The Charlotte food and drink scene exploded in 2019. Thirsty? Here’s a list of the 14 best new bars in Charlotte.
All the grand opening coverage is bleeding together, so we’ve narrowed it down to the 13 best new bars that have opened in the past 12 months (December 1, 2018 until now). The list is alphabetical order (not a ranking).
Opened: January 2019 in the Design Center, near Superica
Concept: The popular Spanish tapas and wine bar with a chic European vibe has more than 27 small plates, 400 bottles of wine to choose from, 15 charcuterie/cheese board options, and weekend brunch. Even after being open for the better part of this year, this hot spot still has hours-long waits on weekends occasionally.
Health score issue: Barcelona Wine Bar received a B on their health inspection in September. The N.C. Public Health Inspections report listed 18 violations and gave the restaurant a score of 81.50.
The wine: Barcelona’s wine menu is exceptionally broad and composed of roughly 60 percent Spanish wines along with South American wines, especially from Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, plus many from the U.S. and other areas of Europe.
The price points range from a very high-end $700-$800 tier to more accessible bottles in $20-30 range.
Currently, Barcelona has about 50 wine options by the glass and you can also choose to do a three-taste “wine flight” that’ll run you about $15. And if you’re with a group, consider their sangria pitchers.
Design: You’ll find a a popular u-shaped bar for the Saturday night crowd, romantic small tables for date night, wide banquettes for the whole family and a courtyard-style patio out back with its own bar.
Opened: August 2019, just off Central Avenue near Soul
Concept: The unpretentious wine bar in Plaza Midwood has more than 120 bottles of wine to choose from, a 12-tap dispensing system, and a California cool vibe.
“Over the years, my wife Jenny and I have grown to love wine as much as we love beer,” Bohemian owner Patrick Villafane told the Agenda (he also owns The Hop Shop). “Since Plaza Midwood is our home, we wanted to bring a funky, laid-back wine bar to the neighborhood.”
Wine: The Bohemian features a custom-built 12-tap Cruvinet wine dispensing system. The fancy setup has three temperature zones which keep wines fresh for three to four weeks and allows them to serve a wide variety of wines by the glass ($6 to $15). Additionally, the Bohemian will have about 120 different wine bottles for sale and no corkage fee if you’d like to enjoy it on site.
On the food side, they offer cheese and charcuterie boards with 8 options total options, four different flatbreads and a caprese and bacon and bleu salads
Layout: The wine bar is around 1,500 square feet with seats for 60. The space is broken up into two rooms, a patio featuring a roll up garage door and a main room inside with tables, leather sofa and bar that seats about 10. The Bohemian is taking the space of a dry cleaner in the heart of Plaza Midwood. The exact address is 1319 Pecan Ave.
Opened: December 2018 in Elizabeth
Concept: This is the private club’s second location. The original Crunkleton, on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, has garnered national attention for its Prohibition-era cocktails, most recently being named one of the Six Best Bourbon Bars in the South by Garden & Gun magazine.
Membership: Membership — required by the NCABC because the majority of sales come from liquor — will run you $10 per year. You can purchase a membership online.
Cocktails: It’s about the classics at the Crunkleton. They focus on classic cocktails like the Sazerac, Old Fashioned, Vieux Carré, Tom Collins, and Manhattan – no Fireball.
Design: No expense was spared on the $1 million upfit. “We paid attention to the design details in order to give the community a special place for which they could be proud,” Gary Crunkleton said. “Yet, we wanted the place to feel comfortable and unassuming.”
The 84-seat space features a 30-foot bar with a floor-to-ceiling backbar loaded with spirits from around the world. The 30-foot bar is on your right, four large U-shaped elevated booths are on your left, four top tables will be in the center, and you’ll find three high tops near the windows. Straight back, you’ll find an open kitchen featuring an 8-foot hearth is in the back center.
(4) El Thrifty
Opened: October 2019 in Optimist Hall
Concept: The Mexican-inspired restaurant, bar, and gaming venue is from the team behind Queen Park Social (Reid Olsen and Joe Lariscy). The 6,931-square-foot restaurant features an 85-seat restaurant, a gaming room with 50 lounge seats and a 30-seat patio with custom lounge areas for game-watching.
Entertainment includes duck pin bowling lanes, basketball shooter, shuffleboard, and air hockey, and they have DJs.
Drinks: They have agave-based spirits, mezcal, tequila, local craft beer, and wine with cocktails ranging from $9-$14. They also have a traveling bar cart with tequila flights and customizable mezcals and tequila cocktails.
Opened: February 2019 in NoDa
Concept: Owner Vince Chirico chose to operate without a set drink menu, opting instead to let bartenders drive a custom experience according to a guest’s general taste preferences.
That means rather than peruse a drink list, you’ll have a conversation with the bartender about what you’re in the mood for — dark or light liquor, refreshing or boozy, herbaceous, bitter, citrusy, etc. — and they’ll make you something special.
They’ve got mastery over the traditional cocktails, of course, like a classic Manhattan or Penicillin, and there are some not-so-secret house signatures like the Queen Park Swizzle. You just won’t ever see a printed cocktail menu.
Cost: You pay $1 for membership the first time you visit, and all custom cocktails are $13. They’ve also got everything from $2 PBR to wine by the glass. And shareable plates like their meat and cheese plate ($16) and avocado bruschetta ($10) are under $20.
Opened: June 2019 at Lake Wylie
Layout: The restaurant is divided into five zones — main dining room, mezzanine dining room, The Anchor lounge, a tiki bar and the waterfront deck.
- Main dining room – Large open space with lots of windows overlooking the deck and water
- Mezzanine dining room – Upstairs seating for 120 and an additional second floor bar (available for private rentals)
- The Anchor – Dark, moody bar lounge with a huge Papa Doc mural by Artisan Rooms
- Tiki bar – Themed space with tiki hut booths, colorful murals, roll-up garage doors overlooking the water and an indoor/outdoor bar
- Waterfront deck – Central bar hut and outdoor seating for 120 — plus 38 boat slips for people coming straight off the water
Menu: The extensive menu features steamed and fried seafood platters, oysters, burgers, salads, sandwiches, tacos and bar appetizers.
It’s a casual spot but you can certainly drop some cash. Entree prices range from an $11 cheeseburger to a $38 16-oz ribeye. Check out the tequila bacon mussels ($13), Smack Down shrimp ($11), seared tuna tacos ($11.50) and mac & cheese burger ($13).
Want to really go all in? The Big Papa ($100) includes 1 pound of king crab legs, 1 pound of snow crab legs, 2 pounds of shrimp, and a dozen oysters.
Booze: They’ve got playful pouches, La Croix Becky Buckets, tiki cocktails, large-format shareable bowls and frozen beach drinks. Cocktails are priced $7-11, and shareable bowls are $25.
Opened: July 2019 in Plaza Midwood
Concept: Pinhouse — the latest concept from Hoppin’ owners Rich Moyer and Drew Nesemeier — features 72 self-pour taps — 22 downstairs and 50 upstairs — and four duckpin bowling lanes in the basement. The 6,023-square-foot space formerly occupied by Midwood Cleaners is located at 2306 Central Ave., a couple blocks down the road from Resident Culture.
Self-serve taps: Pinhouse uses the same iPourIt dispense technology with wristbands as Hoppin’. Just grab a wristband at the door, link it to your credit or debit card, and swipe to serve yourself at the taps. They’ll have 72 taps with beer, wine, Prosecco, and kombucha. The beer system was setup by FN Beer Guys.
Duckpin bowling: They’ve got four duckpin bowling lanes. If you’re not familiar, duckpins are shorter, smaller, and lighter bowling pins that you try to knock down with a ball that’s a little bigger than a softball.
Opened: October 2019 in South End
Concept: Lincoln Street comes from the owners of Craft Tasting Room & Growler Shop and it took the 3,000-square-foot space formerly occupied Lady M next door at 1320 S. Church St.
The’ve got three sections: the main dining room and bar, a ground-floor patio facing Lincoln Street, and a rooftop patio.
Stairs from the Craft parking lot lead up to a 28-seat rooftop patio with views of Uptown. A live Ligustrum tree is planted right in the middle with banquette and high-top seating surrounding it. It’s a cool spot.
Food: The menu consists of New-American small plates for sharing made with locally sourced ingredients; most are in the $8 to $10 range and everything is $15 or less. Some dishes include Roasted shishito peppers with lemon garlic aioli, pecorino ($6); beet hummus toast with watercress, ricotta, spiced walnuts ($8); little gem salad with slow-roasted tomato, radish, pecorino ($8); and wagyu with crispy baby yukon, chili vinaigrette, pearl onion ($15).
(9) Link & Pin
Opened: November 2019 in South End
Concept: The 6,500-square-foot restaurant is the newest restaurant and cocktail bar from Rob Duckworth and is located on the ground floor of the new Bradham apartment complex on the light rail.
It’s a gorgeous space with seating for about 200 that’s divided into more intimate sections, including a lounge, glass patio and show-stopping bar.
Menu: The lunch menu features mostly salads and fancy sandwiches like a $29 lobster roll, $16 oyster po’ boy and $14 Nashville hot chicken.
Dinner is an extensive offering of more than a dozen shareable small plates (priced $8-$14) and full entrees like Tomahawk bone-in ribeye ($72), crispy flounder ($38) and a house burger topped with a sunny side egg ($14).
Brunch features include classics like chicken & waffles ($15), house-made poptarts ($8), shakshuka ($12) and shrimp & grits ($15).
Booze: The cocktail menu is presented on an iPad with drinks priced $12-$16. They’ll also have 24 beers, six cocktails, two sangrias, and four wines on tap.
Elaborate mimosa trays with fresh berries and orange, peach, and pear juice are available during brunch for $30 + the cost of your choice of a bottle of champagne (priced $60 and up).
After they get up and running, they’ll ease into tableside service with a mobile cocktail cart in the lounge.
(10) Lost & Found
Opened: October 2019 in South End
The concept: Founder and designer Orlando Botero is quick to point out Lost & Found is not a nightclub. Although it’ll borrow some club scene elements — like VIP table reservations after 10 p.m. and tableside cocktail service — he describes it as an “elevated neighborhood bar.” They’ll have live music and DJs (but no dance floor) and TVs for sporting events. For big events like the Super Bowl, they’ve got big drop-down projector screens. There’s also a 1,000-square-foot outdoor patio with reservable sectionals and fire pits.
“We want to be the true nightlife destination in South End,” founder and designer Orlando Botero told the Agenda. “A lot of people will go out in South End until midnight and then head Uptown for the rest of the night. We want people to stay here.”
Design: Although he says the bar is certainly inclusive for everyone, Botero built it around feminine design features specifically to appeal to women. This includes greenery walls, flowers, pink velvet couches, a huge full-length mirror in the bathroom, and even a “No boys allowed” neon sign.
Cocktails: They’ll have 23 specialty cocktails, including White Claw spritzes, mules and martinis, made with house simple syrup infusions. They won’t be doing traditional club-like bottle service, but if you do buy a bottle for your table, a bartender will bring ingredients over to your table to make cocktails for you.
Agenda related news story: Lost & Found off to hot start in South End with lines to get in stretching down the street
Opened: December 2019 in South End
Concept: The sprawling 23,000-square-foot dual-branded facility features two indoor bars with 36 taps each, a rooftop bar with 24 taps and skyline views, four fire pits, and a stacked lineup of patio games, retro arcades, and duckpin bowling.
Game inventory: 12 duckpin bowling lanes, 20 pinball machines, 30+ arcade cabinets, two pong consoles, two Jenga sets, two patio pings, two giant connect 4s, two foosball tables, bocce ball, ping pong table and a giant lite-bright. A console wall on the 16-Bit side features a lineup of classic Nintendo and Sega games. They’ve also got private event space and you can do a full buy-out if you’re throwing a huge event.
Drinks: The drink menu features a playful lineup of boozy Slush Puppies, candy-laced cocktails, large-format punch bowls, and novelty souvenir glassware. All specialty cocktails are $10, punches are $35 (serves 4-6 people) and drinks in souvenir glasses are $14-$16.
- Souvenir cocktails ($14-$16): The Baller (20oz drink with 6 liquors, lemonade, fruit punch and Sprite) and Game Over (25oz drink with 8 liquors, Sprite, lemonade and Hawaiian Punch)
- Punches ($35) – Pins Pasion Punch (peach vodka, coconut rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, grenadine, Sprite) and Winter Sangria (red wine, cinnamon rum, lemon juice, pomegranate juice, fresh mint)
- Old school cocktails ($10) – Pinball Wizard (blueberry vodka, elderflower, ginger ale, blueberries), pomegranate mule (vodka, pomegranate sour, ginger beer), Jingle Balls (moonshine, apple puree, cinnamon syrup), Spare Pear (bourbon, pear syrup, lemon, Sprite), Sleigh All Day (cherry vodka, lemon, pomegranate syrup, Sprite)
- Retro cocktails ($10) – Hulk Hogan (blueberry vodka, lemonade, Bomb Pop), Carrie Fisher (coconut rum, blueberry vodka, blue curacao, pineapple juice, lime juice, rock candy), The Dude (vanilla vodka, Kahlua, Rumchata, chocolate bitters), Lisa Frank (vodka, fruit punch, Sprite, Watermelon Pucker, pineapple rum, Airhead rainbow sour belt), Kevin Bacon (maple bourbon, ginger ale, real bacon jerky)
Dogs and kids: Because there’s no kitchen on site, Pins is dog friendly inside and out. And it’s family friendly, too. All ages are welcome before 8 p.m. After that it’s 21 and up.
Background: Pins Mechanical Company is a a popular social house and 16-Bit Bar+Arcade has pretty much every classic arcade game from the 80s & 90s. Both are micro-chains with locations in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dublin, Nashville and Indianapolis. Rise Brands, the parent company, develops the concepts next to each other. The dual branding really only matters to the owners. From a customer’s point of view, the merged Charlotte location is just one giant bar.
(12) QC Pour House
Opened: September 2019 in South End
Concept: The 4,400-square-foot space near South End’s Design Center is intended to be a casual middle ground between breweries and high-end cocktail bars without veering too hard into party bar territory.
“We want to add a staple neighborhood bar that highlights the great people and things that Charlotte has to offer,” owner Jay Gasbarro told the Agenda. “Our concept will be focused on the neighborhood and people interacting with each other rather than big events and banging late night music.”
The set up is reminiscent of VBGB’s indoor space with a huge bar, picnic tables and a walk-up food window. There’s seating for 92 at picnic tables, the bar and high tops, plus some central drink rails where groups can stand and gather.
Menu: The walkup food window features a menu of shareable bar food like wings, cheese sticks and nachos along with salads, grilled sandwiches and signature calzone-style hand pies.
Signature QC Pour House Cocktails:
- Orange Crush – vodka, triple sec, orange juice, topped with lemon-lime soda ($8)
- Gone To Church – Jack Daniels, lemonade, soda water, topped with a lime ($8)
- Deb’s Bloody Mary – Titos, Zing Zang bloody mary mix, celery and olives ($9)
- The Kure – Ketel One, Lenny Boy kombucha, and a splash of soda water ($10)
- South End Social – Titos, lemonade, iced tea, sprite, topped with a lemon slice ($8)
- Tucker Does Tequila – Hornitos, lime juice, pineapple juice, topped with a lime ($9)
- The Queens Spritz – Prosecco, aperol, splash of soda, topped with an orange slice ($10)
(13) Spindle Bar
Opened: August 2019 in Optimist Hall
Concept: The Spindle Bar is right across from Ava pizza in Optimist. You can take a seat at the long, gorgeous 18-seat bar or take your cocktail with you while you shop for food. They’ve got 10 cocktails priced $11-$13 and several beers on draft.
They’ve also got a renovated Italian Piaggio truck that serves as a cocktail and beer kiosk with unique cocktails and local craft beers on tap.
Opened: November 2019 in Plaza Midwood
Concept: Tattoo is a tiny, spirits-only lounge with rotating monthly “studies” on various expressions of classic cocktails. It’s in Kiki, a new restaurant and cocktail lounge from the owners of Soul Gastrolounge in the heart of Plaza Midwood.
Soul Beverage Director Kel Minton oversees the bar program. Minton calls the project “an opportunity to do something really special” and actually got his first tattoo in the former shop here when he was 18. He says he’s been conceptualizing these cocktails for years and, with limited capacity for only 16 guests at a time, will be able to execute on their complexity.
The lounge is open 5 p.m to 2 a.m. nightly.