Thursday, January 29, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII

I know it's hard to get excited for the Super Bowl this year, but at the very least, it's the perfect excuse for a party.

Here's what's going on this weekend:

  • Super Ad Madness at The Attic. The Panther-less big game means we can focus on what's really important: the commercials. The sound will be turned up so you can appreciate the millions of dollars spent on quirky ads involving clydesdales, geckos and erotic veggies. Food will also be provided. And test your luck with Ad Bingo -- use your Bingo daubers to mark off advertisers as their commercials play. 5 p.m. 200 N. Tryon St. No cover. E-mail Colleen at for more info.
  • Having a party at home? Consider participating in the Souper Bowl of Caring, a nationwide effort to raise awareness and money for those who are hungry in our community. People who throw Super Bowl parties can ask their guests to donate financially to Charlotte's Urban Ministry Soup Kitchen. So even though the Panthers are out of the running, Charlotte can still win big with your help. For more information on how to participate, click here.
  • The Alphas of Charlotte present The MLK Super Bowl party at Alley Cat. Drink and food specials will be offered throughout the evening. Tax deductible contributions for the MLK Memorial will be accepted. 4 p.m. 314 N. College St. No cover. More info here.
  • Nosh on traditional tailgate fare at Andrew Blair's. The restaurant will offer a buffet and drink specials throughout the game. 5 p.m. 1600 Montford Drive. $15 for the buffet. Call for reservations: 704-525-8282.
  • At Morton's uptown, Cardinals fans can sip on Big Red-tinis (Absolut Citron and Gran Marnier with cranberry and lime juices) while Steelers fans can toss back the Steel City-tini made with Johnny Walker Black Label, honey syrup and iced tea. And of course, there's a championship menu available, too. Call 704-333-2602 for reservations.
  • Nix Burger & Brew's game day specials include the "Pitts" burger (topped with crinkle fries, slaw, bacon, cheddar and Thousand Island dressing, $7.95) and the PhoeNIX burger (topped with homemade pimento cheese and caramelized jalapeno onion jam, $7.95). Drink specials include $1.50 Bud/Bud Light bottles.
  • At BlackFinn Saloon, the bar will be offering its usual game-day specials: $2 beers and $18 beer towers. Giveaways and prizes all afternoon. Doors open at 11 a.m.
  • If you're a Steelers fan, you already know that Dixie's is like a little Pittsburgh on Sunday. Get there early to get a seat. And new to Charlotte's Steelers nation is Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill in University City. Bring your Terrible Towels and enjoy the sights.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any Cardinals bars in Charlotte. So tell me Arizona fans, where will you be watching the game? And feel free to add to this party list in comments below.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Waitresses dare to bare at Bikinis

Move over, Hooters, there are some new girls in town.

Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill opens tonight in University City. Its motto: "Sports with a View," and indeed you get an eyeful, thanks to the waitresses uniforms -- bikini tops, cutoff jean shorts and cowboy boots.

And yes, there are some sports involved, too. The restaurant-bar has more than 30 large, flat-panel TVs located throughout the space and you're in luck, Steelers fans, because the bar affiliates itself with the team, so bring your Terrible Towels this Sunday. (Sunday Funday specials include $2 well drinks, $2 10-ounce domestic drafts and $4 25-ounce domestic drafts.)

I checked the place out last night during a mock-service training day for the girls -- all of whom are cute, friendly and welcoming, even if you're not a guy ogling them. But I have to say it had the feel of a strip club where women are paid to be friendly to guys, sit at the tables with them and flirt -- except the tips aren't as good.

The whole place is designed to make men feel, well, manly. A 10-ounce draft beer is called a "lil guy" while the 25-ounce size is the "Big Daddy." There's even a four-pound Big Buckin' Burger on the menu (at the bargain price of $19.99). If you finish it, you get a T-shirt.

Decor includes Maxim magazine covers of bikini-clad women and photos of women wearing (you guessed it) bikinis while washing a car.

With that said, you won't see a lot of female paying customers there, so guys, this one's all you.

Enjoy the pics!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Uptown nightclub closed

The Hom nightclub complex, which houses Liv, Play and Feast, closed Monday -- but it wasn't clear whether its doors have been permanently shut.

In an e-mail Tuesday, the building's owner, Stefan Latorre, wrote:

"I can confirm that HOM closed yesterday. My company owns the building where HOM is located, and as a result of their closing, it owns all of the assets in the building. I do not want to comment further at this time."

A source said Latorre plans to reopen the club in two to three weeks. However, it is not clear whether Hom's current employees will be retained under the new ownership nor whether the club will continue to retain the Hom name.

Hom, at 116 W. 5th St., had been operating for just over a year.

Monday, January 26, 2009

StrikeCity is now open

StrikeCity, the new upscale bowling alley and bar, quietly opened Saturday at the EpiCentre, beginning a week of pre-opening festivities that culminates in Friday's grand opening party (see below for how to win tickets).

I got the grand tour this afternoon, and, like all things EpiCentre, the new upscale alley is beautifully designed.

(Click here for a really cool panorama courtesy of Observer photographer Gary O'Brien.)

Indeed, General Manager James White points out, "This isn't your father's bowling alley."

Instead, StrikeCity is "next-generation" bowling -- "the most high-tech, state-of-the-art experience you can have in a bowling alley," says Thom Perez of Full House Productions.

There are 12 bowling lanes in the main room (capacity 365), which consists of a large dining area, two bars and a game room. Up to eight people can bowl on a single lane. And instead of the plastic chairs, fluorescent lighting and grimy linoleum floors of yesteryear, bowlers can wait their turns on high-backed leather banquets and cushy bar stools on gleaming hardwood floors, all lighted by chandeliers and track lighting.

Two private rooms offer an additional six lanes of bowling. If the rooms aren't booked, the public can bowl on those lanes as well.

Another standout -- the sheer amount of flatscreen TVs located throughout the 25,000-square-foot space. About 75 in all and not one of them is smaller than 50 inches. Twelve-foot screens mark the end of each lane so you'll never miss a minute of the game.

A full menu -- heavy on the Italian thanks to StrikeCity's partnership with Libretto's Pizza next door -- is also available.

The facility is smoke-free until 10 p.m. seven days a week. Smoking is not permitted on the lanes. The facility becomes 21 and up starting at 9 p.m. seven days a week.

Prices are pretty standard -- White tells me the alley wanted to keep things affordable for everyone.

  • Shoe rentals are $4 a pair. (Socks are also available to buy at $3 a pair.)
  • From 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, cost is $5.95 per person, per game.
  • From 5-close Monday-Thursday, $6.95 per person, per game.
  • Friday and Saturday nights, the total cost for one lane is $45 an hour and up to eight people can bowl on a single lane.
  • Saturday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and all day Sunday games are $35 an hour.
My early prediction: Waits will be long since there are only 12 lanes (two private rooms are available to rent as well), but there are enough distractions -- from the dance floor and huge main bar to the plethora of plasmas -- that make it more than just a bowling alley.

I'll have a full review of StrikeCity on Friday online and in CLT.

Want tickets to Friday's grand opening party? E-mail me by 5 p.m. today and tell me about the most fun you've ever had at a bowling alley.

Greasy spoons for the morning after

A reader e-mailed me last week looking for recommendations on where to refuel after a night of bar-hopping.

Here are my favorite breakfast spots around the QC (but I find that a double quarter-pounder from McDonald's usually does the trick):
  • Zada Jane's in Plaza Midwood. This brightly colored corner cafe offers everything from omelets to amaretto french toast. My favorite? The bunny rancheros: two fried "happy" eggs, black beans, home fries, choice of chorizo, turkey sausage or soysage, then topped with white queso and pepperjack cheese sauce, guacamole, salsa verde and cilantro crema. Come hungry and bring your patience -- it's a popular place and the servers never seem to be in a hurry. (Open Saturday and Sunday starting at 9 a.m.)
  • Pewter Rose in South End. PR has the best brunch in town, hands down. I could live on the (free) butterscotch scones alone. (Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.)
  • Original Pancake House, various locations. Sure, it's a chain, but nothing beats a short stack of blueberry pancakes. (Breakfast served all day.)
  • Light Rail Family Restaurant on South Boulevard. First signs of a good breakfast -- the parking lot is full and the people inside are over the age of 70. Nobody knows a good breakfast like Grandma and Grandpa. (Breakfast served all day.)
  • Big Daddy's in Dilworth added a breakfast menu in July to its already popular lineup. Try the Big Daddy Benedict -- two poached eggs and two slider patties on an English muffin with Hollandaise sauce and queso. (8-11 a.m.)
What about you guys? Where's the perfect Sunday morning, post-drinking breakfast?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Paid to Party goes to Washington

At the last minute last week, I decided to brave frigid temperatures and millions of people to return to my hometown for the presidential inauguration.

With silver tickets in hand on Tuesday, my sister and I bundled up and trudged from Adams Morgan, past the rows of memorabilia-hawking vendors, through the Third Street Tunnel (clear by the time we got there) and finally down to the National Mall -- where we hit a sea of people crowding in front of the now-infamous Silver Gates.

We were among thousands who waited hours to move just 25 feet before giving up at 11:15 and hailing a cab in time to catch the swearing-in on TV.

At least we were warm.

But the bust of the morning was quickly vindicated that night when we donned our gowns and headed to the hottest ball in town -- the Neighborhood Ball. As disorganized as the morning was, the folks running the balls at the Washington Convention Center (where about 40,000 others were also attending parties) ran a tight ship, setting volunteers in place from blocks away who accurately directed us first to security (a mere five-minute wait), then to the coat check and finally up to Hall D where ABC was busily getting the ballroom ready for its live broadcast. (The JCC should take notes for the next inauguration.)

The hottest accessories for the night came courtesy of Runway to Change. Ladies who wore long-johns and sneakers under their dresses to guard against the cold used canvas Obama bags by Tory Burch and Diane Von Furstenberg to store their party shoes.

Inside, the hall was decked in blue carpet, American flags and giant screens emblazoned with the stars and stripes. The atmosphere was electric as ABC tested cameras, pulled people on stage to fill shots and Nick Cannon got the crowd warmed up, promising that the Obamas were on their way.

The show started promptly at 8 with (is he everywhere these days?) performing "New Day." Mary J. Blige performed "Just Fine" shortly after, and my sister and I were just feet from the stage where we could marvel at the height of her Christian Louboutin heels. Mariah Carey -- surprisingly petite in person -- sang a weak (for her) rendition of "Hero," followed by a performance from Maroon 5.

But the highlight of the night, which made the morning a distant memory, was when Beyonce (who's even more beautiful in person) took to a podium just four feet from our vantage point and serenaded the Obamas with "At Last" for their first dance of the night.

My head practically fell off as it swiveled from Beyonce to my right and the Obamas on my left.

And after President Obama proclaimed they had "nine more balls to go to" to the groans of the audience, the show quickly continued with performances from Alicia Keys, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Ray Romano, Faith Hill and Shakira.

My only regret was that the ball was much more of an MTV-like concert than a legitimate inaugural party -- so from the Neighborhood Ball we headed to experience a real bash, the Google/YouTube party at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.

White gauzy curtains decked the soaring ceilings, white leather benches and glowing white food stands provided relief to party-weary guests, while others played Wii in the game room. Celebrities like Richard Branson, Ashleigh Banfield, Ben Affleck, Joaquin Phoenix, Jessica Alba and Sarah Silverman mingled with regular folk before retiring to a curtained-off VIP section. Meanwhile, where the crowd at the Neighborhood Ball merely gawked at the star-studded lineup, guests of Google danced their butts off as a DJ spun an eclectic mix of pop music.

It was the perfect party to end the surreal night.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hot wings, cold beer, good times

Wild Wing Cafe officially opened Friday in the EpiCentre, just in time for the weekend's NFL playoffs. The uptown location joins two others in Charlotte. 

I checked it out during a pre-opening party Thursday night and found it to be a traditional sports bar with one of the best TV setups uptown. At any given spot in the bar, I could see at least four large flatscreen TVs to check out the score of the Orange Bowl. And while it's a large space (about the size of BlackFinn, except all on one level), there's only one bar -- but that didn't slow down service at all. It was well-staffed and servers were attentive.

The menu boasts 33 different flavors of wings from mild to habanero hot, and offers several different beers on tap.

Decor is as you would expect in a sports-bar chain -- lots of wood, lots of neon and a thin haze of cigarette smoke. There's also a large stage where the bar plans to host live music acts. Tokyo Joe performed Saturday after the Panthers game and U-Phonik played during the grand opening party Friday.

All in all it's a nice up-to-date addition to sports-bar options uptown and should give Hooters a good run, especially for those seeking decent wings without a side of boobs.

Well, the tailgating was fun

I'm sure you've read enough about the Panthers abysmal loss Saturday night to the Cardinals, so I won't dwell on it here.

Instead, let's focus on the hours leading up to kickoff when the city was buzzing with excitement and you couldn't walk 10 feet without tripping over a tailgate in session.

At 6 p.m. a slight drizzle was falling over uptown, but that didn't stop jersey-wearing revelers from sitting out on the patio of Stool Pigeons -- from the looks of it, there was no room inside.

Farther north on Church Street, it was a family-friendly environment as kids tossed the football with dads -- but approaching Third Street is where the parties (and the smell of burgers and brats) really got going. 

Picasso's was full by 3 p.m., and two hours before kickoff a line of 30 people stretched out the door. "What's your capacity?" I asked the doorguy. "I don't know, but we're way over."

At the corner of Mint and Third streets, Clear Channel radio had the most rocking tent set up. Three flatscreen TVs showed the Ravens-Titans game while "Baby Got Back" blared from speakers. It seemed like more of a nightclub than a tailgate as one woman gyrated against one of the tent poles.

On the hill on Mint Street, a crowd of people stopped to listen and dance to the Harding High marching band, which is trying to raise $50,000 to march in President-elect Obama's inauguration parade. The band also played halftime at the game.

Elsewhere, I saw DJ Jazzy Jimmy (of Dixie's fame) spinning tunes for a group of dancing tailgaters; a man dressed in a Crown Royal cape and passing out shots of the liquor to passers-by; one well-prepared group pumping shots of Jagermeister out of a bottle; multiple games of beer pong, cornhole and ladder golf; and hundreds of people booing a small group of Cardinals fans who deigned to walk through the party.

The energy of uptown was palpable and, up until about 8:30 p.m., it was fun to be a part of the revelry.

Here's looking forward to next season, guys.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Updates, openings and name changes

Things are changing rapidly in the Charlotte nightlife scene -- here's the latest:


  • The 2009 CIAA Tournament is a little more than a month away. For those of you looking to party that weekend, I'm starting to compile the exhaustive list of hot spots now and hope to have an early version up next week. Have a party you want me to post? E-mail me the details, including date, time, address and ticket price. (Please do not include fliers -- they clog my inbox.)
  • Bartender's Ball 2009 is happening Feb. 15. Get your tickets (includes open bar and dinner buffet) now -- none will be sold at the door.
  • Wild Wing Cafe opens at the EpiCentre on Friday, just in time for this weekend's playoff games. They'll have live music from Tokyo Joe after the Panthers beat the Cardinals Saturday night.
  • StrikeCity, the new bowling alley and lounge at the EpiCentre, is tentatively set to open Jan. 29.
  • Also coming soon to the EpiCentre is Libretto's Pizza. Get a taste of real New York City pizza from this Manhattan parlor.
Name changes
  • Driving along East Boulevard the other night, I noticed that the old City Tavern spot, which became Plan B restaurant in May, has been reinvented again. It's now called Rock 'n' Lobster (the sign out front depicts an Elvis-wig-wearing lobster carrying a guitar). Plan B owners decided the menu wasn't up to snuff and decided to give it a makeover. A manager told me Thursday that the new concept opened in November and will hold its grand opening party Jan. 14 with live music from Simplified. "We've turned it into more of a rock club and a venue where you can get really good seafood," she said.
  • Crush, the old nightspot next to the Westin on Stonewall Street, is now Club Ice. Haven't checked it out yet, but it apparently hosted a Panthers party last weekend with special guests like Chris Gamble, DeAngelo Williams and Jeff Otah.

A peek inside Mez

My review of Mez and the new EpiCentre Theaters ran a couple of weeks ago in CLT, but unfortunately we didn't have room for some of the beautiful photos taken by the Observer's Jeff Siner.

I've posted them here, for your enjoyment.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Playoff parties this Saturday

Saturday's Panthers game against the Cardinals is inspiring tailgates and viewing parties around the Charlotte area.

Here's what I know so far. Send me others if you've got 'em.

  • BlackFinn Saloon will be offering its standard GameDay Menu (food specials range from $3.95-$7.95; drink specials include $2 Miller Lite pints) on Saturday. On Friday the EpiCentre sports bar will host a Panther Prowl pep rally starting at 5 p.m. with special guests Brett Basanez, Gary Gibson and Rod Smith. Throughout the night, patrons will have a chance to win autographed Panthers memorabilia and BlackFinn gift certificates.
  • The Town of Ayrsley is hosting a tailgate party at the south Charlotte mixed-use district starting at 2 p.m. Highlights include cornhole, activities for kids, and food and drink specials at the town restaurants. In addition: Ayrsley Grand Cinemas is offering $5 movies until 5 p.m., Play N Trade will host a 2009 Madden Football Tournament and Fintastic is giving away free betta fish to anyone wearing Panthers garb. Free entry.
  • Pantherfanz Tailgate Party. This dedicated group of fans parties every week on South Cedar Street. This Saturday they'll have a large heated tent sponsored by Red Bull with two big screen TVs to watch the earlier divisional game. Food includes hot dogs, brats and chopped pork. Live music from the Contagious Blues Band. Giveaways all night. Details here.  
  • Cans will be open at noon and is expecting big crowds all day as tailgaters drop in and those without tickets pop in early to guarantee a seat. Specials include $4 Miller Light Tallboys. Miller girls will be in the house to help run Miller's Trashtalk Promo which lets Panthers fans talk smack with Arizona fans via text and TV. Starting at 6 p.m., the bar will open its lower level to accommodate crowd spillover and a DJ will start spinning music immediately after the game. 
  • Andrew Blair's on Montford Drive is throwing a playoff party before and during the game. Features include a gourmet buffet starting at 6:30 p.m. and drink specials. The restaurant's private party room features a 120-inch HD projection screen. After the game, a DJ will be spinning tunes in the restaurant's lounge area for anyone who wants to avoid the crowds uptown. Cost is $15 per person or $8 for children 12 and under.
  • Pre- and Post-Panther Party at Blue Restaurant. Blue will be offering special drink prices, appetizer specials and a special menu. Specials include a $6 PantherTini; two appetizers for $10 (5-7 p.m.); and a four-course meal ($40 per person) from 5-11 p.m. Free parking available for Blue customers in the Hearst Tower Parking Garage beginning at 4 p.m.
  • Jersey giveaway at Lake Town Tavern in Cornelius. One official NFL Carolina game jersey will be given away. Must be present to win. Other jerseys and sports memorabilia will be for sale. Specials include $5 WooWoo and Jolly Rancher shots; $2 select bottle beer specials and $5 loaded nachos and chicken quesadillas.
  • Tailgate Party at Easy Eddie's Motorcycle Service & Lounge in Huntersville. Live music from John Barkley and Johnny Penion (6-8 p.m.); 35-cent wings; $1 drafts. All are welcome, bike or no bike.
  • Picasso's uptown offers the closest location to Bank of America stadium and has 22 HDTVs for those who didn't score tickets to the game. The sports bar opens at 11 a.m. Get there early to guarantee a seat. Drink specials: $2 Bud Light and Miller Lite cans.
  • Fox & Hound will be offering its usual game-day specials: $2.50 Bud and Bud Light pints, $4 23-ounce Sam Adams drafts and $5 golden margaritas. Open at 11 a.m.
  • All of the Charlotte Hickory Tavern locations will be offering $2.75 Michelob Ultra bottles, $2. 50 Shock Top bottles, $12 bottles of Hickory Tavern Label wine. If the Panthers win, each restaurant will draw a winner for a Hickory Tavern gift card worth $5 for every point the Panthers score. 
  • Enjoy Alley Cat's giant HD projection screen and multiple plasmas during the game Saturday. The rock 'n' roll bar will have a special game-day tailgate menu and drink specials. No cover until 10 p.m. and no cover all night for those wearing Panthers garb. Special halftime and post-game performance by U-Phonik.
  • NIX Burger & Brew's Playoff Party will feature "super bowls" of chili for $2.95 and $1.50 Bud/Bud Light bottles before, during and after the game.
  • '80s resurrection band Blue Monday will play halftime at Midtown Sundries' Denver location. 
  • LaVecchia's is offering a three-course pre-game menu for $29.95 per person and $5 Red Bull/Vodkas. Free parking at Seventh Street Station.
  • A tailgate fundraiser will be held for the Harding High School marching band before it plays at halftime. The party, which will raise money to help the band march in President-elect Obama's inauguration parade, will be held from 2-4 p.m. at The Excelsior Club, 921 Beatties Ford Road. A football autographed by Steve Smith will be auctioned off.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ringing in the New Year

Charlotte was buzzing all week as area bars and clubs decked their dance floors with balloons, noisemakers and party hats in preparation for New Year's Eve.

The family friendly First Night had people young and old countdown to midnight at the alcohol-free event, but farther up Tryon Street some major celebrations were happening despite the frigid temperatures.

At 9:30, lines were already forming outside the EpiCentre hotspots. My first stop -- by way of a blanket-equipped pedicab -- was Sponsor Parties' 12th Annual New Year's Eve Celebration at BlackFinn Saloon, where a young early 20s crowd was already getting into the festivities. I saw one girl with her shoes already off way too early in the night.


Upstairs was packed, yet drinks were easy to come by thanks to the well-staffed (open) bar. A DJ played the usual crowd-pleasing singalong songs, but also threw in a surprise or two, such as Mariah Carey's infectious (at least to the women in the crowd) "Fantasy."


Over at Mez, the black-tie party was a bit more mellow and drew an older mix of partygoers, probably 28-45. The restaurant had converted the upstairs loft into a lounge, roping off VIP tables for bottle service. Unintrusive house music allowed easy conversation, but the volume and energy of the crowd was on its way up as more people started arriving at 11.


The party of the night was probably at Suite, but I didn't stay long enough to find out -- to walk across the club involved peeling your way through bodies and within minutes I was sweating.

With minutes to spare before midnight, I cabbed it over to my last stop of the night: Rich & Bennett's New Year's Eve Bash at the new Common House in Plaza Midwood.

Common House

More than 1,000 people turned out to this sellout party that included open bar and a buffet from Hawthorne's Pizza. The restaurant had a giant heated tent outside where most of the partygoers stayed to dance and mingle. Inside the staff had given up the battle of trying to keep things relatively clean -- plastic cups and beer splattered floors made the whole thing seem like one big, but still fun, frat party. I was surprised though that it started to clear out as soon as midnight struck. It seemed as though everyone was making a beeline for their coats by 12:30.

Common House

Nearby at the Thirsty Beaver Saloon, my party spies tell me that those who didn't want to pay $100 at the Common House opted for the free entry to the Beaver, where staffers handed out mini bottles of Miller High Life -- the "champagne of beers" -- at midnight.

And the Avett Brothers had Belk Theater rocking as they closed out their two-night New Year's Eve show.

Overall, Charlotte had one heck of a New Year's. I found it to be a lot like Halloween, where every place you go you see friendly faces of people who are eager to have a good time and ring in the new year with total strangers. It was one of the rare nights that I felt a sense of community about our city.

But enough about my night -- I want to hear from you guys. Since I couldn't be everywhere at once, tell me how you spent NYE. Where was the best (or worst) party?

For more party pix from New Year's Eve, click here.