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Surfing in East Charlotte

When I texted my editor, “You’re not going to believe where I went last night,” one recent Sunday afternoon in a haze, I knew his response would be infused with disdain, as we had long planned for him to bring me along to pop this specific cherry of Charlotte nightlife. His response included the correct guess and “You’re fired.”

Aerin Spruill

That response was followed by a tweet broadcasting his disappointment with a screenshot of our text exchange and “You need to chill.” Nervously, as I may genuinely be jobless, I am sharing my latest adventure — really adventures because I ended up going twice — with you.

There are very few places in the Charlotte scene that give me pause, surprise me, or throw me off my game. But over the past month I’ve been to a certain place (which shall not be explicitly named due to its sacred nature) twice, and each time I was genuinely intrigued.

Right before the holidays, I was extended a completely random invitation to travel to an eastside hideaway. A stranger to that side of town, I’ll be the first to admit I was a bit intimidated. Especially when every time this low-key dive bar has been mentioned as a place I “need to experience,” it was usually accompanied by a menacing grin that slowly spread across the “well wisher’s” face.

Riding in the back of an Uber, trying to decide if I was getting carsick or if my nerves were getting to me, I glanced over to adjust my focus on the scenery of Independence Boulevard. My gaze was met by a familiar Walmart parking lot clad with blue lights and a police tower. A warm memory of my first experience visiting a friend in “foreign” territory when I was a virgin Charlottean washed over me.

My thoughts were disrupted when our Uber driver inquired, “Y’all going to that spot that don’t look like no club?” as we pulled into what looked like an apartment complex. Not comforting. Not comforting at all.

We hopped out and, fortunately, one of the girls I was with knew how to lead the way. We walked up a flight of stairs and then descended down a stairwell to a nook accompanied by a patio with patrons who, in the moment, could’ve been the terrifying “ruffians” Rapunzel feared in Tangled. (Search YouTube for the Snuggly Duckling scene.)

I took a deep breath as we entered the door thinking, “There’s no turning back.”

I stepped inside the threshold prepared for the worst, like a kid wincing before getting punched in the face. Instead, I found a playground I couldn’t wait to explore. It was karaoke night; the bar was cozy and packed. Everything wasn’t in place, but there was a place for everything (even if it clearly didn’t belong). The stale air, curious eyes of regulars, and the subtle but potent smell of alcohol hanging overhead all reminded me of a dive bar that I would go back to time and time again.

All of the above; not a coincidence as I learned from convos with the owner and T* (a regular who’s been going since she used to come with her mom). The bar is one of the oldest existing in Charlotte, opening in 1976 with liquor license #1000. Originally a shag bar, and named for the reference to its beginnings in Myrtle Beach, it easily wins the title of Charlotte’s best-kept secret.

The skinny? To answer the question that many have (especially when they’re talking to me about my experience): there was a diverse crowd. Read: I wasn’t the only black person there, nor the youngest … nor oldest. If you’re a stranger, the bartenders will make you feel right at home. The drinks are cheap with a bite that’ll make you thankful and appreciative.

It might’ve just been the holiday spirit, but every regular welcomed us with open arms and posed with us for pics. You may stumble upon a free hot dog and chips for sustenance, or a free drink … or free kisses!
What you won’t find: CHADs. Pretentious Charlotteans. Obnoxious basics. Drama. Judgment. Uber drivers that are directionally challenged.

Going into such a random scenario with a beautiful bunch of younger females that would normally be met with side eyes, we were met with hugs and shots. If you can figure out where this speakeasy, word-of-mouth, “X” on the map adventure is, it’s worth the walk down the stairs and finding the treasure.

My new motto: Save the “Eccentric” East Side.

*Real names excluded to protect identities. All the treasured gems must remain hidden.

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