From hole-in-the-wall dives to upscale craft cocktail lounges, we’ve rounded up the absolute best bars in town. Our livers took a beating, but it was worth it.
Note: This list excludes breweries. For your local beer fix, see our Charlotte brewery guide.
Casual no-frills neighborhood bar that doesn’t try too hard
Why we love it: It’s the epitome of a classic neighborhood bar that’s stood the test of time in a hip, rapidly evolving neighborhood. At Thomas Street there’s no theme, no gimmicks, no pretentiousness — just an easygoing atmosphere where anyone can have a good time. It’s less polished than newer concepts around town, a little rough around the edges but still approachable to all. Grab a seat on the spacious back patio and call next on a game of ping pong.
What we’re drinking: PBR in one hand, ping pong paddle in the other. Let’s not overthink this.
#2 Selwyn Pub
Laid back Charlotte classic popular with the country club crowd
Why we love it: The frat-tastic bar in the heart of Charlotte’s wealthiest neighborhood knows exactly what it is and who it appeals to — Michael Jordan and Ted Williams.
What we’re drinking: $5 Transfusions. The dead simple mixed drink — vodka, soda or ginger ale and a splash of juice — has been the same budget-friendly five bucks since the bar opened in 1990.
Chill Montford watering hole known for its legendary wings
Why we love it: Old school. And so many regulars. Don’t forget, they’ve also got a chill rooftop seating area.
Ted’s favorite wing order: 1/2 Uncle Donnie’s, 1/2 Bee Sting. Choose from 10+ sauces, including blood orange ghost pepper and PB&J.
Cozy date night spot in the heart of Plaza Midwood
Why we love it: The intimate, no-reservations space drips cool with resident DJs spinning every night of the week, and it’s a landmark restaurant for many Charlotte couples’ relationship milestones.
What we’re drinking: Cucumber Mule on tap. They sell 100-150 a night. In the summer, I also can’t resist the grown-up snowcone (complete with a tiny wooden spoon).
Korean-inspired Southern barbecue restaurant with a killer patio and private karaoke rooms
Why we love it: The back patio is a millennial Charlotte wonderland complete with a dog run, adult playground and a huge covered bar.
What we’re drinking: Soju. The Korean liquor comes served in a melon or pineapple with a ladle for sharing or a straw if you’re here to party.
Charlotte’s first self-serve bar with 60+ taps including beer, wine, bubbles and kombucha
Why we love it: No more waiting for a bartender’s attention. You’re in charge with a smart wristband linked to your credit card. Just swipe it at the tap and pour your own drink.
Agenda tip: Wednesday is $1 oz. Wine Night + Music Bingo. Details.
Related Agenda story: Hoppin’ gets off to record-setting start, looks to add VIP wristbands and more locations
Huge beer hall and garden with patio games and sand volleyball
Why we love it: It’s like a backyard party with a bunch of strangers. Bonus points for giant Jenga and giant Connect Four.
Agenda Tip: Don’t miss the food window at the front of the bar. Grab a pretzel bun burger and totchos. You will not regret it.
Classic neighborhood hangout with a huge patio
Why we love it: The come-as-you-are party bar is just a flat out no drama good time with a sprawling front patio and outdoor bar.
What we’re drinking: Signature 32-ounce B.A.C.s (Big Ass Cups) of beer — just $4 on Thursdays.
Agenda tip: The kitchen is open until 2 a.m. 7 days a week because they love you.
Craft beer tasting room and growler shop in South End’s Gold District
Why we love it: It’s one of the chillest happy hour destinations in town with a relaxed vibe, focused food menu and 36 rotating taps featuring local and regional craft brews.
What we’re drinking: 5-beer flight and a charcuterie board
Agenda tip: They’ve got $6 cheese plates every Wednesday and free outdoor movies every Friday from May through October. And get excited – expansion is on the way as Craft gears up to open a sister concept next door.
#10 Dot Dot Dot
Members-only craft cocktail speakeasy in an old storage unit behind Park Road Shopping Center
Why we love it: It feels truly insider and off radar. You have to know what you’re looking for to find it — a subtle triple dot sign above a brown door that leads you down a dark hallway to an intimate window-less lounge.
What we’re drinking: A classic Old Fashioned with Elijah Craig 10-year bourbon, bitters, sugar, orange and cherry served over ice.
Agenda tip: The dress code is no joke and has caused a bit of drama with its restrictions on shorts and flip-flops. Play by the rules or you won’t get in.
Related Agenda story: Approaching 10,000 members, Dot Dot Dot edges ahead as Charlotte’s top cocktail bar
#11 Thirsty Beaver
Iconic dive bar on Central Avenue
Why we love it: The Beav held its ground when major development came bulldozing through and now a behemoth apartment complex literally wraps around the tiny orange building making it look like the defiant little house in the movie Up.
What we’re drinking: PBR cans.
Related Agenda story: The #1 most underrated bar in Charlotte
Southern fried chicken restaurant with a dominant cocktail program
Why we love it: Bar manager Colleen Hughes is one of the most influential mixologists in town, overseeing cocktail programs at Sea Level, Growler’s Pourhouse, Crepe Cellar and here at Haberdish.
What we’re drinking: Hughes is always adding complex, inventive new drinks but Haberdish’s classic signature mint julep with a mountain of shaved ice is a good place to start.
Sports bar with a mind-boggling number of TVs on a mission to make Charlotte a cheesesteak town
Why we love it: The tap wall features a whopping 150 beers.
Cheesesteak options: 7 different sandwiches — from the classic Original Philly to the Fajita Chicken Philly — along with 8 cheese options (including Cheez Whiz)
Agenda tip: Head downstairs to The Cellar, a basement speakeasy with a completely different vibe, if craft cocktails are more your speed.
Mature wine bar, full-service kitchen and retail wine shop
Why we love it: Charlotte’s unofficial girls’ night out destination is an unexpected wine oasis in two strip center locations — SouthPark’s Foxcroft Shopping Center (original) and Dilworth’s Kenilworth Commons.
Agenda tip: Buy any bottle off the shelf to enjoy at the table. There’s no corkage fee on wines over $30. Also, the signature house doughnut holes are mandatory. They’re served hot out of the fryer with chocolate and salted caramel dipping sauces.
#15 Merchant & Trade
19th floor rooftop bar atop the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel
Why we love it: It’s Uptown’s swankiest rooftop with views overlooking Romare Bearden Park and BB&T Ballpark. The flexible, indoor/outdoor space features an indoor bar with floor-to-ceiling windows, an outdoor covered terrace, a semi-private VIP section and a sprawling “lawn” with a retractable roof.
What we’re drinking: Beet It! ($13) with Deep Eddy vodka, Domaine de Canton, lime juice and local Lenny Boy beet kombucha
Agenda tip: This is another bar with a dress code that’s strictly enforced enforced so check it before you go.
Multi-concept bar with a karaoke room, pizzeria and secret lounge all under one roof
Why we love it: Your night can progress from cocktails at the bar (or in the secret lounge) to a raucous karaoke performance to drunk pizza without ever leaving the building.
Agenda tip: Look for a door handle on the bookshelf to enter the secret library lounge, and stop by on Wednesdays when you can get a charcuterie board and TWO glasses of sangria or wine for $15.
Charlotte’s classic basement level dive karaoke bar
Why we love it: It’s where you go to get weird and shut down a night on Montford.
What we’re drinking: Fireball shots. Yikes. Sorry. On special for five bucks every single night of the week.
Good time party bar with playful over-the-top cocktails and budget-friendly daily specials
Why we love it: It’s just a flat out good time as a casual alternative to Charlotte’s surging ultra-refined craft cocktail scene.
What we’re drinking: The Soccer Mom Special served in a Capri Sun-style pouch
Agenda tip: Their daily specials are out of control, including $2 champagne on Mondays, $4 wine on Thursdays, $3 wells on Fridays and $2 PRB drafts daily.
#19 Workman’s Friend
Cozy Irish pub in the heart of Plaza Midwood
Why we love it: It’s an all-seasons home run with its indoor/outdoor side patio, charming back patio and a cozy living room-style fireplace inside for the winter months.
What we’re drinking: Whiskey.
Charlotte’s favorite soccer bar
Why we love it: The cozy bar draped in international gear is THE place to catch soccer games. It’s a small space so the action spills over into historic Brevard Court for big matches.
Eclectic urban market with a beer and wine bar, deli and retail shop
Why we love it: The front patio is always packed. Grab a bottle of wine or case of beer inside and settle in on one of the picnic tables. Prefer to drink by the glass? Head to the bar.
Agenda tip: Stop by Tuesdays for the $5 wine tasting.
#22 Dandelion Market
Two-story Irish-inspired small plates restaurant and bar with a dance club vibe after hours
Why we love it: Dando’s second floor dining room transforms into a dance floor after hours when the huge central table is hoisted into the air on a pulley system.
What we’re drinking: Holy Water — Jameson Irish whiskey, demarara sugar syrup, citrus zest and ginger beer.
Agenda tip: Want a hell of a dining experience? You can order one of everything on the food menu for $295. Just ask for “Everything at the Market” and bring a crew to help you. It’s 30+ dishes.
#23 Ed’s Tavern
Classic neighborhood hangout with plenty of TVs and a spacious patio
Why we love it: Ed’s suffered a little identity crisis when it rebranded to Bourbon N Burgers in 2017. Regulars flat out rejected the new brand and ownership quickly course corrected, rehanging the Ed’s sign within 60 days. The customer is always right.
What we’re drinking: A bucket of beer on the patio. Looking to get weird? The frozen Orange Octane made with Everclear 151 will get you there.
Casual rooftop bar located between BB&T Ballpark and Bank of America Stadium
Why we love it: It’s a new casual option (no dress code, no elevator lines) among Uptown’s swankier rooftop options. And while it may not be soaring 20 floors up, the view from atop the single-story building is pretty impressive.
What we’re drinking: Strawberry Honey Smash ($10) — Deep Eddy’s vodka, fresh citrus, strawberries, local honey and a sugared rim
Two-story restaurant with a rooftop deck in the heart of Plaza Midwood
Why we love it: Top Shelf, the rooftop bar, has a jackpot view of Uptown.
#26 Lucky Dog
Sprawling dog bar with an on-site boarding facility and groomer
Why we love it: It’s a dog wonderland with an indoor/outdoor off-leash dog park and a sports bar for the humans.
Agenda tip: Tuesday is Beer & Bath Night where you can swing by for a pint for you and a bath for your dog for $15.
Wine bar in a historic 1940s-era building with a courtyard garden
Why we love it: The enchanting courtyard garden and outdoor bar feels like a faraway secret escape right in the heart of Dilworth.
#28 The Cellar
Basement level craft cocktail bar below Duckworth’s Uptown
Why we love it: The dim Prohibition-style speakeasy stands in such stark contrast to the sports bar upstairs and is the perfect escape when you’re looking for a more intimate experience for date night.
What we’re drinking: Sazerac — a classic rye and cognac cocktail served in an absinthe-rinsed glass
#29 Sophia’s Lounge
Regal cocktail lounge at The Ivey’s Hotel
Why we love it: The space is outfitted with opulent crystal and gold decor, statement chandeliers and unique artwork. Catch it on a good weather day when the windows overlooking 5th Street are open.
#30 All American Pub
Classic South End sports bar with huge crowds on game day
Why we love it: Located right on the light rail and not far from Bank of America stadium, it’s the perfect spot to rally with fellow Panthers fans.
What we’re drinking: Drunken’ D. The grown up spin on Sunny Delight is a frozen citrus cocktail served in a nostalgic Sunny D-style bottle. On special for $5 every Monday.
Uptown nightclub featuring 80s and 90s music
Why we love it: The best way to wrap up a night out in Uptown is to cut loose with your favorite 80s and 90s throwback songs.
What we’re drinking: Someone in your crew will yell “LET’S TAKE SHOTS” and you will and you’ll regret it.
Social house with 10 pin string bowling, shuffleboard, skee ball and more
Why we love it: It’s a fun full-service bar complement to a brewery-heavy neighborhood home to OMB, Sugar Creek, Victory and Southern Tier.
What we’re drinking: Take a break from the LoSo beer circuit with a Socially Awkward ($9) made with Absolut lime, jalapeno simple syrup and soda.
#33 Snug Harbor
Gritty live music venue
Why we love it: They host a monthly residency featuring a different artist with weekly performances.
#34 Gin Mill
Laid back bar with a full-service kitchen and rooftop deck serving Charlotte since 1927
Why we love it: Gin Mill 2.0 is embracing its evolution in a new home after moving next door to take over the space formerly occupied by Amos’ Southend in 2017.
Casual sports bar with a young crowd
Why we love it: Satisfying bar food, a premium back patio and a $4 Bloody Mary bar every weekend.
#36 City Lights
18th-floor rooftop bar atop Le Meridien hotel
Why we love it: This is the place to be for stunning skyline photo ops.
What we’re drinking: Sparkle & Pop — a glass of bubbles with a King of Pops popsicle.
21st floor rooftop bar and restaurant with incredible skyline views
Why we love it: It’s one of the most quintessential Uptown skyline photo ops and is a go-to destination when you want to show off to friends and family who are visiting from out of town.
Traditional Irish pub in Uptown
Why we love it: The dim, cozy Irish pub is true to its roots as “the home of the perfect pint.”
Casual sports bar with a spacious patio and roll-up garage doors for an indoor/outdoor setting
Why we love it: It’s a major game day destination where fans pack in to rally before home games (just down the street from Bank of America stadium) or watch away games.
#40 Ink N Ivy
Eclectic restaurant, bar and nightclub overlooking Romare Bearden Park
Why we love it: The sprawling patio is prime Uptown real estate, and it transforms into an outdoor nightclub when the sun goes down.
Old school neighborhood restaurant and bar serving Charlotte since 1933
Why we love it: The family-friendly spot (yes, there’s a kids menu) knows parents need a bar escape, too — even with little ones in tow.
#42 Ri Ra
Irish pub with a late-night party vibe
Why we love it: There’s a sneaky little rooftop patio overlooking the courtyard at Hearst Tower.
#43 Jack Beagle’s
Laid back NoDa favorite with a great back patio
Why we love it: Their landmark people mural by Will Puckett has to be one of the most photographed walls in town, the back patio doubles as a mini music venue and their legendary mac & cheese is the kind of drunk food we all deserve.
Agenda tip: A new westside location is in the works in the space formerly occupied by Savor Cafe on Morehead Street.
Grown-up arcade bar
Why we love it: The adult arcade with a full bar is a delightful throwback featuring childhood favorites from retro pinball machines to classic console games like Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.
What we’re drinking: The Basil Hawkins — pineapple, lemon, basil and vodka. (Yes, they have cupholders for when you’re playing.)
#45 Tyber Creek
Irish-inspired South End pub with a charming front patio
Why we love it: The classic pub has been serving Charlotte for almost 20 years, a tough feat in this town.
Cozy European-style pub with craft beer and beer food for the seriously beer-obsessed
Why we love it: Co-owner Jeff Tonidandel is a Certified Cicerone. When he passed the test back in 2012, he was one of only 7 cicerones in North Carolin and the first in Charlotte. Short story: He knows beer.
Agenda tip: Reigning Doughnuts, a walk-up doughnut window, is located around the side of the building.
#47 The Punch Room
Intimate 37-seat craft cocktail lounge on the 15th floor of The Ritz-Carlton
Why we love it: They have super fancy shareable punch bowls (priced $35-$95).
What we’re drinking: Jager Punch with Jagermeister, Sutler’s gin, Lenny Boy ginger kombucha and fresh pressed orange juice
Agenda tip: Not surprisingly, the Ritz’s cocktail bar is home to Charlotte’s most expensive cocktail — the $400 Cocktail made with Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac, byrrh, sassafras & sorghum bitters
Airy SoCal-inspired taco bar with a killer patio and outdoor music venue
Why we love it:
Agenda tip: Look for the green light around back to access BackStage Lounge, a sneaky speakeasy you enter by lifting a payphone. (Here’s how to get in.)
Craft beer and wine bar — with real bulldogs
Why we love it: The casual beer lover’s haven has an industrial garage vibe that’s particularly awesome on nice days when the doors are up.
#50 The Bar at 316
Gay bar in a renovated Dilworth home
Why we love it: The unique residential building with a double-decker porch creates a never-ending house party vibe.