9 of the quirkiest places to grab a drink in Charlotte, from a jailhouse to a department store

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Drinks at Poplar. Photo by Alex Cason

Some of my favorite travel memories are finding a quirky little watering hole to waste away evenings in – like Weinorgal in Vienna. We came back home wishing Charlotte had something as unique as the wine bar located in the vault of a lodging house built in the 1200s.

Yes, as Charlotte proud as I am, I’m still prone to city comparisons – which is silly. Sure, Charlotte doesn’t have any buildings dating back to the 1200s, but we do have plenty of quirky watering holes that are uniquely our own. Below are some of my favorites.

A loading dock

Where to find it: The Dock at the Marriott100 W. Trade St.

Who else lives vicariously through shows like Boardwalk Empire, where men and women dress up in all their gallantry for drinks in clandestine cocktail lounges? Live vicariously no more. Accessible by a loading dock behind the Marriott in Uptown is The Dock. The Prohibition-era cocktail lounge is open only one night a week – Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. – and allows revelers to enjoy the mystique of a bygone era without the fear of getting busted.

What to drink: The cocktail menu rotates seasonally. Right now, Bee’s Knees with gin, lemon and honey, and Hanky Panky with gin and vermouth will heat up your summer night.

Entrance to The Dock. Photo by CharlotteFive

A post office

Where to find it: Temple Mojo, 195 N. Trade St., Matthews

Is it an old bicycle shop, a retired post office, or just a hip place to drink craft beer? The answer – all three. Originally dedicated as a post office in 1939 and most recently used as a bicycle shop before converting into a beer bar and growler fill ship, Temple Mojo proudly displays relics of its past with light fixtures made from converted bicycle tires and bars still on the windows from its days as a post office.

What to drink: Temple Mojo is one of only four places in the Charlotte area to drink Seaboard Brewery’s beers. Try the Sunland Orchard NE IPA and leave a comment below in thanks.

A barbershop

Where to find it: Emerson Joseph, 221 S. Tryon St.

Sure, sipping a glass of wine at a beauty salon may be commonplace, but how many barbershops offer up a glass of craft beer as you sit down for a trim? Not many. For most men, a haircut is utilitarian. You go in, get your haircut, and get out. Emerson Joseph is righting those wrongs as an upscale men’s grooming lounge in town. Each customer is offered a craft beer from a seasonally changing menu as they sit down for a cut that includes a scalp massage, hot facial towel, hand cut, pre and post conditioning, and a shoe shine. Other grooming services include a color camouflage, straight razor shave, facial hair trims, massages, back waxing, and face rejuvenations.

What to drink: Want something more than beer? Rent a locker in the speakeasy to store your favorite bottle. Emerson Joseph provides crystal glasses and specialty ice cubes for that Macallan 18.

Monday blue’s fade away with a fresh new haircut. #MondayMotivation

A post shared by Emerson Joseph (@emersonjosephnc) on

A church

Where to find it: Bonterra Dining & Wine Room, 1829 Cleveland Ave.

I mean, they serve wine at communion, right? And, Jesus’s first miracle was turning water into wine. It only makes sense then that Bonterra Dining & Wine Room is located in an old church in Dilworth. At Charlotte’s own cathedral to wine, the bar is in the former chancel of the church – that part of the altar where the choir and clergy sit during services.

What to drink: Bonterra offers 200 wines by the glass and over 200 reserve wines by the bottle from its private cellar. While that number can appear overwhelming to the wine un-initiated, one of Bonterra’s well-trained staff members can recommend a wine that best meets your palate.

A grocery store

Where to find it: The Sedgefield Shopping Center Harris Teeter, 2717 South Blvd.

No longer do you have to wait until you get home for that first gulp of wine to help calm your nerves from the madness of the grocery store’s self-checkout line. I mean, everyone knows if you’re buying produce, you wait in line for a cashier, right? Thankfully, Harris Teeter now houses a wine and beer bar in many of their stores. One of the grocery store chain’s most popular bars is in the Sedgefield Shopping Center. The bar offers eight beers on draft and a variety of rotating wines by the glass.

What to drink: In the case of Harris Teeter, it’s more what to eat. The bar offers daily food pairing specials like a Mongolian Dinner on Mondays with half-price glasses of wine, and lobster dinners on Wednesdays with $3 Charlotte beers.

A historic home

Where to find it: Poplar Tapas, Wine, and Spirits, 224 W. Tenth St.

Poplar Tapas, Wine, and Spirits is all-around quirky. One would expect a restaurant located in a house built in 1885 to serve traditional Southern fare alongside mint juleps. Not at Poplar. Expect international influences with a heavy lean toward Peruvian flavors on both the food and cocktail menu. Pair that experience with the southern charm of front porch seating with views of Uptown’s skyline.

What to drink: Order a Pisco Sour with authentic Peruvian ceviche.

Poplar Tapas. Photo by Alex Cason

[Related: What to order at Fourth Ward’s neighborhood restaurant since its makeover: Poplar Tapas Restaurant & Bar]

A treehouse

Where to find it: Treehouse Vineyards301 Bay St., Monroe

Relive your childhood days of climbing trees and escaping from the rest of the world in the privacy of your own treehouse at Treehouse Vineyards. Only now, you can do it with adult libations for the ultimate escape. Treehouse Vineyards – located on a 200-year-old family farm – offers two treehouses. The original treehouse, which is 30-feet in the air, is rentable by the hour and offers views over the vineyards. The second treehouse can be reserved for overnight stays and has a kitchenette, bedroom, full bathroom, and gas grill – all overlooking the old rock quarry and vineyard.

What to drink: For that true childhood experience, go with a wine slushy. It’s how slushies were meant to be enjoyed.

A department store

Where to find it: Arthur’s Restaurant at Belk South Park4400 Sharon Rd.

I have a fear of malls. Even before Amazon offered everything you can ever want with next-hour delivery, I shopped exclusively online, ordering clothes in multiple sizes in case I wasn’t sure about fit. On the few occasions when I do venture into the mall, I shop at Belk’s in SouthPark because I know when the stress of shopping gets to me, I can sip on a glass of wine. They also have a full kitchen to help stave off hanger.

What to drink: This is a full-fledged wine store as well. Ask for something rare and unique that you might not find at other wine bars.

A jailhouse

Where to find it: Jailhouse Spirits and Lounge23B S. Main St., Belmont

Normally, one might end up in jail after a night of drinking, not while you’re drinking. The Jailhouse in downtown Belmont is a cocktail bar and cigar lounge located in the city’s old jail. The building was built in the 1960s and offers plenty of relics from its past like a stainless-steel bar top surrounded by iron cells and ceiling scripts left from previous “patrons” that weren’t there by choice.

What to drink: The Midnight Express is a smoked old fashioned made with the smoke from hickory chips smoked table side.

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