Exploring Charlotte – Part Two

I had the opportunity to explore a pair of new areas around Charlotte a couple of weekends ago before the heat wave had truly settled in.  It was a beautiful, sunny and warm day, but thankfully it wasn’t yet hitting the high 90’s with massive humidity that we have been living with lately.  Both areas I explored had a food element to them, of course, but each represented a slightly different part of the city, and I think represent a lot of what the city is trying to grow into.

Camp North End

A great place to visit if you are looking for some artistic inspiration and a general vibe of “funkiness”.  An older industrial area with quite the history, it is becoming something unique in Charlotte, and not something like I have seen in too many places, as it takes mixed use to the next level.  A quick drive from UpTown the area has been the site of various distribution centers and an army depot at various times in its existence.  Definitely a fun place to spend a couple of hours just wandering around, or taking in one of the many events they hold there.  I did not get a chance to sample the Farmer’s Market, as it’s open during the week, but it would definitely fit with the vibe of the area.

Check out the website before you plan your visit, and definitely be on the lookout for some of the wide variety of events they hold on the site.  While still a little bit limited as the area continues to develop, you have some great and varied food choices:

Babe & Butcher – customer charcuterie boards

Saru by Bow – ramen

PopBar – you already know of my newly awakened fixation on “popsicles” and paletas

Leah & Louise – just good eats

You can enjoy a wide range of eclectic seating, and even score an outdoor game of ping pong.  Sorry to the innocent bystanders who were the victims of some overly exuberant power shots.  There are a few quirky stores and a ton of artists’ studio spaces that you can explore.  My suggestion is to grab some food and head over to the “beach” area for a relaxing afternoon.  

It will be interesting to watch as the area continues to develop and see what else they attract to the site.  I can definitely see Camp North End as being a place I will visit every couple of months.

Optimist Hall

Located in the Optimist Park Neighborhood, (just across 277 from Uptown) Optimist Hall is an amazing food hall, with also some cool shopping venues included.  With a great array of indoor and outdoor seating and a hectic urban vibe, I was immediately planning my return visit before I even finished my meal on that first trip.  I had to do about three laps around everything to even be able to come close to deciding what to eat.  Thankfully it was a family outing so we were able to grab dishes from multiple places so that we could experience a few different things even if the sharing was done grudgingly.

Bao & Broth – the Bao buns were amazing, and we did the 3 bun sampler plus the Togarashi Fries (definitely get those)

The Dumpling Lady – spicy wonton soup, plus you can purchase frozen dumplings to enjoy at home

Xiao Bao – Shrimp Fried Rice with Scallion Chili Butter (that may be the best sentence I have ever written)

Those were just the places we were able to try on that first visit.  We need to head back asap to hit up Zukku, BoxCar Betty’s and Suarez, and that still leaves a bunch of options for visits number three and four.  

Add in the candy store, pet store and a paper goods store prominently displaying a Fried Chicken map of the Carolinas and my only question is why aren’t you headed there now.  I have actually looked at real estate in the area after that first visit, as I would be there at least twice a week if I was within walking distance.

If you are in, or around Charlotte, I cannot recommend both locations enough, especially if you like to eat, and eat well.  You won’t regret an afternoon or evening spent at either place.

The Free Range Viking

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