Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Alexander Michael's

Late-80's shot

1994 picture

1983 picture

1985 exterior shot

1990 ad

1990 ad

Original Mac Mac's matchbook (courtesy of Robert McEwen) 

Located in Charlotte's Fourth Ward neighborhood sits Alexander Michael's--a popular tavern that, for over 25 years, had developed a loyal and dedicated following.

Alexander Michael's was opened in April 1983 by A. Michael Troiano and Alexander ("Zan") Copeland. They picked the weekend of Charlotte's annual downtown "Springfest" festival to open betting that with few downtown dining options, the crowds would show up at their front door (they were correct).  Copeland had previously helped establish the very successful Proposition XLV on Providence Rd several years earlier. With a building and an interior steeped in Charlotte history (the bar and back bar came from solid oak doors that were once in the Independence Building and the beer cooler is from the 1920's and was originally from a Charlotte grocery store), the two owners created a restaurant that was not only popular for its creative menu but also in part to the building's history and location.

The building itself was home to various grocery stores that served the neighborhood from 1897 until 1960. The building has become known as the Crowell-Berryhill building for its original first two owners--Wilson Crowell (who ran the Star Mill grocery here beginning in  1897) and Ernest Berryhill (who ran the Berryhill Grocery beginning in October 1907). Members of the Berryhill family would operate the grocery store until 1960 when they converted it into a laundromat. The laundromat would close in 1973. Between the closing of the laundromat and the opening of Alexander Michael's, the building was home to Mac Mac's Deli--a successful combination pub and deli.

When Alexander Michael's opened in 1983, the entire Fourth Ward neighborhood was at the tail-end of a massive revitalization. An influx of new urban-oriented young professionals had transformed the run-down area to its former glory. Alexander Michael's served as one of the final chapters in this makeover process. Just like the grocery stores that were there previously, Alexander Michael's serves as the neighborhood's centerpiece.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Brooks' Sandwich House **HALL OF FAME EATERY**

Fruit pies for dessert...

Exterior picture from the late-90's (before the red paint)

Across the street sits the former Highland Mills

Former downtown location

Just North of downtown Charlotte lies the NoDa Arts District (on NOrth DAvidson St). The area features a  large community of mill houses, built for the workers of the Highland Mills, and a small business district. The last decade has seen a revitalization of the area with new shops, restaurants, and residences.

In the shadow of the Highland Mills, and down a largely-unoccupied side street, sits Brooks' Sandwich House. Brooks' Sandwich House was opened in 1973 by the Brooks family in a tiny cinder-block building, with an enormous gravel lot, at 2710 N. Brevard St. Little has changed since they opened--the order counter area is very small and tight and since there is no seating, patrons either eat in their car or under the large awning that sits next to the building. While they are famous for their cheeseburgers (probably the best in town), hot dogs, and grilled bologna sandwiches, it is their chili that has made them legendary. The chili comes on everything (even the bologna) and resonates with a mix of seasonings that is heavy on the pepper and is largely a dry-meat style. It is truly unique and distinctive and adds just the right punch to any of their sandwiches. 

Twin brothers David and Scott took over the operation from their dad in 1991 and even opened a downtown location near the corner of Trade and Church Streets in November 1999 (at the time, a large portion of their lunch crowd at the Brevard St location consisted of workers traveling from downtown). This second location would be unfortunately short-lived.

The NoDa area has gone through several changes--the Mills are long gone and the fringe atmosphere has been replaced with a new generation of businesses and residents. Throughout it all, Brooks' Sandwich House has persevered--the one constant in an area of tremendous change.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Scalini at the Hyatt Charlotte

The Hyatt Charlotte Hotel opened across the street from Southpark Mall on Tuesday November 14, 1989. The hotel featured 260 rooms, seven suites, a health club and sauna, and over 6000 square feet of meeting space-- all spread over seven stories. The centerpiece of the hotel, however, was its four-story atrium which was home to Scalini.

Scalini featured dishes from Northern Italy with a menu heavily slanted towards Northern Italian seafood dishes. Dishes ranging from shrimp wrapped in pancetta with marsala sauce, to grilled trout, to a whole roasted snapper with a bean relish vinaigrette showcased the seafood selections. Calamari served over grilled eggplant with a spicy tomato relish was a popular starter. Scalini also had many pasta dishes including a unique dish of wide pappardelle noodles finished with sausage, peas, and tomatoes. 

Besides its extensive, well-executed menu, Scalini also had a compelling atmosphere. With its striking fountain, stone floor, woven chairs, and an airy, tree-filled atrium, it was easy to forget you were in the middle of a hotel. 

In an era where Charlotte hotel restaurants were, for the most part, on the decline, Scalini proved to be a restaurant that was both viable and successful. The Hyatt closed last year which brought an end to the long run of Scalini.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Charlotte City Club & The Tower Club

The grand staircase at the City Club

Above pictures show the different dining rooms of the City Club

The view from above

Map showing the current City Club location

Menu from May 1966 (including lunch and dinner specials for two days)--note the many dishes that were standard in the '60's--many not seen today

Tower Club entry area

The Tower Club's view from above

The Charlotte City Club officially opened on January 10, 1947. After two years of planning led by Herbert H. Baxter, the City Club opened on two floors above the Union National Bank (on the corner of 4th and Tryon). The goal of the City Club was to provide members of the business community a private place to meet and discuss business over meals in a quiet, attractive atmosphere. 

On June 6, 1962, the City Club moved to the second and third floors of the (then) new Mutual Savings and Loan Association Building. The Club would remain at this location until November 29, 1990, when the Club moved to their current location atop the Interstate Tower on the corner of Trade and Tryon.

From the beginning, the City Club has always been regarded as Charlotte's premier private fine-dining venue. With a membership that has always featured Charlotte's prominent business leaders, the popularity of the City Club will continue for years to come.

For over two decades, the Tower Club served as an alternate option to the City Club in downtown Charlotte. It was similar in design to the City Club-- a private, membership-only fine dining club. At its peak, the Tower Club had three different locations downtown-- the main fine-dining location on the 27th floor of the Charlotte Plaza building, an athletic club and grill located on the mezzanine level of the Bank of America Plaza building  (across from the lobby of the Omni Hotel), and a third location on the 38th floor of the Three First Union building. The Tower Club continued operations until finally closing its main location in 2003 followed by the closing of the health club and grill at the end of 2004. The Tower Club opened when (other than the City Club) fine dining options in downtown Charlotte were greatly limited. As downtown Charlotte evolved in the late-90's and more dining options became available, the owners of the Tower Club found it was no longer financially viable to stay open. At its peak, the Tower Club boasted over 1400 members.