Being a responsible adult on a Thursday night is always a challenge. Friday's right around the corner, the weekend is only an eight-hour jail sentence away and everyone in the office wants to go out. This past Thursday, however, I was dead set on not staying out late or being hungover and yet, I wanted to do something. Surprise, surprise.
A couple friends mentioned that a new three-story venue, Loft & Cellar, was officially opening later in the evening and suggested I check it out. I decided to check Instagram — so I know it's real – and sure enough, the account verified that the new spot was open for business. It seemed low key enough for a slight Thursday night turn up, so I convinced two of my co-workers to go with me.
It wasn't until I looked up the new spot on Google that I realized this was the place that had been in the works for months right next door to one of my favorite hot dogs spots in the Q.C. – Green's Lunch. I'd walked past it a few times during the construction process but never thought much about what would end up there.
After all the buzz, however, there was no way I was going to miss out on opening night.
We walked a few blocks from work and settled in front of the entryway to the new venue. And even though we weren't going to be able to enjoy a summer evening on a patio, we were excited to see what the new spot had to offer. We walked in and to the right, were leather couches perfect for kicking back and enjoying a cocktail. And to the left? A full bar and dining tables. The intimate vibes and modern-meets-industrial décor drew us in immediately.
We decided to head straight for the bright orange staircase leading to the second floor, which overlooks Romare Bearden Park. That's where we found another bar stretching along the center of the room on the back wall. To the left and right, more lounge seating and dining tables. We settled on stools at the bar and waited for a bartender to place a thick, journal-style menu in front of us. It seemed that the drink menu held well over 100 different types of drinks, including wine, cocktails and beer. What more can you ask for?
My coworker and I thumbed through the pages for a bit before settling on "Barbie Doll" - Tito's vodka, honey syrup, ginger, lemon and club soda. Simple enough for a regular RBV drinker. At first, we joked about the drink being "weak," and wished we'd opted for something else. Little did we know, Barbie meant business and would pack a mean punch as soon as we walked out the door.
As we perused the selections on the food menu, the waitress explained that the executive chef and owner Nicolas Daniels had created the menu around the idea of telling a four-course story — the exposition, rising action, crescendo and resolution.
I can't promise I'll ever make it through all four, but I had to force myself to avoid drooling over the Wagyu beef and opted for planning the meal I'd be getting at the end of the month. My coworkers, however, decided to try the mussels. At first bite, they fell in love. However, following last year's bad experience with mussels (rhymes with pood foisoning), I can't say I was tempted to try them. Regardless, the way they coveted each shell like they were oysters stuffed with pearls finally sold me on the fact that everything on the menu had to be phenomenal.
We stayed for about an hour and one thing was clear: Daniels has developed a concept that brings something quite unique to the restaurant and bar scene in Uptown Charlotte. Your go-to happy hour spot after work. The perfect date-night destination. A haven for foodies and cocktail connoisseurs. This venue balances an upscale dining experience and a casual, laid-back atmosphere perfectly. Not to mention, the basement level is home to the wine and beer cellar as well as a 20-person dining room that will be perfect for hosting a private event.
Once we were finished with our cocktails, we picked up our checks and headed to EpiCentre. That's when we realized "Barbie Doll" had snuck up on us.
"I'm a little tipsy," I laughed as my girlfriend and I hopped out of the car. I watched her tiptoe into the parking deck and she responded with, "I'm glad you said that because I'm feeling a little bit tipsy, too."
If you don't have plans this weekend, make a date with Barbie and head over to Loft & Cellar. Your wallet may not thank you, but you won't regret it!