Restaurants

Need a little Therapy in Uptown CLT?

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Last night a few of my friends and I met up after a long day at work. We decided to go to the restaurant/bar Therapy Café located on 401 North Tryon Street. Newly renovated, the place was much more spacious and swanky than I had remembered.  It’s a good thing the renovation provided a little more room, because the dining area was packed inside and out.

Uptown Charlotte

(photo credit: http://www.therapycafe.net/)

Therapy feature Charlotte’s largest selection of double martinis, ranging from the some of the most cleaver names, to the old favorites. One thing I love about their menu is that they have quite the selection of starters to share. This works out perfectly when sitting with a large group. We quickly placed an order of therapeutic nachos and searched the menu for our drink selection. Therapy is known for its martini madness, and lucky for us the Wednesday night special is their half priced martinis.

If you haven’t been to Therapy uptown, I highly recommend checking it out. Also, check out the below link to find other hotspots to check out after work in Charlotte. This is a pretty awesome link, and it updates constantly. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.

http://charlottehappyhour.com/

Not Sure You Love Charlotte? You Will After This Tour.

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As a lifelong Charlottean, a common complaint I hear from visitors and newcomers is that there’s nothing to do here.  Whether it’s a lack of entertainment and dining options, or educational and sightseeing adventures, transplants and vacationers can’t seem to find what they’re looking for in the Queen City.

Having spent a couple (er, many) years exploring this great city, I know of more than a few spots to enjoy great food, great entertainment and great views.  I could rattle off my favorites here.  But you don’t know me and who knows if we share the same tastes?

square-charlotteSo to circumvent our lack of friendship, I’d like to make a suggestion: take a tour of Charlotte.  Not just any tour, a guided driving tour in an air-conditioned van and hosted by a knowledgeable tour guide.  Just to test it out for you, I took one myself last weekend.

C-Charlotte Tours is a fairly new tour company in town, but their knowledge of the city’s history and attractions is extensive.  Gary, our tour guide, shared more nuggets of information about this city than I’ve read in any welcome brochure. And despite my native status, I learned a thing or two about my hometown. Like, did you know there are capped-off goldmines under Charlotte’s uptown streets?  And did you know that Price’s Chicken Coop is rated by Bon Appétit as one of the 3 best places in America to eat fried chicken?  Or that there are a TON of restaurants within a 5-mile radius of uptown?  (OK, I did know that one, but I definitely found a few more to add to the list.)

The tour started uptown where Gary pointed out every office tower and high-rise condo along the way, offering his inside scoop on the businesses and project timelines for each.  Since the tour is geared toward visiting and relocated professionals, he also gave a nod to the restaurants and bars lining the uptown streets.  And judging from the number of them, the city’s quiet, decade-long nightlife bloom appears to have exploded in the last 18 months.

But this wasn’t just a bar crawl.  It was an all-in-one sightseeing tour, history lesson and neighborhood exploration mission.  We drove north through Biddleville, one of Charlotte’s oldest African-American communities, and an area steeped in southern history.  The regal, brick buildings of Johnson C. Smith University, one of the state’s oldest historically black colleges, line the entrance to the community.  Behind the campus is Elmwood Cemetery, the final resting place for many of Charlotte’s business, cultural and political pioneers, as well as war veterans dating back to the Civil War.

Then it was on to the surrounding neighborhoods:  SouthEnd, Dilworth, Myers Park, Eastover and Elizabeth.  What did we find? Beautiful homes, walkable streets and, you guessed it: more restaurants.  We even made a run through SouthPark, a shoppers’ paradise offering great retail therapy, although not for the economically-challenged.

As we swung by Bank of America Stadium, Bobcats Arena and the much-anticipated, highly-debated future baseball stadium, we were treated to a little Local Sports 101.  I won’t tell you the questions or answers, lest I spoil the surprises.  But I did pick up some good trivia (as well as some juicy rumors).

We finished up back in uptown, and were dropped off within walking distance of a few cafes we had passed during our drive.  In fact, I saw some of my tour companions headed that way as I pulled out of the parking lot.

I’ve always been content with Charlotte.  After all, it’s becoming the jewel of the South (sorry, Atlanta, if it weren’t for the traffic …).  And regardless of the current economic hiccup, it will continue to attract industry and commerce, and thus, more people.  But it was an amazing experience to see all its wonders at once, tied up in a neat little 2-and-a-half-hour package.

So for those of you still questioning your decision to stay in Charlotte, call up C-Charlotte Tours and take the tour.  You won’t be disappointed.

Pio Pio serves up the best rotisserie chicken in Charlotte

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Pio Pio on East Boulevard

Pio Pio on East Boulevard

I eat at Pio Pio at least once a week. For my Colombian husband, it’s a little slice of home – they serve authentic Colombian and Peruvian food in a great atmosphere. The restaurant is tucked into the back corner of the same East Boulevard shopping center that houses Brixx Pizza and Outback Steakhouse. Pio Pio is part of a small chain – there are several locations around New York City as well.

Pio Pio’s rotisserie chicken is the best I’ve found in Charlotte – or really anywhere, for that matter. The skin is perfectly seasoned and slightly crisp and the meat is always juicy and flavorful. The sides and appetizers are always good, from the arepas (round, white cornmeal cakes) to the chorizo to the sweet plantains and my favorite, empanadas (yellow corn pockets stuffed with seasoned meat and potatoes).

If you’re very hungry and aren’t in the mood for chicken, get the Montañero, a traditional platter that includes beef, rice, avocado, chorizo, an arepa, a fried egg, plantains and red beans. It’s one of my favorites. The tilapia is also great, as are the fried pork chops and the avocado salad. You really can’t go wrong. The service is excellent and it makes a really good and inexpensive place for take-out if you live in the area. It would cost more to cook the same meal at home. So don’t bother – go to Pio Pio. You’ll love it!

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse

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Chima, the Brazilian steakhouse on South Tryon Street in Uptown, extended its restaurant week special offer for an additional week, so I had dinner there on Thursday night. It was my second visit and it was quite good. I suspected that they might hold back on their best meats because of the lower restaurant week price, but both of my favorites, the top sirloin (their house special) and the leg of lamb, as well as filet mignon and other good cuts were available in abundance. I’ve been to Brazilian churrascarias in several cities, and while Chima may not be my all-time favorite, it is definitely high on my list – and much better than Brazas, the other option here in town.

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse (Photo Credit Miami Herald)

If you’ve never been to one, a waiter comes to your table and takes your drink order, and you can help yourself to a large salad bar in the center of the room with everything from cold cuts to calamari salad. At your table, a small card that says something to the effect of “yes please” on one side and “no thanks” on the other is your signal to the traditionally-dressed gauchos circulating with skewers of meat that you want to be served. They’ll swarm around the table offering bacon-wrapped chicken, chorizo, pork loin and many different cuts of beef.

The downside to these places is that the pace of the meal feels kind of frenzied; it wouldn’t make a good spot for a business meeting. Unless everyone at the table flips their card to “no thanks”, your conversation is constantly interrupted by gauchos offering more meat.

If you are a beef-lover like I am, the trick is to reject things like pork and chicken, which can tend to be dry and tasteless. Accept only the best cuts of beef because you’ll fill up fast. I load everything up with lots of chimichurri sauce. Chima’s salad bar is average compared to other churrascarias I’ve visited, but the beef is delicious, and that’s the most important part.

D.D. Peckers

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D.D. Peckers in South West Charlotte
10403-E Park Road
Charlotte NC 28210
704-541-4113

One of the best wing stops in South Charlotte. It has the feel of an East Amherst pub with plenty of good eats.

More to come

—- Update —-

The wings were amazing!  I got their hot wings and the hot ranch.  All I can say is that by the end of the meal my lips were numb.  DD Peckers is kind of hidden off Park road South.  It is accross from the ER and if you arent paying attention you will drive right by the sign.  Sometimes the hardest places to find turn out to be the best in town.  They obviously have a following because the place was fairly full.  Even with a good crowd there was no waiting at the door so you can definately get in and out quickly if you are pressed for time.

Entertainment Book Helps to Stretch your Money

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Last night after a quick jog through the city my fiance and I found our stomachs growling!  Living in the city is great because you are surrounded by so many restaurants and entertainment facilities.  We knew that we wanted to grab a quick bite out on the town but we had some rules as far as where we went.  Because we have a lot of big ticket items coming up in our future we are on a strict savings plan so in order to stay on that plan we use a lot of coupons.  One of the best investments that we made this year was to purchase an Entertainment Book.  After thumbing through all the restaurant options we opted for Stool Pigeons off of Church Street.  Our ticket was a buy one get one free ticket so the two of us were able to eat for the price of one.

We had a great meal and actually got the same order the Grilled Mahi Mahi Pita, which I highly recommend!  Even better was that the restaurant had domestic drink specials and we were surrounded by every baseball game known to man, which made the Fiance a happy guy.  Charlotte is great for many reasons, but the close proximity to hundreds of restaurants is one of my favorite perks!