This time of year, you’re apt to see any number of lists detailing the shiny, new places that opened last year or the ones that everyone’s looking forward to opening in the new year to come. We thought now would be as good a time as ever to shine a light on a few of our favorite longtime establishments that have kept things fresh — sometimes by not changing at all. Our recommendation is that you keep this list and attend all 30 in 2020, because we hate to see all the social media tears shed only after a staple is gone.
The Davis General Store was already coming up on its 100-year-birthday when it was designated a historic landmark in 1980, and that was 40 flippin’ years ago. When it opened in 1890 — in a Mecklenburg County of only about 42,000 residents — the Davis brothers would unload their goods straight from the railroad tracks out front. While that doesn’t happen anymore, the store still looks much like it did in the 19th century, and has remained in the Davis family all this time. It’s a great spot to find rare Carolina-made items like Charlotte-based Sweet’s Syrup or Blenheim Ginger Ale from that state to the south.
More: 8940 Old Statesville Road; Mon.-Fri. 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sat. 7:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. Closed Sun.; 704-596-2022
For damn near 100 years, Pike’s has been looking after the health of the Charlotte community, and though it’s cool how much the Davis General Store has remained the same, what’s impressive about Pike’s is how well they’ve adapted in a field where a century ago scarlet fever or syphilis could kill a person. Located in east Charlotte, Pike’s has kept up with the times by offering neighborhood delivery, medication reviews and “Pike’s Pass Packs” made by Simon the Robot. That’s progress.
More: 2133 Shamrock Drive; Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; 704-563-2286
The gift shop just celebrated 30 years and won an award in our Best in the Nest issue for Best Gift Shop. They have gifts for year-round occasions, from novelty to gag, sincere to funny. There are toys for kids and toys for adults. Not adult toys, but toys that adults can play with. The store offers a variety of books from self-help to local history, journals, notepads and general stationery. There are options for you mom, dad, brother, sister, uncle, niece, friend or even your worst enemy. At Paper Skyscraper you can get a knick-knack, a patty whack or gift your dog a bone.
More: 330 East Blvd.; Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., 12 p.m.-5 pm.; 704-333-7130
The locally owned head shop turned 50 years old this year, making the brand a Charlotte staple when it comes to smoking accessories. They’ve got constant holiday sales throughout the year and regularly throw holiday parties at their South End location. The team looks ready to make it a full century. Infinity’s End is a smoker’s one-stop shopping center; be it products for weed, nicotine or whatever’s in between, an Infinity’s End location has likely got what you need.
More: Multiple locations; Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., Noon-7 p.m.; 704-369-0223
Sleepy Poet Antique Mall owner Dick Schreffler opened his first store in Charlotte in 1958, and has since gone on to not only open another in Gastonia but help create a much-needed arts district on our neighboring town’s Main Street. The cool thing about Schreffler doubling up on locations is the fact that you can visit one on a Saturday and the next on a Sunday and have an entirely different experience, thanks to the eccentricity of each store.
More: 4450 South Blvd.; Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., Noon-6 p.m.; 704-529-6369
A trip to Book Buyers will restore your belief in the goodness of everything funky and bohemian. Opened in 1999, the best damned used book store in Charlotte has a boundless selection of best-sellers, classics and curios, but the store is also a multitude of other things. Lee Rathers sells vegan products from her store The Greener Apple, housed in the front of Book Buyers. Cute and furry kittens, rescued by Virginia O’Riley, scamper down the aisles looking for you to give them a permanent home. Did we mention that owner Richard Rathers, who has been a coal miner, a school teacher and a pilot, is also building a full-sized airplane? It’s right there, hanging from the ceiling.
More: 1306 The Plaza; Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; 704-344-8611
Whereas Book Buyers has you covered for used books on the cheap, Park Road Books is the best stop for new books, and if it’s an author from the Charlotte area whose work you’re searching for, you can bet you’ll find it here. Independently owned and operated since 1977, the shop isn’t just for retail, it’s a hub of the Charlotte literature scene, hosting regular book clubs, signings and readings from local and touring authors.
More: 4139 Park Road; Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; 704-525-9239
Located in the same Park Road Shopping Center as Park Road Books, Blackhawk opened the same year and has remained independently owned and operated ever since, with most employees staying on for many years. They’ve been in Charlotte longer than Home Depot, and outlasted the once popular Hechingers, expanding their space many times since opening — this year even adding a live camera for members of their loyal customer base to follow along with their basement expansion.
More: 4225 Park Road; Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; 704-525-2682
Yes, yes, we know: three neighbors in a row. We’re getting a little clumped together, but what can we say? As much as it hurt to see the Park Terrace movie theater get bought out by the Regal Cinema chain, Park Road Shopping Center is still chock-full of history, including this family-owned music shop, which at 70 years is older than the shopping center itself.
More: 4209 Park Road; Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Closed Sun.; 704-525-5073
Sure, Berrybrook has a deli and a juice bar and could technically be included in the Eateries section below, but this cozy spot is so much more than that. The shop sells a slew of supplements, herbs and homeopathics, as well as CBD, ionized water, chemical-and-cruelty-free beauty aids and more.
More: 1257 East Blvd.; Mon.-Thurs, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; 704-334-6528
The burger joint has been rockin’ the Scaleybark and South Boulevard intersection for 45 years now and they’ve simply got the best lunch option available: an affordable platter of burgers and fries. The go-to order is the Zack’s Special, which is packed with two ground beef patties and double American cheese, then you have lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, mayonnaise and special sauce all on a toasted bun. It is only $6.35. Like most local staples, the same family has been running Zack’s for three generations and it is definitely worth another three generations, so be sure to stop in. Grab a Queen City Nerve while they last there, it’s our best pick up location on the south side.
More: 4009 South Boulevard; Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; 704-525-1720
When Penny Craver, who opened Dish in 2001, announced she’d be selling the popular diner, it came at an uneasy time for the neighborhood, as the closure of the long-standing Dairy Queen had just been announced along with the sale of a huge piece of land in the heart of the neighborhood, raising questions about redevelopment. When Unpretentious Palate later reported that Lewis Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ was the one buying Dish, we could all breathe a little easier. We’re happy with his promise not to make any major changes to the neighborhood staple. The changes he has made so far, including adding milkshakes to the menu and opening up for brunch on Sunday mornings, are more than fine by us.
More: 1220 Thomas Ave.; Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; 704-344-0343
In 1953, Pete Gavrilis moved to Charlotte and opened Eat Well Grill on West Trade Street. Twenty-six years later, he and his wife Athena took all their best lessons learned from the grill and opened up Carolina Family Restaurant on Wilkinson Boulevard. Pete passed in 2018, but his diner lives on as a staple of west Charlotte, taking customers back in time to a day when local businesses advertised on the menu and a great lunch wouldn’t put you back $10.
More: 4600 Wilkinson Blvd.; Mon.-Fri., 6 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sat., 6 a.m.-2 p.m.; Closed Sun.; 704-394-9249
The senseless murder of Brooks’ Sandwich House co-owner Scott Brooks in December rocked a community and left the future of one of Charlotte’s most beloved lunch spots in doubt. Scott, along with his brother David, had long fought off developers who would find no shortage of ways to reimagine the corner where the Brooks family has served takeout burgers and breakfast sandwiches since 1973, but the family has recently said they plan to continue with Scott’s and David’s vision, making it all the more important to support them in 2020.
More: 2710 N. Brevard St.; Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Closed Sat.-Sun.; 704-375-7808
Pedro Santillan opened the first Azteca Mexican Restaurant on Woodlawn Road in 1994, a time when Mexican food was still exotic in Charlotte. It was tough getting gringos into Azteca. What’s more, another group of enterprising foodies from Mexico had already set up shop in Charlotte with the Cancunes chain, 15 strong. But soon enough, word got out. Now, 22 years later, Azteca is not just one of the more popular authentic Mexican hotspots, it’s expanded to three other locations — one in Gastonia, another on Independence Boulevard in Matthews and a third on Smith Corners in north Charlotte.
More: 116 E. Woodlawn Road; Sun.-Thurs, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; 704-525-5110
When brothers Steve and Speros Kokenes opened up their kitchen in 1952, dishes like pasta and pizza were surprisingly hard to find in the Queen City, and while that may have changed over 67 years, not much has changed in Open Kitchen. It’s still run by the Kokenes family, still has great lunch and dinner, and by now has collected so much history on its walls that it could be labeled a museum.
More: 1318 W. Morehead St.; Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat., 4-10 p.m.; Sun., 4-9 p.m.; 704-375-7449
As the South End landscape rapidly changes around it, the original Mr. K’s Soft Ice Cream sign still stands, as it has stood since 1967. The diner has been serving simple but great lunch to all types of folks for more than half a century. Pamela Dizes, daughter of Theodore Karres (the original Mr. K), worked side by side with her husband George behind the counter until her untimely passing in July. She will be missed, and we’re thankful for the family keeping a bit of tradition going in South End.
More: 2107 South Blvd.; Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Closed Sun.; 704-375-4318
Arthur Cornielle grew up working in his cousin’s pizzeria in Brooklyn, New York. By age 12, he was delivering pizzas by bicycle through the bustling city streets, and by 16 was a major component in the success of the business. It was his dream to open his own restaurant one day. When he finally saved enough money working full-time at the pizzeria, plus night shifts for the sanitation department, he moved south, eager to find a place to build his new life. What he buikt since opening in 1995 is a University City landmark.
More: 8927 JM Keynes Drive; Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Closed Sun., 704-510-0012
The outside is unremarkable, but the menu is anything but. Inside these small walls are some of the most top-notch dishes in the city, ranging from the Dirty South Burger to the French toast to the home fries. Any which way you go, it’s hard to miss with these home-cooked meals, and you’ll be joining a refreshingly diverse clientele.
More: 8001 Old Statesville Road; Mon.-Fri., 5:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sat., 5:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; Sun., 7 a.m.-1 p.m.; 704-597-1580
Is Lang Van the fanciest dinner in town? No, and it’s never pretended to be. It’s Vietnamese food done with expert preparation and flawless execution. It’s servers who make sure you want for nothing, and remember you and your preferences when you visit again. It’s a menu that contains nothing short of delicious. It’s a plate full of fresh herbs and fantastic flavors on every table. It’s a restaurant that’s there for you no matter what you need for dinner. Owner Dan Nguyen was living out of her car 19 years when she was taken in by the original owner, who opened Lang Van 29 years ago in east Charlotte. What she’s done since is nothing short of an American dream.
More: 3019 Shamrock Drive; Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; 704-531-9525
The Milestone opened its doors in October 1969. Since then the club has hosted a myriad of bands and artists, both locally famous and nationally renowned. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, many may walk right past the now-famous Milestone. There is no glitz and glamour here, just some of the best damn music in Charlotte, and with redevelopment and gentrification closing in around it all the time, it needs your support.
More: 3400 Tuckaseegee Road; showtimes vary; 704-398-0472
Sure, it doesn’t have the cool history of once being an adult movie theater like its NoDa counterpart Neighborhood Theatre, but this other long-standing Charlotte music venue has come under greater threat of redevelopment in recent years, and we can’t have that. Featuring artists from a variety of musical backgrounds, the Visulite has earned a reputation as a “go-to” for live music performances, with a great layout, expansive bar and fair pricing. It is the perfect venue to try out a new band or get tickets to see your favorites when they are in town.
More: 1615 Elizabeth Ave.; showtimes vary; 704-358-9200
Over the years, NoDa has changed plenty, but The Evening Muse has stayed much the same, while still adapting with new takes on your everyday open mic, events like #RUOKCLT, or intimate shows with musicians and comedians, both local and touring. The Muse could be best described as a literal cornerstone of the neighborhood, given its location at the intersection of 36th and North Davidson streets. Owner Joe Kuhlman is also a staple in the Charlotte community; you’ll likely see him around with a smile on his face welcoming both old and new patrons to the establishment.
More: 3227 N. Davidson St.; showtimes vary; 704-376-3737
It’s been as valiant an effort against South End gentrification as one could hope for from John Ellison, who cited parking and a changing landscape as the reasons for shutting the doors on Amos’ in 2016 after 26 years in operation. He reopened in March 2019, and though Amos’ may now be a bit smaller, it still packs the same punch when it comes to bringing musical acts to Charlotte and South End.
More: 1423 S. Tryon St.; showtimes vary; 704-595-7585
After 54 years in business, 10 Park Lanes is considered a landmark on Montford Drive. What you may not know is that the alley has way more to offer than just 10 bowling lanes, as the title implies. Boasting 32 lanes for bowling, 32 beers on tap, outdoor games, live music and an extensive menu, there is something for everyone. You may have even seen their barbecue featured on The Food Network’s Rebel Eats. They host events like Yoga & Bowl and BBQ & Bluegrass block parties during the year.
More: 1700 Montford Drive; Sun., Noon-9 p.m.; Mon., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Tues., 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; Wed.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-Midnight; Fri., 10 a.m.-1 a.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-2 a.m.; (704) 523-7633
When most people think about independently owned movie theaters in Charlotte, they may think of Manor Theatre in Myers Park or the Park Terrace 6 at the Park Road Shopping Center. But alas, in recent years, they’ve been bought out by Regal and AMC, respectively. Ayrsley keeps doing its own thing, hosting screenings of local and independent films and, of course, bringing us the Retro Horror Series every fall, which is reason enough to show the folks there love.
More: 9110 Kings Parade Blvd.; showtimes vary; 980-297-7540
Part of Queens University, the space formally known as the Jane & Charles Hadley Theater also became home to resident theatre company Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte in 2018. In their 31st season, the Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte has developed a reputation for bringing fresh and innovative performances to Charlotte. The Hadley Theater opened even more opportunities for ATC by offering a larger theatrical space with plenty of seating and, in turn, ATC has brought new life to the theater, which was previously only used for university productions a few times a year.
More: 2132 Radcliffe Ave.; showtimes vary; 704-342-2251
In 1936, the doors to one of North Carolina’s first fine art museums, the Mint Museum Randolph, opened — and impressive doors they are. Located in Charlotte’s Eastover neighborhood and housed in the same building that was once the Charlotte Mint, the architecture itself is only further complemented by the expansive and immaculate grounds surrounding it. If you’ve ever attended the Young Affiliates of the Mint Annual Oyster Roast or Derby Party, you’ve gotten to experience the beauty of both the scenery and the building first hand.
More: 2730 Randolph Road; Tues., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Wed., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., 1-5 p.m.; Closed Mon.; 704-337-2000; mintmuseum.org
In the past few years VisArt has become a lot more than just a video store. In their comfy cool screening room, you can catch some of the latest finds from the Charlotte Film Society’s Back Alley Film Series, and several indie releases get their coveted theatrical run at VisArt — crucial for cash-strapped auteurs’ marketing budgets. Programming also includes the JokeSploitation Stand-up Comedy Showcase, and VHS Potluck, for which patrons bring in their long unseen VHS movies and get to vote on which one they want to screen.
More: 3104 Eastway Drive; Mon.-Thurs, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., Noon-9 p.m.; 704-343-3031
Established after World War II to honor veterans, the 98-acre park has a seven-acre lake, bandshell, 12 tennis courts, four baseball fields, batting cages, outdoor shelters with grills, soccer fields and a slew of other activity spaces to keep you entertained all week. Freedom Park can get a little full during the day, but we find that the best way to experience it is to sneak in after hours, set up a hammock between the trees adjacent to the water, turn on the music and smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. We do not, however, recommend that you get caught in the process. The place is littered with Canadian geese so bring the kids, but watch your step.
More: 1908 East Boulevard; Every day, 9 a.m. -10:30 p.m.