The Queen City is undoubtedly a banking town with a “work hard, play hard” attitude. But long hours in the office translate to a serious sun deficiency, so it’s mandatory that locals gravitate toward watering holes where they can soak up the Carolina rays. These 12 spots offer wines, whiskeys, and witbiers, all with open-air ambience.
Take margarita Monday (or Tuesday, or Wednesday...) to the next level at RuRu’s, where the spacious patio strikes a balance between comfortably laid-back and upscale festive. With high-end neighbor Stagioni as the front man of historic Reynolds-Gourmajenko House, RuRu’s is quickly establishing itself as the “party-out-back” sibling. Start with a cocktail like the "You Talkin’ to Me?” (tequila, jalapeño simple syrup, agave, lime juice, and salt rim) and don’t miss the Long Duk Dong, a Korean-style taco with sweet and spicy skirt steak.
Lower South End
You might show up to OMB and plan on a pint or two, and end up staying all day. With an outside bar, efficient food system (soft baked pretzels and Captain Jack beer cheese without standing around a food truck!), and so many tables, you’ll surely be down to lounge. The massive biergarten is also dog-friendly.
If you’ve ever wanted to hang out on a deck that looks like it landed on top of a diner, you’re in luck. JJ’s Red Hots’ quirky upper deck feels like a grownup version of camp, especially when you take up a gourmet dog like The Whistle Pig (bacon, cheese, onions, Weber’s mustard) and pair it with NoDa Brewing suds. Yes, if you don’t get an umbrella it can get toasty -- but grab a Peaches & Cream popsicle from King of Pops, either from JJ’s freezer or the cart regularly stationed outside, and cool down in true kid style.
The city breathed a collective “finally” when Fahrenheit opened its doors in 2014 as the only rooftop restaurant in Uptown Charlotte, on the 21st floor of the Skye Condos. Fire pits and a seasonal herb garden add some visual interest to the open terrace, in case the expansive skyline view isn’t enough to keep your attention. Though cuisine by Chef Rocco Whalen ranges in fanciness from a classic Margherita pizza to rich, Asian-influenced Kobe beef short ribs, the views look just as gorgeous alongside a locally sourced craft cocktail and some affordable happy hour bar bites.
Plaza Midwood/South End
This bottle shop + live music spot + bar is worth a visit simply for reading the eclectic memorabilia all over the walls. But sit and stay for the people-watching, lively conversations, and general cool factor -- with a local brew or a hard-to-find import. The Plaza Midwood location offers a sidewalk social patio and a tucked away alcove in the back (pictured above); the back patio of the South End location feels like a quirky friend’s porch with market lights and mismatched patio furniture.
When Thomas Street Tavern is busy, it feels like the party you wanted to go to in college. Ping-Pong, cornhole, and an assortment of other patio games keep the crowd active and moving, and the totally unpretentious chimichangas will hit the spot after a night of indulging in the full outdoor bar. Patrons here are laid-back and game for a good night, but with ample space outside, you’re less likely to get an elbow to the face.
The upper level terrace of this Uptown staple isn’t huge, but you can snag a table easily enough if you beat the midnight 20-something rush. Now’s the time to revisit this favorite with the recent opening of the Whiskey Room, serving up 40 different Irish whiskeys, cocktails, and house-favorite whiskey-based punches that serve two to six.
Rounding out the Plaza Midwood trifecta, this three-story gastropub is known for playful dishes like sweet-tea brined wings and -- more importantly -- killer sunset views from its rooftop deck. The front terrace offers a casual Plaza ambience, but the top level is the place to beat the heat, especially when they add a 10ft roof (keeping the open-air feel and views intact) later this summer.
Speak ill of Selwyn Pub, and you might have a crowd of loyal bargoers up in arms. Those who frequent the Selwyn Ave namesake treat it like an early adult alma mater -- appropriate for the decidedly collegiate feel. Even if you don’t arrive in the Ray-Bans and polo uniform, you can still get into the vibe year-round; large screens, comfy couches, fans, and a fire pit make Selwyn a multi-season draw.
If you work Uptown, Halcyon offers a healthy new perspective on your usual view. And if you don’t work Uptown, grab one of the best seats on the block at this Mint Museum-adjoined terrace. With an upscale farm-to-table menu and constantly changing cocktails like summer’s Bohemian Rhapsody (absinthe ice cream, St. Germain, and Prosecco), you’ll find reasons to return again and again.
Start the night classy with a glass of wine or a cool cocktail at Vivace. The lounge furniture is sleek and, well, Metropolitan, and you can pity the runners on the Greenway while you lean back and sip your tequila and limoncello cocktail. Once you’ve wrestled the Metropolitan parking deck (or were smart enough to valet), you might as well make your way down the patio row with stops at Dressler’s and Hickory Tavern to enjoy the summer evening live music.
Although the resident beer hall at NC Music Factory is the perfect meeting spot for a pre- or post-concert crowd, there’s enough going on the rest of the time to be worth a visit for its own sake. Giant games like Jenga, Connect Four, and chess are small-group-friendly, and with the five-court Sandbox at VBGB offering volleyball games right next door (both scheduled and pickup), there’s eye candy -- um, activities for everyone.
Honorable mention: Hare of the Dog
No, it’s not open yet. Yes, it will bring together all of our favorite things: dogs, beer, and on-demand sandwiches. And yes, it’s in the former location of The Philosopher’s Stone. Look out for its “extremely dog friendly” launch later this summer from the owners of Jackalope Jacks.
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1. RuRu's Tacos & Tequila715 Providence Rd, Charlotte
2. Olde Mecklenburg Brewery4150 Yancey Rd, Charlotte
3. JJ's Red Hots1514 East Blvd Charlotte, Charlotte
4. Fahrenheit222 S Caldwell St, Charlotte
5. Common Market2007 Commonwealth Ave, Charlotte
6. Thomas Street Tavern1228 Thomas Ave, Charlotte
7. Rí Rá Irish Pub208 N Tryon St, Charlotte
8. The Peculiar Rabbit1212 Pecan Ave, Charlotte
9. Selwyn Avenue PubSelwyn Avenue, Charlotte
10. Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth500 S Tryon St, Charlotte
11. Vivace Italian Restaurant1100 Metropolitan Ave Ste 100 Bldg E, Charlotte
12. VBGB Beer Hall And Garden920 Hamilton St, Charlotte
13. Hare of the Dog1958 E. 7th St, Charlotte
RuRu’s has a huge patio that's both laid-back and upscale. When you're here be sure to try a cocktail like “You Talkin’ to Me?” (tequila, jalapeño simple syrup, agave, lime juice, and salt rim) and don’t miss the Long Duk Dong, a Korean style taco with sweet and spicy skirt steak.
OMB is the has an outdoor bar, great food, and so many tables you’ll surely be down to lounge. The massive Biergarten is also dog-friendly.
JJ’s Red Hots has an upper deck, plus great food like The Whistle Pig (bacon, cheese, onions, Weber’s mustard).
Located on the 21st floor of the Skye Condos, this cozy spot serves up New American food with a fusion twist. The outdoor portion of the space stunning city views, fire pits, and a seasonal herb garden the restaurant harvests for its own use. Small, sharable plates are ideal for lunch on the open terrace, and more substantial dishes, like the signature Kobe beef short ribs, anchor the dinner menu along with a range of classic, wood-fired pizzas. The atmosphere here is definitely breezy and classy, but not overly fussy. There's no dress code, but you might want to make a reservation at this popular venue, just in case.
This aptly named eatery is an eclectic common ground for locals -- a coffee shop, an all-day dining room, a bar, and a general store, all under the same roof. Offering cuisine for all hours, the market boasts a full service coffee station, a sandwich counter, and a lengthy menu for beer & wine. Browse through trinkets, T-shirts, and vinyl collections while you sip one of the bar's 13 brews on tap, or stop by for some live music on the weekends.
When it comes to kitsch and corn hole, Thomas Street Tavern is a reliable favorite. With a ping pong table, a fully-stocked bar, and a veritable selection of patio games, the outdoor space at TST leaves little to be desired. After a few hours of high-stakes table tennis and some heavy drinking, however, you may have to abandon your post to duck inside for a plate of "Dixie chicken nachos," topped with fresh guac, salsa, and jalapeños. The indoor space is dim and divey, lined with vintage neon signs and wooden shudders, and you can order drinks and food items from the eclectic menu at the bar. Additionally, the popular neighborhood joint hosts live musicians several times a week, both indoors and out -- a convenient soundtrack for competitive rounds of bocce.
This inviting pub may be part of a chain, but it’s been a local go-to since opening in Charlotte in 1997. Built from salvaged parts of an 1800s Irish pub, the warmly lit two-story bar fills fast with the after-work crowd most evenings. Its upstairs outdoor patio and frequent live music make it a draw for Uptown revelers on weekend nights. And the recent addition of the sophisticated second-story Whiskey Room, featuring classic whiskey punches served in silver punch bowls, is only making it a hotter spot for imbibing.
This three-story gastropub is known for playful dishes like sweet-tea brined wings, plus views from its rooftop deck. The front terrace offers a casual Plaza ambience, but the top level is the place to beat the heat.
With its polo shirts and pastels, the crowd here can at times feel a little like an adult fraternity party -- especially on summer weekends. But the tree-shaded deck and flowing drink specials at this neighborhood spot have made it a longtime favorite for locals looking for a place to mingle over cold drinks. Much of the bar is outside, so go when the weather is good, but anticipate booze-filled crowds.
This Uptown spot offers an upscale farm-to-table menu and constantly changing cocktails, plus its terrace has a great view.
Go straight for the patio at this Midtown Charlotte joint — the stunning views of the city skyline serve as a backdrop for some of the most authentic Italian fare around. Come for a killer brunch of gourmet egg dishes, short rib hash and chicken & biscuits, or stop by for dinner to watch the sunset over a cripsy, thin crust pizza, traditional pasta dish or whatever seasonal fish is available (expect swordfish and salmon). You can also get cozy in the sleek lounge for a signature, seasonal or classic cocktail or a glass of wine from its decent-sized collection.
If you’re going to see a concert at the adjacent NC Music Factory, this laid back German-style beer hall is mandatory for pre or post-show drinks. Inside you’ll find a U-shaped frost bar and snacks (order the jumbo pretzel with house-made beer cheese, trust us), but its sprawling beer garden, where white string lights hang over picnic tables, is the biggest draw. The beer selection changes daily and brews are offered in 12oz, 18 oz, and (Munich-style large) 34oz sizes, as well as pitchers, all perfect for sampling from the 30-tap selection.