Ink N Ivy, that highly visible and highly anticipated new restaurant overlooking Romare Bearden Park, will open next week on Monday, November 7.
It’s a monstrous project from the service industry-savvy Bottle Cap Group that also runs All American Pub, Brazwell’s, Hot Taco, Oak Room, Slate and Whiskey Warehouse. It’s safe to say this isn’t their first rodeo.
Still, Bottle Cap’s interpretation of what should fill this indisputably valuable and relevant physical space in Uptown has been surprising, unexpected and a bit divisive.
In my circle, reactions to Ink N Ivy have ranged from “game changing” to “gaudy” and I agree with both so I decided to go form my own opinion. Here are the highs and lows from my first preview visit to Uptown’s new nightlife and day drinking darling.
Let’s start with the obvious home run at this establishment—a sprawling patio overlooking Romare Bearden Park with views of Knights Stadium and the city skyline.
What I like most about this patio is that I felt like there was plenty of room to claim space and not feel suffocated. It’s wide open with lots of seating options which leads me to believe there’s a lower likelihood of being crammed shoulder to shoulder with drunk strangers, which is not easy to say about most of the bars in Uptown. Ding, point!
An Outdoor Bar
You can’t build a patio this big and expect people to trek all the way back inside for a drink. Vine, the outdoor bar, is a smart add given the size of the space and Charlotte’s mild climate most of the year.
Also, double bars cut wait times in half, right? Check my math on that.
I tried the Poison Ivy—Ketel One Citroen, pink lemonade, lemon wedges, basil and house-made ginger simple syrup—and thought it was delightfully refreshing. I find that cocktails that come in full pint glasses are usually overly sweet but this was surprisingly/dangerously drinkable.
Uptown’s brunch options seem to jump from quick counter service places like Hazelnuts and Local Loaf to formal sit down restaurants like The Asbury and Mimosa Grill with very little in the middle.
Ink N Ivy looks like it will offer up your favorite fancy brunch foods (like pecan-crusted French toast, shrimp & grits and chicken & waffles) in a hangover-friendly sports bar environment that happens to be dripping in crystal chandeliers.
It’s also worth noting that the brunch menu starts with a cocktails section that features six different mimosa variations (including a margarita mimosa, heeeey), four different Bloody Marys and a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. Buckle up.
It should be a law that any potentially rowdy nightlife venue with even the slightest chance of a patron throwing up in the bathroom should be equipped with motion-sensored everything so you don’t have to touch anything. Faucets and paper towels approved.
I can’t figure out what’s going on in here but it looks like Guy Fieri designed an Ed Hardy-themed restaurant. The leopard sofas, bright green chairs, artsy stumps and purple sofas are all visually screaming “BOMB DOT COM” in your face when you walk in the door.
The skeleton space is so smartly designed that I think they really missed an opportunity to not try so hard with the decor.
For me, the menu leaves much to be desired. Granted, I’m vegetarian and they really only have two meat-free options (an eggplant sandwich and a veggie pasta, YAWN), but I think even meat eaters might be bored of what looks to me like the same old chicken tenders, quesadillas, burgers and chicken sandwiches. (They do spice it up with a raw bar, though.)
By all means, check back in after the grand opening on November 7 and correct me if I’m wrong, but I just don’t think your favorite sports bar will also be your favorite raw bar will also be your favorite brunch spot. There’s too much going on to do it all well.
In short, I think Ink N Ivy is occupying some of the most valuable restaurant and bar real estate in Charlotte. The ownership team has a successful food and drink track record that proves they’ve got what it takes to roll out a sustainable concept and, judging by the hype online, people are ready for it.
You’d honestly have to try to fail in here and, despite some of their best efforts to do so in the decor department, I predict Ink N Ivy will not struggle to find its footing. “Game changing” and “gaudy” aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.