime cupcake, lime-tequila-Triple Sec frosting with a lime-salt-sugar rim), Sweet BJ (Sweet Baby Jesus chocolate-peanut butter porter cupcake topped with vodka-peanut butter frosting and vodka soaked peanuts), and more.
WHERE TO DRINK
IN SOUTH END:
Easy-drinking beers aren't the only thing you'll find at this South End-born brewery. Sycamore also crafts Wild Blossom cider (a crisp, gluten-free alternative) with which they make various flavors of "Frosé" (pictured above). They've also got several kinds of wine available, as well as kombucha if you're looking for something non-alcoholic to sip.
Known for its gluten-reduced beers, this urban farmhouse brewery has two locations: the O.G. in South End and "The Chamber" in NoDa. You'll find a taproom at both locations, of course — but you can find a Biergarten at the South End location only, and you can take advantage of the rooftop patio at the NoDa location alone.
If you're searching for the most unique and "out there" brews in the city, a stop at Unknown Brewing in South End is a must. Be sure to try their well-known year-round brews like Hospitalitea (a "Southern amber" brewed with black tea leaves and sweet orange blossom honey) and Scratch'n'Sniff (an aromatic IPA made with 7 different hop additions), and keep an eye out for limited release beers like Bright Ass Tank Tops (a barrel aged key lime gose) and Rye Felicia (an open-fermented Bret IPA brewed with haze juice hops).
This award-winning Charlotte microbrewery opened in 2011, and they've been producing unique small-batch brews, locally beloved year-round favorites like Hop Drop N' Roll (an American IPA) and Jam Session (an American pale ale), seasonal must-haves like NoDajito (a witbier brewed with mint and lime) and Gordgeous (a pumpkin ale crafted with more than 50 lbs. of pumpkin puree and 42 lbs. of brown sugar). NoDa also brews Brizo Seltzer, a new hard seltzer available in ginger lime and raspberry lemon.
This NoDa neighborhood brewery is what Instagrams are made of. The exposed brick taproom is bright and airy, the ceiling is dripping with plants, and the cozy leather couches are begging you to cozy up with one of their many unique brews. Divine Barrel is known for its wild and sour ales, but they've also got some impressive IPAs and complex porters that aren't to be missed.
Seasonal brews crafted with locally sourced ingredients, a bright and cozy taproom, and Southern hospitality — that's what you can expect when you visit this NoDa-adjacent brewery. Expect to try something out-of-the-ordinary, like a sourdough IPA, a juniper wild ale, or a foraged pine pale ale.
IN PLAZA MIDWOOD:
While the original Legion Brewing location is in Plaza Midwood, you can now also find "friends and beer" (their motto!) in SouthPark and soon in FreeMoreWest. Be sure to try popular brews like Juicy Jay IPA and Carolina Sparkle Party Berliner Weisse, and grab a giant pretzel with mustard and beer cheese to pair with your brew of choice.
Spontaneously fermneted wild ales and hop-forward IPAs are the specialties at Resident Culture, a funky Plaza Midwood brewery with local artwork adorning the walls and ample outdoor space for pups and kiddos to run and play.
While this brewery is technically based in Asheville, NC, their Belmont neighborhood taproom has become a crucial component of the craft beer scene in Charlotte since openings its doors in 2017. While you might know them for popularly distributed beers like White Zombie and Brown Bear, Catawba Brewing Co. is also known for crafting unique small batch and limited release beers on a weekly basis. Stop by on Thursdays to check out each week's new release!
The interior of this Dilworth neighborhood wine bar is chic and modern, but the outdoor patio is where you really want to be. The greenery, the string lights, the bubbling of the koi pond — it's the perfect environment in which to enjoy one of the many bottles or glasses of wine available here.
In addition to a wine bar and wine shop, you'll also find a scratch-made kitchen at each Foxcroft Wine Co. location in Charlotte (in SouthPark, Dilworth, and Waverly). Whether you go for white, red, or rosé, I recommend pairing it with "Our Famous Doughnuts," Foxcroft's own house-made, sugar-dusted doughnuts with chocolate and salted caramel dipping sauces. I'm drooling just thinking about them.
If you're looking for a wine bar without pretention, then this casual, approachable spot in Plaza Midwood is for you. The Bohemian is a laidback wine bar offering more than 120 bottles of wine for sale, a dozen by the glass, and a variety of small plates to pair with those wines.The eclectic interior is bright, colorful, and playful — you'll feel welcome from the moment you step through the door.
FOR CIDERS & MEADS:
Located in the new Lower South End or "LoSo" beverage district, Red Clay Ciderworks was Charlotte's first cidery. It offers distinctly dry small batch hard ciders using freshly pressed juices from North Carolina apples — you can find them in cans at grocery stores or bottle shops throughout the city, or in their cozy industrial chic taproom just past the Scaleybark light rail station.
Just a few blocks south of Red Clay Ciderworks on Southside Drive, you'll find GoodRoad. In addition to the hard cider you'd expect them to offer, GoodRoad also crafts and sells mead. It's tough to choose between cider and mead, so if you're intrigued by more than one item on the menu, I suggest opting for a flight — you'll get to taste a wide variety of the flavors and products GoodRoad has to offer that way!
Crafted by award-winning mixologist Amanda Britton, the cocktail list at this South End restaurant-slash-bar includes twists on classic drinks like the "south mint 75," a play on the typical French 75 (made with Sutler's gin, lemongrass, mint, lemon, and bubbles), as well as totally unique concoctions like the "cooling effect" (which uses lunazul reposado tequila, arbol and guajillo peppers, aloe, agave, and lime).
This speakeasy-style lounge on Park Road is known for its rare bourbon and whisky collections, farm-to-table small plates to share, and incredibly crafted classic cocktails from the mind of the renowned Stefan Huebner. Try the Strawberry Fizz (Reyka vodka, Sutler’s gin, egg white, strawberry puree, and lime) or The Hot Box (Knob Creek personal selection bourbon, Islay scotch, sweet vermouth, hellfire bitters, and pecan smoke).
New to the NoDa neighborhood, this cozy cocktail bar offers no set drink menu. Instead, customers are encouraged to tell the bartenders what kind of flavor experience they're looking for and what base alcohol they'd prefer — and from their, the mixologists behind the bar will craft a custom concoction to fit their mood and desires. Pop in and see what they make for you! Chances are, it will be totally different from what everyone else at the bar is drinking.
WHAT TO DO
Despite what the name might make you think, the Whitewater Center offers way more than just an olympic-standard whitewater rafting experience. You can also partake in zip lining, high ropes courses, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, trail running, mountain biking, and so much more in this 1,300-acre outdoor haven located on the Catawba River.
At 10 AM every Saturday, Lenny Boy Brewing Co. offers an all-levels community yoga class led by a rotating list of Charlotte-area yoga instructors. Just $5 gets you the 1-hour flow itself and a 6 oz. taster of non-alcoholic Lenny Boy kombucha once you're done. Stick around to grab a beer, mimosa, or cold brew coffee after you're done as you kick off your weekend!
Get some miles in with NoDa Run Club every Sunday at 12 PM at NoDa Brewing Company. It's totally free to participate, and you'll have 1-, 3-, and 5-mile routes to choose from (with a water stop at mile 2!).
Apparel and accessories.
Looking for something Charlotte-specific to bring home as a souvenir (or if you just moved here, to show off your Charlotte pride)? You can find apparel and accessories bursting with Queen City pride from Glory Days Apparel, CLT Boutique, and Girl Tribe Co.
Gifts and home goods.
Shop trendy, chic home decor (tea towels, candles, glassware, planters, and more) at Moxie Mercantile in Plaza Midwood. For something more on the eclectic side, visit Pura Vida Worldly Art in NoDa to shop hand-painted dinnerware, hand-embroidered textiles, one-of-a-kind decorative acessories, and more.
Books and paper goods.
Paper Skyscraper is an independent local book shop in Dilworth offering, in their words, "books, gifts, cards, and pure fun." Or if you're strictly seeking reading materials, you can stop by Park Road Books (on Park Road, naturally), self-proclaimed as "Charlotte's favorite book store since 1977."
EXPLORE THE LOCAL ARTS SCENE:
Street art appreciation tours.
Check out all of the murals painted by insanely talented local artists throughout the city — most notably in NoDa (look outside of Salud Beer Shop, Ruby's Custom, and Smelly Cat Coffeehouse) and in Plaza Midwood (head to Two Scoops Creamery, Soul Gastrolounge, and The Rabbit Hole).
Go museum hopping.
Visit the Levine Center for the Arts, a several-block radius Uptown which includes the Mint Museum Uptown, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture, and the Knight Theater.
Cheers to beer travels, near and far!
We're forever planning our upcoming adventures — always to somewhere with an awesome craft beer scene!
Any suggestions for our next trip? Shoot us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any ideas, and be sure to tag us at @workforyourbeer if you swing by any of these spots during your next visit to CLT.