Sunday, June 28, 2009

Best of Merry Oaks: Restaurant secrets

From the Merry Oaks neighborhood newsletter, here's a list of restaurants and bars that Merry Oaks neighbors nominated as best–kept neighborhood secrets. The spots range from NoDa to South Boulevard, but they're all easy to reach from Merry Oaks and other nearby neighborhoods.

This list is alphabetical, with details on why people nominated each place, in their words. Because the list is about best–kept secrets, you won't see some neighborhood favorites like Lang Van at 3019 Shamrock Dr. or Lulu at 1911 Central Avenue, but you will see neighbors' endorsements of some less well–known places.

In addition, the newsletter's listing included favorite things that didn't involve food or drink. I'll share those later. Get a PDF of the newsletter here under community pages if you just can't wait.


Ben Thahn, 4900 Central Ave.: Tofu hot pots, yellow pancakes with the most beautiful herbs and lettuce you will ever see, fresh mango appetizer. Mai, Kwong and family are so welcoming.

Dish, 1220 Thomas St.: Best dessert: Chocolate pecan pie. Also nominated for its comfort food.

Intermezzo Pizzeria, 1427 East 10th St.: Mushroom pizza and the roasted vegetable pizza.

Landmark Restaurant Diner, 4429 Central Ave.: Best French toast. (Also mentioned recently by Charlotte Observer columnist Tommy Tomlinson for 2 a.m. omelettes.)

Las Delicias bakery, 4405 Central Ave.: Great tamales (chicken, pork, or cheese) and you can get them wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks. Authentic, delicious and cheap. In the back, so you have to ask for them.

Las Margaritas Mexican restaurant, 4426 Independence Blvd. (near Sharon Amity): BEST churros, super cheap. You get a plate of six yummy, warm, cinnamon-sugar dusted churros for under $2.

Laurel Market South: 1515 South Blvd. Owners are Merry Oaks residents. Awesome sandwich shop, fab beer and wine selections.

Petra’s Piano Bar and Cabaret, 1919 Commonwealth Ave.: Super fun to go hang out and hear live music.

Portofino's: 3124 Eastway Drive, in Eastway Crossing Shopping Center: The calamari and inexpensive wine by the glass. Also, pizza and seafood specials.

Revolution Pizza and Ale House, 3228 N Davidson St.: Pizza spot in NoDa has the best pizza in Charlotte (so says one neighbor. I'm sure this claim could be controversial, given the pie competition locally.)

Sub Station II, 1941 E. Seventh St.: (corner of Seventh and Pecan) Best tuna salad.

Taqueria La Unica, 2801 Central Ave.: Near intersection with Logie Avenue. Best taco.

The Thirsty Beaver, 1225 Central Ave.: (tiny spot near the railroad tracks) Fun to hang out and hear jukebox and live music.

Zada Janes: 1601 Central Ave. The Bunnys Rancheros and a wonderful breakfast menu in general, and the best salad, named Noda Salad.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Town meeting with Susan Burgess and Rodney Monroe

At-large Charlotte City Council member Susan Burgess is hosting a town meeting from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday in Room 267 at City Hall, with featured speaker Police Chief Rodney Monroe.
Details from an email to community leaders:
The meeting will focus on public safety and will include updates on the impact of the economic stimulus plan on public safety, presentations on the three top citizen concerns from the 2008 Citizen Survey (burglary, drugs, and gangs), and a question and answer session with the Chief and other police department personnel.
Details or questions: Contact Sergeant M. W. Sloop, Response Area Commander, Eastway Division, at 704-336-8535, or 704-336-3817, or

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bean by bean

The wet spring has brought a bounty of peas and beans at my house this year.
We're not sick of eating them yet. But when the overwhelming bounty of any garden crop arrives, we have solutions that can help the broader community.
Loaves and Fishes pantries take fresh fruit and vegetables, to add a little extra to the basic nonperishable groceries given away to the hungry in Charlotte. Generally, the organization seeks nonperishable items, but local produce won't be turned away.

St. Andrews Episcopal Church at 3601 Central Avenue near Merry Oaks houses the busiest pantry in the city. The pantry distributes food and takes donations on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Neighbor Austin Seagrave volunteers on Wednesdays at the pantry, and others have helped hand out food on occasion.

St. Andrews has also plowed up a sunny side yard at the church for gardens, offering plots to recent Nepalese refugees from Bhutan and others in the community.

In addition, St. John's Baptist Church at 300 Hawthorne Lane in Elizabeth plans a farmer's market on Sunday, July 12, 19, outside the church after the 10:30 a.m. service. (Previously published as July 12. My error. Apologies.) Church members plan to bring extras from their gardens for sale, with proceeds going to the church's hunger committee for distribution to hunger-fighting organizations. If you want to contribute, call the church office at 704-333-5428.

Every bean counts. Unemployment in North Carolina has hit 11.1 percent and South Carolina has risen to 12.1 percent, and distrust of some traditional nonprofits has grown because of stories about exorbitant salaries for administrators. At my house, we don't have lots of spare money this year, but if our garden overfloweth, we have at least two choices of ways to help the hungry, in addition to sharing with neighbors.

Consider the extra veggies as backyard micropayments.

Others are stepping in locally and citywide.

Merry Oaks neighbor Nancy Pierce offered her cucumber and zucchini bounty to the neighborhood Google message group, and 14 people replied. She sent more veggies to the Merry Oaks neighborhood summer meeting for giveaway this past week. While recipients might not have been in the same dire circumstances as recipients at Loaves and Fishes, every little bit helps.

And local media have formed Mission Possible, a joint reporting project to alert the community to the most critical needs. Members include The Charlotte Observer,,,, WCNC NewsChannel 36, public radio station WFAE, Spanish language newspaper La Noticia and .

In addition, a community-wide panel discussion is planned for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30, at Little Rock AME Zion Church at 401 North McDowell Street on how best to meet basic human needs in Mecklenburg County. This event is co-sponsored by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee, the Community Building Initiative, and Mecklenburg Ministries. Panel members include:

  • Ruben Campillo, Latin American Coalition
  • Harvey Gantt, Ganttt-Huberman Architects
  • Carol Hardison, Crisis Assistance Ministry
  • John McGillicuddy, Mecklenburg County
  • Rick Thames, The Charlotte Observer

Moderators are Bob Morgan of The Charlotte Chamber and Willie Ratchford of the Community Relations Committee. Those interested in attending need to RSVP to .

Bean by bean, we can make a difference.

Top photo: Beans in my backyard garden.
Bottom photo: The side lawn of St. Andrews Episcopal Church, plowed, plotted and ready for planting on June 1.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Plaza Midwood art Krawl

Plaza Midwood's Art Krawl is Saturday, June 13 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Music, artists and stores will hold special events.
Here's a sample of what's happening, based on the event's Facebook page, administered by Jonathan Winn and Teresa Hernandez:

PLAZA-MIDWOOD LIBRARY - Live music with Lunch Money, indie-rock for children, will get children and parents dancing, thinking and laughing. Lunch Money sings about things such as wishing for a pet dog, getting up the nerve to ride a roller coaster, and twirling around in rain and sun beneath an umbrella. (7-8 pm) Free

- Live music by Marcie Hernandez (7 pm), Virgo Musik (8 pm) and Deformati (9:30 pm). Photography and art by Colombian artists: Pablo Zapata and Nico Amortegui. Free.

- Art by Stefan Duncan. Free

CAST THEATRE - Metamorphoses. A modern telling of ancient myths, in, around, and sometimes under water. (8 pm) Visit for ticket info.

- Live music by Noel Lippard, Dear Druid and Event Horizon. (7 pm) Free.

COMMONHOUSE - Live music by Ample Example, 10pm-2 am (live on the patio)

COMMON MARKET - Live music by Hip-hop troupe, Kid Monsterz (9 pm). Free.

QUEEN'S GALLERY - Realism Found, Charlotte Artists Find New Meaning in an Old Tradition- art exhibit featuring 8 local artists. Live Music by Jeff Brown. (7 pm). Free

THE NOOK - Charlotte Comedy Club Show (8 pm). $10. Comedy/Improv by Robot Johnson (10 pm). $10. Jazz funk/fusion band. (11 pm). $3


- Art by Austin Alston. and a DJ all night.

SNUG HARBOR - Live Music with M.E.G.O. and Drat (10 pm)

CORNER OF THOMAS AND CENTRAL - D.J. George Brazil and local artists selling everything from purses and jewelry to paintings and photography. Local artists will also be in front of Pura Vida Worldly Art and Tribal Wisdom.


- Coffee Central
- Common House
- Common Market Deli
- Creation
- Dish
- Intermezzo
- Lulu
- Mama's Caribbean
- Nova's Bakery
- Petra's Piano Bar
- Soul
- The Nook
- Thomas Street Tavern
- Penguin
- Zada Janes

- 1510 Antiques
- Pura Vida Worldly Art!
- ACE Tattoo
- Alternative Arts Tattoos
- American Beauty Garden Center
- Bead Lush
- Boris & Natasha
- Century Vintage
- City Supply
- Clark's Antiques
- Envy
- Flava Factory
- Georgetown Spa
- Hong Kong
- House of Africa
- Lunchbox Records
- Reggae Central
- Queen's Gallery
- Tribal Wisdom
- White Rabbit

Monday, June 01, 2009

Wide open spaces at the Morningside development

It's hard to imagine that this rural-like scene is less than three miles from downtown Charlotte.

Pictures tell the story better than words for an urban area that once housed Morningside Apartments, brick buildings from the World War II era, with hardwood floors, large rooms and a multicultural community.

The apartments were torn down in August 2007 to make way for new development, which has since stalled. The 33-acre parcel sits between Central Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue, with a small creek running through the eastern part of the property just before Morningside Avenue.

In the mean time, grass and weeds hold down the dirt. For a historical look, check out the Morningside Apartments website, which has some dead links but also holds some great glimpses of the past.

For more photos of the open fields (with captions), and photos of efforts to manage runoff into the small creek, see Flickr.

Aerial map snapshot from Google Maps.

Update: I shared the top photo in this post on Twitter, asking a guessing game of where it was, on May 31. Photographer James Willamor guessed the location correctly, and that's no surprise. He loves to study Charlotte buildings, the skyline, maps and development and write and shoot for CLTBlog. James has built a Google map of good vantage points to take photos of Charlotte's skyline.

Further historical links:
The developer's website, circa 2008:

Karen Shugart in Creative Loafing, talking with residents and nearby neighbors, March 1, 2006:

Hip Hoods on the development plans, Feb. 13, 2008:

Steve Lyttle from The Charlotte Observer, July 29, 2007.
(Note: This is the HTML version of a .pdf from The Charlotte Observer, not available directly from The Observer but available through the developer's website. If The Observer has any objections to this link, please let me know and I'll take it off.)

Doug Smith in The Next Big Thing, The Charlotte Observer,Feb. 13, 2008.
(Note: This is the HTML version of a .pdf from The Charlotte Observer, not available directly from The Observer but available through the developer's website. If The Observer has any objections to this link, please let me know and I'll take it off.)

J. Lee Howard in The Charlotte Business Journal, March 31, 2006.