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Travel Charlotte and Explore Downtown Charlotte, NC Hotels, Restaurants and Bars.Downtown Charlotte or Uptown Charlotte?
Guess what? They’re the same thing. The source of confusion ever since the mid-1980’s when Charlotte began revitalizing the downtown area and developers began using “Uptown” to instill an upscale sense of renewal to the project, “Uptown” and “Downtown” Charlotte are interchangeable.Travel Charlotte: Charlotte Downtown Hotels
It’s quite difficult to find a bad hotel in downtown Charlotte. Really. My recent stay was at the Hampton Inn Charlotte Uptown which is co-located with the Hilton Garden Inn Charlotte Uptown. Both are new, clean, and very accommodating with reasonable rates. The added bonus of breakfast at the Hampton Uptown is a nice touch. Located nearby, the Hilton Charlotte Center City is fresh, beautiful, and adjacent to the Charlotte Convention Center. All three hotels are within easy walking distance of Uptown/Downtown attractions and businesses. For NASCAR fans, the Hampton and Hilton Garden Inn are also right across the street from the NASCAR hall of fame, which is both architecturally and historically captivating, even for non-racing types.
Also notable and boutique hotel-ish is the Historic Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte Uptown. Built in 1929, the Dunhill is a fully restored little gem, adding modern conveniences while retaining all the old southern charm of its roots. The Dunhill is certainly an attractive option and the location is easily one of the best for exploring downtown on foot.Charlotte Downtown Restaurants Bars and Pubs
I have to confess, anytime I’m in the Carolinas or Georgia, the mission is Soul Food. A quick search on the iPhone GPS pointed towards Mert’s Heart and Soul, about an 8 minute walk from the hotel. The place felt right from the start. Warm and unassuming décor, Erykah Badu tunes, and portraits of Sam and Dave and Ray Charles on the wall kept expectations high. The menu at Mert’s is pure gold for fans of home-cooked food. Of course there are the standards like fried chicken, blackened pork chops, and catfish. Also offered are low-country and Gullah specialties like Shrimp and Grits, or Red Beans and Rice with Smoked Turkey Sausage. Specials for the day were Beef Tips and Rice, and Honey-Roasted Dark-meat chicken. I tried the Salmon Cakes with sides of Fresh Collards and Okra with Tomatoes—The salmon reminded me of my grandmother’s salmon cakes, ‘nuf said. Delicious. Both the Okra and Collards were tender without being overcooked and well-spiced without going overboard on the salt or grease. Correctly-made sweet tea is an art unto itself and should be lively on the tongue, allowing both the taste of sugar and tea to come through. Mert’s has sweet tea mastered. Overall one of the best Southern meals I’ve had in a while. Try the Sweet Potato Cake for desert. Similar to carrot cake, it has a more complex flavor and delectable sour-cream icing. Not to be missed.
Confession number two: I have a soft spot for Pubs of the Irish variety. What caught me off guard on my stroll through Charlotte’s Uptown was Molly MacPherson’s
pub. MacPherson’s had to be explored and it didn’t disappoint. While the intake was mostly of the liquid variety, the menu just couldn’t be ignored. Traditional bar and grill fare is there, for sure, but Molly’s is loaded up with Scots-Irish pub-food jewels like Neeps and Tatties, Cock-a-Leeky, and Scottish Meat Pies as well. The MacPherson’s t-shirt motto, “It’s better to eat in a pub than it is to drink in a restaurant” is not meant as a joke. Dinner at MacPherson’s is on the must-do list for the next visit. For lovers of good Scotch, MacPherson’s claims the largest selection on the east coast, including personal favorites of mine like Dalwhinnie, Oban, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig. New, yet comfortable and nodding to traditional pub aesthetics, Macpherson’s also features one of the most affable barkeeps encountered in some time—say “Hello” to Rachel if fortune allows her to serve your pint or wee dram.
Rí Rá Irish Pub is part of a chain of pubs in the southeast by the same name, which normally would score it lower on my scale of pub coolness. The Charlotte establishment, however, is the real deal. The centerpiece Victorian bar was built in Dublin around 1910, used lovingly, then stored away for nearly 70 years before being imported to the U.S. and installed at Rí Rá. Beverage and menu selections are supurb, but the crown jewel is the rooftop terrace where one can enjoy a Guiness and some pub grub while taking in striking views of the Art-Deco-style Hearst building and the downtown skyline.Downtown Charlotte Impressions
Everything mentioned above is walkable from just about any downtown hotel. Truly a walking city center, enjoy the many attractions and stop for a rest in the wading fountain.
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