Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat

Friends lovers everywhere will rejoice in the naming of this quaint NoDa coffee shop. I’m pretty sure Phoebe Buffay has never stepped foot in Smelly Cat, but if she did, she would pull out her guitar and start singing in the corner.

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Just across from Neighborhood Theatre, you can find a seat outside of this adorable local coffee shop. While I love my Starbucks, I have to admit that Smelly Cat was pretty darn good. I love how charming the storefront is and that they have a bucket of dog water out in front. The baristas were friendly and the service was quick.

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The decor is whimsical and perfectly place, with exposed brick on the walls. Not in the mood for coffee? I also spotted beer on the counter (however, it was 9 A.M. on Sunday morning and I think order one of those would have been frowned upon!).

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We ordered our coffee to go and decided to walk around NoDa for a few. Coffee is also available in the Evening Muse (Daily Grind) and at the new Aussie coffee shop, Ozpresso.

smellycat1For less than coffee at Starbucks and with double the charm, I have to vote for Smelly Cat. Supporting local businesses is key to helping neighborhoods like NoDa (with no (true) chain restaurants)  survive. So be cool, drink coffee at Smelly Cat next time you’re in the neighborhood!

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Hanging out at Heist

Breweries have been popping up all over the city, and most have their beer served in other restaurants. Heist is a little different in that regard, as they only serve their beer at their restaurant. Not that that’s a bad thing. The food they serve to accompany the beer is deeee-licious!

IMG_2916They recently added a new outdoor seating area with umbrellas and T.V.s, but it was raining last night so we sat inside. I will say that the service is hit or miss, but last night it was pretty good. The food generally comes out in pieces and not the whole table at one time which can be a little frustrating if you’re there with a larger (any more than one) party. Generally though, it’s worth the wait!

Capresi

Capresi

We ordered the Capresi to share as an appetizer. The vinaigrette, mozzarella and basil were perfection. The dish was supposed to have heirloom tomatoes but we really got just a couple (literally 2) slices of a vine ripened tomato. As a lover of those sweet red fruit, I was disappointed in the stingy-ness on this dish.

Salmon Belly Tacos

Salmon Belly Tacos

My husband got these tacos for dinner – and yes, they are really that small. However, paired with the appetizer (and a filling IPA), he was fine. He also gobbled them up faster than I could snag a bite, so I’ll have to take his word on it being “the best dish” he’s had at Heist.

Wings (duh)

Wings (duh)

I was craving wings (or wing sauce) last night, so I opted for these guys. Let me tell you, these are NOT to be eaten on a date. Not even if you’re sharing. Not even if you’re just having one. They are messy and huge and have I told you how delicious they are? I’m a fan. You get 4 of these guys and they are filling, no need to add anything else to your meal if you’re going with the wings.

We visit Heist fairly regularly. It’s convenient, most of the time you can get a seat, and they switch up their menu/beer often enough to keep it interesting. I’ll recommend their flatbreads, their BLTC and their INCREDIBLE tofu, if you’re not quite the wing lover that I am. Check it out and try a flight of their beers if you can’t decide on just one.

In the Club

On Wednesdays, runners gather outside of NoDa Brewing with a goal of completing 1, 3 or 5 miles before swallowing a couple pints of craft beer and enjoying dinner from a visiting food truck. run clubI get asked often if it’s just for “serious runners?” And it’s not. I am not a “serious runner.” I am the runner who can do 3 miles any day of the week and be okay. I can do 5 and be tired and maybe a little sore. I’ve pushed myself through 10ks, and even half marathons, but run club is not about winning a race, it’s a community.

RunclubgirlsJust yesterday, I met up with 3 girls (and a dog) who I previously only knew on social media. We had connected through similar interests and found that we enjoy running (in various distances), most have tried cross fit, and we all love King of Pops popsicles.

runclubfeetThe group takes off as one. And sure, some people fly by, some people start at the front so they aren’t stuck in the cluster on the first hill, but most are there with friends and maybe a pooch, and some start off slower or even walking. We’re there to exercise. We’re there to socialize. We’re there to be a part of a community where we share something: an interest in running (and drinking craft beer).

runclubbeerI would very honestly recommend NoDa Brewing’s run club to anyone who wants to be active and part of a community. Walking is allowed. No one is judging, but everyone is willing to encourage you and support you in finishing whichever route you choose. I’ve been a dedicated NoDa Run Clubber to this point but do have a plan to check out Triple C’s Run Club which is held on Thursdays.

runclubkelbyPS – if you’re not in the mood for food or beer after your run, try a popsicle!

Charlotte in the Major Leagues

As previously mentioned, the Charlotte Knights are now playing baseball in uptown. For a while, there was discussion around this being a major league stadium and bringing in an MLB team to Charlotte; however, that obviously wasn’t the outcome and we now have a minor league stadium in uptown. We do have major league teams for both football and basketball, and also a hockey team, Charlotte Checkers.

Bank of America StadiumThis year, Bank of America Stadium, where the Carolina Panthers play, received a facelift and some handy-dandy escalators. In addition to making it easier for fans to get to their seats, the sceen sizes were increased so you should have NO problem seeing the scoreboard. While this is exciting, the more exciting news in Charlotte is the buzz around the return of our beloved Hornets.

The Hornets left Charlotte after the 2002 season and the Bobcats franchise entered. While people backed the Bobcats, it was never the same as the Hornets. Fans weren’t as invested, seats weren’t full, and well, even having Michael Jordan courtside didn’t do it for the Bobcats. From the first rumblings of bringing the Hornets back, Charlotte went crazy. I haven’t heard a single person who wasn’t on board with this idea. Welcome back, Hornets, we are so very happy to have you.

Music to my Ears

A few years ago, we had the opportunity to move to Atlanta and my husband was excited for the music scene. But for a small city (I will not call it “Mini-Atlanta”), Charlotte has a pretty good music scene.

Ben Harper

Ben Harper

The Fillmore offers an intimate setting, and the outdoor pavilion at the NC Music Factory is great for summer nights and smaller concerts. Time Warner hosts some bigger acts indoors, as does PNC Pavilion if you like outdoor venues. NoDa (Historic Arts District) boasts smaller and more intimate venues like Neighborhood Theatre and even smaller, The Evening Muse.

Black Lillies

Black Lillies

The Whitewater Center offers River Jam on Thursday evenings in the Summer. It’s free (minus the parking) and you get to listen to live music, watch people fall out of rafts and enjoy sweet summer evenings.

Bear Hands

Bear Hands

The End of Summer Weenie Roast (September 6th) is Charlotte’s largest outdoor music festival. It’s our version of Atlanta’s Shaky Knees Festival, just smaller.

Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant

Since moving here in 2008, I’ve been to dozens of concerts. We have some artists that come back year after year, others that wait almost 15 years between visits (ahem, Justin Timberlake), and some local artists that we’re lucky to call our own. Where’s your favorite venue in Charlotte?

The best PB&J in town

Charlotte celebrates “Queen’s Feast” twice a year, once in January and once in July. We always try to visit at least one new restaurant and usually visit a favorite, too. This year, we tried 5Church‘s sister restaurant, Nan & Byron’s. Having eaten at 5Church several times, and enjoyed it, we expected good things from Nan & Byron’s restaurant week menu.

Caprese

Caprese

This menu was surprising because it included a drink, in addition to the 3 courses, and it could be wine, beer (even craft beer) and liquor. I ordered the Caprese to start with, while my husband ordered the Peppadew Poppers. We devoured the poppers before a photo could be taken. It was definitely the better of the two appetizers. Having multiple basil plants in our garden, I was wishing I had a few leaves to mix in with my salad.

Salmon - grilled salmon, braised kale, garlic oil roasted potatoes, beet-coriander vinaigrette

Salmon – grilled salmon, braised kale, garlic oil roasted potatoes, beet-coriander vinaigrette

My husband is a fish lover and selected the Salmon. It helped that he also loves kale and beets. The presentation was amazing and he said the meal was, too! I was torn between the chicken and steak and our waitress recommended the filet. It was a good pick!

Filet Mignon - Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, sautéed green beans, sweet & sour onions, red wine reduction

Filet Mignon – Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, sautéed green beans, sweet & sour onions, red wine reduction

I think I would have preferred something other than mashed potatoes but the flavors all worked well together. I devoured a brownie with ice cream for my dessert, and yes, it was just as standard and delicious as it sounds. My husband, also known as the world’s biggest lover of peanut butter, ordered the PB&J cookies. Two peanut butter cookies sandwiching a berry cream filling.

PB & J - peanut butter cookies, mixed berry cream filling, vanilla Anglaise

PB & J – peanut butter cookies, mixed berry cream filling, vanilla Anglaise

Okay, stop drooling. They were delicious. His only change would have been that the cookies were warm. Everyone loves warm cookies. Overall, we gave Nan & Byron’s a solid 4 (can you tell we’re Yelpers?). Our waitress was wonderful but the food itself was a little slow (although the manager did come out and tell us). It’s a great place to try some interesting items and enjoy Southend.

Next up for restaurant week is our long-time favorite, Passion8 Bistro.

Run Charlotte

It came out this week that Charlotte made a list of the Worst Cities for Recreation. I was slightly astounded by this article because we have greenways; we have run clubs;  we have races almost every weekend; we have trail runs; we have biking teams; we have the Whitewater Center; we have crossfit gyms popping up in every empty warehouse, so how can this be?

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Sure we aren’t a big-city where everyone walks or uses public transportation, but some do! With the lightrail extension over the next few years, hopefully this will increase. However, from an active person’s point of view, Charlotte is very active and provides opportunities to be active. There are 3 parks within a mile of my house. Once a week, a group of neighbors get together to play softball. Runners, walkers and bikers constantly go by my house.

FlywheelGranted, you have to choose to be active and to use the recreational spaces provided but I have to disagree that Charlotte is one of the worst. Here are a few options for ways to get active in Charlotte:

NoDa Brewing Run Club
Triple C Run Club
24 Hours of Booty (July 25-26)
Whitewater Center
Free Fitness Classes at Romare Bearden Park

Check out the rest of the list and let me know what you think. Should Winston-Salem have beaten us out?