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Charlotte’s Southern Charm

Posted on Apr 28, 2014 by in Culture, Eat & Drink, Travel | 2 comments

 

Highway into the heart of Charlotte. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Highway into the heart of Charlotte. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

Hello, readers! Apologies for the lack of updates. I’ve been doing a good amount of traveling recently and thus have been on the road. However, I’m back from my trip to Charlotte, NC and Japan, where I had a blast! I’ll start things off with some of the highlights from Charlotte.

The first thing I noticed about Charlotte was the sun! It was out and in full force, 70-something degrees, whereas back home in New York it’s been a strange “wintry” spring, with the occasional snowfall.

Another thing that stood out to me was southern hospitality. Everywhere we went in the Charlotte area, we encountered friendly folks beaming with smiles. Even the staff at convenience stores and local marts were super congenial and were more than willing to give you directions or chat you up about almost topic. (I’m not kidding: the pizza delivery guy who picked up the phone at 2am was having a full-blown conversation with my husband about weddings and whatnot.) I’m not sure what makes them this way, but I want more of it in my life! 😛

 

Trolley to Alexander Homestead. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Trolley to Alexander Homestead. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

My husband was the best man at his best friend from high school’s wedding. It was really sweet and lovely, with a horse-drawn carriage to bring the bride and her father round the corner (though they dismounted to do the bridal walk). A trolley took the wedding party, family and friends to the venue, which was at Alexander Homestead Inn and Dairy Barn, hailed as “Charlotte’s only all-inclusive Queen Anne Victorian historic wedding venue.”

 

Alexander Homestead Inn & Dairy Barn. Lawn with gazebo. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Alexander Homestead Inn & Dairy Barn. Lawn with gazebo. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

The ceremony was held outdoors on a green lawn at a gazebo with white drapes that surrounded the couple as they said their vows. The reception followed at a rustic barn on the grounds.

 

Alexander Homestead porch chairs. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Alexander Homestead porch chairs. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

I could see an endearing elderly couple seated on these porch chairs, sipping homemade old-fashioned lemonade to pass the time, and growing old together.

 

FireWater. Creme Brulee dessert. Photo by Sarah Tung.

FireWater. Creme Brulee dessert. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

The wedding rehearsal dinner was at FireWater, an eclectic New American restaurant and bar with generous portions. I wish the crème brulee had spent more time under the torch to give it that really smoky, sweet and crispy edge to the caramel. The steak and salmon entrees were tasty.

 

Carowinds rollercoaster rides.

Carowinds rollercoaster rides.

 

R and I hit up Carowinds amusement park on a whim after he convinced me that it would be fun. He was right – although the rides weren’t quite Six Flags level, they were thrilling, and I felt like a kid again throwing my hands up in the air and screaming. 😛

 

Carowinds Carolina Boardwalk: "Wish you were here." Me and my frog stuffed animal prize from one of the carnival games.

Carowinds Carolina Boardwalk: “Wish you were here.” Me and my frog stuffed animal prize from one of the carnival games.

 

We played some carnival games and won a frog stuffed animal that we named “Neko the Gecko.” (Neko means “cat” in Japanese. Yes, he’s a frog named “cat.” I didn’t say it made sense to everyone else, haha.)

 

Carowinds. Standing on the border dividing North and South Carolina.

Carowinds. Standing on the border dividing North and South Carolina.

 

I stood on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina! A bunch of jumpy young boys were straddling the great divide, their legs spread so wide I thought they would rip their pants. I didn’t really understand why they were posing in such a strange fashion until I looked closer at the sign above them. Oh, right.

 

Event flyers plastered to a signpost in NoDa. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Event flyers plastered to a signpost in NoDa. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

NoDa (“south of North Davidson”) is known as an artsy district in Charlotte. You can find a variety of art, crafts and live music here.

 

Smelly Cat Coffee. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Smelly Cat Coffee. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

At Smelly Cat Coffee, I tried a dirty chai latte with almond milk since online reviews praised the chai latte with almond milk. It tasted a little weird to me, maybe because the shot of espresso didn’t mix well with the almond milk, giving it a burnt, bitter and sweet flavor that my tongue couldn’t appreciate. If I were to go back, I’d opt for a coffee or espresso instead. R said that the name of the coffeehouse reminded him of Phoebe from Friends’ “Smelly Cat” song (remember that?).

 

Soul Gastrolounge. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Soul Gastrolounge. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

Soul Gastrolounge is a hip spot for cocktails, sushi and global small plates. The interior resembles a speakeasy with dark chairs and low tables fit for a library, booths, retro bar stools and an extensive spirits selection behind glass cabinet doors. I happened to have a front-row seat of the in-house DJ who played everything from Little Dragon to jazz and world music.

 

Soul Gastrolounge. Spanakopita. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Soul Gastrolounge. Spanakopita. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

The Spanakopita was filled with hot spinach and feta cheese oozing inside, complemented by the flaky phyllo dough on the outside.

 

Soul Gastrolounge. Sticky Veal Shortribs. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Soul Gastrolounge. Ahi Tuna. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

The sesame and soy-drizzled Ahi Tuna was delectable. We had a couple more dishes and washed it all down with a caipirinha and cucumber-infused water, which was on-point.

 

The Last Word used bookstore. Photo by Sarah Tung.

The Last Word used bookstore. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

I’m glad I found The Last Word, a well-stocked second-hand bookstore. Though I do own a Kindle now, I love immersing myself in a used book hunt! There’s nothing like hungrily perusing the shelves for a good read. I wasn’t disappointed in the selection. Plus, this place had old-school videogames, videos, CDs and even coffee (but you had to ring the bell for service).

 

Cabo Fish Taco. Beer Battered White Fish Taco with special white cilantro sauce, Baja Rice, beans and corn. Photo by Sarah Tung.

Cabo Fish Taco. Beer Battered White Fish Taco with special white cilantro sauce, Baja Rice, beans and corn. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

We met up with the newlyweds before their honeymoon at Cabo Fish Taco for delicious guacamole and chips, ahi tuna and white fish tacos.

 

The Evening Muse Open Mic Performer. Photo by Sarah Tung.

The Evening Muse Open Mic Performer. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

After dinner, we checked out The Evening Muse for their Monday open mic, with acts ranging from a high school trio that channeled Weezer and Green Day to a clean-cut blond dude with a guitar who blew us away with his gravelly, raspy voice. Definitely not what I imagined he’d sound like! I noticed that the open mic acts were more amateur and less polished than the ones I’d find in New York City or Boston, but perhaps that’s not a fair comparison.

 

The Evening Muse. Shivering Timbers folk band. Photo by Sarah Tung.

The Evening Muse. Shivering Timbers folk band. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

The featured band was Shivering Timbers, a husband-and-wife folk band from Akron, Oh. For the longest time we all thought the cute little girl playing percussion and tambourine on stage was a boy because of her short hair and androgynous looks – turns out she is the Shivering Timbers’ daughter, Susie. Whoops. Susie was really good at keeping a beat and knowing which cowbell to ding at the right time. 🙂 The band had a good vibe. Susie’s mama plays bass! How sweet is that?

 

$4.99 Breakfast at IHOP. Photo by Sarah Tung.

$4.99 Breakfast at IHOP. Photo by Sarah Tung.

 

One of our last meals in Charlotte was at…IHOP! Pancakes, get in my belly! I ordered the $4.99 Breakfast that includes 2 Eggs, 2 Buttermilk Pancakes, hash browns and 2 Crispy Bacon Strips or 2 Pork Sausage Links. This offer is only available Monday through Friday.

Alright, this post has already gone longer than I intended. Thank you for reading!

Has anyone else been to Charlotte or down south? What were the most memorable attractions for you?

 

2 Comments

  1. Even the 7-11 guy had a friendly conversation with us

    • Yup! He guessed (correctly) that we were going to Carowinds. 🙂

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