Boozin' on a BudgetFood & Drink

Boozin’ on a Budget Hits South End

A quick crawl through Charlotte’s most hated neighborhood

south end
QC Nerve crew takes on South End. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

What neighborhood in Charlotte arouses more reaction when it’s mentioned than South End?

There is perhaps nowhere in the Queen City people love to hate on more than this sprawling streetscape of luxury apartments and bars and restaurants known as a haven for frat-boys-turned-banker-bros and their accompanying Barbie dolls.

We’ve got no shortage of South End opinions ourselves, but you can’t hate it ‘til you try it (and put it on the record) so we decided a nice bar crawl was in order for our first Queen City Nerve rendition of Boozin’ on a Budget.

For those who aren’t familiar, Boozin’ on a Budget was a series we ran at an old publication. It kicked off with a high-brow review of the cheapest beer we could find for sale in Plaza Midwood bars, then continued with a tour of patios along the Blue Line followed by a crawl across the city looking for the best game bars.

We’re back at it with a tour of South End, to which we brought back B.o.B. originals Ryan Pitkin and Justin LaFrancois, and recruited our digital editor Lea Bekele, our nightlife writer Aerin Spruill, local rapper Erick Lottary, Amplify CLT founder Christine Edwards, and photographer Grant Baldwin.

This time we weren’t focused on budget as much as blood — meaning blood-alcohol content. We ordered our very own breathalyzer off the internet for $150 and brought it along, figuring it would be a good way to monitor just how the crawl was going.

We set out to hit seven spots, but as usually happens when you’re Boozing on a Budget, things didn’t go quite as planned.

We kick things off on the patio of Common Market South End, 235 W. Tremont Ave.

Getting started (from left): Ryan Pitkin, Erick Lottary, Aerin Spruill, Lea Bekele, and Justin LaFrancois. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Ryan: What are your thoughts on South End as a whole?

Erick: New South End or Old South End?

Ryan: How do you see the New South End as compared to the Old South End? Was the turning point of Old and New South End the demolition of that corner at Camden Road with Black Sheep and the old Common Market?

Erick: Absolutely. That was such an amazing space. I used to go there all the time. Phat Burrito was amazing.

Ryan: I feel like South End has different portions to the neighborhood, more so than NoDa or Plaza or something. This little area [on Tremont] up to Atherton Mill I think of as different from some other places in South End. The Camden Road area is a whole different place to me.

Justin: I loved Phat Burrito, but I also think I only went to the old Common Market once.

Ryan: I would be there a lot for Food Truck Friday, that’s where those were made popular. That shit was fun.

Justin: I only spent time at Tremont [Music Hall] and Amos’ [Southend].

Ryan: I never went to Tremont, regretfully. 

Justin: I broke my hand on the pole in there.

Grant: That pole broke a lot of folks, especially during dodgeball.

Justin: That was all I knew of South End … I sold weed to one of my favorite metal bands at Amos’. The Acacia Strain. It was fucking awesome.

Erick: I opened for Nipsey Hussle in Tremont. He was on the Marathon tour. That was South End to me.

Justin: Now it’s a bougie, yuppy fucking piece of garbage and I fucking love hanging out here. I talk shit about South End all the time, but I also love coming here.

Lea: I feel like it’s really hit or miss. There are definitely pockets that I really enjoy, especially when I’m with other service industry people. I’m like, “This is great, I love it here,” like going to Tyber with my friends’ coworkers, wonderful, but would I suggest coming here? I don’t know.  (laughs). If my roommate didn’t work here, I probably wouldn’t spend any time in South End.

Aerin: I was like, “Why are we going to South End?” I’m still anti-South End. I was trying to think about it today, like, what is the big deal? Why are you stressed?

I like this spot, but I never come to this Common Market. I always go to the Plaza Midwood one because that’s three minutes from me. I’m not really into brewery drinking. I will drink beer even when I’m not at a brewery, but it’s lighter, it’s not as heavy, and then the people you run into at the breweries, and then the Uber ride here.

Ryan: Zeppelin closed next door. Did any others close during COVID?

Erick: Apostrophe closed. Have you ever been to Pins Mechanical? That place is hard. I fuck with it.

Justin: The only time I’ve enjoyed being there was when it was on someone else’s tab. Me, as someone who  really enjoys real bowling and takes it very seriously, I fucking hate duckpin bowling. I hate it. That tiny little ball and those tiny little pins, it’s so difficult. I hate it …

There’s a fire alarm over there, so what happens when you pull a fire alarm at a bar? Do we evacuate? Do we line up on somebody.

Aerin: Corner Pub we don’t, at Corner Pub we say, “Well this is annoying. Someone better turn that shit off.”

Justin: We’re adults, if it catches ablaze, we can leave on our own.

Upon leaving, the crew took their first breathalyzer readings: Ryan (.06), Erick (.07), Justin (.03), Aerin (.047), Lea (.036), and Grant (.018).

Eric Lottary (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

“I’m not that drunk, you musta got that thing off Wish.” – Erick Lottary

The crew makes their way over to Sycamore Brewing, but with capacity limits what they are, the line to get a single beer is out the door and snaking through the patio. We make our way to The Eagle Food & Beer Hall, 2120 South Blvd.

Justin: I no longer feel like we’re in South End.

Aerin: In a good or bad way?

Justin: Just like a purgatory way. I feel like I’m in South End Purgatory. I can’t really tell that I’m here or not. I could come here specifically to come here, if I were like, “I don’t want to go to South End.”

Ryan: It seems like a nice dinner spot. I don’t know if it’s the type of place I’d like to hang and drink at the bar.

Justin: No, it’s not social like that because the bar’s too small, and it’s real compact. It’s not a drinking bar.

Ryan: I don’t know if this is just in my brain because it’s a chain, but this feels like someplace you’d go when you’re out of town and you just end up there because you don’t know any better.

Justin: Like a Chili’s or an Applebee’s [laughs].

Aerin: This place is OK, I don’t know if I’ll be back to try the chicken. I would love to try it but it’s not a guarantee, it feels like now or never for me.

Ryan: I’ll probably come by one time and try out the chicken to see what the hype is about.

Erick: Yeah, I’mma definitely try it once.

Aerin: My worry around here is when can I find parking?

[Later in the conversation]

Erick: We’re at the gentrification right now. We’re sitting in it.

Ryan: I feel like we’re at a point in this city where we can still do something about it, though, no? 

Erick: Ehh, I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s possible.

Justin: You look at development and gentrification, and I look at it the same as systemic racism and stuff like that, where if you don’t completely break it and start from scratch, you can’t fix it. You can make all these policies and zoning laws and stuff about development, it will never matter, that’s just how development works. That’s why I say I hate Charlotte, because I hate change, I love old stuff, and I don’t like strangers.

Ryan: There is more history in Charlotte than people like to give it credit for. That in itself can be gentrified in its own use, though. Like Atherton Mill, right on the other side of this wall, it’s a Luna’s and a coffee shop and all that, but it’s not used to keep any sense of community. It’s like the Morgan School [on page 6]. The Cherry Community Organization is a perfect example of how to do it; they’re not just a neighborhood association, they own homes, like a land trust.

Erick: They’re building all of this shit here [in South End], and they’re not putting nothing nowhere else, and it’s like making this whole shit congested and just horrible.

Ryan: And that’s why everybody is paying attention to Eastland Mall. How do you develop that in a way that helps the people living there rather than just make another South End?

Erick: Oh they will [make another South End].

Justin: Building this makes money, and building anything else doesn’t.

Ryan: So ending on a high note, what do you love about Charlotte right now then?

Erick: I love the community. I’m an artist, so I love the artist community. We’re really tight-knit in Charlotte. As far as the gentrification and shit goes, it is what it is, they’re going to keep doing the shit, it’s going to keep happening, but the artist community is why I love it.

Leaving The Eagle, the crew blows again: Ryan (.067), Erick (.066), Justin (.04), Aerin (.082), Lea (.053), Grant (.00).

Erick: Inaccurate.

Justin: I feel like mine is pretty accurate.

Ryan: I think the first one was inaccurate for me, because .06 after two beers seemed high, but .066 now after two spots seems about right. Aerin’s doubled, you are the highest right now at .082.

Erick: So you’re above the legal limit right now, Aerin.

Lea: Mine might be accurate.

The crew crosses South Boulevard, where we’re joined by Christine. We find tables on the patio at Tyber Creek Pub, 1933 South Blvd., after waiting at the walk-up bar window.

Aerin: I do like what they tried to do with the patio with the COVID stuff. I like that there’s multiple tables, because before this was the parking lot, but this little window is not productive.

Erick: It’s not it.

Ryan: We have seven people now, and it took a lil’ while.

Justin: 93 more and we are fuckin’ pushing it for an outdoor gathering.

Erick: I’ve loved Tyber for a minute. I used to come here a lot when I was a bartender. It’s gentrified, that’s just what it is, but it’s also a good time.

Justin: One thing about this place, there’s no creek.

Erick: Not one fuckin’ creek!

south end
Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

[Later in the conversation]

Justin: See, the reason I was like, “Let’s do Queen City Nerve in South End” was because I really thought this whole place was going to be packed out and we could people-watch and shit talk, and it’s fucking dead.

Now it’s only about to be 9 o’clock. In the regular days on a Thursday, you can expect 10:30 or 11 to be when it starts to get bumping, but where’s the bump?

Erick: In South End’s defense, it’s Thursday.

Justin: Yeah, but Thursday’s a Saturday if you think about it.

Erick: How so?

Justin: I don’t know, people just like to start their weekends on Thursday now I guess (laughs).

Aerin: I do.

Justin: When I used to work at Moo & Brew their whole thing was like “Weekend starts on Thursday at the Moo” and I always fuckin’ hated that, but now I’m just like “Oh it’s Thursday, it’s basically Friday, it’s basically Saturday, it’s almost Monday.”

Erick: But I bet a lot of people that have jobs are not going out on Thursday, like if they work a 9-5 type shift.

Aerin: I have one and I’m telling you, I am not a morning person what-so-fuckin-ever and this morning I said “Guess what today is?!” And my boyfriend was like, “What?” And I was like, “Thursday!” And he’s like, “What’s the big deal?” And I’m like, “It’s basically Friday! Let’s fuckin’ go!”

Even though I was hungover as hell.

Justin: I really thought that South End was going to be bangin’ tonight, and there ain’t nobody out here. The intersections are clear, the traffic’s slow, Tyber is empty, Common was empty, The Eagle was empty, even though we didn’t go to Sycamore, the line was the only thing long about it, there wasn’t nobody really there.

south end
Waiting at the window at Tyber Creek. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Ryan: Christine is newly South End adjacent. You just moved from University to Dilworth, how is it?

Christine: I don’t want my response to be overly nerdy but I love how I can walk places. I love the connectivity, I love the sidewalks and the trees. It’s beautiful. I feel like more people should be able to experience this.

South End is a little bit further from me walking distance. I could take a scooter. The directions from my place to here were like 20 minutes. Dilworth is surprisingly affordable compared to South End.

Aerin: I lived here [in South End] seven years ago, in Silos. It was still a little bit apartment-heavy. At that time, they were advertising resort-style living. I had a studio but it had a half-wall, and it was 595 square feet for $1,100.

Erick and Grant have to head out, so we take our post-Tyber breathalyzer readings: Ryan (.12), Erick (.128), Justin (.094), Aerin (.182), Lea (.082), Grant (.00), Christine (.123).

Erick: I just blew a .128 and I’m heading home to go babysit [laughs]. But no, I don’t believe in that measurement. I had a shot of Crown and four beers.

I had two 12-ounces, a 10-ounce, and then here was a 12-ounce and a shot of Crown.

Justin: And you just finished a beer three minutes before the test so it’s still heavy on your breath. For the record, the instruction book said wait 20 minutes [after eating or drinking] before you blow, and we’re not doing that.

Aerin: I can’t wait to see what I’m going to be at 2 a.m. after I go to Corner Pub to meet my friends.

Ryan: You have a .182 right now, that’s pretty high.

Aerin: Allegedly. That’s all I have to say.

People walking on a sidewalk
The crew leaving from The Eagle Food & Beer Hall (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

The crew decides to make our way to Charlotte Beer Garden on the light rail, then after waiting at the station for around 15 minutes with a very intoxicated man named William, we decide we can very easily just walk there, so we do.   

Ryan: This is my first time being here.

Justin: I love this place.

Ryan: I am quite drunk now, and we just met the nicest guy named William.

Justin: He was fucked up. Every time I’ve ever been on the light rail I’ve run into a drunk cook … The first time I came here, I was skeptical as fuck. I was like, how do you have 246 taps and you keep the lines clean? How are you putting out good product? I didn’t give a fuck about the cocktails, because even though the cocktail menu sucks, it’s terrible, people aren’t coming here to get cocktails. So you take your shots on the first floor, where they have all the local beers. On the second floors they have all the internationals, on the third they got a rooftop with a shit view of the city, because they built whatever that building is right there.

That building was still under construction when they built this so you could be on the rooftop floor and have a view of the city, and when they finished that, the view was gone. But, the owner [Niall Hanley], he’s awesome, owns Raleigh Beer Garden, Guinness Book of World Record holder. It’s a chill place. I will not deny the fact that this is a Chad ass place, though.

Christine: I like the fire pits, the heaters on this patio. I like the greenery, there’s green space, and the lights, they got the Christmas lights thing going. This is nice; the ambiance is quite nice.

Justin: You said you like the greenery, the owner of this place is a horticulturist by trade. So every plant and vine that you see from the bottom floor to the third floor, he picked and planted.

Christine: I love it.

Justin: When I came here and interviewed him, he went off topic and just started talking about the plants. He was like, “Horticulture is my passion. Beer never was. Beer became part of my business venture.”

You know that tree that’s in there? It’s not original to this spot but it’s a real-ass tree, and he knew how to fuse it all back together and build it through the building so it still lives.

Christine: I love it, and it’s called a beer garden, so there should be some greenery. The facade kind of reminds me of an apartment, because I mean look at it, but I like it.

Justin: This building that was here was never supposed to be for what it was, so his architects and him, they razed it, and they were just like, “Let’s build this, a three-story thing.” It literally can never be used for anything else. If they were to shut down, whoever were to buy this place and try something else would have to bulldoze it and start over. It was built to be this.

Christine: I like it. I haven’t been on the second floor and I haven’t been on the third floor, but the patio, I’m enjoying it.

Lea: This is somewhere that I feel like I would take my parents to, like it’s cute, and I feel like if I take someone here it looks like I have my shit together. Of my own volition, I don’t know if I would come here [laughs]. Beer options are not high on my priority list. If you’ve got PBR, or a good sour if I’m at a brewery, then I don’t really need 200 options.

While leaving through the front of CBG, having been lost in their own conversation and not privy to the previous talk between Justin and Christine about the tree, Lea and Ryan begin debating its authenticity.

Lea: If it’s a real tree, I fuck with it. But it’s not a real tree. I don’t think it’s a real tree.

Ryan: Are you sure?

Lea: I don’t have a lot of tree knowledge, but from what I know…

Ryan: What is it about that tree that makes you think it’s fake?

Lea: It feels like styrofoam.

Ryan: It feels like a real tree to me.

Lea: You just don’t have enough tree experience.

In light of a rapidly rising level of drunkenness, we decide to skip the last planned stop at Q.C. Pourhouse and make for the vending machine at Krispy Kreme. But alas, it’s not taking anybody’s cards. We are denied our doughnut night cap. We take our last blows at the breathalyzer, defeated: Ryan (.154), Justin (.10), Lea (.177), Christine (.115).

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