Re-Exploring Charlotte – Weekend #1

Now that we are feeling confident about getting back out into the world, we are going to be re-exploring Charlotte on various weekends throughout the summer.  Just a chance to get reacquainted with some favorite spots, and hopefully find some new and interesting things.  We decided to start with the South End area, as it’s one of our favorites and seems to change and grow every few months at this point.  As of right now, it’s the neighborhood we would most like to move to as we look to downsize next year and move into a fun, walkable area.

Aside from Uptown, South End is probably the area we have spent the most time in, as it used to have the best fish and chips in the city at Big Ben’s Pub and also contained the design district which made it a little fun and funky.  Just since we moved into the Charlotte area however, the neighborhood has grown like crazy, and is quickly becoming one of the most desirable in the city in my opinion.  It has an amazing array of restaurants and breweries, with new spots opening all the time, it is incredibly walkable, has interesting places like the Skiptown and the Design District, and is filled with funky art installations and an amazing urban vibe.  Plus, the light rail runs right through the heart of it, giving easy access to Uptown and points further out.

For our first weekend exploration, we decided to spend a Saturday afternoon strolling along the rail trail and looking for fun things to do.  Thankfully, parking is easy and plentiful if you don’t mind a little bit of a walk.  We parked around the Harris Teeter and walked north towards the core of the neighborhood.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and while a little on the warm side, we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

A quick jog down a side street put us on the Rail Trail which allows for easy pedestrian access throughout South End, with the path running close to the light rail tracks (hence the obvious name).  We walked through comparing the condo and apartment buildings and generally commenting on what we would and wouldn’t want in our next place.  Our first stop ending up being the fairly new Shake Shack that is now in place, as we were getting a little dehydrated.  If you didn’t know, they make some of the best lemonade if you are like me and enjoy it when it’s not very sweet but packs a great tart punch.  We stopped for a quick beverage and a quick reprieve from the sun before heading out for more exploration.

We meandered up and down the streets, exploring some nooks and crannies that we hadn’t seen before.  You can easily see where the boundaries of the neighborhood were, and where the new areas were starting to be developed.  A lot of older industrial buildings and land, being repurposed with a nice combination of work, play and live design in mind.  Some of the fun places to explore if you are in the area are Skiptown (for dog owners and lovers), Pins Mechanical (for anyone looking to have some cool retro frun) and so many breweries with huge open areas featuring live music and food trucks that you can see why people flock to the area.

Our biggest find of the trip was Morelia’s Paletas which provided the most awesome snack/dessert I have had in a while.  I was ignorant in terms of Paletas, but thankfully had seen them mentioned in the Axios Charlotte newsletter (a great source for local news about Charlotte) and it looked interesting.  Basically, it revolves around a hand made “popsicle” (a term that in no way does it justice, but I lack a better reference) with an emphasis on real fruit flavors, but with options available like Belgian Chocolate and Cookies and Cream.  At Malegia’s you pick out your “pop” and then get to pick a dip (think dark chocolate, hazelnut, etc.) and a topping (almonds, coconut, cereal, sprinkles, etc..) and they build your personalized treat right in front of you.  If you really want to dive in you can also get them wrapped in a fresh waffle, or sandwiched between two chocolate cookie wafers, and I even witnessed them creating the S’mores version with hand torched marshmallow coating.  My choice was a coconut pop with a dark chocolate coating covered in crushed almonds.  Definitely one of the best treats I have ever had.  I am firmly hooked on the paleta at this point and can’t wait to go back.  We are heading out to San Diego in July and I have already researched my options and will report on how good the paletas are at Holy Paleta in San Diego.

Fueled by the great treat we continued to walk and tour, passing so many restaurants that we want to try at some point, and a few that we have, but we had our stomachs set on some seafood, as we felt that would be a little on the lighter side after being in the sun and heat.  We made our way back towards where we had parked ,as by the Harris Teeter is Waterman’s Fish Bar, which has multiple levels and some great outdoor dining options.  We opted for an indoor option and some A/C as we were more than a little warm and were looking forward to a nice meal and some cooling off.  Service was excellent and we were lucky enough that we only had to wait a few minutes for a table.  Their menu is amazing, with just about anything a seafood lover could want.  We decided to share a bunch of small plates so that we could try a variety of options and we were not disappointed.  With the fun and inventive Salmon Canoes and the grilled oysters we were off to a strong start.  We followed that up with a beautiful pot of mussels that came with some incredible charred bread, which was perfect for taking full advantage of that garlicky broth, and ended with some fried calamari, which could have been just basic, but was pushed over the top with the amazing spice mixture they used on it.  Add in plenty of cold beverages and it was the perfect end to a great afternoon.

We will definitely be spending more time in South End at different times this summer and I will continue to share the highlights of our little adventures.  Next stop though is a combo of Optimist Hall and Camp North End.  I am looking forward to that next weekend adventure.

The Free Range Viking

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