Tuesday, June 19, 2012

HeroesCon: Where to Eat 2012

It’s that time of year again: HeroesCon!!! Which means it is time for an update to the all-important where to eat while you’re here.  One of my favorite things about visiting different cities is finding the awesome local restaurants.  Hope the list gives you a jump start in finding a place that makes you and your tummy gloriously happy.  While this list isn't all inclusive, we tried to think of most of our area favorites.  Please feel free to share any we missed in the comments. 

Walking Distance:
Fuel Pizza: Home of the HeroesCon Drink and Draw and right across from the Convention Center, this local pizza chain sees a lot of business during the con.  With mult-grain and gluten free crusts as well as a number of veggie pizzas, you've got yummy and healthy options on the menu. 
Amelie’s Uptown: Sure they serve soups and sandwiches, but you should really go for dessert.  The salted caramel brownies are the best.  You can also pick up coffee to refuel for a busy day of comics.
King’s Kitchen: Southern food paired with a good cause makes this a popular uptown location.  King's Kitchen features both lunch and dinner hours and now features a new bakery as well. 
Room 112: Decently priced sushi and a warm atmosphere can be found at this little tucked away Asian restaurant.  It does get a little crowded at peak lunch hours with uptown workers so plan accordingly.  Featuring vegan and vegetarian menu items as well, this can be a good compromise for a mixed dining crowd. 
Basil Thai: More on the pricy side of Asian dining, but portion sizes do make you feel a little better about a $12 lunch entree.  It's also a popular lunch location.  Vegan and Vegetarian friendly.
Green’s Lunch: This is for the meat eaters in the bunch-go enjoy a hot dog with chilli for a vintage dining price.  Sure there are other items on the menu (even grilled cheese for the veggies in your group), but why bother? Seriously, my dad has been known to leave the empty bags in a co-workers truck to let him know he's been there without him. 
Mert’s Heart and Soul: I would be remiss not to include a link to this most delicious Southern restaurant (and fried chicken lovers would probably run amuck in the street at such a snub).  Mert's features lunch, dinner and brunch on both Saturday and Sunday (which answers the elusive question of where to eat breakfast uptown that isn't a hotel).  The veggie plate makes this an excellent suggestion for vegans craving some down home cooked vegetables as only the green beans are cooked in animal fat.  The collard greens bypass the usual ham/fatback treatment and are seasoned with fresh tomatoes and onions (and June will be full on local grown tomato season!). 
Alexander Michael’s: This local restaurant and tavern off the beaten uptown path in 4th Ward has a cozy sports bar feel to it (meaning it's a good place to catch up on all the sports news you missed on the con floor, but it won't annoy the non-sports fans among you).

Dean & Deluca: If you're craving a quick and tasty salad, stop in for the salad bar.  While some of their menu items can be on the pricey side, the salads are large and in a reasonable price range (especially for the uptown area). 

Heroes Store Area:
Fried Chicken and Sides by The Diamond. Photo by Rico Renzi
Crisp: Just two doors down from the store, this is a great place to grab a quick and healthy lunch.  Vegan and Vegetarian friendly.
Sunflour Bakery: If healthy's not you your thing, then cross Pecan and head to Sunflour and load up on delicious cupcakes and pastries.  There's also a wide selection of beverages from loose leaf teas to wine and beer to accompany the six flavors of cupcakes you had to try.  For breakfast (or any time of the day), I highly recommend the cheese biscuits! 
Cajun Queen: Enjoy the tastes of the bayou and live jazz just down the street from Heroes.

Dish: Homey Southern food that will comfort your soul after a long day on the con floor.  I think their tomato soup has healing powers.  Vegan and Vegetarian friendly.
The Diamond: Pig wings, fried pickles, and big block burgers, oh my! This old school diner full of all your fried food needs, plus some great blue plate specials.  Vegan and Vegetarian friendly.
Common Market: Sandwiches and salads, plus a large bottled drink and snack selection this local deli/market is a great place to grab a delicious quick lunch.  Very Vegan and Vegetarian friendly.  The hummus is very yummy!
Zada Jane’s: A super popular brunch location on both Saturdays and Sundays, this eclectic eatery is a great local place to check out.  Vegan and Vegetarian friendly. 
Soul Gastrolounge: This tapas bar above the 22 Gallery makes the most of local produce.  They have a pistachio pesto that will make you want to lick your plate, especially when paired with heirloom tomatoes.   Open for dinner and Sunday brunch.  Vegan and Vegetarian friendly.
John’s Country Kitchen: No frills diner with a great breakfast and delicious lunch specials.  Be aware they only take cash and are closed on Sunday.
Bistro La Bon:Delicious food and a relaxing atmosphere might seem slightly surprising when located in a strip mall, but don't let the outside deceive you.  Their buffet style brunch is amazing.  Chocolate Waffles!!!

Kickstand Burgers: From veggie to beef to shrimp, there's a range of options for the burger lovers among you. My favorite on the menu would be the tots which come in both the regular and sweet potato varieties (and can be ordered in a mix so you don't have to choose). Vegetarian friendly.     
Pinky's Pimpin' Fries

Worth the Drive:
South 21:Step back into history and eat at this drive-in restaurant.  My favorite onion rings in Charlotte should always be washed down with a Cherry Lemon Sprite. 
Bean Vegan:The Info Booth won't be the same place without Charles this year, so be sure to stop in and support his restaurant which will be opening soon.  His vegan cupcakes look amazing!! (Update: I have not been able to confirm opening date so please call (980) 939-1234 to check hours before driving out there.)
Pinky’s: We love Pinky's so much, they catered our wedding reception.  Their Pimpin' Fries (waffle fries smothered in their homemade Pimento Cheese) are a party in your mouth.  Another great location place for fried pickles.  Vegan and Vegetarian friendly.

CowFish: Sushi or burgers? Why decide when Cowfish has the best of both worlds? You can even order combos that mix the two.  

Food Trucks:
Cupcake by Cupcake Delirium with Cherry Lemon Sprite
The food truck trend has hit Charlotte! Check out our local trucks on twitter and follow them for locations and menus.  Cupcake Delirium makes those wonderful cupcakes that show up on my twitter and instagram feeds. You can also catch a lot of these trucks at Food Truck Friday located in the South End Charlotte Lunch Lot not far from uptown.  Food Truck Friday runs from 5pm-9pm.  Trucks do sell out so aim for earlier and be aware that bad weather may not permit some of the trucks to be out.

SCQ Mobile Cupcakery
Cupcake Delirium:
Roaming Fork: 
The Tin Kitchen:
Goody Woody’s:
The Herban Legend:
Maki Taco:
Wingzza Truck:
Clover Joes:
Roots Farm Foods:
Harvest Moon Cart:
Chef and Friends:
Dan the Pig Man:  
Auto Burger and Fry Guys:
Smoke and Go: 
Red's BBQ:
Turkey And:
Sticks and Cones:
Sal's Roadside Eatery:

Sunday Options:
Mert’s Heart and Soul: See above in "Walking Distance".
Bistro La Bon: See above in "Heroes Store Area".
Zada Jane’s: See above in "Heroes Store Area".
Sunflour Bakery: See above in "Heroes Store Area".
Soul Gastrolounge: See above in "Heroes Store Area".

Vegan Options:
Bean Vegan:See above under "Worth the Drive"

Zizi's:While not a dine in option, the vegan restaurant delivers to the Convention Center zipcode, so if you're busy and craving vegan just give them a call.  Local Vegan expert, Herc Petmezas, swears by Zizi's.

In addition to the vegan specific restaurants, a lot of the restaurants listed above are vegan friendly. 

Convention Center Dining Options:
Delish Food Court: If you really don't want to leave the Convention Center, then the Delish Food Court is for you with choices of Bojangles, Einstein Brothers, and buon cibo. 
Starbucks: For all your caffeine needs within the Convention Center (there's also a couple of other Starbucks scattered throughout uptown.)

Just check out the EpiCenter and the surrounding building for all your chain dining needs.  From Moe's to Chick-fil-a to Caribou Coffee to Jason's Deli (which is a good option for gluten-free dining), you can find most any familiar chains within walking distance.  As with all dining options on Friday, be sure to consider the uptown lunch crowds.  Going before noon or after one can help cut down on some of the lunch hour traffic. 

And now for something completely different..
Alcohol Isn't Hard to Find:
by Guest Blogger Ted Tarver

This is what Ted looks like. He owes you a drink.
Apparently, I’m the biggest degenerate Heather knows so I’m the person she asked to do a quick rundown of the bar scene in uptown Charlotte.  I still don’t know if I should be offended or not….

After a long hard day on your feet waiting in line, there’s nothing better than a nice adult beverage (classy) to soothe the pain away.  Here’s a quick list of places that can aid your buzz:

Your Room

You just dropped hundreds of dollars on a commission (even though the artist wouldn’t draw the character you wanted because he wasn’t “feeling it”).  Tomorrow, you’re shelling out to yell “EXCELSIOR!” at Stan Lee (no one has ever thought of that!).  The last thing you want to do is spend $10 on a vodka tonic downstairs at the bar.  Well, it’s a good thing you planned ahead and you have BOOZE IN YOUR ROOM!  Catch a ride or take a cab to the ABC Store at 3rd and Cherry and take care of all your liquor-based needs beforehand.  Your wallet will thank you. 

The Westin Bar

Let’s not over-think it here.  The Westin Bar is where you’re going to find the highest concentration of Con attendees after hours and it’s a MUST VISIT Saturday night after the Heroes Art Auction. 

Pros: Frequent creator sightings and convenience (if you’re at any of the nearby hotels).  Saturday night is a BLAST. 

Cons: Usually only two or three bartenders working so the line can be crazy-long.  Drinks are night-club expensive.  Also, creators don’t like it when you interrupt their conversations to drunkenly critique their work.  What’s their deal? 

5th and Tryon

Intersection that serves as home to several really cool bars including: Connolly’s (my favorite bar in all of Charlotte), Ri-Ra’s, Dandelion Market, Town Tavern and Prohibition.  Each bar has its own characteristics, but a common theme among them on Friday and Saturday night will be loud music, crowds and cover charges ($5 or less except for Prohibition, which can get up to $10 or $15).  Also, lots of cute girls out there for us to not talk to. 

The Epicentre

Huge entertainment block in uptown located at 4th & College (you seriously can’t miss it).  Tons of different options here depending on what you’re looking for.  Also houses the two best late night dining options in uptown: Five Guys and Libretto’s. 

- Mez: a movie theater / bar.  Pro tip: After midnight, Mez charges a ton for cover and has a strict dress code.  You know who gets around that?  The folks who went to go see a movie at 9pm or 10pm and then lingered around as the transformation into night club takes place.  I do it all the time. 

- Strike City: bowling alley / sports bar.  Pro tip: Keep your eye on the clock.  Strike City charges by hour, not by game.  If you’re drinking and having a good time with your friends, you can easily burn up your lane time before you finish a single game. 

- Suite / Black Finn / Whiskey River: definitely the places to be if you’re looking to dance or meet someone (hahaha, let’s be realistic…none of us are going to these places). 

Hope that helps you get your buzz on.  If you want some more information, I’ll be the handsome guy at the Dollar Bin table located in Indie Island.  If you see me out and about, first drink’s on me. 

Legal disclaimer: Ted will not actually buy you a drink. 


  1. I got a mighty good sandwich a couple years back at that little place across the courtyard from Fuel,,,Chicago Dog or some such? And ye Gods, Phat Burrito! Really excited to check out what looks like a second Common Market location nearby.

  2. I'll recommend Queen City Q (on the other side of the Arena downtown, next to Brixx) for downtown BBQ (though I'm just as partial to Mac's Speed Shop and Sauceman's myself). And anyone from ATL will know and love RuSan's for great sushi deals. For 24-hour nomz, the main Amelie's location in NoDa is always a great choice, as is Mattie's Diner at NC Music Factory. I'll stay neutral about the closer Midnight Diner, but it's never been a great experience for me.