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Meet your tour guide
Who: Kenny Barnes
How you know him: One of the stars of the Netflix hit show Love is Blind. You probably spent an early part of your quarantine binge-watching it, though the show was filmed two years ago. He’s now engaged to his fiancée, Alexandra, who was not part of the show.
Neighborhood: South End
From Kenny: I’ve lived in Charlotte for a little more than a year now. Because of Covid, I only had the opportunity to explore the city (unrestricted) for about 4 months. Despite the fact that it’s unoriginal to compare Charlotte to my hometown of Atlanta, the similarities are prevalent.
What differentiates Charlotte from Atlanta (and a lot of similarly sized cities) is the distinct character of its neighborhoods and their close proximity to each other. Combine the friendliness of Charlotte’s residents, cleanliness of the city, new development, slower pace of life, and a close-knit sense of community, and life seems to be more within reach. Atlanta will always be “home,” but I feel at home in Charlotte.
Here’s how Kenny would spend a weekend entertaining out-of-town friends or family.
Responses have been edited lightly for length and clarity.
Friday: Shareables and drinks in South End
Beer and charcuterie: A picturesque Friday evening in Charlotte would begin with drinks and appetizers at Craft. We’d likely start with one of their flatbreads or half and half charcuterie boards, then polish it off with a couple of craft pilsners.
Tapas: After Craft, we’d make our way to Barcelona Wine Bar. The original location was down the street from where I lived in Atlanta, so it provides a little taste of home. For those who have never dined at Barcelona, I highly recommend … everything. Their tapas are amazing. Order a variety with a wine pairing recommendation from the staff. Expectations will be exceeded.
Nightcap: After dinner, we would make our way back home and stop by STIR at the RailYard for an espresso martini to close out the evening.
Saturday: Working it off at the Whitewater Center
Morning brew: I’m a morning person — as is our dog, Penni, a tri-colored Corgi — so Saturdays jump start with a 6:45 a.m. wake-up call. I’d brew a pot of coffee (likely a local roast from Enderly Coffee Co. purchased at Rhino Market) and have College Gameday turned on low in the background while everyone is still asleep. Hair disheveled and coffee mug in hand, Penni and I would embark on our morning walk.
Doughnuts: With guests in mind, we would beat the morning rush and stop by Pepperbox Doughnuts to score a dozen of their “Doughnut of the Day.” With the doughnuts placed on the kitchen table, bacon thrown in the oven, coffee mugs and creamer(s) set out, and mimosas served, I’d ask Alexa to play a classic banger by Roscoe Dash (an Atlanta-based artist) to set the energy for the day.
Casual hike: After everyone had a chance to enjoy their coffee and breakfast, we’d Uber to the Whitewater Center for a casual hike to burn off Friday night’s fun. No outdoor activity would be complete without wine, appetizers, and live music at the outdoor pavilion (socially distanced, of course).
BBQ and college football: On our way home, we would swing by Noble Smoke and load up on food to enjoy while watching the afternoon/evening prime-time college football match-ups. I attended and played football at Wofford College (Class of ’13), but since the SoCon opted to postpone its season in response to the threat of Covid-19, I became an honorary fan of my fiancee Alexandra’s alma mater, Virginia Tech.
South End crawlin’: Noble Smoke would tide us over for a while, but now that Charlotte has implemented phase three of reopening, we’d capitalize on the opportunity to show our friends around town. We’d start off by walking to Seoul Food Meat Company to enjoy drinks on their back patio, followed by a visit to Hoppin’ for people watching and to check in on the football games.
Low-key game night: Out of respect for our guests’ return home the next day, we would make it an earlier night. Bananagrams, UNO Flip, or Left, Center, Right would be available for those who wanted to burn the midnight oil. Anyone else would be welcome to fall asleep while cuddling Penni on the couch (she would insist).
Sunday: Winding down with coffee and breakfast sammies
Live-stream church: Waking up would be similar to Saturday morning (hold the music). No schedule. People are free to wake up at their leisure. For those who had the time, we would walk to Rhino Market for a breakfast sandwich and coffee and make it back to stream Elevation’s 11:30 a.m. service.
Football and chill: Following church and a quick group discussion, I would turn on NFL Sunday Countdown and hang out in the backyard. Open the garage door, set up the Chippo Golf boards, and enjoy another beautiful fall day in Charlotte.