I’ve been in Charlotte for four years and no one ever felt the need to tell me that the city of Belmont, our neighbor 15 miles to the west, is adorable. Not once. Honestly, I’m kind of upset about it. I like it so much I’ve gone twice in the last month, and I don’t really even like driving from Plaza Midwood to South End so that’s saying something.
While I’m hardly an expert on Belmont, here are the things I have learned in two short trips.
(1) It’s adorable.
I grew up in a small town that at the time was about the size of Belmont now. (If you’ve ever seen Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day, that movie was filmed in my hometown of Woodstock, IL. I got his autograph, no big deal.) So when I rolled into downtown on the Shop Charlotte Tour charter bus a few weeks ago (my first introduction to Belmont, thank you ShopCLT), I had this overwhelming flashback to childhood.
Belmont is small, but they have a lot going on downtown. We had limited time at each stop on the tour I was on so I popped into Provisions, a shop with local seasonal food items; Cherub’s Candy Bouquet, a candy shop that specializes in making bouquets out of candy bars and employs those who are “differently able”; and Gigi’s Boutique, a women’s store with a mix of new and consigned clothes.
(2) The General Store is like a time warp.
I couldn’t get over how great the General Store was. There’s a legit throwback soda shop on one side, a build-your-own 6-pack soda wall on the other and some hardware, trinkets and everyday items scattered throughout. While some small town general stores feel gimmicky and designed just for tourists, I could tell this was a practical place for locals.
(3) There is coffee.
Caravan Coffee reminds me a lot of an underground coffee shop I spent endless hours studying (or at least pretending to study) in back in college. They have full hot and iced menus and serve baked goods from Brenda’s Cake Gallery next door.
(4) It’s home to North Carolina’s first craft rum distillery.
Since I was so impressed by Belmont on my short drive-by on the shopping tour, I decided to go back a couple weeks later to sample local rum. Who knew Belmont had a rum distillery? We all do now. Muddy River Distillery, located on the banks of the Catawba River, produces 300 bottles a day of local Carolina rum that rivals (nay, crushes) Captain Morgan. You can read all about my trip to the distillery and tasting tour here.
(5) We really need a String Bean in Charlotte.
After our Muddy River Distillery tour, my boyfriend and I dropped in to The String Bean for a late dinner. It’s one part restaurant, one part market (complete with a butcher and wine shop). I got the eggplant sandwich with sweet potato fries and he got a BBQ sandwich on Texas toast. It was perfect, and we really need one of these in Charlotte. Or I guess I’ll just keep coming back.
I’m really glad I finally found Belmont. It seems like a nice escape from Charlotte every once in a while. If you’re like me and had no idea it existed, go now. It’s worth it.