New Name, Old Place: Optimist Hall

This former mill was built in 1892 as Tompkins Hall, but just one block away from the Parkwood Station of the Light Rail, this redevelopment is being reborn as Optimist Hall. 

The project brings together an exciting collection of food hall, retail, restaurants and office space; made possible by the unique design and topography of the building. Optimist Hall is on a downward slope. It’s creating a wholly original landscape that allows for different levels and individual nooks for a variety of businesses. 

During the modernization construction, developers found a house under the parking lot, and thousands of spindle spools with thread still on them from the mill. The discovered spindles will be used as decor.

Duke Energy moves into the space soon, but check out the lineup opening March 1, 2019: 

The Dumpling Lady—the first brick-and-mortar location for the popular area food truck. 

 

Archer Paper Goods—the first North Carolina location of a popular Atlanta and Dallas paper goods store. 

 

Billy Sunday—Chicago-based cocktail lounge offering classic drinks, vintage spirits and new creations. 

 

Pet Wants—Featuring fresh, slow-cooked and natural ingredients for your pets. 

 

Bao + Broth Ramen + Bun Shop – An Asian-inspired food stall. 

 

Fonta Flora Brewery – Brewery and tasting room, featuring a large outdoor patio.

 

Aix Rotisserie – French Rotisserie from the owners of Aix En Provence.

 

Undercurrent Coffee – A full service coffee and espresso bar.

 

Honeysuckle Gelato –Handmade gelato, gelato sandwiches and sorbet.

 

Papi Queso – A “grilled cheese streatery” food truck opening it’s first brick-and-morter.  

 

AVA – A Tampa-based Italian food and Neapolitan-style pizza restaurant.

 

Suárez Bakery & Barra – Pastries, house-made breads and doughnuts, along with a Cuban menu.

 

Zukku Sushi – Featuring sushi rolls, sushi burritos and poke bowls.

 

With all these new places to explore and a bright future ahead, the new moniker fits the future for this once forgotten mill. 

Holiday Woes Catered Away

 

What’s your favorite part of the holiday season? Is it trying to calculate how many days you need to thaw a twenty-pound bird? How about waking up at 4am to start the meal or All. Those. Dishes!  

This season, give yourself the gift of an easier time. Catering sounds expensive and complex, but there is a huge range of options in Charlotte (at all price points) to feed your family and friends without breaking your holiday spirit or leaving the comfort of your home.  

Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen 

4001 Yancey Rd 

Suite C 

Charlotte, NC 28217 

The turkey is covered, but those sides . . . you’re pretty sure you don’t even have enough space in your oven to get everything warm all at once.  Enter Alyssa’s Kitchen. Their sides serve 6-8 people, perfect for your holiday get-together.  

 

City Barbeque 

(Multiple locations in Charlotte.) 

Nothing is better than a barbeque holiday. City Barbeque smokes all their meats in-house, and offers a huge selection of great sides. Don’t forget their Green Beans with Bacon and Corn Pudding! 

 

Copain Gatherings 

(Pickup location at Rooster’s South Park) 

6601 Morrison Blvd 

Charlotte, NC 28211 

 Chef Jim Noble and Noble Food & Pursuits has your holiday meal covered. The menu includes appetizers, side dishes, entrees, and pies.  

 

Bojangles 

(Multiple locations in Charlotte.)  

I know what you’re thinking. But Hello Seasoned Fried Turkeys ($39.99)! Combine this with sides like biscuits, mashed potatoes, green beans, mac and cheese along with desserts (Bo Berry Biscuits are my fav!) and who is going to complain? Don’t forget to call ahead for large orders, though.  

 

Fresh Market 

(Multiple locations in Charlotte.)  

The Fresh Market has been a life saver on many special occasions for me. Pick up pre-made dinner boxes for the whole crew (3-14 people). You have to call ahead for availability but they will offer full meals for most holidays . . . and Valentine’s Day!  

 

Harper’s Pineville  

11059 Carolina Place Pkwy 

Pineville, NC 28134 

Here’s another great barbeque option. What? We live in the south. The takeout menu includes a variety of traditional holiday fare, including turkeys ($50), sides ($8-$20), and pies ($15).  

 

La Belle Helene 

300 S. Tryon St 

Charlotte, NC 28202 

The complete foodie holiday dinner can be found at La Belle Helene. They offer a rôtisserie Joyce Farms Heritage black turkey, brioche dinner rolls, haricot verts amondine, pommes purée, cranberry & orange chutney, brussels sprouts aux lardons, cornbread & sage stuffing, along with pumpkin Charlotte and pecan caramel tarts. Hungry yet?

Eating With a Conscience

 

What does it mean to be a conscious eater? It’s not just about choosing food that will nourish your body, but about buying food that also nourishes your community. Luckily, Charlotte has some great offerings for someone trying to eat more intentionally.  

 

The Mayobird & Summit Room + Joe and Nosh & The Packhouse 

 A dinner only concept features Southern inspired plates and specialty cocktails named after the seven summits and using local, sustainable foods. The tables and chairs are upcycled from local houses and tobacco barns. The owner and operator, Deedee Mills, just recently opened two more restaurants with the same business model. Joe and Nosh, a coffee and sandwich shop, and The Pack House, a dinner spot serving southern cuisine that pays homage to North Carolina’s tobacco industry. 

 

For all four restaurants, 10 percent of net profits go to support Behailu Academy, an after-school refuge for at-risk youth to find peace and opportunity through art. 

 

The Mayobird 

1531 East Blvd 

Open daily, 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. 

 

Summit Room 

1531 East Blvd.  

Open Monday-Saturday, 5 p.m. – Close 

 

Joe and Nosh 

500 E. Morehead Street, Suite 150-B 

Monday-Friday 7am-5pm 

(Kitchen will close at 3pm) 

Saturday and Sunday Closed 

 

The Packhouse 

500 E. Morehead Street, Suite 150-A 

Monday: closed 

Tuesday-Thursday: 4pm-9pm 

Friday: 4pm-10pm 

Saturday: 10am-3pm, brunch, 4pm-10pm, dinner 

Sunday: 10am-3pm, brunch 

 

The King’s Kitchen & Bakery 

A non-profit restaurant located in the heart of Uptown Charlotte serving southern-inspired cuisine from Carolina farms and purveyors, The King’s Kitchen & Bakery opened in 2010 on the corner of Trade and Church. The Southern cuisine is a top notch, Jim Noble restaurant. But it’s amazing food with a purpose. The profits and proceeds from The King’s Kitchen go toward feeding the “spiritual and physical needs of those who have the least in our community and to train and equip those previously unemployable in the restaurant trade.” 

 

The King’s Kitchen & Bakery 

129 W. Trade St. 

Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. 

Monday – Saturday, 5 p.m. – Close 

  

Julia’s Cafe & Books 

A quiet coffee shop that’s not too far from Uptown, with excellent parking, and a shared space with Habitat’s ReStore (with a huge selection of used books), Julia’s Café and Books brew locally roasted coffee, serve local and organic breakfast and lunch options and proceeds support Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte. 

 

Julia’s Cafe & Books 

1133 N. Wendover Rd. 

Open Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. 

Open Saturday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

 

Community Culinary School of Charlotte Cafe 

This cafe on Monroe Road in an unassuming strip mall is well worth a visit during lunch and is easy to get to for a midday break. But the café is part of a local non-profit that provides training and job placement assistance in the food service industry for adults who face barriers to successful employment. As Executive Director Chef Ron Ahlert often says, “We’re not just creating cooks, we’re creating employees.” 

 

Community Culinary School of Charlotte Café 

9315-D Monroe Road 

Open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. 

 

 

Cherubs Cafe  

In the heart of downtown Belmont, Cherubs Café is a breakfast and lunch spot featuring fresh-baked desserts and gourmet, specialty coffees, soups, salads and sandwiches, ice creams. The café is part of Holy Angels, an organization that provides compassionate, dependable care and opportunities for high-quality living to those with intellectual developmental disabilities and delicate medical conditions, allowing residents the opportunity to socialize, learn about the business and vocational training which can lead to better employment options. All profits are used to fund programs and services of Holy Angels. 

 

Cherubs Café 

23 North Main St.  

Open Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

Saturday, 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Nine Date Night Spots

 

Looking for some great Charlotte eateries perfect for your next date? We’ve got you covered.  

Haberdish 

3106 N Davidson St 

A “southern kitchen and craft cocktail bar”, this eatery boasts food that is amazing to both eat and photograph. The dishes have regional touches from Haberdish’s mill history in the NoDa neighborhood. Don’t miss out on the fried chicken! 

  

Haymaker 

225 S. Poplar St. 

Heirloom ingredients, preservation, and sustainable meats and seafood is all good, but nothing beats splitting a basket Levain bread with butter as you watch the sun sets across Romare Bearden Park.  

  

Bardo 

1508 S. Mint St. Unit B. 

The place to go for an intimate vibe, and eclectic, American small plate food. Located in Charlotte’s dynamic South End neighborhood, this is the perfect place for a sweet treat like the  carrot cake with ginger, cream cheese and opal basil. 

 

Dilworth Tasting Room 

300 East Tremont Ave. 

Located in the heart of Dilworth, this circa-1940’s style building creates an atmosphere reminiscent of the wine bars and Enotecas of Europe. On Tuesday’s you can get a free cheese board with a wine flight. Take these treats out to the secret garden and koi pond for a magical experience at night. 

 

 Fahrenheit 

222 S Caldwell St. 

The experience of Fahrenheit is all about the cocktail and the sweeping views of Charlotte’s skyline at night. The new American cuisine is great, but you’ll remember the romance of the view.  

 

Dressler’s Restaurant 

1100 Metropolitan Ave #125  

or 8630 Lindholm Dr, Huntersville  

This restaurant is a relaxed, cozy location for a perfect date that doesn’t try too hard. The signature dish, Just for the Halibut, started as a monthly special that only was available every now and then, but became so popular it was added as a regular menu item.  

 

Halcyon 

500 S. Tryon St. 

Browse the art in the Mint Museum Uptown before heading to the refined Halcyon, in the same building. An upscale farm-to-table restaurant, Halcyon is a “celebration of artisanal farms, dairies and wineries from the Carolinas and beyond. . . “ Start with the blue cheese souffle. 

  

O-Ku 

2000 South Blvd #510 

 This South End restaurant boasts a fresh and innovative take on traditional Japanese sushi and cuisine. Don’t pass up the edamame with pink Himalayan salt and truffle oil. 

  

Upstream 

6902 Phillips Place 

After a movie at Regal Phillips Place Stadium 10, walk over to this longtime Charlotte establishment for a sweep of the affordable sushi menu featuring day boat seafood and award-winning Pacific Rim cuisine.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

The Future of Farm-To-Fork in North Carolina

 

Quick. Quiz time.  

 

Do you know where your last meal came from?  

 

Not the store or the restaurant, but the place. The origin.  

 

In a world of overwhelming food choices, simply becoming more aware of where your food comes from can be a small and positive change. We are increasingly connected, but more and more disconnected from our food sources. On a simply physical standpoint this disconnect contributes to the spread of disease, pesticides, global warming, and lowered nutrition in our food. From a metaphysical standpoint, this disconnect where we are most vulnerable (what we put into our body) can leave an emptiness we don’t even realize.  

 

The farmer down the road matters to our community, whether we are aware of it or not. Beyond just supporting our local economy and promoting sustainability in agriculture (all things your purchase of local produce contributes to), buying and eating local connect you to your community and your food in a way that transcends science. It tastes better, but you’ll swear it feels better too. The good news is, it’s easier than ever to get to know your local farmers and become more connected to the food you are eating.  And two North Carolina organizations are working together to provide a better future for our farms and our plates.  

 

Piedmont Culinary Guild:  

Piedmont Culinary Guild (PCG) is a “grassroots effort to create a working dialogue with the food industry by providing a platform that is easily accessible for all to utilize and benefit.” In order to connect the food chain in North and South Carolina, PCG was founded to bridge the gap between farmers, chefs, restaurants, and consumers by offering resources to chefs, farmers, culinary educators and food artisans in the area.  

 

Piedmont Culinary Guild hosts events throughout the year, including the Sensoria Food and Wine where this past event, attendees voted for their favorite dish. (Chef Greg Collier of The Yolk in Rock Hill won for his dish of Cornbread Toast, smoked trout and apple salad, meyer lemon hollandaise, charred strawberry espelette spice. And if that doesn’t inspire you to think local, what will?) 

 

Center for Environmental Farming Systems: 

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) is a partnership of NC State University, NC Agricultural and Technical State University, and the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. CEFS “develops and promotes just and equitable food and farming systems that conserve natural resources, strengthen communities, improve health outcomes, and provide economic opportunities in North Carolina and beyond.” They focus on organic and sustainable farming in North Carolina.  

 

CEFS’ annual September event, Farm to Fork Picnic, has become one of the largest culinary events in North Carolina, with Bon Appetit magazine recognizing it as “the country’s best all-you-can-eat feast” in 2009. CEFS also works with North Carolina’s Cooperative Extension program, pasture-based livestock education programs, and promotes sustainable agriculture and women working in livestock.  

 

Farmers Markets & Cooperatives  

In addition to supporting these local organizations, don’t forget about the simple act of choosing where your food comes from. You can shop and volunteer at your local farmers markets, and participate in your local farmer co-op (which these days can include fresh meat and cheeses, as well as produce). Other ways you can spread awareness is by asking your preferred grocery store to carry locally-grown produce and setting up a way to get your child’s school involved through field trips or cafeteria food sources.  

 

If you’ve ever had a memory of sitting with your grandmother, shelling peas or husking corn or eating watermelon from her garden on the back porch, I’m sure you can remember the feeling of that moment even now. It’s not just the heat, the drip of watermelon down your chin, or even the memory of your grandmother that make those memories so special—it’s also the food. The way you can taste those North Carolina summers and the way the peas and corn and watermelon knew you, even if you didn’t quite know them.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Brown Bag Blessing

 

In April of this year, a new catering company and restaurant opened in Ballantyne. Focusing on simple, home-style food, with an eat-in location that’s open for lunch, Brown Bag delivers to events for a minimum of 10 people and offers bulk foods for pickup, like trays of chicken, salads or sides you can use to fill in the gaps for your holiday parties or for your own meal shortcuts. The food is healthy and wholesome, a welcome change from sandwiches and chips most catering companies offer small groups.  

 

But this straightforward catering and café restaurant doesn’t just offer up solid, delicious food offerings. Brown Bag originally started in Knoxville and Nashville, with a small group of friends who grew it out of a home business, one serving at a time before opening its first Charlotte location. It’s a catering company with a purpose.  

 

Called the Brown Bag Blessing, with 24-hours notice, you can call in a crisis and the company will donate a meal for up to eight people, using food left at the end of the day. In the case of a sudden death or hospitalization where you’re trying to figure out how to feed everyone who is coming together, all you need to do is call.  

 

In addition to this service, there’s also an in-restaurant opportunity to pass along the goodness. A wipe-off board at the restaurant allows you to buy a friend a meal. Taking inspiration from bars that have similar concepts with drinks, Brown Bag lets you overpay for your lunch and write a friend’s name on the board, giving your friend a free lunch whenever they come by to eat.  

 

5231 Piper Station Drive  

Sunday: Closed 

Mon – Sat: 11 AM – 2:30 PM

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21