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Just west of Uptown, the historic West End consists of neighborhoods like Wesley Heights, Biddleville, Seversville, and Smallwood.
The area, which is considered the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement in Charlotte, is home to Johnson C. Smith University, a historically Black college founded in 1867 after the Civil War to educate those who were formerly enslaved. Notable alumni include Dorothy Counts, who integrated the all-white Harding High School in Charlotte a few years prior.
Today, the West End is undergoing change as modern new-builds and oversized craftsman creep into modest, middle- and low-income neighborhoods.
Still, much of the area has retained its charm.
Walk through JCSU, and you’ll see hundred-year-old academic buildings like the Romanesque-style Biddle Memorial Hall. Neighboring Seversville and Wesley Heights are home to a network of greenways with views of the Uptown skyline.
Here are the best things to do, see, and eat in the historic West End:
(1) Treat yourself to lobster mac and cheese from Cuzzo’s Cuisine
You can do a single serving for $12.50 or a family-sized portion for $40. They also have tons of seafood and chicken combos priced under $18.
(2) Stroll along Stewart Creek Greenway
Go with a friend or listen to a podcast and take a 2-mile stroll along the greenway. You can park at 1960 Lela Avenue or 1704 Freedom Drive.
(3) Make a stop at Flavor Town, a.k.a. Pinky’s Westside Grill
Make Guy Fieri proud and sink your teeth into a “Triple G” — three five-ounce patties, mustard, chili, slaw, onion for $9.25. And don’t skip the basket of fried pickles ($5.25 for small, $7.95 large).
(4) Get some curbside beers from Blue Blaze Brewing
The brewery also has tons of outdoor seating if you prefer to sip your pint on site, but you can also get beer delivered or do curbside pickup.
(5) See the new West End murals
After the mass shooting on Beatties Ford Road in June, neighbors came together to “shift the energy from negativity to something positive,” according to the Historic West End website. Local artists started painting murals with messages like “Beatties Ford Strong.” These pieces add to the West End’s growing collection of murals.
“How do we help create conduits where healing can occur?” says Ricky Singh, an artist, community organizer, and Charlotte Lab School leader. “Art,” he says is a good place to start.
[Related Agenda guide: The definitive guide to 70+ Charlotte street murals, mapped]
(6) Grab coffee at Enderly Coffee and CupLux
CupLux: As one of the few drive-thru coffee options in Charlotte, you can’t skip CupLux. In this heat, I’d go with an iced latte or frozen coffee.
Enderly: Of course you can grab your regular cup of joe to go, but you can also have Pepperbox donuts and Enderly coffee beans/grounds delivered for free on Fridays (place your order ahead of time here).
(7) Try West African cuisine from Mama Gee’s
Some popular Ghanian delicacies include fufu and pepper soup, fried plantains and beans, Kelewele and peanuts, and Jollof and chicken.
(8) Have brunch at Toucan Louie’s
The breakfast menu has biscuits, omelettes, and breakfast sandwiches, and the lunch features tons of sandwiches, burgers, and salads. They’ve also got coffee, smoothies, and juices. Almost everything on the menu is under $9.
(9) Do $5.95 burritos (and bowls) at Picante
Every Tuesday you can get a burrito or burrito bowl for $5.95, from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Go with the herb chicken and definitely add queso, no matter what you order.
(10) Pretend you’re vacationing on the coast with LuLu’s
Thanks to Jay Davis and Miketa Proctor, you can get a Maryland-style crab cake in Charlotte. The softball-sized lump of meat runs market price, which is anywhere from $16 to $22.
(11) Take your pup to Lucky Dog Bark & Brew
Anyone else developing golfers elbow after four months of nonstop fetch? Let your dogs run around and socialize while you grab a beer. You can also drop your dogs off for daycare and a bath.
(12) Get some retail therapy in at Great Things second-hand boutique
You can shop in person three days a week (noon to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays) or online whenever you’d like. Inventory rotates, but you can expect brands like Nike, Tory Burch, Loft, Banana Republic, Trina Turk, and Chico’s.
They also take new/gently used clothes, beauty products, accessories, etc. if you’re doing a closet clean out.
[Related Agenda guide: How to support Black-owned businesses in Charlotte]
(13) Cozy up at The Pauline Tea-Bar Apothecary
From the comfy furniture, to the smell of herbal teas, to the mismatched mugs hanging on the wall, Pauline’s is where you want to go to unwind.
Of course you can take tea to go, but you can also bring your laptop and stay a while if working from home is getting the best of you.
(14) Go to trivia at Town Brewing
The brewery has “Mindless Minutia Trivia” every Wednesday, with plenty of space to drink your beer while social distancing. You can also pick up brews curbside or order delivery if that’s more your speed.
(15) Buy sustainable clothing with Recover
I’ll never understand how people turn water bottles into clothing, but I support it. You can buy individual ready-to-wear T-shirts and other items made from recycled materials, or do wholesale custom branded gear.
(16) Order one of everything from The Batchmaker
If you’ve never been, start with a s’mores brownie — one of The Batchmaker’s signature treats. I wouldn’t skip the oatmeal creme pie either; it has all the nostalgia of a Little Debby’s with way more flavor.
Fun fact: You can also order an iced tres leches latte made from HEX Coffee on draft.
(17) Then head next door to check out LaCa Projects
Through September 5, you can see the latest exhibit called Intimismos. It features works by Barcelona-based artist, Franco Fasoli, and Berlin-based artist, Octavio Garabello.
(18) See a live show at The Milestone Club
Even if punk rock music isn’t your scene, a show at The Milestone is a bucket list item for any Charlottean. Despite the pandemic, The Milestone Club still has a few shows listed. See the full calendar.
(19) Order a club sandwich from Rhino Market & Deli
I never get tired of these brown paper-wrapped sandwiches, stacked with all my favorite toppings. I’d go with the ciabatta bread, no matter which sandwich you choose.
(20) Learn about the history of the West End
Here are just a few facts about the area:
- Biddleville, built around Johnson C. Smith University, is Charlotte’s oldest surviving Black neighborhood.
- The Excelsior Club in Washington Heights was the first Black nightclub in Charlotte, created in 1944. Greats like Nat “King” Cole, Louis Armstrong, and James Brown played there.
- Speaking of music, popular rappers DaBaby and Lute both grew up in west Charlotte. In “Under the Sun” — which features DaBaby, Lute, and Fayetteville native J. Cole — Lute raps “I’m Beatties Ford ’til the wheels fall,” a reference to Beatties Ford Road. And DaBaby’s “Suge” video was filmed entirely in west Charlotte.
- Dorothy Counts was the first person to integrate all-white Harding High School, now Irwin Academic Center, in 1957. The school, which is technically in the Fourth Ward, is just a mile east of JCSU.
Want to explore more neighborhoods in Charlotte? Here’s our full directory of neighborhood guides, including guides on Dilworth, South End, and Plaza Midwood.