Some of these are late-night spots where you only go after midnight.
Others are perfect for aggressive day-drinking.
But every bar on this list has something in common—they all meet my stringent criteria for being a great place to get weird.
1. Plastic cups
No one should be trusted with fine stemware after you’ve passed the threshold from tispy to turnt.
2. Good music
I’m not looking for any particular genre, just something upbeat. Live bands are a plus. Also, Journey.
3. No babies, few dogs
No impressionable child should see me at my weirdest, and no parent should want their child to see me at my weirdest. Dogs may be present but should be limited in number. (Their paws could get stepped on.)
4. Patient bartenders
This may be the most important criterion on this list. No one wants to start the getting-weird process only to be flagged by a salty bartender who saw you drop your full drink on the dance floor.
Are you ready? Here are the 13 best bars to visit when you want to get weird in Charlotte (in no particular order).
1. Southside, Montford
How depressing does this place look in the daylight? Honestly, this is my first time seeing Southside without 6 to 8 drinks inside of me.
But despite its outward appearance, Southside is Montford’s late night go-to when you’re ready to bump, grind and find someone who also wants to hit-up McDonald’s on the Uber ride home.
2. Gin Mill, South End
The old Gin Mill was great. Darts, rooftop bar, live bands and semi-non-disgusting bathrooms. But now that they’re moving locations and becoming “Gin Mill on steroids,” only time will tell if the new space will hold up and keep Gin Mill on this list.
Side note: Gin Mill does trust their customers with glass, but I’ve dropped a few vodka sodas in their establishment and they didn’t get too mad.
3. Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Briar Creek Road
When you walk into Smokey Joe’s you are no longer in Charlotte. You are in the same small Texas town that Jason Street and Matt Saracen call home.
With ping pong, live music and a ridiculous tropical logo that makes no sense with their décor, Smokey Joe’s is where you should get weird when you don’t want to see anyone you know.
P.S. They have an actual waterfall in their CEILING. I can’t make this up.
4. Roxbury Nightclub, Uptown
If you don’t know why a nightclub that only plays 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s music is a great place to get weird, then we probably won’t ever be friends.
My Roxbury suggestion is to chug two Long Island Mr. T’s at the main bar and then head to the more grind-ier dance party downstairs.
5. Howl at the Moon, Uptown
Just kidding. Everyone knows that nobody goes to Howl at the Moon except for bachelorette parties from Kannapolis.
Real 5. Thomas Street Tavern, Plaza Midwood
Every time I’m at Thomas Street, without fail, a stranger will buy me a shot. Every time.
I even went there for lunch one day. Shot.
Needless to say, the people here are fun, the bartenders are chill and the outdoor patio is enormous.
6. Nikko Japanese Restaurant, South End
You’re confused by this addition; I can feel it.
Let me explain—Nikko’s owner is an awesome middle-aged woman named Joanna who wears a cowboy hat, dances to the DJ and peer pressures people into taking Sake Bombs.
This is not a sushi restaurant. This is a sushi party.
7. Draught, Third Ward
Draught comes with a caveat—this is only on the list for their game day Panthers parties.
I will say that I have seen a few people get kicked out of here, but their actions were aggressive and if you’re just a normal wasted person yelling at Cam on one of their 500 TV’s, you’ll be fine.
8. City Lights, Uptown
I normally wouldn’t recommend getting weird on a ROOF, but the side-panels at City Lights are high enough to lower my anxiety and allow me enjoy myself.
Plus, their cocktails are sweet enough to ensure that you’ll down several and end up with a fun crawl-to-Bojangles’ hangover in the morning.
9. Hattie’s Tap and Tavern, between Plaza Midwood and NoDa
Never heard of Hattie’s? That’s on purpose. Plaza Midwooders have kept this cute dive bar a secret for far too long.
Life-size Jenga, Bingo nights and a random bathtub on their patio make Hattie’s the perfect place to belly-up to the bar and get down.
10. Sip, Uptown
More specifically, the downstairs of Sip.
They call this the “Cellar” but it’s more of a dirty frat basement with no windows or outlet to the real world which, of course, only makes people want to party even harder.
11. Oak Room, South End
Oak Room is the fanciest place on this list so only go here if you’re cool with adhering to a strict dress code. But, trust me, the music is so good that it’s well worth stuffing yourself into your finest pair of Spanx and even some heels.
Warning: Get here before midnight or you’ll be waiting in line and lose your buzz.
12. Dandelion Market, Uptown
You know things are about to get real at Dandelion when they raise the huge center table into the ceiling and turn their upstairs into a massive dance party.
Sea Dog cocktails that go down too easy and a dance floor that shakes even when you’re not drunk is the perfect combination for a fun night.
Side note: Dandelion is where I had my first kiss with my boyfriend and where I made him promise to not let me go to Pita Pit when the bar closed. I then got mad at him for not letting me go to Pita Pit when the bar closed.
13. Jeff’s Bucket Shop, Montford
Karaoke in a dark basement and a popcorn machine. Need I say more?
Now I’m going to end this article with a surprisingly sober looking photo of me in heaven, AKA Jeff’s.