Local Favorites - 10K Giveaway

If you would have asked me two years ago if I would ever be celebrating ten thousand followers on Instagram, I most likely would have laughed in your face. I would have never imagined that even one thousand people would have an interest in my life and opinions. I'm just one person, who decided to start sharing my local experiences and making this city home, and somehow some way, you listened. To understand how that makes me feel, to know that there are actually people in my community taking my experiences and from those creating ones of their own, it's unlike anything else. My main goal when I created Uptown Girl CLT was not only to share my favorite places and support local as much as possible but most importantly feel like I was contributing something to my community and becoming a part of it. With approximately 60% of my Instagram audience residing in Charlotte, I believe I can be proud of myself for reaching that goal and continue building connections and networking here. All of this to say, I would not be here without the support and trust of all of YOU. To those who are new to following me on Instagram, to the businesses who have collaborated with me at the start of my journey,  to the businesses who continue to collaborate with me now, to all of you who followed and believed in me from the beginning, THANK YOU

To honor and celebrate all of you for helping me get to where I am today, I have partnered with many of my favorite spots around the city to put together an EPIC giveaway with prizes. I am highlighting each of these businesses in no particular order for you here, to tell you more about them and why I love to support them so much! 

When I first heard of Burton's Grill & Bar, I didn't think anything of it. I figured it was just another chain place to get pub style food and never bothered looking it up or going to see what it was like. When I was invited to this restaurant for a local food blogger event to showcase the menu items and new seasonal cocktails last Fall, I was proven completely wrong. The decor was trendy and upscale without feeling stuffy, it was leaps and bounds beyond basic pub fare, and I was blown away by their care and passion for serving those like myself with dietary allergies. We met the GM Marc Habbouche and he took the time to share what sets Burton's apart from so many other restaurants. You can tell he is really passionate about his job, and I love that. He believes in the mission of the company and is excited to share it with you. They not only have dedicated menus for Gluten Free, Paleo and Vegetarian diets, but dedicated spaces and equipment in their kitchen so that there is no concern for cross-contamination. As someone who has to be gluten and dairy free for health reasons, I know I can always feel safe eating here when I go out, and that is so important.

There are so many great coffee shops to frequent here in Charlotte, and there is one, in particular, that is newer to the scene and pulling out all the stops to give the community a great experience. Queen City Grounds roasts their own beans in-house (Nightflyer Roastworks) and offers pastries from various local pop-up businesses. They sell branded merchandise as well as hand-picked selections from Plaza Midwood’s Moxie Mercantile that are perfect for gifts. You can also find amazing and unique deli items served up by FūD on the MūV. I love that there are so many vegetarian/vegan options and how willing they are to accommodate dietary restrictions by altering menu items as needed. 

Living Kitchen

One of my top pick restaurants in Charlotte is definitely Living Kitchen. For me, I can eat just about anything on the menu I want without worrying, but for most, it offers a unique and plant-based spin on favorite dishes like sushi, sliders, pizza, and cheesecake. They have a lovely outdoor patio (dogs allowed!) a beautifully designed interior, and a great selection of wine, craft beer, coffee, and teas. A popular menu item (and one of my personal recommendations) is the Living Burrito. It’s a collard leaf wrap stuffed with sunflower seed refried beans, cauliflower rice, pico de gallo, guacamole, sprouts, and cashew sour cream. It’s a cold dish and extremely refreshing, especially on a hot Summer day. 

Clean Juice is a go-to for me on lunch breaks or any time I am in a hurry and/or need to refuel. It’s quick and easy, but best of all, it’s good for you! Everything is organic, they offer smoothies, cold-pressed juices, hand-held bites, and my personal favorite, açaí bowls. I love that they use almond milk in place of dairy and have the option for gluten-free granola! I find that their consistency and texture of the açaí bowl base is super thick and creamy, which I love! It’s like eating healthy ice cream! You can usually find me enjoying the Beach Bowl or the Nutty Bowl but one of my favorites of all time was the seasonal Carrot Cake Bowl.

Green with Envy is the boutique in my neighborhood I always go to grab a gift for someone. It’s housed in a former ice cream plant, has original brick floors, high exposed ceilings, and sells the work of 60 local and semi-local artists. Whether it's clothing, jewelry, home decor, art, children's items, or whatever you're looking for, chances are they have it. Bonus: they gift wrap for free! I will admit, it is hard not to buy everything for yourself though. For this particular giveaway, I met with the owners of the shop and customized a package myself for the winner! I decided to do a “Charlotte Night In” theme, with an NC state-shaped cutting board stamped with the Charlotte crown logo and the city name (could also double as a charcuterie platter!) a wine glass etched with CLT, a Queen City tea towel, and a candle. How beautiful are these items?

Anyone who feels proud to live in the Queen City knows exactly who 704 Shop is and can be seen wearing their apparel around town. I still remember buying my first sweatshirt from them at a Christmas market in the Old Mecklenburg Brewery outdoor space. I had been eyeing them online for a while, but when I saw and felt the quality of it in person, I knew I had to have it. Now I have a closet full of their sweatshirts and tees, and you can also find tanks, socks, and hats that all represent CLT in some way. Their designs cater to everyone’s unique style, whether it’s modern, vintage or classic. You can find them slinging tees at weekend markets and other events, or visit their brick and mortar store in South End to see even more of what they have to offer! 

Roots Cafe had its start as a food truck and catering service, but I first discovered them when they were serving up bites to compliment brews at Legion Brewing around the corner from where I live. It wasn’t your typical bar food! You would find things like local free-range deviled eggs, Cajun-spiced boiled peanuts, soft pretzels, and charcuterie boards to snack on. If you needed something a little heavier you could go with a beer-soaked bratwurst, “haute” pockets stuffed with free-range grilled chicken, chili, and local cheddar, or flatbreads. They eventually moved into their own space in South End last year and have locally roasted coffee with an option for a monthly subscription service, sandwiches, salads, tapas, brunch on the weekends, and a selection of wine and beer on tap and in bottles. It has quickly become a place I recommend to everyone I know.  The menu continues to be made up of creative, local and seasonal offerings, and they have some of my favorite gluten-free bread in town. The design is beautiful and they recently had a renovation where they added a dreamy outdoor patio.  

Suárez Bakery in the Park Road Shopping Center has been a Charlotte staple for delicious from scratch sweets since the early nineties. They specialize in custom cakes and cookies and offer a variety of fresh bread, brownies, bars, cupcakes, doughnuts, pastries, pies, and specialty coffees. I ordered the coolest unicorn cake from them one year for my birthday, and have had custom cookies and donuts made by them before for events as well! Since my diet change, I’ve had the gluten and dairy free almond horn tea cookies, and they were incredible! 

One reason Lenny Boy Brewing is a favorite for me out of all of them in Charlotte is that it is the only Certified Organic kombucha producer in the Southeast. For those that aren’t sure what kombucha is, it’s a fermented, non-alcoholic beverage that offers plenty of health benefits, including improved digestion and immune function. It’s packed with probiotics as well as B vitamins, enzymes, and organic acids. I love all of the flavors, but my top choices are the Good Ol’ Ginger, Lavenderade and Elite Beet. They also offer gluten-free wild ales, gluten-reduced beer, sours, and traditional ales & lagers. There’s something for everyone! Plus, their resident food truck is The Hunter’s Wife, which makes me very happy. 

The Hunter’s Wife is owned by Precious & Russell Carroll. Precious was a Johnson & Wales graduate and private chef, who decided to take her passion for food and create Hunter’s Wife food truck, inspired by her husband who enjoys hunting and was also a J & W graduate. Together they serve up healthy BYOBB - Build Your Own Buddha Bowls! I genuinely can’t get enough of them. Their truck has set up permanent residence at Lenny Boy Brewing, so it’s always nice to pair their meals with a kombucha!  

JJ’s is a retro style counter-service hot dog joint that serves up, in my opinion, the best hot dogs I have ever had. For most menu choices, they use premium quality Sahlen’s Smokehouse Hot Dogs from Buffalo, NY, served on a toasted Martin’s Potato Roll. They've been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, Dives, which is always something great for the community! I actually love the Veggie dog, so I always get that. I can’t eat the delicious bun anymore, but if I go along with someone I still like to get the veggie dog with toppings! I loved the Dirty Jerz which has pickle relish, diced onions, deli mustard, and sauerkraut. If you’re lucky, you might even find King of Pops in the parking lot at the East Blvd. location. 

I still remember the first time I ever tried Viva Chicken. It was at the Elizabeth Ave. location after a 4-mile run and I was absolutely starving. I went with the Wow Lomito (sirloin, tomato, onions, and Rocoto mayo) in a sun-dried tomato wrap with a side of sweet potato fries. It was amazing! Now I order the Tacu Bowl, which is technically the Wow Lomito in a bowl. At another visit, while standing in line to order, my party got into a conversation about how many locations there were. I did a quick google search and found three in Charlotte and one in...Utah? I was curious. While we were there, a manager stopped by our table to ask us how everything was and of course, you know my answer. While he was standing and chatting with us, I asked him which location was the first and what was the story behind the one random Utah location. He explained that the company started on Elizabeth Ave, and opened their second and third locations in Ballantyne and Huntersville. Their vision is to eventually expand more out west, and found an investor to help them achieve this goal! Hence, the Utah location. I say the more people with Viva Chicken in their life, the better. Would you believe their charcoal fired oven is hand built and imported from Lima, Peru? You guys, this place is legit. And final tip? Be sure to order the passion fruit juice (made daily!) and I promise you won't be sorry you did.

Chef Alyssa's Kitchen is a healthy and sustainable cooking class with a variety of levels to offer something fun for everyone! It makes a great activity for date night, work events, private parties, etc. We had such a wonderful time learning to cook game day favorites last year! Even if you know your way around a kitchen, you'll still have a ton of fun with the group environment! Something else really awesome about Chef Alyssa is that she offers delicious spreads to use at home in your own kitchen! We keep them stocked! There's a Champagne Tomato Jam that is perfect for spreading on grilled cheese, sandwiches and crackers, topping grilled veggies like squash or okra and finishing meats such as brisket and prime rib. We use the Smoked Chili & Rosemary Mustard on charcuterie boards and it's amazing, but there's so much you can use them for! 

Tin Kitchen is another great food truck in Charlotte. There are tasty tacos, nachos, quesadillas and more! So many of their offerings are gluten-free as well. We used to enjoy them on Trivia Tuesdays at Sugar Creek Brewery every week, but are currently at Sycamore & NoDa Brewery, so we enjoy them there whenever we get the chance! They also cater and do private events! My favorite tacos are the buffalo cauliflower! 

The Pizza Peel is right around the corner from our house, and offers so many options for my dietary restrictions! They have excellent gluten-free crust and sandwich bread, vegan cheese, and a wonderful dog-friendly patio. There's live music some nights and great weekly specials. You'll also find King of Pops here, too! You can almost always find me ordering a pizza here with pineapple and jalapeno! Does anyone else enjoy eating this sweet and spicy combo?! 

CLT Find was one of my first shop obsessions here. Nestled in the 7th Street Public Market Uptown, you will find this lovely space filled with local goodies, apparel, jewelry, gifts, home decor and more.  They also pop up at many events around the city year round! I made this tote bag at a Crowned Sparrow crafting event held at the shop, and I use it all the time! This is a great female owned company to support because they do a great job of bringing our community together so well! 

Legion Brewing is also right around the corner from our house and a place we love to go often. They have a fantastic menu, and I can enjoy the cider they offer. We truly feel like family when we go as the staff is all so welcoming every time. When I was drinking beer, my favorite here was the Carolina Sparkle Party, and I loved it dressed with their house-made syrups. Once I was invited to be a part of a community contest, where I got to create my own flight for votes by patrons and I decided to go with the CSP with all different syrups! I am so excited for their new location opening in SouthPark soon! 

Chopt is a fast-casual salad restaurant that is everything I wanted and more. You can order their destination salads inspired by cultures around the world, their specialty salads, or build your own. You can pick all the ingredients you want, they have house-made dressings, and there's flavor in every bite because they chop it all up for you. If you want a slice of artisan bread to accompany your salad, it comes with it! This is another one of my favorite spots to go on my lunch breaks! 

Again, a huge thank you to all of these businesses for partnering with me for this celebratory giveaway. I am so thankful for the opportunity to share these places with you and can't wait to see what you think of them! Check out what you can win at each of these places on my 10K Giveaway Post on Instagram, and enter there. I will be announcing the winners of this giveaway LIVE on Sunday 8/12 at 9 pm on Instagram live stories the old fashioned way, by drawing names! Thank you all for reading and entering, and please be sure to follow these amazing businesses on Instagram as well to return the support.
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