Thursday, September 25, 2008

Skee, Skee-Ballin'

Every Wednesday and Thursday night this fall, you can walk into Murphy’s Tavern and hear the sweet sounds of your youth -- the familiar sound of a skee-ball rolling down the lane and then the brief moment of silence as it jumps the ramp and lands (with luck and good aim) in the 50-point bucket.

The eighth “skeeson” of Brian Farrell’s BrewSkee-Ball League is starting next month and I got to check it out Wednesday during one of the league’s Skee 4 Free events.

The Story: Farrell, 27, started the Charlotte Skee-Ball League in the summer of 2006. It wasn’t long after his first skeeson started that he was contacted by a BrewSkee-Ball team in New York. They compared notes, teamed up and BrewSkee-Ball Charlotte was born.

In just two years, the league has doubled in size by word of mouth and secured Anheuser-Busch as a sponsor. It is so successful that Farrell quit his day job to devote all his time to the league, creating score sheets, trading cards and mock SKEESPN magazine covers.

The scorecards

An issue of SKEESPN

He has since expanded the league to Wilmington and San Francisco. A Raleigh league is starting next month, and Farrell also has plans to expand to Charleston.

His ultimate goal?
To have a national skeeball tournament next year.

The Players: The league is made up of teams of three, ranging in average age of 23-34. Most everyone joined as a way to meet new people and expand their social network. Indeed, Farrell says the league has spawned about five skeerious relationships and many high rollers told me they met some of their closest friends through the league.
It’s a casual atmosphere as teams wait their turn to play, but the competition heats up at the lanes and heckling is inevitable.

Brian Farrell gets the crowd revved up before the first ball is rolled

Overheard: “If you live by the hundo, you die by the hundo,” and “I bowled two full circles!”

The Prizes: Farrell works hard to include everyone – from trophies for Rook-skee of the Year, MV-Skee and Lifetime Skee-chievement awards to the highest honor of them all – the BrewSkee mug.

Want to Skee? Registration for Skeeson VIII ends Oct. 10. E-mail for more information.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Anatomically correct toilets?

***Update: I've posted a photo to Facebook for the curious readers. It is definitely NSFW. You've been warned. ***

When I took my tour of the all new Sunset Club a couple of weeks ago, I didn't think to ask to see the restrooms.

I should have.

Now I'm realizing that maybe the men's room was left off the tour for a reason: the toilets.

Someone showed me a picture of them last night and I immediately recoiled.

Each toilet has been sculpted, in great detail, to look like the bottom half of a woman whose legs are resting near where her ears would be (also known as the anvil position).

My source tells me the club used a real woman as a model for the porcelain gods (or would it be goddesses in this case?).

I know there is rampant objectification of women in our society right now, but this takes it to a whole new level.

What do you guys think? Funny or offensive? Is it actually a turn-on to the guys who are using the toilets as nature intended?

Newish Elizabeth restaurant

I've been meaning to swing by Nolia for months now and I finally had a good excuse on Wednesday when the restaurant hosted an art gala benefitting Citizen Schools.

The restaurant is in a beautiful older home (reminiscent of Copper on East Boulevard) off Seventh Street in Elizabeth. From what I hear, it's housed several different restaurants, including Ethan's of Elizabeth.

The staff cleared out all the tables to make room for the silent art auction, including pieces on hand from Charlotte's own Vincent Van Gogh, Stefan Duncan.

Nolia (short for Magnolia) opened about six months ago and serves up Southern-inspired fare. On Wednesday, my friends and I sampled shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, smoked salmon, and a rich, creamy shrimp and crab dip. Everything was delicious.

Bartenders were friendly and efficient despite the big crowd -- mostly couples in their 30s.

And according to Elizabeth residents at the party, it has turned into something of a neighborhood hangout for people who live in the area and walk over for dinner, then end up staying all night.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Finger lickin' good

After smelling the hickory smoke from my apartment all weekend, I (thankfully) had the delicious job of helping judge the Backyard Grillers competition at this weekend's Blues, Brews and BBQ festival.

More than 50 teams worked throughout the night to present 40 "celebrity" judges their best ribs and Boston butts.

We had professionals at each of our tables to monitor the judging process, which turned out to be highly complex.

We judged on a scale of 5 to 10, but were told that unless we were "vomiting on the table," we should give only 8s, 9s, and 10s. After all, the grillers were out there working hard and paying money to enter. We also couldn't actually talk about what we were eating, which was a lot harder than it sounds. I had to bite my tongue every time I wanted to mmmmmmm over a spicy, sweet rib or the tangy vinegar sauce accompanying a sample of Boston butt.

It's a tough job, I know.

Lots more fun festivals coming up over the next month:

  • The popular Festival in the Park starts Thursday.
  • The Charlotte Shout Culinary Arts Experience runs from Sept. 26-27 in its new location on the Johnson & Wales Campus. It has expanded this year to include seven cooking stages. Highlights include a Mondavi wine exhibit, and, my personal favorite, the Grey Goose Lounge.
  • Charlotte's Oktoberfest will be held Sept. 27 at Memorial Stadium near CPCC. The Uptown Hopper will be offering a bus trip to the event from Hickory Tavern on Johnston Road. Don't drink and drive!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Celebrities turn out to dragway opening

The zMAX Dragway -- Concord's most controversial new venue -- held its grand opening party Tuesday night, and, being the "Bellagio of Dragstrips," you know Bruton wasn't going to skimp on the bash.

Guests walked a red carpet into the dragway's lobby. Elevators whisked us to the rooftop terrace, where -- I'm surprised to say -- the dragstrip looked quite pretty during sunset. It's an impressive sight to behold, especially as tricked out street rides were barreling upwards of 130 mph down the track. Partygoers, with the smell of burnt rubber in the air, dined on pulled pork, roasted turkey, steak, and the ever-popular mashed-potato bar. (Is it just me or is that as common as an open bar these days?)

But the highlight of the party was rubbing elbows with Charlotte's local celebrities. In one corner, Steve Smith -- who admitted he's a reader of Paid to Party -- chatted with NASCAR's Kasey Kahne (those blue eyes are just as dreamy in person). Bruton, of course, held court at his own reserved table. Tony Stewart brought his orange Lamborghini for a try at the new strip. (Speaking of Tony, you should read this.) And Ric Flair made an appearance -- black eye and all.

The races officially kick off this weekend at the strip with the NHRA Nationals.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gratuitous pics from Hooters opening

I got a coveted invite to last night's pre-opening party at the new Hooters uptown.

I have to admit it was my first time setting foot in a Hooters, and aside from the girls' uniforms, I had no idea what to expect. In fact, I had a hard time even spotting one of the iconic outfits through the hordes of men. It was easily seven guys to every one female patron.

But I will say that when you take away the degrading name, it's a great sports bar with TVs well-placed throughout the restaurant. The bartenders were prompt and friendly --the epitome of service with a smile -- and some silicone. (Oh, come on, it was too easy.)

I hear the wings are good, too, but people who say "I go for the wings" are the same people who say they get Playboy for the articles.

For my male readers, I've posted pics below. Enjoy!

This guy didn't look up from his Hooters magazine for a good 30 minutes.

Friday, September 5, 2008

New nightspot opens

There's an 8,000-square-foot megaclub hiding in the industrial area of uptown's Fourth Ward.

The Garden & Gun Club opens tonight in the N.C. Music Factory, but I got a sneak peak at the venue last night during its friends and family party.

Owners Andy Kastanas (of Forum, Alley Cat and Cosmos fame) and Jim McKinney have kept the look of the club simple. Decor is minimal, not flashy. Instead it's the sound system that really packs the punch.

"It's not New York, it's not South Beach, it's just a place to come and dance and hear good house music," Kastanas told me last night.

Kastanas and McKinney have worked to make the club as unpretentious as possible. Staff members were welcoming and friendly, and there's no VIP line, so don't expect to wait behind a velvet rope to get in.

It's a refreshing change from other spots opening in Charlotte that are trying hard to be as big city and exclusive as possible.

The club says it welcomes people of all ages, races and sexual preferences. And, while not calling itself a gay club, groups of gay men were a common sight last night. I've always maintained through my extensive party research that gay clubs are the best places to dance. Best music and women don't have to be worried about the creepy approach-from-behind technique so many straight guys use at clubs.

I'll have a full review of G&G next Friday in CLT.

And, to read my review of the newly renovated Sunset Club, click here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hooters Uptown set to open

The familiar orange Hooters sign is up and the doors to the "delightfully tacky, yet unrefined" establishment are almost open.

The place known for its beer, buffalo wings, and, let's be honest, boobs, officially opens to the public Tuesday at 11 a.m. What a way to start the day.

According to a press release today, the new 5,900 square foot location on West Trade Street (formerly The Graduate) has a large patio area, 25 plasma TVs and seating that can accommodate up to 275 people.

What do you guys think? Will you go? Is uptown the right spot for Hooters?

Wine on Wednesdays

Stopped by the Village at SouthPark last night to check out Charlotte's newest after-work party, Wine Day Wednesdays.

It's a joint effort by Kiss 95.1 and Elevate to help attract more people to the outdoor shopping center that M5, The Grape and The Counter call home. It's not just Crate & Barrel, people!

Wine Day Wednesdays is a little like the two after-work parties Thursday uptown, Alive After Five and EpiCentre at Five -- just more upscale ($10 gets you three wine tastings, and hor d'ouevres from M5 and The Grape were handed out by uniformed waiters) and with a slightly older, professional crowd. Less fratty, more classy.

The nearby shops and restaurants are also getting in on the act -- The Counter is offering half-price bottles of wine every Wednesday for the next two months, and The Grape is selling whatever wine is being tasted that night for only $5 inside the store.

The crowd was thin last night, but I expect it to catch on as Alive After Five winds down (today is the last day). The event will run for the next 11 weeks from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and portable heaters will be brought in as the weather gets chillier. So throw on a scarf this month and try the flight of reds.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Things you should know

Lots of stuff going on this week and I wanted to make sure you all were aware of it.

First things first, sorry for getting off my regular posting track. I'll be updating more frequently as the fall party season gets into full swing this month and as Charlotte nightlife continues to expand with more and more new nightspots opening, well, nightly (see below).

Five things you need to know:

  • After four months of renovations, The Sunset Club is having its grand reopening party Saturday. Unless, that is, the club considers you friends/family and in that case you'll get into the ultra VIP party Thursday, or if you're a member you'll be getting a members-only peek at it Friday. I'm getting an early look this afternoon and you can read all about it in my Paid to Party column on Friday.
  • Also opening this week: the first nightlife venue in the N.C. Music Factory. The Garden and Gun Club's debut bash is happening Friday night.
  • Apostrophe, a new club in Southend across from Amos', held its soft opening on Friday. It's also the new spot for the weekly Pop Life (next party: Sept. 17). Did anyone go last weekend? What did you think?
  • Elevate and Kiss 95.1 are teaming up for a new outdoor after-work party -- and it's not uptown. Wine Day Wednesdays starts tonight at 5:30 at the Village at SouthPark (aka the M5 parking lot).
  • The Yiasou Greek Festival starts Thursday. Just a tip before you head out this weekend: A cold gyro tastes great at 2 a.m. after three nights of checking out club openings so order two and take the extra home with you. I've already cleared room in my fridge.
OK, what did I miss?