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A Night in Charlotte: Jack Beagles

The North Davidson area of Charlotte has been appealing to me a lot lately.  It’s a very walkable area, and much more laid back than Uptown or Southend.  During my last bar hop through the area I found a handful of great places that fringed into the “dive bar” territory.  My favorite of these is Jack Beagles.

After meeting up with my friends and fueling up on beer at Growlers for a half hour, we made our way around the city.  Jack Beagles is a block or so farther down North Davidson on the opposite side of the street.  From the front of the building it’s hard to see much, and first glance makes you think it’s your average dive bar.  While JB has a lot of that grungy dive-bar charm, it has a lot more in store for its customers than your average bar.  The front of the bar has a kitchen lining the left side.  It’s a touch noisy and has a bustling clattering character to it that fits what you’d be looking for if you walked in the front door.  It was past dinner for me, but so many people were sitting and eating I’d be up for trying the food if I get there earlier next time.

We made our way to the back, which is my favorite part of the bar.  The back half of the bar is outdoors and has a very large patio area walled in from the neighboring buildings.  Their bar in the back had some very good deals on craft beer, which was even more surprising as it was a Saturday night.  On the very back wall of the property, JB has a large stage set up for live music and performance, making it a great place to meet up with friends and check out the local music scene.  That Saturday we were treated to a more unique performance of a local rap artist performing live.  This was my first local rap performance I’ve ever been to, but for what it’s worth I thought it was fantastic.  He reminded me of some of the classic rap artists from the mid to late 90’s in his styling and composition.  It was a great sound to explore over a great beer.  I also appreciated that it wasn’t overwhelmingly loud.  Maybe it’s because it was outside, but we were all able to still converse and not be shouting ourselves into an aneurism.

Lastly, the crowd was very open and friendly.  At some point in the night, someone busted out a bunch of hula hoops and half the back bar was taking turns trying to use them properly.  To be honest, outside of one girl in a red top, most people failed hilariously.   It all stayed in good fun, and I got to meet a good handful of new people.

I would definitely recommend Jack Beagles as a Noda location to hit up and meet people at.

 

MB

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A Night in Charlotte: Growler’s Pour House

The North Davidson area is probably one of the biggest hang-out/nightlife areas in Charlotte.  It’s also one of the ones farthest away from my house.  North Davidson (Noda) is a strip of bars, restaurants, and live-music venues that have a very indy feel.  Each bar and restaurant has its own unique personality, while still blending together into a very casual scene where you can walk around, drink copius amounts of beer, and catch some good performances.

One of the first places I became familiar with in Noda was Growler’s Pour House.  It’s one of the first bars you will see as you drive into the area on North Davidson from Charlotte (it’s on the right, corner lot).  There’s free street parking, but there are numerous parking lots behind the main street that generally run $5 and are worth it for avoiding the hassle of finding a spot and walking.

Like most bars in Noda, Growlers is ground floor.  I got there past the dinner hour, so unfortunately I did not sample their food.  Their dining tables were always crowded and I usually take that as a good sign that the food is worth trying out.  I will update this post in the future on what I find out about it.

The inside of Growlers is relatively small.  The majority of the floor is taken up by dining tables.  A fully stocked bar lines the right wall, and there is casual bar-seating along one of the two front windows.  It’s size makes it fill up to standing-room only very quickly.  The kitchen is somewhat open to the dining area, and the noise easily drifts out into the bar and eating area.  This actually is a good thing, as it adds to the atmosphere of an energetic yet casual beer bar.  I should clarify, Growlers does have a fully stocked bar, but I just can’t see myself drinking anything but a cold pint of craft beer (or a high-end hard cider, which I will get to later).

I’m going to have to admit to two fails right now.  I drank an absolutely exquisite brown ale and a tall bottle of hard cider that were both a great way to start the night in Noda.  Unfortunately because they tapped-out the keg I did not get to verify what type of beer I had tried before moving onto the cider…. and after drinking 3 not-so-small glasses of 6% organic hard cider, I forgot to take a picture of the bottle, because 4 drinks at your first hang-out location is no way to prepare for a blog posting.  When I get there next I will verify this awesome cider.  It is the one of the best I have ever drank, on par with my homemade hard-cider that I am very proud of.

Growlers has some great bartenders and servers who were always immediately available whether we wanted another round or needed to close out.  The crowd is fantastic, casual, and pretty friendly.  We struck up a few conversations with other people watching the hockey game and talked about previous games.  I learned a great bit about what else to do in the area from a few other people who weren’t quite as new to the area as me (Charlotte ties with Florida for the number of immigrants to the area apparently).

Overall, I don’t think you can go wrong with Growlers.  It has a very rough-edged Irish Pub feel, but in a contemporary way that welcomes the young professional crowd.  They focus on craft beer and always have an intriguing selection to keep you interested in what you’re drinking.  If you’re on a tight budget, the $2 PBRs don’t hurt either.

MB

 

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A Night in Charlotte: World of Beer

You know, I’m not normally a fan of chain restaurants, bars or clubs.  I’ve worked at my fair share of them growing up and through college, and I’m willing to be a customer at one when the group decides where they want to go.  I guess I believe that if you want to get the flavor of a city and truly understand it, you don’t go to a place that exists in every other city you’ve come across.  Frankly, I don’t expect a tremendous cultural difference between an Applebee’s in Tampa or Providence.

On a similar note, I was expecting to keep this blog focused on the smaller venues that embrace the culture and atmosphere of Charlotte.  I just didn’t see the point in telling everybody about a venue here in Charlotte that you can find just about anywhere else in the country.

My recent experiences at World of Beer have given me some great reasons to make an exception to this policy.   I’m very glad to have found WoB in Southend because I’ve been looking for a place like this since I’ve moved to Charlotte and it took me nearly four months to find it.  After my little excursion to All American Pub a little while back, we decided to finish the night off at World of Beer in Southend Charlotte.  From AAP it’s just a hop over the light-rail tracks and on the corner of the next block.  It was a short walk and it was nice to be out in the cool southern night for a few minutes to refresh before the night wound down.

WoB had a very chill atmosphere.  It was definitely a smaller crowd for a weekend night, but the live music performer was keeping the music very relaxing as he played an acoustic guitar.  The crowd was definitely more chill than AAP, but that’s nice when you want to actually hear each other and have a good conversation.

WoB being a chain, I would hope I don’t have to elaborate on what they offer as a bar.  One thing I was thrilled about is that they had one of my favorite beers from California, which I had first found in Florida:  Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat.  It’s one of the few flavored beers I like, because it tastes more like a real-fruit infusion as opposed to the candy-flavors that a lot of other fruity-beers have.  It has a very tropical feel, but I think it blends well with a chill atmosphere like WoB and the laid-back southern city-life mentality in this area.

If  you’re looking for a place where you can hear all of your friends where you can chill out as opposed to party-out, I definitely recommend World of Beer here.  It captures a laid-back facet of night-life I haven’t gotten to enjoy since I was in Florida, and I will definitely be back there to enjoy it again.

 

-MB

 

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A Night in Charlotte: All American Pub

This last weekend I decided I needed a break from the uptown scene.  Some friends and I decided to explore a new area of Charlotte and agreed on a bar we’d heard a great deal about in Southend:  All American Pub

We started the night a little bit earlier in order to sample their dinner menu.  Their menu sells a standard variety of bar food, but with several innovative twists thrown in that I found very refreshing.  I ordered a bacon cheese burger, their “southwestern burger”  which had a little extra flair added with a healthy scoop of guacamole thrown on under the bun.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the combination of avocado and spice worked very nicely with the burger.  I would definitely recommend it again, and the rest of my friends seemed to enjoy their meals just as much.  

The servers and waitstaff were all very polite.  All American Pub is known as the Charlotte FSU hangout, and I decided to wear some school spirit.  Both hostesses were polite enough to provide some FSU support and gave me some good info on the football season atmosphere.  I will definitely be back here for next season’s football games.  On a related note, there are plenty of big TVs to watch sporting events on.

While AAP has a fully stocked liquor bar, and a large selection of your standard domestic and import beers, i was glad to see that AAB also carried a decent selection of craft beer on their menu.  I tried several local beers from Old Mecklenburg Brewery that were very unique and paired well with a southwest burger.  My friend who fancies himself “a girl-drink-drunk” said the mixers were also very good as well.  

As the dinner hour ends, AAP starts pulling up the chairs and tables through part of the restaurant to make room for a dance floor.  They do slowly bring up the volume of the music to push out the last of the dinner stragglers and get the nightlife started.  I don’t fault them on this, and would only warn any dinner customers to get there early enough to avoid this happening mid-dessert.  If memory serves, this happened after 9:30pm, so you have plenty of time.  

The nightlife at AAP is a great fun atmosphere.  They started the night with an upbeat variety of pop and R&B music that’s easy for anybody from the ages of 21 to 40 to recognize and dance to.  The dance floor is very big, and the crowd tends to end up on the young side of young-professional.  I really enjoyed meeting people here and people watching.  When you are getting ready, I would say aim for the dressy side of casual for AAP’s atmosphere, especially if you want to meet new people.  

The only frustration I had was that once AAP started moving tables off the dance floor, they were still very rigid at assigning seating in the rest of the building and outside on the patio.  This ended up causing us complications trying to move from a table on the dance floor to one on the patio so we could continue drinking and socializing.  I would recommend that if you’re planning on staying through this transition you start with a table that isn’t on the dance floor, either closer to the bar or out on the patio.  This will avoid the mess of having to get back in line at the front door for another table half way through the evening.  

These last few things may have added a few bumps to my AAP experience, but overall the food, drinks, and music were all superb.  I am excited to find an FSU hangout here in Charlotte and I am now even more excited about football season.  The atmosphere seems more my style, dressy and out for fun, but a touch more laid back than your standard Uptown scene.  

Oh, and one last note for future All American Pub customers.  There is parking available behind the pub, but you have to enter the parking lot from the opposite end of the block.  Circle the block and keep a look out for the signs on where to turn in.  Several of my friends were unaware of this and parked a short hike away when they didn’t have to.  

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did

 

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A Night in Charlotte: Howl at the Moon

So I’ve been sitting on this post for the last couple weeks trying to figure out everything I wanted to say.  To summarize it best, since moving here, Howl at the Moon has become one of my favorite default hangouts in downtown (Uptown) Charlotte.  

For those not familiar with Charlotte, the city decided to confuse everybody by naming their downtown area “Uptown”.  I’m new here, don’t ask me why.  

Anyways, in Uptown, there is a huge complex of restaurants and nightlife venues called “The Epicentre”.  I might have to save a separate review for The Epicentre as a whole, but in short I wouldn’t consider it my first go-to location for nightlife.  This isn’t to say that The Epicentre isn’t a great location with tons of things to do.  From my personal perspective, The Epicentre feels like it has a lot of show, but doesn’t have a lot of soul.  Does that make sense?  

Well that would be the case, with the exception of Howl at the Moon.  HatM is on the third floor of Epicentre, directly above Whiskey River.  For those who don’t know, Howl at the Moon is a chain of bars specializing in live music, especially “dueling pianos”, and this location does not disappoint.  The bar is shaped like a thick crescent, with a stage front and center (with two grand pianos, obviously).  There are full bars in the back right and back left corners.  You enter on the right side of the building, and at center-back there is a small patio area with tables and chairs on what would be the sidewalk if this wasn’t three stories up.  

The house-band is rather incredible.  They take requests, and I have yet to hear them cover a song poorly.  They have several tipping games to bring in some well-deserved….tips.    Beyond the two grand pianos, HatM has all of the additional instruments to fill out a standard rock band, including bass drums, and guitars.The musicians are as good as these as with the pianos, and have been able to use their setup to cover some truly surprising songs.  This is however, the one part where I feel part of the “dueling pianos” experience gets lost.  I have been to a few non-chain dueling pianos, and one of the most exciting aspects for me was watching the two pianists cover a song on just their pianos, especially when it was NEVER meant to be played on a piano.  I’ve seen two pianists cover Eminem’s “Without Me” with nothing but their pianos, a mic, and cajones the size of grapefruits, and pull it off so well the crowd was going crazy.  Don’t get me wrong, the musicians here are very talented, It’s just that a small part of me feels that if I wanted to see a standard live cover band, I could go to any number of places.  Dueling pianos is all about THE PIANOS. Despite my personal opinion on this, these musicians absolutely define the venue as a great nightlife locale.  

If you start following this blog regularly, you’ll probably hear me complain about this a lot.  I truly hate going tp a bar and not being able to hear the person next to me talking because the music is so loud. It seems like many clubs/bars think that for the music to be properly appreciated, it has to be played AT THE LOUDEST VOLUME POSSIBLE!  HatM is only slightly better than average in this regard.  I had to speak very loudly to communicate, but it was at least possible.  One nice part of HatM is the outdoor area on the “sidewalk”  this allows you to still hear the music comfortably, and engage in the conversation you may have been struggling with inside.  

The last thing I will mention about HatM seems to be very open to hosting groups and events.  I have seen several happy hour groups enjoying their venue after work, and it is a great place to relax after a long day at work.  During the later hours, I have also noticed that there seems to be an inordinate number of bachelorette parties making their way through the venue.  I will leave it to the reader to decide if this is a good or bad thing.  To be fair on that last bit, I’m so new to Charlotte, I don’t know if the bachelorette party is strictly HatM, or if it has to do with Uptown/Charlotte in general.  I will keep you all in the loop as I know more. 

In general, Howl at the Moon has been one of my favorite venues to date.  It can be very chill, but also picks up nicely later in the evening.  It does have access to the rest of Epicentre, including late-night snackage like Moe’s and Five Guys.  

MB

 

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Charlotte Nightlife: Goodbye Dharma Lounge

So this last weekend I had my first, and obviously last excursion to Dharma Lounge in Uptown Charlotte. To be completely honest, no tears will be shed from the MB that it is closing down and I will be unable to return.

I should be fair and upfront in that Dharma lounge is not inherently a bad night club, it is simply a style of nightclub that I don’t connect with. There are probably many people who enjoy a place such as this… Though I probably wouldn’t connect with those people well either…

To start, Dharma lounge is well removed from the areas I normally frequent when heading Uptown (near Epicenter). It’s too close to warrant moving your car, but too far to be a comfortable walk. Your choices are either a 20+ minute hike, waiting for the light rail, or a $10 cab ride across town. We opted for the light rail.

Upon getting there we were greeted with a $20 cover charge for each guest. Now cover charges have always annoyed me. It’s like getting auto-tipped at restaurants. It says “Were guessing you’ll find our establishment to be crappy, so we’re going to skim you for $X before you can even see what the scene is like.” As a man, I’ve learned to live with cover charges. However, I still think $20 is excessive and pretentious, even for a closing party. This ties in with my next annoyance.

Being their last night, they were emptying the cooler and we’re out of nearly everything. I didn’t pay $20 to drink Mic Ultra and one overpriced Corona.

My last official complaint before I get to the good stuff was that the patio was unbearably smokey. I don’t normally mind a little cigarette smoke, but the minute I walked out there my eyes watered up. I didn’t even realize that many people still smoked in general. It made me think that ALL of Charlotte’s smokers turned up for this event. I’m not faulting Dharma Lounge for this, but it did make it difficult to get a breath of fresh air in the only part of the club where you could reasonably hear what your friend is saying

Now that that’s off my chest, let me highlight the good things. I absolutely loved the styling both inside and outside the club. It keeps with its namesake and has a very good far-eastern/new age motif. This gives the club a great character, and is likely very appealing to its clientele.

There is space to talk to your friends out on the patio if you can survive the smoke, and the dance floor is big enough to be comfortable for the crowd. The DJ was very good, but played an underground techno-dance music I don’t personally care for (it reminded me of vampire blood-rave music). I’m much more R&B and mainstream in my styling, but even I could tell the music was well done, even if it wasn’t for me.

I can’t say I’m torn up about seeing Dharma lounge go, but it wasn’t a bad place overall. It just appears to cater to a very specific crowd. A crowd that isn’t mine. A crowd ok with $20 covers and $6 Coronas. A crowd that smokes, and that buys too much clothing from Abercrombie and Fitch.

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