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.
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.
Travels In Wine Tours' co-founders, Kimberlee Young and Derek Schuler, share their love of wine, food, and travel with curious tourists through tours designed and led by certified sommeliers. Epicurean scenic tours of boutique wineries, personalized luxury Napa vacations, and custom weekend getaways marry viticultural education with flavorful indulgence as guests take in picturesque panoramas of vineyards that stretch to the horizon before curving upward and forming bridges to the moon.
FireWater Restaurant & Bar's spacious, multi-level dining room encompasses many large tables and a bar, but thanks to some smart partitioning and plentiful columns, it all feels pretty private. While the venue suits a casual evening out, the menu contains some artfully plated treats. Snacks include everything from Vietnamese-style chicken wings to pimento dip and mussels in beer broth, and entrees are even more elaborate. Chefs prepare seared-tuna medleys with a green and wax-bean salad, cheesy penne pasta with shrimp, and filet mignon plated snugly with mashed potatoes that soak up excess juiciness.
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).
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 US Culinary Olympic Team. His mastery of the kitchen shines not only in the well-flavored meals, but also in Zebra’s characteristic artistic presentation. Most dishes benefit from ambitiously sculpted food combinations, each a brilliant array of colors, shapes, and textures.