SweetCakes Cupcakes

If you’re headed North of Charlotte, or have a sugar craving, you should plan to visit Cornelius. I stopped in SweetCakes to get a cupcake for my niece’s first birthday and walked out with a whole box full, half large and half mini cupcakes. I felt I would have been doing myself a disservice to not try more than just the one that I had initially planned to purchase. I justified ordering so many because some of them were mini cupcakes and they don’t have all the calories that the full size ones do.

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I stand by my decision because these were some of the best cupcakes I’ve had in my entire life. My favorite, and the best seller per the owner’s admission, was the Salted Caramel cupcake. Mocha, hummingbird cake and red velvet all tied for second. My husband said the Peanut Butter Truffle was his favorite. And my niece, who doesn’t talk yet, demonstrated that she enjoyed the vanilla cupcake with sprinkles by devouring the whole full-size cupcake.

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Brenda Lord and her daughter, Heather Allen co-own and operate SweetCakes. They started in 2008, baking in their home and have grown into their current location and also have a cupcake truck known as “Dottie.” Dottie visits various events, the Huntersville Business Park and food truck rallies in the area including Cabarrus and Southend. They even do weddings!

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Everything is homemade in the shop daily, from the cake to the icing to the candy on top of the cupcakes. Unique flavor options such as maple bacon, blackberry wine, orange creamsicle and strawberry lemonade will have you drooling. Large cupcakes are $3.25 and the mini cupcakes are $1.25.

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SweetCakes Bakery is located in The Shops at The Fresh Market at 20601 Torrence Chapel Rd, Suite 106, Cornelius, NC, and can most easily be accessed off exit 28 from I77.

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I highly recommend checking out this sweet spot and satisfying any and all cravings you have with their sweet, salty, and rich flavors.

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Tacos and Tequila

Bakersfield on East is one of Charlotte’s newest (and best) spots for delicious tacos. This industrial spot is surprisingly large inside, with a wrap around bar for all of your whiskey and tequila needs. Old garage doors open onto East Blvd. letting in air and light on warm summer days. It’s as amazing as it sounds.

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The menu is a la carte and the tacos, while filling, are small. The average person probably needs at least 3 to consider it a meal. Chips and salsa are considered an appetizer and not free. I actually thought this was a good thing. Sometimes you eat so many chips before your meal comes out that you’re stuffed. If you aren’t just handed chips and salsa then you can’t do that. Personally, I didn’t splurge on the appetizer and saved all the room in my belly for tacos.

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The tacos come out ‘family style’ on a plate, making for a pretty display and the corn tortillas are made in house. Adding a salad or side of beans to the taco order will help with making it a complete meal.

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Habenero hot sauce and pickled jalapenos are extra, but worth it. The jalapenos weren’t super hot (for me), but the hot sauce was the real deal. The Cochinita Pibil had the habenero sauce on it and was DEFINITELY spicy. The waitress was nice enough to tell me how hot it was and confirm it was what I wanted to order before placing the order.

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The draft beer selection is slim, but there are plenty of bottle options. Or you can just go for the margaritas which will compliment your tacos perfectly.

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Parking can be tough on East Blvd, but Bakersfield offers free valet just across the street. Definitely recommend checking out this hot spot with friends and enjoying a wonderful Tex-Mex meal in Dilworth. Lots of good seating for parties and events, or just a date night. Order one of each taco, your palate will be delighted.

 

King of Pops

There have been at least 10 occasions this summer where I’ve claimed I *need* a popsicle to get me through another day of this North Carolina heat… and King of Pops has saved me from the brink of dehydration every time… quite possibly saving my life. Okay, maybe that’s a tad extreme but this heat has been unbearable at times and King of Pops happens to make incredibly refreshing popsicles and is conveniently available in areas that I frequent.

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King of Pops is actually a chain and can be found in many cities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia (just in case you’re dying of heat in a city other than Charlotte). Three brothers started the company years ago after falling for popsicles while vacationing. I am so thankful they took that vacation!

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The pops are either milk based or fruit based. I tend to go to for the fruit based ones since I limit my dairy intake, but I must say, the Chocolate Sea Salt one is INCREDIBLE. You can check out all the flavors here, and see which ones are made with your favorite flavors (and which are gluten free!).

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Business is obviously booming as more and more carts are “popping” up around town. They’re always in NoDa and Plaza Midwood, but more recently, they’ve been seen in Ballantyne at the corporate park.

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The pops are all natural and made with the freshest ingredients, their website even says you can catch the owners shopping at local farmers markets for fruits and herbs! For sweetening, they use organic cane sugar, honey and agave.

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If you don’t want to drive around town to find a cart, you can visit their shop in Noda, just behind Noda Brewing and Birdsong’s old building. They have a storefront there with a nice porch where you can enjoy your pops. Prices have jumped around a bit, last summer they were $2.50, I’ve paid $3.00 for most of mine this summer, but did go up to $3.50 at the NC Music Factory during a show. Still, for fresh, quality ingredients and a cold popsicle, it’s totally worth it.

Free Range Brewing: Let your taste buds roam

Saturday seemed like the perfect day to check out Noda’s newest brewery: Free Range Brewing.

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Doors opened at 5 PM and the place was pretty packed by 5:30. They offer half pints, which is a great way to try each of their eight brews without having to drink eight beers, I mean, unless of course you want to drink eight beers.

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Jenny Bought a Farm and Pure Intentions were my favorites, while I felt the Caroliner was lacking a bit in taste. It’s nice that they also offer non-alcoholic drinking options.

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The space was well utilized inside. There’s plenty of seating, a long bar, and you can see up close where they brew the beer. There’s also a good amount of standing room outside on the patio.

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While this may be one of the smaller breweries, they actually have a pretty good space for starting out. And if you remember, OMB, NoDa and Birdsong all had smaller first spaces and have moved or are moving into larger facilities. It’s exciting to have a new brewery in the area since Birdsong moved earlier this year farther down N. Davidson and NoDa Brewing plans to move in the near future.

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It’s worth checking out this new spot next time you’re in the neighborhood. Grab a bite to eat from the food truck outside, grab a pint or three inside and take a break from this heat.

High five, Free Range! See you again soon!

#InstabeerupCLT: Why you should be there

I attended my first #instabeerupCLT in March, and I’ve been every month since (kicking myself for not going before then!). I am incredibly excited for next week’s #instayearup at Unknown Brewing.

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Instabeerup is more than just an opportunity to have beer at one of Charlotte’s many craft breweries. You can do that any day of the week. It is a chance to casually network and an even better opportunity to make new friends. In fact, one of the “rules” is to meet at least one new person. I’ve been fortunate to meet journalists, funny guys, Kristi of @FeastFoodTours, other people in my field of work, and a few ‘friends’ from Twitter. Being friends IRL is way more fun.

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I look forward to these monthly gatherings because they aren’t stiff networking events where everyone is walking around with name tags, business cards and a personal agenda, it’s more everyone is walking around with name tags, a pint and a friendly smile.

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While I personally haven’t made connections for my career, I have enjoyed meeting new people and hearing about their exciting ventures in Charlotte. Also, there’s beer. And sometimes the first beer is sponsored by someone awesome like Yellow Cab of Charlotte.

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So unless you hate beer, don’t want to make any connections for future jobs or new friends, and are basically a recluse, you SHOULD be going to #instabeerup. My husband is an introvert and he went, so you can, too. Again, unless you are a hermit, I expect to see you on Thursday, 6/25 at Unknown Brewing with a smile on your face, beer in your hand and talking to at least one new person.

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PS – let’s give it up for Corri Smith (@corriasmith) and Amy Herman (@VTGCLT) for putting this together. Charlotte is a big place, with so many smart people and so much potential, so we need to be getting together more often. Share your ideas, make new friends, taste good beer, do big things in our city.

Queen City Helicopters: Birds Eye View

Everytime I log into Instagram, I see tons of pictures posted of Charlotte’s skyline. No shame there. It is a pretty skyline. The sunsets have been magnificent lately, only making it prettier.

The only thing better than staring at the skyline from your balcony, is taking a gander of it from above.

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Last week, I took a tour with Queen City Helicopters and got to see Charlotte from a totally different perspective. We took a 20-minute ride around the 277 loop and saw the top of the Duke Energy building, down into the Panthers and Knights stadiums, and even got a good look at the pool on top of the ‘Pink Building.’

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While the ground-view shots of the skyline are nice, you can see miles beyond that from inside the helicopter. You can see all the way to Crowders Mountain!

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I was in the helicopter that fits two passengers plus the pilot (they have bigger ones if you have more passengers!). While small, it was completely comfortable. At first, I was a little nervous because there were no doors (don’t worry, Mom, I wore a seatbelt), that quickly went away. Going up in a helicopter is about a million times more smooth than going up in an airpane.

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The company is run by a father/son duo. The son was our pilot and was incredibly informative as we flew over the city. Everything seemed so professional, yet casual, which is exactly how it should feel.

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In addition to aerial tours of the city, they offer charters to get you to and from where you need to be in the city, aerial filming and even flight training if you want to be the pilot!

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This was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had since living in Charlotte. If you want to get a new perspective on the city, live on the edge a little (no doors!), or surprise your other half with a special adventure, give Queen City Helicopters a call: (704) 629-4677. I guarantee you’ll be talking about it for months to come after you get back on the ground. If you mention that you saw the article in When In Charlotte, you’ll get 10% off of your aerial tour! There’s no other place you’ll have views this good of the Queen City!

At the Summit

In my best Chris Traeger voice, I literally loved everything about The Summit Room. We arrived 45 minutes early for our reservations and decided to grab a drink at the bar.

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That quickly turned into two drinks because they were so smooth.

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The Summit Room’s Cucumber Collins is the ONLY gin drink that I have ever liked. And by liked, I mean, I downed this drink in a matter of minutes. Then I had this Mango-Strawberry Splash which included a prosecco topper. Always say “yes” to prosecco toppers.

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My husband went with the Chocolate Old Fashion, but he assured me it was not like dessert, and I would not like it. He, however, liked it so much that he got the same thing twice.

IMG_5412To keep us from getting tipsy before dinner, we decided to order an appetizer to accompany our drinks. My husband, the expert food selector, picked the grilled zucchini flat bread. Definitely one of the more filling appetizers you could order but it was so delicious that I think we could have ordered a few more and called it a night.

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Because the first appetizer was so amazing, we ordered a second. Both the bartender and our waitress recommended the BBQ Shrimp, so we figured they had to be good.

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And boy, were they good! The shrimp were served over a corn pudding cake and were DEFINITELY a good choice.

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We got a quaint corner seat inside, and even though there was a big party sitting close by, it was still quiet enough for us to enjoy ourselves and to hear each other over dinner. There’s also a darling outdoor seating area and the cutest rocking chairs on the porch.

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My husband ordered the duck for dinner and it came with delicious blueberry grits and spinach. I had the salmon, which was thick but cooked perfectly.

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Since we over-indulged in appetizers, cocktails and our entrees, we decided to skip dessert, but not before at least taking a peek at the dessert menu. We decided then and there that we’re going back for drinks and dessert very soon.

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If you’re looking for a fun and semi-fancy place for dinner, I definitely recommend The Summit Room. They have a cool backstory and their tables were created from local landmarks. Plus, the cocktails… amazing… smooth… yum.