Take your taste buds on a trip around the world at Optimist Hall in Charlotte. Food vendors from nearly every variety occupy the stalls filling the food hall with tastes and treats from far and wide.
With a brightly hued aesthetic reminiscent of early 1900s India’s Irani Tea Houses, Botiwalla’s fare rivals its design in authenticity and creativity. Try the puris, flour-puffed crisps filled with a variety of vibrant flavors.
The Dumpling Lady, which started as a food truck before opening the first brick and mortar in Optimist Hall, is beloved for the intense and permeating flavor profiles from scallion pancakes to the sweet pork belly dumplings complete with house-made Sichuan chili-oil sauce. Enjoy a bao bun or a variety of ramen options. Don’t forget the fresh-cut fries with togarashi spice and sesame aioli at Bao & Broth, or experience the flavors of Southeast Asia at Xiao Bao with signature dish okonomiyaki, a Japanese cabbage pancake with egg and bacon pork candy, based on the chef’s experience farming in Japan.
Expertly crafted sushi and poke bowls grace the menu at Zukku where everything from simple california rolls to specialty rolls like the zukku roll with tempura shrimp, salmon, and crab are an exquisite experience.
If sandwiches are more your speed, the hamburger and cheese at Harriet’s Hamburgers hits the spot with house-made pickles, ribbon red onions, and their signature simple sauce on a buttery brioche bun. Boxcar Betty’s has mastered the chicken sandwich with offerings like the boxcar, topped with pimento cheese, peach slaw, house pickles, and spicy mayonnaise.
Grab velvety tomato soup and a mac melt, a grilled cheese sandwich layered with creamy macaroni and cheese, from Papi Queso—a food-truck-turned-storefront with a French style. Pair any of these delicious sandwich options with a Belgian-inspired craft beer from Fonta Flora Brewing, the hall’s artisan brewery that emphasizes seasonal flora with beer-garden style seating.
The unique taco menu at Velvet Taco covers a variety of flavor profiles with the Spicy Tikka Chicken with crispy chicken tenders, spicy tikka sauce, buttered cilantro basmati rice, raita crema, and Thai basil wrapped in a flour tortilla. El Thrifty Social serves specialties in a sit-down restaurant with a colorful patio. Braised brisket tacos with Mexican Coke glaze, mango-habanero salsa, and queso fresco or the traditional street torta with birra consommé toasted with jack cheese, slow-roasted brisket, onions, jalapeños, onions, and cilantro are perfect for upscale Mexican cuisine lovers.
A wood-fired oven drives the menu at Ava, an authentic Italian eatery featuring Neapolitan pizza including favorites like the margherita pizza and the mushroom pizza. Build your own bowl, or try expertly crafted creation Fan Favorite with chicken shawarma and turkish salad at Mezeh Mediterranean Grill, a unique twist on the classic mezze dining experience.
For dessert, Felix’s Empanadas features Argentina-inspired handmade dessert empanadas stuffed with fillings like Nutella or choose from Suarez Bakery’s display case filled with classic Cuban desserts like tres leche cake or Cuban staple guava pastelito.
From start to finish, Optimist Hall in Charlotte takes you around the world with meals, snacks, drinks, dessert, and more from this textile-mill-turned-food-hall on the outskirts of Uptown.
- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by Julia Miller