Queen City Cool
First came the mills. Once the industry declined, crime filled in the gaps for a while—and then the artists moved in. Next, as these stories often go, came the sleek lofts and breweries. And yet for all the inevitability of its trajectory, surprises await around every corner of Charlotte’s quirkiest neighborhood, NoDa (short for North Davidson, its everyone’s-welcome main street). This onetime textile powerhouse now hums on Charlotte’s latest commodity, craft beer, at a handful of breweries and bars inside former mills, while a kaleidoscope of local art adorns nearly every surface, inside and out, including one of the city’s newest light rail stations.
Surprises await around every corner of Charlotte’s quirkiest neighborhood.
EAT + DRINK
Grab a honey-glazed doughnut from the Reigning Doughnuts window to fuel an exploratory stroll, or take a seat under the locally hand-spun copper lights at Haberdish, which does brisk brunch business with biscuit sandwiches, smoked trout deviled eggs, and revelatory livermush toast. Don’t miss the hushpuppies dipped in sweet tea butter—or the inlaid tile piece by NoDa “godfather” and artist Paul Sires. No matter the hour, head mixologist Colleen Hughes serves up one of Charlotte’s most alluring cocktail menus (the hibiscus honey punch is a hit). Two doors down and owned by the same ambitious restaurateur, Crêpe Cellar Kitchen and Pub brings Continental bistro fare to NoDa—mussels, steak and frites, plus savory and sweet crepes. The next block belongs to taco worship, from Baja bites at Cabo Fish Taco to Dominican-inspired street snacks at Sabor Latin Grill—and half a month’s worth of margaritas between the two. But beer is what really gets the locals buzzing; this corner of Charlotte is home to several of the city’s two-dozen-and-counting breweries. Start with pioneers NoDa Brewing Company and Heist Brewery—next door to Benny Pennello’s and its infamous 28-inch pizzas.
On the neighborhood’s edge, standout Free Range Brewing pours the flagship Carolina Cream Ale and an always evolving tap list of such innovations as a tart IPA brewed with local sourdough starter and sea salt from the Outer Banks. Need a break from the bustle? Order a local Lenny Boy kombucha at the NoDa Company Store, a mill house turned unofficial neighborhood living room (with the history of the neighborhood chronicled in murals on its facade). Or retreat to Trade and Lore Coffee, a second-floor oasis run in collaboration with Salud Cerveceria, a nano brewpub that grew out of a beer shop downstairs. Nurse a nitro coffee or a crisp Salud saison made onsite in the airy space’s pillow-piled window nook. Downstairs at Salud Beer Shop, the shelves and coolers are lined with a carefully selected mix of hyper-local and international beer and cider.
March through December, Saturday mornings bring a small but diverse farmers market to the lot behind NoDa Company Store. At Ruby’s Gift, find local honey alongside Charlotte street scenes painted by longtime NoDa artist David French and hand-screened prints. Browse the brightly painted stock of dinnerware, weavings, and other multicultural wares at Pura Vida Worldly Art. To really explore the neighborhood, join a guided walking tour by FEAST, which spotlights locals passionate about the culture of the area. After dark, catch a show at the intimate Evening Muse or larger Neighborhood Theatre, both staples of Charlotte’s live music scene.