When it comes to travel, I prefer to ask the locals where to go to eat, drink, and socialize. Nine times outta ten, you’ll get places that don’t make the blogger “Top 10” lists – but they’re always the best places to go. Charlotte’s NoDa was no exception . . . so off I went to check it out.
Located just two miles north of Uptown Charlotte, North Davidson (affectionately known as NoDa) has been going through a sort of transitional makeover these past two decades. The evolution from milltown to vibrant arts community is home to many locally-owned performance venues, restaurants, breweries, galleries, and small shops.
NoDa by Day
My day does not start without a strong cup of coffee. It’s been that way ever since I had my first child 33 years ago, and it is still a daily requirement to this day.
Although I really wanted to go to all the places not recommended by popularity or paid sponsorship, I just had to pop into Smelly Cat Cafe – just because I am still a true FRIENDS fan.
Smelly Cat Coffeehouse & Roastery
Armed with a solid base of quirky style, a name to remember (think Phoebe from FRIENDS), and strong community support, Smelly Cat’s pursuit for quality coffee continues to wow it’s loyal base of coffeehouse regulars. But what you might not know is that they also offer a breakfast menu featuring classic, made from scratch buttermilk biscuits, a cocktail menu for hot and cold spirits and a cold brew tap list. PLUS, an awesome outdoor patio that’s great for people-watching.
I did a lot of walking while in NoDa. I mean, what’s not to love about the kitschy, vibrant arts district? The murals alone will keep you entertained for hours and it makes for a great walking tour.
By noon, I had built up an appetite with all the walking I did. So as I continued my stroll down Davidson Street, trying to decide where to eat, I got a of whiff of something flavorful in the air. What was that delicious smell? You could literally pick out the seasonings being used as the wind carried the savory aroma through the corridors. When I looked up, I was greeted by a bright-yellow brick building, with a sign that read “MANGOS.”
Mangos is that under-the-radar gem that you can’t wait to write home about. Specializing in Caribbean fusion made from scratch, they intricately meld authentic Jamaican flavors with a fresh modern style. Savory dishes are roasted to perfection while their sauces are simmered with the time and patience required of true Caribbean culinary heritage.
My hostess was kind enough to bring me their”locals only” dish, prepared by their cook, whose recipes are made with the love and passion of a true Islander.
Next, my lovely hostess brought out the main course: classic jerk chicken with yellow rice, peas, and sweet candied plantains with a crunchy brown sugar coating.
It was one of the best dishes I had during my stay in Charlotte. But wait. I wasn’t finished. My meal was completed with their famous Rum Cake. The alcohol content is so high that you must be 21 years or older to order it . . no lie! When I prodded for the recipe, I was told it was a chef’s secret.
I literally wiped that plate clean. It was soooo delicious.
The Dog Bar
Can’t bear to leave your four-legged friend at home? Take ’em along. Enjoy a cold brew at The Dog Bar while your pooch plays with other dogs on the outdoor astroturf patio. Dogs of any breed and size are welcome, so long as they are well-behaved off leash, have their vaccinations current, and are spayed or neutered.
I love this place. The vibe is chill. The beer is homebrewed, cold, and tasty. And it has the best outdoor hangout. You can’t go wrong here. They even offer tours of their facility, taking you from process to pour – with samples at the end. I went through their tour and had to share this video with you. The story of how they came to be is cute. Thanks so much to our hostess with the mostess for the tour. It was so cool!
Ok. I just had to share this picture of the outdoor patio. Not only does NoDa Brewing offer a great outdoor area to chill, but it is also family-friendly. Bringing the kiddies to a brewery would never fly in Los Angeles. Gotta love NoDa for that. They are definitely all-inclusive.
And what’s a tasty, cold brew without tacos? Luckily we were able to grab a few delicious tacos from Charlotte’s OG food truck, Tin Kitchen Taco Truck, parked on-site. At the recommendation of the chef, I was bold enough to try three of their to-die-for tacos: Chicken Tinga w/Salsa Verde; Pork al pastor w/Pineapple Salsa; and Cilantro Lime Shrimp w/Nappa Cabbage Slaw. So amazingly delicious! I honestly have to say, those were the best tacos I have ever tasted. No lie! And I’m a Latina from Los Angeles!
The Evening Muse
The night was still young and I wasn’t ready to call it quits just yet. So as I made my way back to NoDa’s hub on Davidson Street, I couldn’t help but get drawn in by the live music coming from The Evening Muse. For $10, I was able to catch four hours of live music from two local performers. My favorite? Olivia Lane. Her striking, sassy vocals belted out some of the hippest country songs that have since made it onto my playlist.
Four hours later, I was ready to rest my weary head on a soft pillow and snuggle up under my down comforter, until . . . my Lyft driver asked if I had been to Amelie’s French Bakery & Cafe. Amelie’s is where the locals go for late night cafecitos and the best salted caramel brownies. I reminded him that it was already 2 a.m. and he said, “No matter. They’re open 24/7.”
Amelie’s French Bakery
Named after the 2001 French comedy “Amélie,” the open-all-night french bakery’s whimsical french decor is as sweet and inviting as its pastries. One bite will send your taste buds into sensory overload.
Amelie’s salted caramel brownies are said to have a cult following and have been featured in the lifestyle magazine Home + Garden. Naturally, I had to try them out myself. OMG! Now I know what all the fuss is about. So good, it could only be summed it up into one word . . . H-E-A-V-E-N-L-Y! If you’re ever in Charlotte, get to your nearest Amelie’s immediately! I swear you won’t be disappointed.