Two states, one team: That’s what’s emblazoned on many Carolina Panther’s posters in uptown Charlotte. For those not native the Charlotte, finding a place to eat before the game can be daunting, if not impossible with the crowds. Here’s a smattering of everything you could crave before Cam Newton and LUUUUUUKE hit the field.Read More
Where to Eat and Drink Around the Carolina Panthers’ Stadium
Fill up on gochujang wings and pizza rolls
1. Blue Blaze Brewing
Housed in the century-old Savona Mill, this brewery is easy to access via the Stewart Creek Greenway and has a modest selection of beers with names inspired by Appalachian Trail markers. Expect a taste of locally sourced ingredients in the brews, which range from the malty Blue Blaze Altbier to the sweeter Yellow Blazer Kölsch.
2. Pinky's Westside Grill
Pinky’s claim to fame came with its feature on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri. As for its potential to gain a following with the pre-game crowd, Pinky’s menu is filled with a variety of local craft beer pitchers like Birdsong Brewing Company’s Higher Ground IPA, and fried goodness like Pimp’n Fries (waffle fries slathered in homemade pimento cheese) and fried Greg’s Pickles (dill pickle chips fried and served with ranch dressing). The “healthier” sports fans can dig into popcorn chicken salad and tahini salad (topped with fried falafel cakes).
Known for getting packed when the Panthers are at home, this gastropub sits off of Cedar Street in the heart of tailgating territory, a mere stone’s throw from the stadium. The special $12 Game Day Menu in this historical, 1920s Foundry building includes pizza rolls, cheeseburger sliders on skewers, and aptly named Panthers Nachos — blue corn tortilla chips buried under a pile of chicken, queso and jalapeños, with salsa. Pick a craft beer on tap or one of the daily drink specials to wash it down. Don’t miss the mimosa and bloody mary bars that align with the weekend brunch spread, either.
4. Graham St. Pub & Patio
Newly opened Graham Street is just downhill from the Bank of America stadium, with patio seating at ground level and rooftop seating on the second floor. The setting is boisterous with loud music and a broad view of the Uptown skyline, while the menu is a laid-back infusion of Asian, Mediterranean, and Southern influences. Tailgate-style offerings include wings with honey jalapeño sauce, sexy sauce, barbecue sauce, and more; nachos with different cheeses, black beans, sour cream, guac, pico de gallo, jalapeños and the option to add chicken, chorizo or steak; and chicken tenders with dipping sauce. A long list of $6 draft beers ranges from Guinness to local flavors like Legion Brewing’s Juicy Jay.
5. Loft & Cellar
On the swankier side of tailgate options, Loft & Cellar just scored beloved Rock Hill chef Gregory Collier of breakfast hotspot The Yolk as its executive chef (he’ll still be at The Yolk, too). Collier has been busy updating the dinner, brunch and lunch menus with his Southern cooking emphasis. But don’t forget Loft’s cocktail-bar-meets-entertainment lounge vibe with a rotation of live music, DJs and sports games on TVs.
Even more upscale and just as close to the stadium as Loft & Cellar is Asheville chef William Dissen’s newest venture Haymaker. Stop in for a fine-dining experience pre- or post-football (the restaurant is open daily) and expect a menu heavy on farm-fresh ingredients. Try snacks like whole-wheat levain bread baked in house (don’t skimp on the butter), small plates like heirloom cornmeal hush puppies lathered in jalapeño sorghum butter, and large plates like herb dumplings with braised greens and foraged mushrooms. There’s plenty of beer at the game — try a signature cocktail here. The Haymaker Punch is a mix of bourbon, lemon, apple ginger shrub and cider.
7. The Coca-Cola Dog House
Smack dab across the street from the Panthers’ home turf, the Dog House (operated by 102.5 FM/610 AM WFNZ and News 1110/99.3 WBT) is a rowdy spot to gather and get amped up before kickoff. The venue opens before Panthers home games and certain additional stadium events, and flows with beers, wine, mixed drink options and, of course, Coke products. Catch a snack from a food truck like JJ’s Red Hots or Sauceman’s BBQ at this stop, too, and move on to the stadium or settle onto the deck in front of a big screen.
8. The Unknown Brewing Co.
Known as a place that tries to keep Charlotte weird, this brewery has a recently renovated rooftop element that is just the place to catch a look at the skyline and the Panther blue-lit Duke Energy Center on game day. Try the Feather Light craft beer (yes, Charlotte has concocted light craft beer) or the Pre-Game Pilsner with a bit of hoppiness. Need to hydrate? Sip on the craft-made ginger ale, with a kick of spice. Don’t miss: The Carolina Sendoffs hosted by the brewery, to wave the team bus by as it drives down South Mint Street. The first one of the season is Oct. 13.
9. Seoul Food Meat Company
A raucous atmosphere is pretty common here on both NFL and college game days. (It also serves as a Georgia Bulldog bar on Saturdays.) Situated in the Gold District, it’s only a stroll down Mint St. from the stadium. What to get: large basket of half-and-half wings. They are Korean-fried in healthy rice bran oil and have been known to stay crispy overnight in the fridge. The spicy gochujang-inspired wing sauce and the sweet soy garlic glaze makes buffalo a sauce of the past.
10. Bardo Restaurant
To slink away from the crowded tailgaters and experience the best of what Charlotte has to offer in upscale dining, sneak into Bardo, not far from Unknown Brewing. Chef Michael Noll is bringing a plethora of experience from his time cooking in Chicago and bringing local dining to heights only previously experienced in the nosebleed section. Diners would be remiss if they left without trying Amanda Britton’s inventive cocktail selection.