Food & Drink

The Best Cocktail Bars in Charlotte

Published On 09/23/2015 Published On 09/23/2015
Courtesy of Punch Room/Justin Driscoll
The Cellar at Duckworth's
Courtesy of Pint Central/Justin Driscoll
Courtesy of Heist Brewery
Soul Gastrolounge
Crepe Cellar
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1. The Punch Room 201 E Trade St, Charlotte, NC 28202

When a bar is on the 15th floor of The Ritz-Carlton and features gold accents, plush leather seating, and skyline views, you expect it to be good. When that spot also includes Bob Peters, an enthusiastic bartender whose creations make him more magician than mixologist, it's safe to expect greatness. Sample the daily punch, but bring your sense of adventure for one of the inventive elixirs like Carbonated Aviation, an effervescent twist on the classic, or Strange Brew made with smoked bourbon, hazelnut milk, and a coffee ice cube.

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2. The Cellar at Duckworth's 330 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202

With a speakeasy Roaring Twenties atmosphere unlike anything you've seen in Charlotte, this restaurant has carved out it's niche in the city. From a carefully crafted cocktail menu and rivaled beer selection, to the menu selections all sourced locally, this restaurant makes for a quality dining experience. Boasting one of the best filets in Charlotte and having a 32oz. Tomahawk Bone-in Ribeye Steak there red meat selection is sure to please.

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3. Pint Central 1226 Central Ave, Ste A, Charlotte, NC 28204

The roster of beers on tap at Pint Central reads like a greatest-hits list for local beers. With over 40 bottled brews, and 34 on tap, the Southern spot is a mecca for North Carolina's most devoted beer fans. The dog-friendly patio and the casual, rustic taproom provide ample space to chat over cold pints of jalapeño pale ale, or some of the lighter local wheat beers, while those who are less interested in hops can opt for a house cocktail or a glass of wine, instead (the bar is fully stocked with premium Carolina liquor). The food menu consists mainly of Argentinian-American tapas, like chicken empanadas or kimchi-topped pork belly, and on Mondays, tacos are just 1$, when paired with one of Pint Central's numerous bottled Latin American Beers.

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4. Heist Brewery 2909 N Davidson St, Ste 200, Charlotte, NC 28205

Housed in an old cotton mill, this triple threat is part brewery, part cocktail bar, and part restaurant -- and the whole is greater than the sum of those parts. Despite the ample seating, this is the kind of place you’re likely to have to squeeze into the bar, or wait for a table on the weekends, especially during its next-level Sunday brunch. The small batch beers change frequently and are especially tasty when mixed in one of the beer cocktails like The Black Fog made with Heist stout, rye whiskey, and blackberry puree.

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5. Kindred Restaurant 131 Main Street, Davidson, NC 28036

Nestled in historic Davidson, this family-owned and chef-driven restaurant never disappoints with its modern takes on Southern cuisine. Like many new American-style restaurants, this chic eatery cooks with local ingredients, rotates their menus seasonally, sticks to small portions and stuns with elegant presentation. The home-made milk break, duck fat potatoes and crispy oysters are all must-haves at dinner — order one of each and share the wealth with your entire table, that's the best way to get a little bit of everything.

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6. Soul Gastrolounge 1500 1/2 Central Ave, Charlotte, NC 28205

For regulars at Soul, Mondays are always a treat -- the evening's soundtrack is crafted purely of R&B and soul on vinyl, hand selected from the restaurant owner's very own collection. The small-plate lounge is notorious for tasty, inventive house cocktails and upscale snacks like Asian glazed pork belly tacos to match. The no reservations bar is small and fills quickly, so get here early if you're looking to eat, while there's plenty of standing room for drinkers. The constantly rotating cocktail menu features (potent) libations like a Celery Spritz made with gin, Cointreau, house-made celery-lemon seltzer, and olive oil, and each night of the week, Soul hosts a different DJ, so patrons at this dimly-lit craft-cocktail-haven never run out of reasons to keep coming back.

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7. Crepe Cellar 3116 N Davidson St, Charlotte, NC 28205

Located in NoDa's arts district, this cozy gastropub offers Euro-inspired cuisine that ranges from crepes and steak frites to pesto pasta and pan-seared Scottish salmon. You'll want to go for one of the savory buckwheat crepes (they're in the restaurant's name, after all), which come in varieties like ham & gruyere, spinach & wild mushroom, and turkey apple brie. The Crepe Cellar burger is a favorite, too, served on a soft potato bun, smothered in creamy garlic aioli, and topped with melted gruyere cheese and some onion straws for crunch. When it comes to beverages, you can expect a rotating list of craft beer, seasonal cocktails, French press coffee, and tea.

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8. Fahrenheit 222 S Caldwell St, Charlotte, NC 28202

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.

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9. Stagioni 715 Providence Rd, Charlotte, NC 28207

This is an updated take on a classic Italian bistro, with European elegance and a restrained seasonal menu. Using all local produce and proteins, the chefs at Stagioni craft a list of small, sharable plates inspired by classic Italian flavors, along with wood-fired pizzas and handmade pastas. There's no guarantee what'll be there when you go, but definitely keep an eye out for the creamy housemade burrata and hand-rolled gnocci. There's definitely an upscale vibe within the space itself, but the atmosphere is relaxed an causal—no need to get dressed up. You will want to make a reservation, however, as this place gets rather busy. The upscale-yet-relaxed dining room features an Italian-inspired menu of surprising small plates and seasonal entrees along with wood-fired pizzas and handmade pastas.

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10. 5Church 127 N Tryon St, Suite 8, Charlotte, NC 28202

Feather chandeliers, leather banquettes, and a black ceiling set the scene at this sleek, loft-style space in the center of Uptown, where signature dishes such as a lamb burger, ahi tuna poke, and citrus- & herb-roasted whole fish are served alongside fancy libations. Guests typically mingle here earlier in the evenings for a drink or two before continuing on to another nearby nightlife destinations. Specialty cocktails like the Viper (Patron, orange liqueur, cucumber water, and cayenne pepper) and the Rosemary Gin Fizz (gin, liquid egg whites, and rosemary simple syrup) are sophisticated enough to keep up with the crowd.