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.


Alex's Brown Derby **HALL OF FAME EATERY**

Alex's Brown Derby Restaurant opened at 1404 W. Morehead St in 1947. In the era of meat-and-three home cooking restaurants, the Brown Derby was one of the best. Everyone from downtown workers to Charlotte leaders regularly visited the Brown Derby for breakfast and lunch. Due to its proximity to Panthers Stadium, it became popular with Panthers team president Jon Richardson as well as many of the Panther players. The restaurant was owned and operated by Elizabeth and Alex Fortos since 1982. 

The restaurant closed on June 15, 2007. After 25 years, the Fortos had decided they wanted to retire and spend more time with their family. With its closing, it joined several other famous mom and pop eateries that closed within the same year (Athen's, Anderson's, Coffee Cup, South 21). It will be missed.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Purity Cafe/Quality Restaurant 1952 (courtesy of Steve Balsley)

Shoney's 1976

The Marker 1986

Radisson Plaza Hotel 1986

Steak & Ale 1986

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Town & Country Drive-In **CLOSED**

Above three pictures courtesy of Rick Fisher

All that's left are the menu poles...

1962 ad

Another of Charlotte's legendary restaurants has closed. The Town & Country Drive-In closed this month. Opened in 1955 on Wilkinson Blvd, the Town & Country was one of the few remaining drive-ins left in Charlotte. Located a block away from the Bar-B-Q King Drive-In and the area's oldest Dairy Queen, the Town & Country was a popular destination for everything from its famous "Cowboy Sandwich" (double-burger all the way) to its hickory-smoked barbecue. Warm nights would always find the parking lot packed. It originally opened in 1952 at the site of the former Athen's restaurant and moved to WIlkinson Blvd in 1955. Legendary Charlotte restauranteur Pete Politis was the founder of the Town & Country.

With the count of area drive-ins down to only two (South 21 on Independence and the Bar-B-Q King on Wilkinson), the Town & Country will be greatly missed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Under New Management" #4 - El Vallarta/Hardee's

After Hardee's closed and prior to El Vallarta moving in...

New colors and a large side porch...

Typical Hardee's exterior (this is the old Freedom Dr location-now a Showmar's)

In the late-90's, almost all of the Hardee's in Charlotte closed. The under-performing Charlotte market was a prime target in a massive restructuring of the chain. The El Vallarta on Hwy 51 on the edge of Charlotte (technically the restaurant is in Pineville) moved into this former Hardee's location in 1999. This Hardee's, on the edge of downtown Pineville, opened in 1981 and closed in 1998. Other than the addition of the large porch and some exterior paint, this building is easily spotted as a former Hardee's location.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Big Daddy's at Tyvola Mall

Most Charlotteans are familiar with Big Daddy's seafood restaurant which has been a staple of the Lake Norman area (Mooresville) since 1974. Long forgotten is the Big Daddy's that was located at Tyvola Mall during the 1970's. In the days when Tyvola Mall actually was a small indoor mall, Big Daddy's opened in February 1976. Featuring a bar that seated 20 and two large dining rooms, this Big Daddy's location was popular for its oyster bar as well as its steamed shrimp bar. Despite being located on busy South Blvd (at the corner of Tyvola Rd), this location only lasted through the end of the 1970's. It was the fourth location in the Big Daddy's chain. 

The first Big Daddy's opened in Kure Beach in 1963, the second near Goldsboro in 1973, followed by the Mooresville and then the Tyvola Mall locations. They were owned by Tommy Bryant Lancaster. His face is that of the bearded skipper that has always been Big Daddy's trademark face on their signs and billboards (even today). The nickname Big Daddy came from the Burl Ives character in the the movie "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof" who Lancaster resembled. Tommy passed away in 1995 and the Mooresville location is currently owned and run by his grandson Freddie. 

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Kofinas Snack Bar **HALL OF FAME EATERY**

Kofinas Snack Bar opened on W Trade St in 1954. Owned by Tommy Kofinas and John Tatsis, Kofinas was popular for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and quickly became known for its daily specials. People lined up for the spaghetti on Wednesday and the roast beef lunch on Fridays. People said their corned beef was the best outside of New York City. Its clientele ranged from downtown workers to Charlotte's most famous lawyers, bankers, and mayors. Elvis Presley ate there in 1956 before his show at the downtown Carolina Theatre. The restaurant was never quiet--waitresses, instead of writing orders down, simply yelled orders out to the kitchen and Kofinas and Tatsis were famous for their loud banter back and forth. With its black mahogany bar and tiled floor, Kofinas was as much a meeting spot as a restaurant. Kofinas is also credited with being Charlotte's first sports bar--many a World Series would find the place packed with people watching the games on the restaurant's black-and-white television.

Kofinas Snack Bar would close on December 31, 1981. The Carillon building now stands on the site. Tommy Kofinas and John Tatsis both passed away in December 2002 within three days of each other.

Revisions - 10-15-11

1965 ads