When the leaves begin to fall in Charlotte, the nightlife vibe changes. The summer attire of suns-out, guns-out, buns-out fades and the cooler weather either keeps nightlifers from going out as much or forces them to seek the comfort of a warm, inviting atmosphere.
Fortunately, there's plenty of places in the Queen City to go that will help you find just what you're looking for when you're trying to get classy not trashy.
Sophia's Lounge, for example, brings a slice of the elevated speakeasy; it's a kick-back-and-relax atmosphere that you'll find everywhere from NYC to the QC.
But when my friend suggested we make the early move to Sophia's with one of the owners, I was apprehensive.
Why? It's located in The Ivey's Hotel across from Dandelion Market. Anytime I hear boutique and hotel in the same sentence as a nightlife venue, I get a little nervous.
Are we going to be too lit for a classy venue? Are the drinks going to break the already broken bank? Is the crowd going to be pretentious?
Nevertheless, I need a regular change of scenery to stay awake most nights, even on weekends, so I was excited to at least vet a nightlife venue that's only been on the scene for a couple of months.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a dapper young gentleman who was giving off Andre 3000 vibes. So far, so good, if you ask me.
Upon entry, I could tell that while the crowd was different from the regulars we'd find at The Corner Pub, I didn't feel as if I'd stepped into a stuffy environment.
In fact, the layout couldn't have been more perfect. From bar seating to the dining tables to the deep and comfortable tufted couches, the space was perfect for keeping congestion to a minimum while encouraging intimate conversations.
Think Amelie's on steroids — but with matching décor.
Did I mention the playlist was on fire? Maybe it was because it was a Friday, but I thought we'd only be listening to the sounds of a piano or jazz.
Don't get me wrong: I can appreciate a good jazz band, but when the temptations of Dandelion Market and SIP are only walking distance away, I need what some of my friends call "turnips" (aka turn-up music), and there were plenty of turnips to spare.
What was even better? When I started to bug a bartender for a charger, one of the managers offered without hesitation. Now, that's what I call service!
I plugged up my phone and placed it on a velvet-tufted bench in the corner — I know, so basic. The same manager handed me a drink menu and proceeded to help figure out the best choice for me at that particular point in the night.
I'd been drinking vodka, so I decided on Where Is the Honey — New Amsterdam vodka, rosemary honey and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.
While the extravagant lifestyle I've been trying to live cannot support too many of the cocktails, which ranged from $13 to $18, Sophia's definitely knows how to craft a delicious drink.
My biggest regret the next morning as I was fighting off nausea was that I didn't try one of the small plates on the menu. I'd glanced at the menu, but of course I wasn't hungry after having a few beers.
Dishes I noted: Maine lobster sliders, jumbo lump crab cakes, filet mignon toast, deviled eggs and the charcuterie board.
You just have to wait until that next paycheck drops.
My girls and I relaxed on the sofa — we liked to think that we had our very own VIP sitting area, psych — sipping our tasty cocktails as we considered our next move. We'd said our goodbyes and walked outside, but next thing you know we were walking back in to sit at the bar.
Sophia's was so much fun that we were convinced we needed to grab at least one more drink.
This time I tried Melon'dramatic. We subbed out the lavender-infused gin for vodka but left the other ingredients — Drambuie, melon syrup, citrus juices and lime zest — alone. Another great choice.
Overall impression? Sophia's Lounge offers an upscale experience combined with a comfortable environment, delicious drinks and from what I could tell, exceptional small plates. The perfect spot for girls' night or date night, its space and versatility make for a solid nightlife venue.
OK, promotion done.