At Cloud 9 Martini & Tapas Bar, conversation passes between friends alongside tastes of 45 cold, sweet, or bitter martinis and 18 shareable tapas plates. A blue-lit, martini-shaped bar acts as a stage for mixologists’ concoctions to enthrall eyes and tongues with fruity, chocolaty, and gentlemanly flavors. The Baxterini’s classic recipe of Beefeater gin, vermouth, and olive juice gains approving nods from traditionalists, whereas the Smores replicates a summer treat—complete with flaming marshmallow—without the hassles of camping or starting a bonfire on your kitchen table. To expand a martini-centric evening, Cloud 9 also serves up handmade Chimay beer as well as SweetWater and Turbodog craft brews.
Around the rest of the lounge, sofas and chairs stacked with pillows serve as a convivial perch where guests share tapas. Cherry peppers pop with goat cheese and prosciutto, and quesadillas mix sweet and savory with a dollop of mango chutney atop a filling of apple and brie. On Saturday, DJs accompany bites with energy from their decks, infusing the space with up-tempo beats for dancing or karate montages.
A science lab calls to mind test tubes, bubbling flasks of chemicals, maniacally laughing men in white coats—but rarely ice cream. But that's exactly where Curt Jones, chairman and founder of Dippin' Dots, came upon the inspiration for the tiny flash-frozen beads of ice cream. A microbiologist, Jones spearheaded the flash-freezing process of cryogenic encapsulation, a method capable of trapping flavor and freshness.
Beginning as a retail shop in Lexington, Kentucky, the ice cream quickly began to quell the tantrums of Fortune 500 CEOs all over the country. Having won numerous awards since he created a new way to enjoy an old treat, Jones stays true to Dippin' Dots’ roots, making the ice cream at the company headquarters in Paducah, Kentucky. New additions to the Dippin' Dots family include Dots ‘n Cream, a treat similar to traditional ice cream.
Every weekend, The Comedy Zone puts on a three-act standup show, each headlined by nationally-touring comics often boasting credits from such programs as Last Comic Standing and Sirius XM Radio. On Thursday nights, the floor opens to a flurry of local up-and-comers, giving nascent comedians the chance to cut their teeth on a live audience and a microphone-shaped chew toy. Its partner restaurant and bar, Madison’s on the Corner, provides the show floor with a menu of drinks and pub grub such as steaks, burgers, and pasta.
When lifelong friends Mark and Renée Cieslikowski and Brian and Linda Rich were tailgating for a Panthers game in 2002, a delicious smell wafted into the parking lot and changed their lives. On the back of the wind, the unmistakable smoky scent of barbecue rode in and inspired them to craft recipes of their own, leading them to eventually open up a Q2U BBQ Pit storefront in Lake Wylie.
At Q2U BBQ Pit, they have created a menu of tasty pit fare that includes chopped pork, sliced beef brisket, pulled chicken, and tender ribs, the recipes for which they have honed through multiple years of competitions. Not only were they awarded the South Carolina Masters of Barbecue award by the South Carolina Barbecue Association, but their North Carolina–style vinegar-based sauce was selected as the official sauce of the Democratic National Convention. They also match their meats with classic sides that include hush puppies, banana pudding, and peanut-butter pie.
Dream Dinners’s registered dietitian and family-physician duo provides cuisine crafters with the ingredients and directions necessary to assemble healthy, palate-pleasing meals during fun on-location sessions.
All chopping, sorting, and recipe-dreaming is done in advance by Dream Dinners’s crew, with family cooks choosing from an ever-rotating menu of gourmet concoctions such as herb-dijon chicken breasts with garlic bread and cheese-lover's manicotti.
After assembling the ingredients at a Dream Dinners location in a music-filled, party-like atmosphere, customers cart their bounty home, armed with easy-to-follow cooking instructions for piecing together the edible jigsaw puzzle without worrying about sharpening knives, cleaning stovetops, or converting grams into degrees Celsius. For those with smaller watches and consequently less time, the Fast Lane menu offers dinners that need only to be cooked or baked.
The chefs at Gourmet Carolina bustle past ovens filled with a rotating array of seasonal fare. Around the holidays, the smell of roasting chickens mingles with the aromas of brie, apples, and cranberries. Summer feasts beneath the ripe-apricot setting sun are fueled by Gourmet Carolina’s USDA-choice steak burgers, USDA-prime cuts of filet mignon, prime-rib roast, and cowboy-cut rib eyes. The chefs also prep lamb, pork, veal, Chilean sea bass, and lobster tails. Delivered directly to homes, the meals ward off the need to cook for dinner guests or test if the floor is really made of lava.