At an hour when many bars and restaurants are busy closing up shop, Dream Nightclub lights up as a beacon to nocturnal wanderers from across the city. Custom-designed graffiti murals, pulsing LED lights, and energetic dance beats greet patrons as soon as they enter the after-dark dancehall and performance venue. The 5,000-square-foot club features ample lounge seating for bottle service or dramatically lit staring contests, as well as two bars and a full-service kitchen that churns out plates laden with chicken wings and french fries as late as 2:30 a.m. on most nights. A QSC sound system floods the dance floor with Latin, techno, or hip-hop tunes depending on the day, although the club also hosts occasional DJ sets and regular jazz-band performances.
Executive chef and owner Jim Alexander has created an upscale dining experience worthy of a world-class New York or London eatery, with a menu of contemporary French cuisine that remains accessible to all diners. Educated at New York’s Culinary Institute of America, Alexander has been widely recognized within the restaurant industry, including earning a stint on the 1996 gold-medal-winning U.S. Culinary Olympic Team. His mastery of the kitchen shines not only in the well-flavored meals, but also in Zebra’s characteristic, artistic presentation. Entrees include the flavorful tournedo of beef tenderloin, served with prosciutto roasted asparagus, rosemary-roasted fingerling potatoes, and a kiss of sauce ivoire ($28), as well as the popular Zebra Signature—a French take on surf and turf with beef tenderloin, lobster, shrimp, and scallops served over a bed of angel-hair pasta and tarragon white wine ($44). Endings come together sweetly with French flair in desserts such as house-made ice cream or the hot soufflé of the day.
The eclectic organizers at Red Frog Events take a lighthearted and fun-focused approach to building their adventurous events, such as obstacle courses, scavenger hunts, and themed bar crawls, to connect city dwellers with local neighborhoods. Their creative, interactive offerings include regularly occurring competitions such as the Warrior Dash, Great Urban Race, and Beach Dash, the proceeds from which usually benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Like the idea of having a pet rock, their events have grown more popular annually, and frequently spring up in cities across the United States.
A new player on Charlotte's vibrant culinary scene, El Camino greets diners with a menu of fresh, scratch-made Tex-Mex dishes that are as innovative as they are family-friendly. Meals often start with the kitchen's signature guacamole, which contains traditional ingredients—hand-smashed avocados, fresh tomatoes, and cilantro—but with a creative addition of roasted peppers. Warm flour tortillas play triple duty; they envelop spinach and cheese to create quesadillas, hold unusual fixings, such as fried chicken or beef brisket, inside half a dozen taco varieties, and wrap themselves around nine kinds of overstuffed burritos. The El Camino kitchen prepares north-of-the-border specialties as well, including Cowboy Burgers topped with pepper jack cheese and a West Texas chili made with five varieties of peppers.
On the open-air rooftop at Pavilion at EpiCentre, event guests take in views of the Charlotte skyline and the stars as they mill about. More than 25,000 square feet of seating and dancing space accommodates large groups of revelers or conferences of 25,000 sentient floor tiles. With its convertible’s roof, the Penthouse Bar and Lounge can be opened or closed based on the event, and an expansive sound stage often plays host to live bands and emcees.
Head chef Jon Martinson and owner-sommelier David Soper incorporate fresh local ingredients into a menu brimming with unique tapas, flatbread pizzas, and other seasonal bites. Warm up with an order of rosemary-brown-butter roasted nuts ($5), or submerge tooth divers in the Cajun sweet corn and crab dip ($6). For the main course, shareable small-portion tapas entice diners with a spectrum of unique tastes. Mussels perform tableside feats of strength with a topping of red curry dashi, coconut milk, and miso butter ($8), and grilled flank steak teams up with a locavore-pleasing Clover Farm mushroom and spring-onion bread pudding ($12). At lunch, Nanny’s margherita flatbread tut-tuts unruly hunger ($6), and a mouthwatering pulled-pork sandwich served on a soft bolillo roll dives playfully into tomatillo-ancho chili sauce ($10).
Conveniently located at the bustling nexus of College, Trade, and Fourth Streets, Epicentre acts as a hub of entertainment, shopping, and dining adventures at the heart of the Queen City. There, guests find everything they need to make trips memorable, whether they're grabbing a bite at one of two dozen bars and restaurants, taking in a quick movie, or simply working in a game of bowling before heading off to nearby Time Warner Cable Arena, and Bank of America Stadium. In total, more than 40 venues beckon for attention, including everything from a karaoke bar to an enthralling rooftop terrace.