Last week I got the sweetest email from a reader Sally who lives in Shelby. Her note was battered and deep fried in southern hospitality and invited me to come explore what her small hometown about an hour west of Charlotte has to offer.
“So you are invited to come let us introduce you to all that there is to do in Shelby,
she said. “Yeah we caught the bad guy from SC [Writer’s Note: Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof was spotted by civilians at a gas station in Shelby and arrested] and sometimes we have a lot of bad press, but there are a lot of interesting things to do here and a lot of those things are free.”
Count me in.
Shelby would make an excellent day trip one weekend. I left Charlotte around 10:30am, arriving in time to explore Uptown a bit before lunch, grab coffee and visit a nearby vineyard before coming home to Charlotte by 6pm.
My plan was to lay low and just pop in to a few places to get a feel for the place, but Audrey from Uptown Shelby spotted me and was nice enough to take me all over town. Here’s what I saw, did and ate…
Audrey told me this restaurant led the craft brew charge in Shelby. “People told them they were nuts at first, that people here want their Bud Light and their Miller Lite, but it worked,” she said. Indeed it did because now there’s even a craft brewery opening up shop right down the street.
I hit the jackpot walking by this new brewery just as owner/brewmaster Jordan Boinest was out front overseeing the progress of buildout. She took me on a tour of the impressive 3-story brewery and beer hall. (Look for a full write up with photos on that next week.) New grass is running a full local menu (from appetizers all the way to desserts, which is rare for a brewery) and expects to be open mid-August.
If you’re sitting here thinking to yourself, “UGH, I wish I had a burger with a side of spaghetti and some spring rolls” have I got a deal for you. Joe’s place is a rare and unexpected combination of American, Italian and Thai cuisine. But apparently the mix works; they’ve been in business 12 years.
I stopped here for lunch on Audrey’s recommendation. Her pick: “You should definitely get the beet salad unless they don’t have the beet salad because they don’t have any beets because they use local produce and that’s how it goes.” That is in fact how it went and there was no beet salad so I got the warm walnut encrusted goat cheese salad instead. Very good. (Charlotte note: The owner/operator/chef Jeanette Sun is a UNCC grad.)
This cozy little spot serves up coffee and baked goods. I popped in after lunch for an iced coffee and a cookie. I noticed one guy in the window seat was camped out there the whole day every time I walked by so it looks like the kind of place you can really settle in.
An Uptown mainstay since 1922, this classic American diner is the real deal with black and white checkered flooring, rows of booths and fried food for days.
This is a cool little spot lined wall to wall to fancy infused olive oils. I sampled a brownie baked with a blood orange infused olive oil and it was awesome.
We need this in Charlotte. Owner Jamie Coulter actually grew up in Charlotte but said he came out to Shelby to open up shop because “no one in Shelby would do something like this.” It’s really cool. He’s got a big selection of wine and beer and hosts complimentary wine tastings on Fridays and beer tastings on Saturdays paired with live music. He tipped me off on Bakers Buffalo Creek Vineyard, which I toured later in the afternoon.
This clothing shop creates printed tees, tanks, dresses and more using designs created by local artists. I had one in my hand to buy and then remembered my “no new clothes in 2015” rule and put it back. I regret it because technically that’s buying art not clothes. Anyway, save me the black and white baseball tee with the NC print. It’s so cool.
This fancy little shop is full of high-end labels arranged on racks labeled Milan, Paris and 5th Avenue. “We’re all about celebrities,” says the man that greets me. And he’s not kidding. The walls are covered in celeb photos and there’s even something of a shrine to Whitney Houston in the back in a section labeled Oprah’s Corner.
Named after the legendary banjo master, this museum showcases music and stories from the American South. I didn’t go in but everyone I talked to highlighted it as a must-see destination. $12 admission.
This 400-seat art deco theatre serves as a live music venue and also shows $1 movies throughout the summer. I wish we had dollar movies. Do we have dollar movies? [Googles… We do have some but for kids. Adults like Space Jam too.]
This is cool. Shelby is home to one of only six refurbished antique carousels in the state. I researched ahead of time and knew to come prepared with $0.50 for a ride. When I handed the conductor my two quarters I told him I’d surely be his oldest customer of the day to which he replied, “Oh no, we’ve got 90-year-old riders. You only live once.” I gleefully rode it completely alone. You only live once.
As a bonus, I decided to drop by this family-run vineyard 20 minutes outside Shelby. I hung out with Anne and Charles who got into the wine business “on accident” after retirement in 2003. They have a $5 tasting of 9 of their wines and the grounds are gorgeous. (Look for a full write up next week.)
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