After two long pandemic years, Charlotte’s bars are packed once again.
Why it matters: Our bars took a beating during COVID. Now’s the time to get out there, order a round of tequila shots and tip your bartenders generously.
What’s new: A lot has changed since we last updated this list in 2018. Since then, we lost once-hot spots like Rosemont and almost the entirety of the EpiCentre, but gained new stand-outs like Lost & Found and Charlotte Beer Garden, along with a slew of game bars like Pins and Slingshot.
What’s next: There are a handful of bars we can’t wait to open this year. You just may see them on our next ranking.
- Leah & Louise mixologist Justin Hazleton will open his own speakeasy called The Abyss at Camp North End this summer.
- Lost & Found’s new bar Broken Promises will offer a more mature vibe to its clubby sister spot. It opens any day now.
- Go deeper with our full anticipated openings list
Word to the wise: The best bar is the one closest to you. This list is just a brief sampling of Charlotte’s best watering holes. Let’s raise a glass to every bar that made it through the worst of the pandemic.
- A few of y’all shared with us your favorites as we were putting this list together. Among some favorites mentioned: Lucky Dog Bark & Brew, Carolina Beer Temple in Matthews, Common Market, Hattie’s and Bulldog Beer & Wine.
Cheers! Here are Charlotte’s 50 best bars, ranked.
This list was last updated on March 17, 2022. It was first published in August 2018.
#1 Dot Dot Dot
Members-only craft cocktail speakeasy in an old storage unit behind Park Road Shopping Center
Why we love it: Let’s start things off on a classy note with Dot Dot Dot, which still feels insider and off radar thanks to its location. You have to know what you’re looking for to find it — a subtle triple dot sign above a brown door that leads you down a dark hallway to an intimate window-less lounge.
What we’re drinking: A classic old fashioned with Elijah Craig 10-year bourbon, bitters, sugar, orange and cherry served over ice.
Casual no-frills neighborhood bar that doesn’t try too hard
Why we love it: It’s the epitome of a classic neighborhood bar. It’s withstood the test of time and development in a hip, rapidly evolving neighborhood. At Thomas Street there’s no theme, no gimmicks, no pretentiousness — just an easygoing atmosphere where anyone can have a good time. Grab a seat on the spacious back patio and call next on a game of ping pong.
What we’re drinking: PBR in one hand, ping pong paddle in the other. Let’s not overthink this.
#3 Selwyn Pub
Laid back Charlotte classic, popular with the country club crowd
Why we love it: The frat-tastic bar in the heart of Charlotte’s wealthiest neighborhood knows exactly what it is and who it appeals to — Michael Jordan and Ted Williams.
What we’re drinking: $5 Transfusions. The dead simple mixed drink — vodka, soda or ginger ale and a splash of juice — has been the same budget-friendly five bucks since the bar opened in 1990.
NoDa Bar and bottleshop with a Latin dance night that’s also open for breakfast and everything else
Why we love it: Salud is like the star athlete who’s also a gifted violinist who’s also a math whiz. It does everything right. Breakfast, lunch, coffee, afternoon light beer, pizza named for Outkast songs, post-work beer, late-night dancing on Fridays, soccer-watching on Saturdays and Sundays. Salud is a rare perfect place.
What we’re drinking: Anything from the rotating assortment of draft. Start with one of Salud’s own, or ask owner Jason Glunt for his pick of the day if he’s there.
Cozy date night spot in the heart of Plaza Midwood
Why we love it: The intimate, no-reservations space drips cool with resident DJs spinning every night of the week, and it’s a landmark restaurant for many Charlotte couples’ relationship milestones.
#6 Lost & Found
The nightclub of South End’s dreams
Why we love it: If you want to party late night in South End, Lost & Found is open until 2am six nights a week (including Sunday). They’ve got DJs, dancing, bottle service and reservable tables, plus themed brunch parties.
What we’re drinking: Espresso martini or champagne for the table.
Iconic dive bar on Central Avenue
Why we love it: The Beav held its ground when major development came bulldozing through and now a behemoth apartment complex literally wraps around the tiny orange building making it look like the defiant little house in the movie Up.
- And then there was the whole Mick F–ing Jagger story, too. IYKYK.
What we’re drinking: Tall PBR.
Related Axios story: “No chance” the Thirsty Beaver is going anywhere
Whiskey-forward cocktail bar and restaurant in Elizabeth
Why we love it: The original Crunkleton in Chapel Hill garnered national attention for its Prohibition-era cocktails, and this location just builds on that with a top-notch food menu to match.
What we’re drinking: Penicillin ($15), made with whiskey, ginger, wildflower honey and lemon.
Charlotte’s classic basement level dive karaoke bar
Why we love it: It’s where you go to get weird and shut down a night on Montford.
What we’re drinking: Fireball shots. Yikes. Sorry. On special for five bucks every single night of the week.
Charlotte’s OG self-serve bar now has cocktails, too.
Why we love it: No more waiting for a bartender’s attention. You’re in charge with a smart wristband linked to your credit card. Just swipe it at the tap and pour your own drink.
Related Axios story: Popular beer bar Hoppin’ expands with cocktails and new location
Korean-inspired Southern barbecue restaurant with a killer patio and private karaoke rooms
Why we love it: The back patio is a millennial Charlotte wonderland complete with a dog run, adult playground and a huge covered bar.
What we’re drinking: Soju. The Korean liquor comes served in a melon or pineapple with a ladle for sharing or a straw if you’re here to party.
#12 Merchant & Trade
19th floor rooftop bar atop the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel
Why we love it: It’s Uptown’s swankiest rooftop with views overlooking Romare Bearden Park and BB&T Ballpark. The flexible, indoor/outdoor space features an indoor bar with floor-to-ceiling windows, an outdoor covered terrace, a semi-private VIP section and a sprawling “lawn” with a retractable roof.
Pro tip: In the winter, rent out their impeccably designed igloos.
Classic Montford hangout with a huge patio
Why we love it: The come-as-you-are party bar is just a flat out no drama good time with a sprawling front patio and outdoor bar.
What we’re drinking: Signature 32-ounce B.A.C.s (Big Ass Cups) of beer — just $4 on Thursdays.
Pro tip: The kitchen is open until 2 a.m. 7 days a week because they love you.
Huge beer hall and garden with patio games and sand volleyball
Why we love it: It’s like a backyard party with a bunch of strangers. Bonus points for giant Jenga and giant Connect Four.
Pro tip: Don’t miss the food window at the front of the bar. Grab a pretzel bun burger and totchos. You will not regret it.
Three-story paradise for beer lovers — but there are cocktails, too
Why we love it: Relaxing with a beer outside is one of the joys of Charlotte’s mild weather. You don’t have to fight for a patio spot at CBG — there’s plenty of space for everyone to sip al fresco.
What we’re drinking: Something local like Legion’s Juicy Jay.
New-to-Charlotte game bar that draws huge crowds on weekends
Why we love it: By day, it’s all about the games. Connect four basketball? Yes please. But by night, Slingshot takes on a nightclub atmosphere with DJs and a bustling dance floor.
What we’re drinking: The purple tickler ($10) Tanqueray, raspberry liqueur, sour mix, ginger ale, and an orchid garnish.
#17 Workman’s Friend
Cozy Irish pub in the heart of Plaza Midwood
Why we love it: It’s an all-seasons home run with its indoor/outdoor side patio, charming back patio and a living room-style dining area with a fireplace inside for the winter months.
What we’re drinking: Guinness or Jameson. Or maybe Guinness and Jameson.
Craft beer tasting room and growler shop in South End’s Gold District
Why we love it: It’s one of the chillest happy hour destinations in town with a relaxed vibe, focused food menu and 36 rotating taps featuring local and regional craft brews.
What we’re drinking: Beer flight and a charcuterie board
Related Axios story: See inside Craft’s sister concept Lincoln Street, complete with rooftop bar
Casual sports bar with a spacious patio and roll-up garage doors for an indoor/outdoor setting
Why we love it: It’s a major game day destination where fans pack in to rally before home games (just down the street from Bank of America Stadium) or watch away games.
Pro tip: The late-night crowd knows there’s more to DNG that meets the eye. Downstairs you’ll find the underground club, Bassment. Wear your dancing shoes.
#20 Brevard Court bars
Soccer has arrived in Charlotte, and these bars are the spots to be to watch
Why we love them: Hooligan’s is a cozy bar draped in international gear, and the place to catch soccer games. It’s a small space so the action spills over into historic pedestrian-only strip and neighboring spots like Belfast Mill and Cotton Room.
Wine bar in a historic 1940s-era building with a courtyard garden
Why we love it: The enchanting courtyard garden and outdoor bar feels like a faraway secret escape right in the heart of Dilworth.
#22 Ed’s Tavern
Classic neighborhood hangout with plenty of TVs and a spacious patio
Why we love it: This charming gathering place on Park Road has all the laid-back vibes you need for a warm weekend afternoon.
What we’re drinking: A bucket of beer or mimosa tower on the patio.
Tropical NoDa paradise with bottle shop-style interior
Why we love it: The welcoming space has room to spread out in the sun or shade. It’s easy to spend a whole day on the patio.
What we’re drinking: A pitcher of sangria.
#24 Dandelion Market
Two-story Irish-inspired small plates restaurant and bar with a dance club vibe after hours
Why we love it: Welcome back, Dando! We missed you in the two years since y’all closed due to COVID. Its second floor dining room transforms into a dance floor after hours when the huge central table is hoisted into the air on a pulley system.
#25 Pins Mechanical
Sprawling game bar with a rooftop bar, patio games, retro arcades and more
Why we love it: We discover something new every time we go to Pins — from the free pinball machines to vintage video games to duckpin bowling.
What we’re drinking: For our sweet tooth — and for the nostalgia — we’re ordering the Lisa Frank cocktail.
Related Axios story: Pins Mechanical Company and 16-Bit Bar+Arcade now open in South End
Sports bar with a mind-boggling number of TVs on a mission to make Charlotte a cheesesteak town
Why we love it: The tap wall features a whopping 150 beers.
Cheesesteak options: 7 different sandwiches — from the classic Original Philly to the Fajita Chicken Philly — along with 8 cheese options (including Cheez Whiz)
Pro tip: Head downstairs to The Cellar, a basement speakeasy with a completely different vibe, if craft cocktails are more your speed.
Mature wine bar, full-service kitchen and retail wine shop
Why we love it: Charlotte’s unofficial girls’ night out destination is an unexpected wine oasis in three strip center locations — SouthPark’s Foxcroft Shopping Center (original), Dilworth’s Kenilworth Commons and in Waverly.
Pro tip: Buy any bottle off the shelf to enjoy at the table. There’s no corkage fee on wines over $30.
Uptown nightclub featuring 80s and 90s music
Why we love it: The best way to wrap up a night out in Uptown is to cut loose with your favorite 80s and 90s throwback songs.
What we’re drinking: Someone in your crew will yell “LET’S TAKE SHOTS” and you will and you’ll regret it.
Customize a cocktail to your liking with expert recommendations behind the bar
Why we love it: Here, the bartenders know what you’re going to order before you do. Just tell them your spirit of choice, and what your ideal palate is, and they’ll make something you’re guaranteed to like. It has a dark, speakeasy vibe designed for a nightcap or an intimate date.
What we’re drinking: Whatever the bartender makes us. We’ve never had a bad drink here.
#30 QC Pourhouse
New favorite in South End
Why we love it: Solid pub food to soak up the copious drinks you’ll you have here.
Sleek putt-putt bar with themed cocktails
Why we love it: The design of everything here — from the putt-putt courses to the drink menu — is well thought out. Book a reservation in advance. This place is slammed on weekends.
Related Axios story: Mini-golf concept backed by Rory McIlroy now open in South End
#32 Sophia’s Lounge
Regal cocktail lounge at The Ivey’s Hotel
Why we love it: The space is outfitted with opulent crystal and gold decor, statement chandeliers and unique artwork. Catch it on a good weather day when the windows overlooking 5th Street are open.
#33 All American Pub (and the rest of the block)
Classic South End sports bar with huge crowds on game day
Why we love it: Located right on the light rail and not far from Bank of America Stadium, it’s the spot to rally with fellow Panthers fans.
What we’re drinking: Drunken’ D. The grown up spin on Sunny Delight is a frozen citrus cocktail served in a nostalgic Sunny D-style bottle. On special for $5 every Monday.
Why we love it: This stretch of bars, on a property recently acquired by Cousins Properties, is as bro-ish as they come — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. One time, Axios’ Katie Peralta Soloff saw Ryan Lochte come into All American, rip shots of tequila with his buddies and immediately leave. Didn’t realize AAP could feel any frattier.
- Of note: It has a big patio with plenty of TVs, nice for al fresco March Madness watching.
What we’re drinking (and eating): Fried pickles ($9) or chicken nachos ($12) and the Spring Mule ($12) from All American.
#34 Snug Harbor
Gritty live music venue
Why we love it: They host a monthly residency featuring a different artist with weekly performances.
#35 Members Only
Intimate hookah bar with stellar DJs
Why we love it: When you want to mix up the beer-and-vodka-soda Charlotte bar flow, head to Members Only for a drink, some hookah and a photo in their Instagram-able swing.
Classy Southern steakhouse with an adjoining cocktail bar and basement speakeasy
Why we love it: Can’t snag a reservation at Supperland? Try the cocktail bar next-door. The decor channels spring, and the drinks are ever-rotating thanks to an expert team behind the bar.
Pro tip: Reserve tickets for Supperland’s downstairs speakeasy for a true drinking and dining experience. Tickets for the tasting menu are usually around $115, and the space only holds 10 people so they go fast.
Related Axios story: A speakeasy with a $115 tasting menu will open beneath Supperland
#37 Gin Mill
Laid back bar with a full-service kitchen and rooftop deck serving Charlotte since 1927
Why we love it: A Charlotte nightlife classic with an always-packed rooftop.
What we’re drinking: White claws.
Pro tip: Gin Mill is a bit of a two-for-one deal because you’ll find Brick Yard next-door. If there’s a line at one, try the other.
Bottleshop/bar in “Mad Park” from Charlotte’s godfather of craft beer
Why we love it: Few people are as intertwined with Charlotte’s beer history as Michael Brawley. Back in the mid-1970s, when Michael was just a kid, his father opened a discount beverage shop called Mike’s Discount Beverage in an old service station on Park Road.
- Michael wound up opening Brawley’s Beverage in the same building in 2003. In 2014 he renovated the whole place, added a dozen or so tap lines, built out a patio, and opened one of the most popular neighborhood spots in Charlotte.
What we’re drinking: Your choice of rotating beers or wine. The drink menu’s never the same.
What we’re eating while drinking: Pasta & Provisions across the street. One of our favorite very-Charlotte stories: Decades ago the older Mr. Brawley once threw young Tommy George and his brother out of Mike’s Discount Beverage for trying to buy beer underage; now Tommy owns the P&P next door.
#39 Coyote Joe’s
A haven of Charlotte’s country music fans with live music three nights a week
Why we love it: Coyote Joe’s is unapologetically itself. The multi-floor country club brings rising stars and mega stars alike to Charlotte, just by the airport.
Traditional Irish pub in Uptown
Why we love it: The dim, cozy Irish pub is true to its roots as “the home of the perfect pint.”
What we’re drinking: A Guinness.
Old school neighborhood restaurant and bar serving Charlotte since 1933
Why we love it: The family-friendly spot (yes, there’s a kids menu) knows parents need a bar escape, too — even with little ones in tow.
Posh rooftop bar at Grand Bohemian hotel
Why we love it: Sometimes you want to treat yourself to a fancy night out, and when that night comes you go to Búho. Nothing says luxury like the Grand Bohemian’s rooftop bar.
What we’re drinking: A cocktail flight ($28) for three signature cocktail samples, including the Blushing Buho (gin), La Vida Bohemia (tequila) and Girl From Ipanema (rum).
#43 Jack Beagle’s
Laid back NoDa favorite with a great back patio
Why we love it: Their landmark people mural by Will Puckett has to be one of the most photographed walls in town, the back patio doubles as a mini music venue and their legendary mac & cheese is the kind of drunk food we all deserve.
Pro tip: There’s a Wesley Heights location on Morehead Street, too.
#44 Two Buck Saloon
New and notable near Plaza Midwood
Why we love it: Located between Belmont and Plaza, Two Buck Saloon feels like it’s been around for decades, but it’s only a couple years old.
What we’re drinking: Anything Michelle Kimball is making. The veteran bartender (and new mom!) has nearly 3 million followers on TikTok where she talks about mixology and other anecdotes.
#45 Tyber Creek
Irish-inspired South End pub with a charming front patio
Why we love it: The classic pub has been serving Charlotte for almost 20 years, a tough feat in this town. And in fall 2021 they shared the good news: Even with a new development coming to the property, Tyber Creek will live on.
Hip dog bar from Charlotte entrepreneur Meggie Williams
Why we love it: Grab a drink for you and your dog from the bar. And if you don’t have a dog, that’s OK, too.
What we’re drinking: Skiptown recently expanded its drink menu to include liquor. Try the “Purple One” as an ode to Skiptown’s color. It’s made with raspberry vodka, pea flower and a splash of grapefruit soda with blueberries.
Related Axios story: See inside Skiptown, a 24,000-square-foot dog park and bar, now open in South End
#47 The Union
The busiest bar on South Boulevard
Why we love it: This bar loves holiday cheer, any time of year. Look for the colorful string lights hanging from The Union’s ceiling and expect a livelier party than you might think just by looking at it.
#48 SouthBound / Music Yard
Airy SoCal-inspired taco bar with a killer patio, an outdoor music venue and a speakeasy
Why we love it: One space for three different experiences, depending on the type of night you want to have. For live music, hang out at the Music Yard outdoors. For tacos and margs, find a spot on SouthBound’s patio. And for a surprise, read below.
Pro tip: Look for the green light around back to access BackStage Lounge, a sneaky speakeasy you enter by lifting a payphone. (Here’s how to get in.)
#49 The Bar at 316
Gay bar in a renovated Dilworth home
Why we love it: The unique residential building with a double-decker porch creates a never-ending house party vibe.
#50 Smokey Joe’s
East Charlotte watering hole you pass by on the way to someplace else. Stop and enjoy
Why we love it: It has all the elements of a new and hip place — the ping pong table, the fire pits, the big patio and the games — in an old-school, kitschy, grungy setting. Bump into a regular here, and there’s a 50-50 chance that person growls at you or hugs you and claims you a new best friend. Who knows! There’s a wood stove, curious decorations all around, and it just happens to be one of the city’s most underrated music venues.
What we’re drinking: A shot and a PBR.