This story was last updated in June 2020 to reflect Optimist Hall’s reopening plan during the coronavirus pandemic and updated timelines for tenants coming soon.
Optimist Hall is a transformative mixed-use development with a food hall located just outside of Uptown in the Optimist Park neighborhood. As of June 1, its indoor and outdoor areas have reopened for diners after being closed for more than two months due to COVID-19.
Overview: The $60 million redevelopment of an old mill includes 83,000 square feet of office space occupied by Duke Energy, a 22,000-square-foot food hall, and an additional 32,000 square feet of anchor restaurant and outdoor space. It’s similar to Krog Street Market and Ponce City Market in Atlanta, UrbanSpace in New York City, and Morgan Street Food Hall in Raleigh.
Reopening restrictions: Optimist Hall’s reopening plan includes limiting capacity and managing traffic flow for one-way entrances and exits. Plus, all staff members will wear masks and gloves at all times and the food hall’s furniture has been rearranged to encourage social distancing.
Curbside pickup: Certain restaurants and food stalls will continue operating pickup programs for those who don’t want to dine in. Participating tenants include Ava, Bao and Broth, Dumpling Lady, Felix Empanadas, and more. Order here.
Tenants: Optimist Hall has a total of 21 confirmed tenants (not including Duke Energy). 16 of the 20 tenants are open, the other five tenants are under construction.
Layout: Total interior and exterior seating is 650 plus ample courtyard, patio, and lawn space. (This will be limited during the coronavirus pandemic.) The layout is basically a giant U with the food hall in the left arm, larger anchor restaurants along the right arm, and a dog friendly central courtyard in the middle. Yes, there is free WiFi, and it’s a popular spot for getting work done and meetings.
History: Optimist Hall’s historic mill building, once one of the largest producers of gingham textile in the country, dates back to 1892 and features nods to the past in everything from the paint color to original flooring and fire doors. The hall’s signature seafoam green paint matches the building’s original interior color and original walnut floors show wear and tear from the old spinning machines. Reclaimed windows and new gingham screens create dividers between cozy seating nooks and some of the tables are made with reclaimed heart pine.
Hours: The food hall is operating on updated hours during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: The exact location is 1115 North Brevard Street, just a five minute walk from Parkwood Station on the light rail. Parking lots can get crowded, but they’re free.
- Bao and Broth – Ramen and bun shop from Larry Schreiber, the chef behind Good Food on Montford’s wildly popular steamed buns. It joins the lineup of powerhouse Charlotte restaurants under the Moffett Restaurant Group umbrella, including Good Food, Stagioni, and Barrington’s.
- Undercurrent Coffee – Todd and Erin Huber’s full-service coffee bar with a focus on sustainable sourcing. Their flagship cafe and coffee lab is located in Plaza Midwood.
- Honeysuckle Gelato – Southern-inspired gourmet gelato served up in scoops, shakes, and sandwiches. Look for flavors like lemon raspberry crumble and bourbon pecan praline.
- Pet Wants – Carmen Larreynaga’s health food store for pets serving slow-cooked, small-batch dog and cat food.
- Zukku Sushi – Customizable sushi, sushi burritos, and bowls.
- Spindle Bar – Casual tap with a Southern front porch party vibe. It serves draft cocktails, beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages. On the courtyard, order drinks from an Italian Piaggio truck that serves as a cocktail and beer kiosk.
- Papi Queso – Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches from one of Charlotte’s most beloved food trucks created by Brian Stockholm and Shelley Odom.
- The Dumpling Lady – Executive chef Qian Zhang’s popular food truck put down roots for her authentic Sichuan cuisine, including handmade soup dumplings, noodles, and dim sum.
- Village Juice Co. – Winston-Salem-based cold pressed juice company serving local, organic, plant-based food. The menu also includes smoothie bowls, salads, grain bowls, and fancy toast.
- Ava – Traditional Neapolitan pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven from Michael Stewart and Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon.
- Archer Paper Goods – Fine stationery and supplies like greeting cards, journals, and gifts. Archer also has locations in Atlanta, Athens, and Dallas.
- Velvet Taco – Fast-casual restaurant chain based out of Dallas with a globally inspired taco menu.
- El Thrifty Social Club – Reid Olsen and Joe Lariscy, the team behind Queen Park Social, present a casual entertainment destination with Mexican-inspired food and craft cocktails, DJs, and interactive games like pelota, Belgian feather bowling, foosball, ping pong, and duckpin bowling.
- Fonta Flora Brewing – Morganton-founded brewery with a focus on local agriculture. This is a huge expansion for the brewery into the Charlotte market with a tasting room and lots of outdoor space.
- Felix Empanadas – Felix Godward’s local food truck serving authentic sweet and savory Argentinian empanadas, entraña (skirt steak with chimichurri), and milanesas (breaded and fried cuts of chicken, pork, and steak).
- Billy Sunday – Award-winning Chicago cocktail lounge with an elevated bar menu of creative and classic cocktails.
- Suarez Bakery and Barra – Popular Park Road Shopping Center bakery is adding a second location with expanded offerings opening any day now. Executive Chef Rodolfo Montero will lead the expansion into new savory menu offerings, including lunchtime bowls, sandwiches, and tapas along with their Instagram-famous pastries and desserts. Suarez will also have Cuban-style coffee along with beer and wine at night.
- Botiwalla – Indian street grill from the four-time James Beard-nominated chef behind Asheville’s wildly popular Chai Pani will open in fall 2020. The menu features grilled meats, flatbreads, fresh herbs, and wraps along with homemade ice cream and boozy slushies. The original location is in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market and a second is on the way in Alpharetta. Agenda Guide.
- Boxcar Betty’s – The Charleston-based gourmet fried chicken sandwich concept features chicken sandwiches, classic Southern side dishes, salads, desserts, and a kid’s menu. Boxcar Betty’s plans to open late summer 2020.
- Harriet’s Hamburgers – Old school burger joint from the teams behind Plaid Penguin and Papi Queso plans to open early fall 2020. Expect a “succinct and nostalgic menu” reminiscent of diners from the 1950 and 1960s.
- Mezeh – Opening late 2020, Mezeh is a Mediterranean grill with locations in other parts of North Carolina (like Raleigh and Fayetteville) and in Virginia and Maryland. Mezeh also has a location coming to Strawberry Hill.
OK, here’s a photo tour of Optimist Hall.
Looking for more Charlotte food and drink guides? Here’s a complete list of Agenda guides including best burgers, best bars, best new restaurants, best weekly specials, best pizza, best sushi, best cocktail bars, top restaurants, and best brunch.