Mix Editor Chloe Gould delivers guide to game day eateries
The Gamecocks are hitting the road for Saturday’s game, filling Charlotte, with all the university’s garnet and black glory. While most Gamecock fans will spend Saturday afternoon tailgate-hopping on the Bank of America Stadium grounds, the city also has a whole host of restaurants, eateries and bars to check out before and after the big game against ECU. Also, take a look at the different events My Carolina Alumni Association has scheduled for Friday evening, and support its effort to “paint Charlotte garnet.”
Charlotte’s EpiCentre, or the hub of all nightlife, dining and entertainment, houses restaurants that cater to every imaginable palate and bars that bring together drinking, music and all the cool the city has to offer. StrikeCity polishes the art of bowling, while Howl at the Moon adds a little rock ‘n’ roll flair to the center with its audience-driven piano showdowns. But the EpiCentre, which does keep things casual with a Five Guys Burgers and Fries and a Smoothie King, is best known for its host of more upscale restaurants and bars, each serving up a different style of fool-proof dishes for a steeper price
Mortimer’s, located within the EpiCentre, brings the prices back down to the basic budget, serving up paninis, pitas, wraps and sandwiches with the mission to “preserve old-fashioned service.” A killer list of comfort food starters, like Peter’s pretzel bites, Bonzo’s bacon cheese fries and chicken parm sliders, each for under $7, are enough to sell this charming spot. The seemingly never-ending lists of pitas, including a maple honey turkey and chicken gyro, and savory sandwich shop staples, like the “Wilbur Cook” Pig Pickin’ pulled pork barbecue, only add to the delight of this reasonably priced café. With by far the biggest and cheapest selection, Mortimer’s, open until 2 a.m., will also have live music from The John Earle Band Friday and Sunday night.
Libretto’s channels the New York-style slice of pizza, holding validity in its quest with one of its four locations on Third Avenue in New York City. A menu packed with specialty pizzas, including the Alla Vodka, with the restaurant’s vodka tomato sauce, and Il Diavolo, with pepperoni, spicy sausage, jalapeno peppers and roasted garlic, keeps prices affordable. Large pizzas start at $15, with personal 10-inch pizzas just $8. Toppings and specialty pies are added to the base price. Pizza is also available by the slice, anywhere from $2.75 to $4.50, depending on the specialties available on the bar. Libretto’s is open until 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Enso, the EpiCentre’s token sushi bar and Asian-fusion posh spot, makes good on the promise of an upscale dining experience, with high prices, but matching flavors and menu options. Specialty sushi rolls, which include the king crab tempura and ceviche roll, range anywhere from $11 to $22, but the more basic maki rolls (California, tuna, salmon) stick around $7. Dinner main dishes soar pretty far out of any college student’s price range, but the lunch menu, served Friday through 4 p.m., includes hibachi chicken and schezwan beef, each for $13 or less.
Vida is certainly a far cry from the neighborhood Monterey’s. Boasting “authentic Mexican cuisine,” the cantina is famous for its homemade margaritas, “the Skinny” 100-calorie margarita in particular. Vida’s taco plates, which include the surf and turf with filet and lobster tail and beer-battered white fish, give an upscale edge to Mexican staples, but, with the EpiCentre tradition, ride a bit above the typical student’s budget. Starters like the carne asada nachos and wild mushroom flautas run a smaller price, while still bringing diners into the experience-making restaurant atmosphere. Main dishes run between $15 and $25, but if you’re looking to splurge, the cantina is a good pick.
Penguin, established in 1954, has become somewhat of a legend in Charlotte, serving up its inexpensive burgers, hotdogs, sandwiches and salads for more than 50 years. The menu prices really can’t be beat on, with each of its main draws served as singles for around $5 and as a combo, with a side and free refill drink, around $8. The Penguin, a pimento cheeseburger topped with fried pickles, starts off the burger list, while the Single Successful Guy, a grilled chicken and swiss sandwich, keeps things a little more basic on the “Slammin Sammiches” side. Penguin also has live music every Friday and Saturday night from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and daily drink specials, including $3 Patron or Jäger shots. All menu items are available for either dine-in or take-out.
Perfect for cheap eats, in a hurry, Newk’s is famous for its 10-inch personal thin crust pizzas, which include spicy shrimp, barbecue chicken and Mediterranean. Toasted and specialty sandwiches round out the menu, with fresh tossed salads offering some lighter fare. And, customers can satisfy both sides of their craving with the Panera-style combos — half sandwich and half salad, bowl of soup and half salad or half sandwich and cup of soup.
Picasso’s is the definition of a sports bar, holding its pizza rolls, wings and on-tap beers to a new standard, likening back to some of Five Points favorites. Trivia and free shuffleboard liven up the already college-suited café, with drink specials, like $2.50 Blue Moon drafts on Fridays and $3 Sam Adams on Saturday, closing up the deal. And, for those driving into town early, Picasso’s offers an all-you-can-eat pizza and salad lunch buffet for $8, and is just three blocks from the stadium. Complete with a 16-foot HD movie screen and 20 televisions throughout the bar, Picasso’s is open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
Ri Ra is the classic Irish pub, pumping up the game with live music — Mike Waters, an Americana rock artist, will be performing Friday at 9:30 p.m., and Crashbox, a rock cover band, will take the stage Saturday at 10:30 p.m. The menu, filled with “Irish Bistro” fare, does get a little pricey, but unique starters like Irish potato cakes, Irish pimento dip and Guinness barbecue meatballs stay under $10 and are the perfect treat for a night at the pub. Ri Ra also offers $2 Bud Light all day Friday.
Stool Pigeons brings the crowd, with a restaurant-stretching bar, chock-full of televisions and gameday cheer. Although the menu sticks to a “bar food” selection, the wings, pitas and pizza hit the spot and are all under $10. Bud Light is $2 every day, and appetizers are half off during the 4 to 8 p.m. happy hour. Stool Pigeons also has an outdoor patio area, also stocked with televisions, adding a nice alternative to the usually packed bar. The bar and grill is open until 2 a.m. daily.