Thursday, October 30, 2008

Update on Chima

Many of you have asked for a revised opening date for Chima.

The new Brazilian steakhouse on South Tryon will be firing up the grill Nov. 10, according to a press release I received today.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Beastie Boys win the popular vote

The Get Out and Vote Tour stopped in Charlotte on Monday and rocked Amos' Southend.

Singer Santogold got the sell-out crowd energized and Sheryl Crow performed some of her newer songs as well as some old favorites.

But it was clear the crowd was there to see the Beastie Boys. I'd say the majority of the audience was white men in their late 20s to mid-30s wearing either hoodies or old concert T-shirts, tolerating Crow's mellow form of rock until Mike D took the mic.

The tour, which moves on to Richmond today, includes stops in swing states that are playing crucial roles in the upcoming election, including Ohio and Wisconsin.

The performers all made a point to remind the crowd to register to vote and to vote early. Rock the Vote reps were also parked at the venue, registration forms in hand.

For a full review, click here.

Now my one gripe about Amos': It was cool to see such big names play a venue like Amos' but every time I go see a show there, I find myself coming home with a sore neck from straining it to see the stage all night. Unless you get there as soon as the doors open and find a spot either near the stage or along the upstairs balcony, your view is toast since the floor is flat all the way to the back. I much prefer the view at the similarly sized Visulite or Neighborhood Theater where the floor slopes toward the stage, ensuring a decent view from the back.

Monday, October 27, 2008

X-rated urinals out at Sunset Club

Guys will no longer get a peep show when they use the restroom at The Sunset Club.

Co-owner Sonny Gur told me Friday that the club has gotten rid of the urinals that have caused a stir since the club reopened last month after extensive renovations.

Some had called for a boycott of the club while others dismissed the urinals as bathroom humor or works of art.

Gur declined to comment on the club's reasons behind the change and declined to say when the change was made.

Bobcats roll out blue carpet

The Bobcats put on their black-tie best Saturday for the organization's 2nd Annual My Hero Gala.

The party was a fundraiser for the Presbyterian Hospital Community Care Cruiser, a 40-foot RV that provides medical care to those who can't afford it. In its first year, the cruiser has treated 1,200 patients.

Among those celebrated at the gala as this year's heroes:

  • Dell Curry, who was accompanied by his wife, Sonya (but no Stephen). Curry was honored for his work with Athletes United for Youth, a group he founded in 2006 with Steve Smith and Jay Bilas.
  • Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, a physician who works closely with the Salvation Army Women and Children's Shelter, the Charlotte Community Health Free Clinic and other free clinics in the region.
  • Sue Gorman (accompanied by husband Peter), who founded Parent University, an effort between parents and CMS to help parents become partners in their child's education.
On the blue carpet rolled out in front of Time Warner Cable Arena, guests paired their black-tie duds with their fanciest sneakers.

Inside, Ryan Hollins played craps at the makeshift casino, while Gerald Wallace, Jason Richardson, Emeka Okafor and their fellow teammates mingled with guests and posed for photos.

Guests bid on some impressive items during the silent auction including autographed Beatles memorabilia, a boxing glove signed by Muhammad Ali and an electric guitar signed by Jimmy Buffett.

New coach Larry Brown kept a low-profile, delivering a short speech before dinner.

Noticeably absent from the festivities was owner Bob Johnson, who was scheduled to deliver the event's opening remarks. President and COO Fred Whitfield stepped in to replace Johnson, who was called away at the last minute for undisclosed reasons, a Bobcats spokesman said. Michael Jordan also did not attend.

The Bobcats regular season starts Thursday against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The team's home opener is Saturday against the Miami Heat.

Mistress of ceremonies Linda Cohn, an ESPN anchor, said it best, "You guys just need to stay healthy early on. ... You know who I'm talking to, Sean (May)."

Gravedigger's Ball 2008

It was an entirely different evening over at the Gravedigger's Ball.

I managed to get there just as Katy Perry was finishing her set with her hit "I Kissed a Girl."

Thousands of inebriated 20-somethings poured out of the Dixie's parking lot and into other uptown bars to continue the Halloween celebration.

I was a little disappointed in the lack of costume creativity and the fact I didn't spot at least one Sarah Palin lookalike.

There's always hope for next week.

Below are some of the best ones I spotted:

Where will you guys be celebrating Halloween? For a list of parties, click here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Honeys, this isn't your Grandma's bingo

Gay Bingo made a triumphant return to Charlotte on Saturday with a sell-out crowd of more than 2,100 people -- its largest turnout yet.

The fundraiser for Carolina RAIN (Regional AIDS Interfaith Network) has been on a two-year hiatus after six years of daubers, saucy humor and draq queens helped raise $700,000 for RAIN.

Organizers' fundraising goal for Saturday night's "Shelita and the City" was $100,000 and they came in just under that at $95,000, RAIN spokesman Nathan Smith said.

It was my first Gay Bingo experience and no one could prepare me for host(ess) Shelita Hamm's biting wit. Some of her best lines included, "Yes, you in the spring print. Hello, it's autumn," and "You're from SouthPark? You obviously didn't get that sweater from SouthPark," and likening one unfortunate bingo player's hair to a big brown football. (S/he was right.)

Note to future gay bingo attendees: You better not cry bingo wolf unless you want to be publicly humiliated by Miss Shelita -- although she made it awfully hard to keep up as she called out the bingo numbers in rapid-fire succession.

Luckily the BVDs (Bingo Verifying Divas) were on hand to give the crowd (about 70% gay and 30% straight) a break with a few dance numbers to the tune of "Man, I Feel Like a Woman," "Thriller" and Fergie's "Glamorous."

It was quite the production -- part comedy routine, part musical, part fundraiser, and yes, part bingo.

I'm marking my calendar for next year.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New lounge opens tonight in EpiCentre

It's small and intimate and the owners are hoping you make it your new after-work destination.

PJ's Coffee & Lounge officially opens today in the EpiCentre. Their motto? Wake up. Chill out. Wine down.

It's a one-stop shop for all your food and drink needs.

In the morning it serves as a breakfast bar, serving coffee, pastries and breakfast sandwiches. Lunchtime it's sandwiches and salads. After-work, the coffee bar goes dark and the signature martinis are served, along with a few small plates like quesadillas, hummus and assorted cheeses.

I stopped in last night for the lounge's pre-opening party. (See photos here.)

It's a nice addition to the EpiCentre, and offers something different -- a low-key alternative to the raucous crowds at Howl at the Moon, Suite and Whisky River.

It's part of EpiCentre developer Afshin Ghazi's vision to offer something for everybody at the entertainment complex, he told me last night.

The lounge will have live music Thursday-Saturday, including singers like Judson, who has a Jack Johnson sound. 

All of the signature martinis and signature mixed drinks are served with fresh fruit. I sampled a watermelon martini and raspberry mojito and both had so much fruit in them, it felt like I was sipping on a nutritious smoothie (with a kick). My only complaint: The martinis are $12 and signature mixed drinks $15. A little pricey, especially in these economic times. Here's hoping for a half-price martini night.

Next up for the EpiCentre:

  • The movie theater is set to open mid-November, Ghazi said last night.
  • Strike City, the upscale bowling alley/bar/lounge, has a scheduled opening date of Dec. 15.
  • Also coming soon is Mez, a new restaurant adjoining the movie theater that is set to open around Thanksgiving weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Halloween parties start this weekend

Halloween is quickly approaching and the parties are already starting. Here are some highlights. (If you know of other parties, shoot me the details in an e-mail. I'm looking for a variety of events to attract a diverse crowd.)

This Friday:

  • Haunted Nights Bar Crawl hosted by Elevate. No covers, transportation to and from each location on the Ragin Party Pus, free beer on the bus and tons of giveaways. Pickup at 6:30 p.m. at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille. $10. Get your tickets here.
Oct. 24:
  • The 24th Annual Halloween Thriller Costume Ball. Costumes are highly encouraged. The party will be held at The Big Chill, 911 E. Morehead St. $10 for those in costume, $20 otherwise. E-mail for more information.
Oct. 25:
  • "It" girl Katy Perry will headline this year's Gravedigger's Ball. Bundle up because the Dixie's parking lot gets cold, regardless of how much alcohol you consume. A prize of $1,500 will be awarded for best costume. Ages 18 and up welcome. Doors open at 6 p.m. 301 E. Seventh St. $15. Tickets here.
  • Rich and Bennett (of St. Patty's Day fame) are organizing their 8th Annual Halloween Pub Crawl, promising more bars than ever before. Prizes will be awarded for best individual and group costumes. Registration starts at Dixie's at 1:30 p.m. $20 in advance, $30 at the door.
Oct. 28

  • Whisky River kicks off its Whisky Ween activities with a sexiest costume contest. $300 cash prize.
Oct. 29
  • Whisky's second night of Halloween festivities is a 1950s Vaudeville night. Wear your best '50s-era/pin-up costumes. Fashion and hair show will be presented by Bella Lago and the Red Door. $500 in prizes for best '50s fashions. $5,000 in raffle prizes benefitting the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Oct. 31
  • This year's CarnEVIL will be a two-night event at Amos' Southend. Entertainment includes live music, Big Momma's House of Burlesque and a zombie fashion show. 8 p.m. 1423 S. Tryon St. Tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at the door.
  • NV Lounge is going all out for its 3rd Annual Boo Bash on Oct. 31. Best costume wins $1,000 (you must register for the costume contest before 11 p.m.). Creepy drink specials all night. Doors open at 9 p.m. 20924 Torrence Chapel Road. Tickets are $15.
  • Guys with Ties is throwing its 3rd Annual Monster Mash at Cans. Proceeds will go toward The Bethlehem Center. 8 p.m. 500 W. Fifth St. $10 cover.
  • Monster Cash Costume Bash at Whisky River. $1,500 for first place in costume contest.
  • Rocky Horro-ween. A screening of the movie musical, complete with live actors animating the show, costume contest with cash prize, audience participation and complimentary buffet and bloody punch. 18 and up welcome. $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Tickets here.
The full list will be published next Friday in CLT.

Common Market opening in South End

Common Market, the popular deli/coffee shop/wine bar/general store in Plaza Midwood is opening a second location this fall.

The South End spot will be located at 1515 S. Tryon St. just past the Camden Road intersection and across from the Bland Street LYNX station.

Expect the same neighborhood atmosphere as the PM location plus a few additions like a juice bar, wine and beer bar, and on-the-run breakfast foods.

And, of course, Common Market wouldn't be complete without a spacious patio to enjoy a bottle of wine with friends.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A new (aromatic) cocktail trend

First sweet-tea flavored vodka and now hickory smoked cocktails?

That's the trend that's catching on in big cities like New York, according to Trendcentral.

"Mixologists around the country are using flame to smoke various ingredients (and even glasses) to give their cocktails a whole new dimension of flavor," Trendcentral reports.

Some of the most popular NYC smoked drinks include The Waylon, a bourbon and smoked Coke, and a Hickory Smoked Bloody Mary, made with vodka, bourbon and Bloody Mary mix, then rimmed with honey and hickory seasoning.

Has anyone tried such a drink? If not, would you?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Beastie Boys, Sheryl Crow, Santogold coming to CLT

Some marquee names are playing the intimate Amos' Southend this month, it was announced today.

The Beastie Boys, Sheryl Crow and Santogold will perform at the South End venue Oct. 27 as part of the Get Out and Vote tour.

The tour includes stops in swing states that are playing crucial roles in the upcoming election, including Ohio and Wisconsin.

Also on hand will be representatives from Rock the Vote, who will distribute information on local polling sites.

Tickets go on pre-sale Thursday at 10 a.m. via (Password is VOTE for the pre-sale. No password is needed if you buy on Friday.) 

Monday, October 13, 2008

New wine bar has speakeasy feel

A wine bar just opened in Dilworth's Latta Pavilion, but if you don't live in one of the condos above it, you might not even know it's there. It's not visible from the street and there's no sign out yet, so when you do stumble across it, it's like stepping foot in a Prohibition-era speakeasy.

Yn (a play off the periodic table) opened Friday behind 131 Main and is owned by the same people as the restaurant.

It's a cozy, intimate space (capacity is 50 people) with copper gas lamps that provide a warm glow off the copper bar, wood-beamed ceilings and dark leather sofas.

The menu isn't intimidating -- wines (about 30 of them) are well-organized, reasonably priced and already grouped in threes if you want to try a flight. The bar also serves a handful of small plates from the 131 kitchen. My favorite: the shortrib with white cheddar grits. Melt in your mouth good.

The crowd on opening night Friday was mostly young professionals in the 25-35 age range who were passing through on their way to dinner.

It's a great place for a date or to share a bottle of wine with friends.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Shameless party plug

I -- for some unknown reason -- have been named one of Uptown Magazine's Seven Sexiest. The editors clearly haven't seen me in my glasses, bedhead and sweats at Harris Teeter on Saturday mornings.

But I am honored and the magazine is throwing a party Oct. 24 for me and my fellow honorees, including:

  • Anna Kooiman, co-anchor of Fox News Rising.
  • Lauri Wilks, executive vice president of Lowe's Motor Speedway.
  • Sonny Gur, co-owner of The Sunset Club and Kiss Lounge.
  • Jeff Wise, executive director of the National Whitewater Center.
  • Joey Hewell, fashion editor for Uptown and owner of J. Studio Salon.
  • Brotha' Fred of Fox News Edge and 96.1 The Beat fame.
We've all put together some amazing packages to be auctioned off at the party. All proceeds (yes, all, United Way) go to Make-A-Wish. Last year's party helped raise about $13,000, so it's a great cause.

My package is all Observer-related and includes some great press-only perks to a Bobcats game and a Panthers game, a free portrait session with one of our photographers and a chance to review a movie for CLT.

Pick up a copy of the magazine for full details and come help raise some money for Make-A-Wish. At the very least, you should come just to see what Larry Sprinkle's hair looks like in person -- he'll be emceeing the auction.

The party will be held from 7-9 p.m. at Hom.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Another steakhouse?

I got another press release today on uptown's latest steakhouse.

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse is set to open next month on South Tryon near Trade Street.

So what is that? The fifth one uptown alone? It joins Fleming's, Morton's, Ruth's Chris and Bentley's. And that's not even including steakhouses in SouthPark or even South End.

Is there really that much of a demand for red meat?

At least Chima has a Brazilian theme to it.

According the press release, "Chima provides authentic Brazilian cuisine and the ultimate Brazilian experience with an exquisite flair and passion that is evident in their service, food and appearance."

Uptown martini bar expanding

Therapy Marketplace and Cafe is preparing to do some major remodeling as it expands into an empty space next door.

A manager at the martini bar and lounge tells me plans call for adding a full kitchen and a 40-foot bar in the bigger space.

Currently, the cafe serves only sandwiches and salads, but with a full kitchen, it will be able to add steak and seafood to its menu.

Construction hasn't yet begun -- crews are awaiting approval from the managers of the Transamerica Building, Therapy says.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New restaurant opens in EpiCentre

Add Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar to the growing list of steakhouses in the Charlotte region.

The upscale restaurant opened on Friday in the EpiCentre.

In addition to its reputation for serving great steak, the Fleming's brand also is known for its carefully picked wine list, called the Fleming's 100.

I'll be checking it out tonight and meeting with the restaurant chain's director of wine.

Look for a full review in Friday's CLT.

SouthPark event moves to Fridays

Wine Day Wednesdays has a new name -- Wine Day Fridays.

Not as catchy, but a spokeswoman for the weekly wine/music event at the Village at SouthPark says the happy hour switched days after numerous requests from attendees.

If you haven't checked out the Village at SouthPark yet (near Crate & Barrel), it's a good excuse to head over there to peruse some of the sleek furniture stores and good restaurants. And the restaurants offer special promotions during the event -- M5 offers $5 martinis and The Counter offers discounted wines.

The new day takes effect this week and starts around 5:30 on Friday evening.