CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Two streets lined with brick industrial buildings don’t exactly say, “night out on the town.” And until a few years ago, most Charlotteans probably didn’t know where Yancey Road or Southside Drive were located.
That has changed, as the city’s Lower South End has seen a deluxe apartment boom and light rail line created. When Charlotte’s first craft brewery, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, opened shop there in 2009, others slowly followed. A new drinking district was born, now dubbed LoSo.
“If there's one place you want to go for the true Charlotte experience, it's LoSo,” said Sugar Creek Brewing’s Alicia Thomas, marketing manager. “You've got two breweries, a ciderworks, distillery, and a social house within a block of each other. You can hop around to see what the neighborhood has to offer.”
Here’s a quick walking guide from the top of Southside Drive:
Good Road Ciderworks
The newest addition to LoSo offers cider made right in the building. Do not think this is a shot glass of sweet apple juice, but instead think dry cider infused with seasonal flavors like peach and blueberry. And this is the place in Charlotte where drinkers can actually try homemade mead.
Sugar Creek Brewing Co.
Sugar Creek is on the same side of the street as Good Road Ciderworks, but half a block farther down. There are a few picnic tables out front and a new side patio. To beat the heat, head inside to the high-ceilinged taproom, which gives a full view of the brewery through windows. A laid-back vibe and Belgian-style beer is this brewery’s specialty. Try ordering a sampler that includes its Pale Ale, Saison, and Raspberry Wheat Ale.
The Broken Spoke/Great Wagon Road Distilling Co.
Non-beer drinkers will find what they are looking for a little farther down at The Broken Spoke. It’s the bar for the Great Wagon Road Distilling Co. next door that specializes in whiskey and vodka. Plush and cool inside, think leather chairs and tapas to soothe a big appetite. Serious cocktails are the star, including the intriguing Irish Margarita.
Queen Park Social
“We’re excited to be in the middle of everything,” said Joe Lariscy, co-owner of Queen Park Social, the newest kid on the block. The place is unique because of its 20,000 square feet of games.
What kind? “We have eight lanes of 10-pin string bowling, table and floor shuffleboard, darts, outdoor cornhole boards, old-school arcade games, and more,” Lariscy said.
Large bar and separate eating areas serve beer, wine and creative cocktails. A good array of burgers and shareable appetizers are on the menu, but street tacos — like grilled shrimp and pork carnitas — grab the brass ring.
Olde Mecklenburg Brewery
OMB is the original gangsta of Charlotte craft beermakers with German-style favorites like its Copper and sturdy 8 percent Fat Boy Baltic Porter. Also, ask to see its summer shandy list. OMB is a social scene every night. That’s because of its huge outdoor patio that accommodates hundreds of customers, the indoor taproom, and full menu with German roots. Knockwurst yourself out and sample one of OMB’s German sausages on a hard roll with spatzel on the side.
Sugar Creek Brewing Co. offers a “laid-back vibe” whether socializing inside or out. Worth a look is the high-ceilinged taproom and offers a full view of the brewery. (Photo: Shannon Reichley)
BROKEN SPOKE/GREAT WAGON ROAD DISTILLING CO.
Location: 227 Southside Drive, Charlotte, N.C.
GOOD ROAD CIDERWORKS
OLDE MECKLENBURG BREWERY
QUEEN PARK SOCIAL
SUGAR CREEK BREWING CO.
GETTING THERE: Street parking is free, but it can get crowded early. Consider taking Uber or the Lynx light rail to the Scaleybark Station and walking 8 minutes. Or park at the Scaleybark train station lot, and free shuttle vans will take you to LoSo.
Shannon Reichley is a Charlotte-based TV producer and freelance writer who gets sidetracked by sports, good food and drink, and trying to crack 100 in her golf game.