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.
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.
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.