Best Places to Meet People
Single or not, we all like to meet people with whom we have similar interests. (Although, let's be honest. If you're single, there's often a little more urgency attached to the situation.) But sometimes we need a little help to know where to go. Here's help. We've profiled the best places to meet men and women like yourself. And you’ll be happy to know that they aren't all bars (but we have those, too, for you clubbin' types). From restaurants and lounges to places to get fit, talk business, and bring your dog, we've got you covered.
By Dara Donnelly, Nicole Ewing, Mike Giglio, Steve Goldberg, Jodi Helmer, Kristina B. Hill, Jarvis Holliday, Monica Jamouneau, and Blake Miller
Photographs by Chris Edwards (except where noted)
Drinks are surprisingly inexpensive at Sullivan's, the 1940s-themed steakhouse on South Boulevard. Thursday nights, Sullivan's is a popular hangout for many of the city's young professionals. It's often packed by 7 p.m., so to get a seat at the bar or at one of the few tables come directly from work. With a separate bar area at the front of the restaurant, low lighting, and loud music, it's easy to strike up a conversation simply by bumping into someone accidentally (or on purpose). Arrive a little later and mingle with a mob of banker types and stylish ladies at the far end of the bar. Dressing to impress is definitely the rule of thumb. Valet parking, available and convenient, has the added perk of some very cute valets (if that's your type). If you're looking for a diverse crowd, you probably won't find it here.
Harris Teeter in uptown
325 W. Sixth St., 704-332-8479
So meeting your soul mate at the grocery store seems rather cliché. But what if your grocery store is smack dab in the middle of center city, surrounded by apartments, condos, and essentially single living? Strolling into the Harris Teeter on the corner of Fifth and Poplar streets during the weekday lunch hour is a singles haven. You'll find a line of young professionals waiting to place their order for the daily sub sandwich special. Because of the wait, there's time to look and socialize. Can't make it for lunch? The after-work shopping crowd is equally as single. Dressed in gym clothes or business wear, shoppers roam the aisles with baskets, most likely for one. This is not the place to see hot soccer moms loading up a cart for their family of five. Weekend shoppers need not worry—the beer-and-wine section keeps this Harris Teeter alive all the way through Sunday night.
Third Thursdays at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design
220 N. Tryon St., 704-337-2000, 5-8 p.m.,
music 6:30-7:30 p.m.
It just feels right to be holding a glass of wine while perusing galleries of fine art. Perhaps it's because that scene has been shown time and again in movies (especially romantic comedies). The Mint Museum of Craft + Design creates that setting each month. The live jazz and light hors d'oeuvres complete the experience, making it perfect for mingling. Most people arrive from work, but they seem to have spiced up their wardrobes a bit in anticipation of the night. There are usually more women than men. And, fellas, here's a tip: Check out the galleries prior to coming this evening and impress the ladies with your knowledge of art. Free admission and a cash bar.
The Dog Bar
3307 N. Davidson St., 704-370-3595
Common interests are essential when finding that special someone, and if that common interest happens to be that you love your dog more than your siblings, The Dog Bar should be your meeting ground. Canines and humans alike are welcome to this casual bar, located in the heart of NoDa. Even if you don't find the hottie for you, dozens of sweet pups are around to divert your attention. And don't be afraid to dress down because, like the liquor, the dog hair—or worse—is plentiful. The Dog Bar is closed during the winter (can't have those pups getting cold) and is also the only place in Charlotte that requires a $10 fee for a dog membership. We're going to assume that goes toward sanitation.
HOM has become a major player in the city's nightlife scene with a crowd that mixes singles and the attached with gay, straight, and everything in between. (Chris Edwards)
Petra's Piano Bar
1919 Commonwealth Ave., 704-332-6608
For what some may consider a dive, one good night at Petra's is an unforgettable experience. Although all are welcomed, Petra's attracts some of the liveliest individuals in Charlotte's gay community. An assortment of red lanterns and chandelier lighting, low ceilings, and the sound of piano keys gives the bar an intimate, charming vibe. A large projection screen fills the back wall, rolling anything from Madonna music videos to old movies. Music ranges from Broadway tunes to Elton John hits, and anyone is welcome to jump in and sing alongside the piano player. Most nights are filled with regulars, but if you're outgoing and love to have a good time, you'll fit right in. If nothing else, you don't have to worry about awkward first conversations—the entertainment is an immediate icebreaker and most of the singers are good for comic relief.
Give them two days of your month and they give you the opportunity to learn, network, and socialize. An affiliate of the American Advertising Federation, the Young Professionals in Advertising, better known as Ad 2, has developed a Charlotte chapter that serves as a source of networking in the creative business world. The first Tuesday of each month, Ad2uesday, is set aside for an after-work soiree at one of Charlotte's many hot spots, which have included Tutto Mundo and Dolce Vita. Guys in ties and ladies in business attire gather for cocktails, mixing business and pleasure. And you shouldn't have a problem making the guest list. Anyone under the age of thirty-two and involved in the fields of marketing, communications, graphic design, public relations, media, or other creative professions is invited. College students aspiring to find work in any of these fields are also welcome. Ad 2 also sponsors public service events and fundraisers throughout the year, for you civic-minded types.
Business After Hours
The Charlotte Chamber's monthly networking social isn't the stuffy business-meets-pleasure event you might expect it to be. Professionals who seem happy to have escaped their cubicles are actually quite lively and engaging. Gents have loosened the ties, while ladies have opened a button or two. People at Business After Hours tend to clique up, so if you walk up to someone and introduce yourself, you'll soon be in a group conversation. You'll have to dodge the couple dozen or so Realtors who are there looking for clients. But other than that, it's a pleasantly diverse group. And if someone sparks your interest, it's common to ask for a business card (what you do with it from there is up to you). The chamber selects a different place each month to hold its event, from restaurants and cafes to country clubs and sporting venues.
Peak Fitness on Morehead
1001 Morehead Square Dr., 704-332-4500
Scantily clad men and women roam here—some are here for your obvious gym reasons, others are here to check out the newest members. The uptown location being a key ingredient, Peak Fitness on Morehead attracts anyone from bankers to members of the service industry to professional nightlife goers. Weekdays between 5 and 7 p.m. are when you'll find an aesthetically conscious crowd packing the place. And there are never enough machines, so there is plenty of time to mingle as you wait for an Elliptical. Girls trot lightly on the treadmills, hesitant to break a sweat, every so often fixing their ponytails. Guys mostly lift weights, but not without eyeing the entire room between sets. And the mirrored walls make it easy to nonchalantly check out your neighbor. If you're single, looking, and want to burn a few a calories, this is the gym to join. If you're not single, bring an iPod.
Where Is the Love?
If you're a single man or woman desiring adult conversation in an open, laid-back environment, look no further than "Where Is the Love?" a monthly networking forum. Karla Thompson started the forum nearly two years ago after frequent morning debates with a male co-worker that showcased the differences in opinions men and women often have. "One day, I finally said, ‘Why don't we formalize this,' " says Thompson, who moved to Charlotte in 2002. "About seventy-five people came to the first event, and we've been doing it ever since."
The after-work event, held the third Friday of each month at various venues, tackles topics on business, community, and—the most popular—relationships. Host Antonio Anderson, also known as DJ Double A, leads men and women through discussions such as "Why Did I Get Married?" "Why Men and Women Cheat," and "Dating with Children."
"It's interesting to be in a room with so many different backgrounds and perspectives," Thompson says. "People that come to the events have to have an open mind."
U.S. National Whitewater Center
820 Hawfield Rd., 704-391-3900
There are plenty of destinations in Charlotte where singles don't have to be three sheets to the wind to seek the attention of the opposite sex, a favorite being the U.S. National Whitewater Center. It's still relatively new, and there are activities for all ability levels. It's a great spot to ask a cute seasoned kayaker how to hold a paddle, or flirt as your instructor helps you out of the water after you "fell" in. Be warned, however—whitewater rafting, kayaking, and climbing require endurance and a positive attitude, so this is probably not the ideal place to meet someone if you're the bump-on-the-log type. Even if you are having a lazy day, the Eddy Restaurant and Bar allows you to regain your energy with a bite to eat while scoping the well-toned eye candy on the course.
He thought she was very attractive. She thought he was clean cut and a gentleman.
When he opened the door to the restaurant for her that evening several months ago, he did it out of instinct. Kevin might have had an idea that she was his date but couldn't have known that for sure. They were supposed to meet at the hostess stand. Cindy thought this could be him, as she knew he had red hair. Other than that, they had yet to say a word to each other.
The date was arranged by Laurie Berzack, whose Chai Expectations is one of the South's only dedicated Jewish matchmaking services. ("Chai," pronounced with a hard consonant, isn't a trendy tea from Starbucks but the Hebrew word for life.) Her service is the professional version of what Jewish mothers do as a hobby.
"I'm a great networker," says Berzack, who has a master's degree in social work. "It's always been a passion to bring people together," whether that's meant with jobs or each other.
Berzack is clear that this isn't a dating service. Being Jewish is a must, as is being serious about commitment. "I can't take everyone because they're not all committed to getting married."
The upfront cost can range from $750 to $5,000, depending upon the criteria, with a success fee that's negotiated. Success is based on a benchmark such as getting engaged, or being together for at least a year.
Kevin, thirty-three, and Cindy, thirty-two, met in April and are getting closer. He works in the motor sports business and she's a speech pathologist. It was Cindy's third introduction through Berzack, his first. They most likely would never have met another way.
"When I first moved here, I was working a lot. I figured it was a good way to meet people," says Kevin. "I'm not the kind of person who's going to pick up a girl in a bar. It's harder to meet people at my age."
"For being in business and being very busy, it was worth it to me. I'm at the point in my life when I want to get married and be with somebody. I'm a shy person so it's hard for me to meet people. When I started this, I never thought in a million years that the first person she set me up with would be someone that I would be with for the last seven months."
"I've dated Jewish and non-Jewish, and I decided to find somebody Jewish," says Cindy.
She had tried JDate, a popular Jewish matchmaking Web site, and other services with no results. Her mother pointed out a newspaper article about Chai Expectations, several times in fact, but it was her sister who eventually pushed her to try it. She's glad she did and would definitely recommend it.
"It cuts out a lot of the games, you know. I find, too, because I'm busy [that] it's hard to find time to go out and meet people."
As you read this, Kevin and Cindy are approaching a year together, getting to that point where Berzack measures success. Her reward will be in the bank and in the heart.
To Berzack, the whole thing is simple. "I love the idea of being in love."
And Kevin's mother is very happy.
500 W. Fifth St., 704-940-0200
Big and beautiful, and often bursting at the seams, the interior of Cans boasts brick walls, sexy bars, and plasma TVs, along with an extra area on the bottom level that opens up on busy nights. Show off whatever you've got, because it's impossible to hear yourself think, let alone carry on a conversation with a potential mate. The music, whether rock or rap, is ear-piercing even for an uptown nightspot. Men adhere to the esteemed hair-gel-and-muscle-shirt dress code, while women squeeze into their tightest attire. The bar is aptly named, with tall boys to match any style of graphic tee. Plenty of beers on tap, too. The blue-and-black drinking team takes over when the Panthers are playing. (It gets more crowded when they're winning.) Ladies who love drunk men in jerseys might find plenty of fish in the sea, but most of the male attention is focused on the waitresses, who are scorching hot. Make sure to leave a nice tip.
Charlotte Breezers Ski Club
Several years ago while perusing a women's magazine, Charlotte native Kisha Kincaid came across an article about the National Brotherhood of Skiers, a member-based association that offers skiing and other recreational activities to African-American men and women.
Fast forward to 2008 and Kincaid is an active member of the association's local chapter, the Charlotte Breezers Ski Club, where she plans trips and coordinates marketing and PR efforts. "I was hooked after the first meeting," she says.
So, what has Kincaid hooked? Well, it could be activities that take the chapter's fifty-plus members to ski trips in Asheville and Aspen, Colorado, wine tasting in northern Virginia, vacations in the Bahamas, and other excursions such as rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, and even sky diving.
The Breezers' membership is composed mostly of single professionals. "This is a great club for people to come out and meet new, interesting people and try things they've always thought about doing," Kincaid says.
The annual chapter membership fee is $35. The cost for each trip varies.
116 W. Fifth St., 704-375-3737
Charlotte's newest nightclub has become the most talked-about place on the scene since opening in October. Whether you're straight, gay, or anything in between, the multilevel HOM (pronounced "home") attracts a diverse-enough crowd to satisfy any single's palate. The upper level, called PLAY, is perfect if you love to dance. Mostly featuring techno and house beats, the music is loud and the energy pulsating. White leather VIP seating borders the dance floor and is also offered on a more secluded third level, attached with a higher price tag, of course. Oversize couches, fire pits, and bamboo create an alluring rooftop terrace that provides a less noisy, serene conversational setting. Plus, HOM is a no-smoking club. For more of a lounge experience, head down to the basement-level LIV. Chandeliers, beaded pillows, and cocktail girls donned in sequins create a shimmering ambience. And a room full of plush, suede bedding seems almost intentional for some intimate, getting-to-know-each-other time. Expect to see anyone from young, hardcore clubbers to forty-somethings having a girls' night out.
Mac's Speed Shop
2511 South Blvd., 704-522-6227
There's no lack of neon bar lights or beer at Mac's, where couples and groups of friends dominate the action. Still, sit at the bar rather than the round tables, and you'll find that it's not that difficult to meet your stool-mates. Even the bartenders are approachable and fun to chat up. Biker bar, sports bar, and barbecue joint, Mac's is more Southern than a lot of places in Charlotte, and there are plenty of friendly good ol' boys just hanging out, watching the game. You'll have the most luck here if you're female and you like beer, and the unstated dress code is anything relaxed and comfortable. Mac's has all the laid-back, down-home coolness that the ritzier bars downtown don't, along with more than 150 different beers from across the globe and Bike Night every Wednesday.
Village Paws & Claws
16815-D Cranlyn Place, Huntersville, 704-655-PAWS
It happens all the time in romantic comedies: two dogs see each other across a crowded park, pulling at their leashes to get closer, and as they wrestle in the grass, their owners fall in love. Can it happen in real life? The owners of Village Paws and Claws think so. The specialty pet supplies store in Birkdale Village began hosting social events soon after opening its doors in early 2007, believing that dog lovers needed a place to socialize with their four-legged companions. The Whine and Cheese events are held after hours, giving pet parents a chance to mingle over drinks (note to single guys: women outnumber you here). Specialty doggie wines are also served, in case Rover needs some liquid courage to approach the doggie in the window. Need an opening line? Try, "What's his name?" or, "What breed is she?" Just be sure Fido is well socialized before taking him out on the town: It's hard to make a good first impression while scolding the dog for sticking his nose where it doesn't belong.
1936 E. Seventh St., 704-347-1918
Though fictitious, the jackalope defines the crowd at Jackalope Jack's. Plenty of young, single men are as ready as a jackrabbit to jump at the chance for a round of pool with a young, single lady. Women are more like the Jackalope's softer side, the antelope—docile and cool after a few Bikini Martinis, but quick to gallop away at the threat of a predator; in this case, an overly aggressive and intoxicated male. Many single ladies admitted to being hit on while sitting at one of the picnic tables on the front porch, but few were bothered by it. Unlike most uptown establishments, patrons do not fit into one niche. A variety of lifestyles visit this Elizabeth staple, from yuppie college grads enjoying Tuesday-night trivia, to young bankers looking for a happy hour, to a girls'-night-out group singing karaoke on Thursday or Saturday.
Alive After Five
Wachovia Plaza, Second and Tryon streets,
Designed for the after-work uptown crowd, this event draws individuals from all over the city as people stop in for a drink—or five. You will see the twenty-somethings who use Alive After Five as their jump-start for the evening (they've gone home to change into their best bar-hopping clothes) as well as blue-shirted bankers entertaining clients or colleagues from out of town. You might bump into your co-worker's husband, your ex-boyfriend, that guy you see in Starbucks you didn't have the nerve to talk to, or that gent that your friend met on her last Internet-dating excursion. There is no shortage of good-looking, well-dressed singles. But don't expect anything fancy—think plastic cups and two choices of wine—yet, with an invigorating city vibe, live music, and drinks aplenty, Alive After Five provides a fun experience for the Charlotte born-and-raised or the newbie. Beware, it gets crowded. Note: for better wine choices and a moderate break from the overwhelming crowd, work your way into Mimosa Grill. The patio provides a great landing to scan the mob scene and make your next strategic move. Alive After Five is held each Thursday, 5:30-9 p.m., from late April to the end of August.
4310 Sharon Rd. (in The Village at SouthPark), 704-909-5500
Where ambience reigns over food, this modern Mediterranean hot spot serves as a chic gathering place for cocktails and conversation. From its rich, inviting color palette to leather floors and recessed lighting, M5 exudes sexiness. On a recent night, the end of the bar drew a gathering of businessmen, while one of several leather couches was occupied by a group of dressed-to-the-nines blondes, each sipping M5's signature sangria. As for the ring check—all but one appeared to be free of matrimony. Whether you're in the market for a rich man, a trophy wife, or just some good people watching, this stylish scene draws the after-work goers as well as a later crowd Friday and Saturday nights. Don't forget to check out the patio, which is filled with plush seating. During cold months it's heated, and during warm months it takes on a Miami vibe.
Thomas Street Tavern
1218 Thomas Ave., 704-376-1622
This neighborhood spot pulls out all the stops to get that good old-fashioned neighborhood feel. It's pleasantly dim with a comfortable pub décor, and there's even a murky cigarette machine. Lots of beer is on tap at reasonable prices; more is available in bottles and cans. That along with a big food menu helps explain why the after-work crowd comes pouring in. Leave the office at the crack of five to find a seat at the bar. This isn't necessarily a Cheers environment, especially once the music gets louder as the seats and standing room fill up from Thursday through Saturday nights, but there are lots of familiar faces. Feel free to strike up a conversation or take a shot of Jameson with anyone, and don't be shy about trying to hook up. Plenty of people are looking. The Ping-Pong tables out back have killed many an amorous night, however, as competitive streaks are rediscovered. Golden Tee, pool, and foosball offer laid-back alternatives for feeling out a new friend. And there's always the jukebox for the romantics out there, or the especially intoxicated.
Looking for the perfect match by scouring online dating sites can feel a little forced. Can you really judge someone based on a few sentences and a grainy photo? Meetup.com has come up with another way for singles to connect: organizers schedule events ranging from brunch or happy hour to hiking and live performances. The group outings are designed for mingling, so there's far less pressure than a one-on-one dinner date. More singles equals more chances to meet someone. Since the events are activities based, there's also a better chance of connecting with people who share similar interests. Looking for a vegetarian world traveler who plays disc golf? A little bit of sleuthing on Meetup.com might lead to the right person. All it takes is a simple online registration. Local groups like Charlotte Excursions, Good Eats! Charlotte, and the Charlotte Poker Meetup Group have more than a couple hundred members each. Or, join a smaller niche group like Charlotte Jewish Singles, Charlotte Hispanic Singles, 35+ Black Singles, and Charlotte Single Lesbians to further narrow the field.
Connolly's Irish Pub
115 E. Fifth St., 704-358-9070
This place is for real, right down to the Irish bartender named Murph, and there's not much patience for phonies. Expect to be put in place if you're being a wanker. As such, if you do meet someone here, it's not likely to be a one-night stand. Some patrons have even been known to take a knee right on the floor beside the bar, to a round of applause and champagne. Or announce, later on, the impending arrival of a first child, to a round of car bombs. Guinness, as might be expected, is the beer of choice, and the pour's just right. Friday during happy hour is the best time to stop by, but keep in mind that it's only "happy" because everyone rushes over from work to have a good time. On any given weekday, seats start to fill up once the bankers can get away from their desks. When the bigger crowds come in from Thursday through Saturday nights, the small outdoor patio and upstairs bar take care of the overflow. But like any good pub, there are enough people around to make it feel like home whenever you decide to stop by.
Not to be confused with common bar nights or gallery crawls, this First Fridays is part of a national network, First Fridays United, which operates in thirty cities across the country. The Charlotte organization started in 2002 and has produced some of the city's biggest events. Once a month, the party takes over a different venue around Charlotte, from The Big Chill in Dilworth to NV Nightclub and Lounge on Lake Norman. The crowd ranges from the chic and professional to the slightly rough around the edges. And there's always a line around the building of people waiting to get in. It helps that celebrities often drop in. LeBron James hosted the December event when the Cleveland Cavaliers were in town. The cover charge is high, but if you want to see and be seen then it's well worth your money.
1111 Central Ave., 704-332-9911,
Sure, yoga is more of a quiet, individual activity, but take advantage of it, oh single one. The Friday-evening vinyasa class at Yoga One often is packed with more than fifty-plus yogis, women and men, many of whom are not only tight and toned but single, too. (Get there at least twenty minutes prior to class so you can reserve a coveted spot.) The studio is heated to a hot 90 degrees, which means less clothing while in close proximity to potential mates. Best of all, the room is mirror-free, so there's no dreading the half-moon pose. If midday is more your speed, Yoga One's noon classes also boast some seriously single coeds. Instructors like Johnna and Steve (often the Friday-eve instructor) help you perfect your form and flow. And if you're not sure yoga's your speed, the first class is free at this Plaza Midwood spot (drop-ins are $15 thereafter), so you have nothing to lose by checking it out.
Pop Life Series
Creative Loafing publishes a thorough calendar of events in its pages each week. The staff there must've taken that "happening" information and put it to use when it decided to host a weekly after-work event known as Pop Life. Last summer, partnering with local promoters Sol Kitchen, CL attracted an eclectic group of young professionals and aspiring artists to Prevue in NoDa. With no cover charge and free food, people flocked to the event. Prevue's bar and comfortable couches combined with DJ-spun R&B and hip-hop created the kind of atmosphere that made you say, "This is too good of a time for a Wednesday." What was planned as a summer series was extended through the fall, before wrapping up in December. When the event returns, don't miss out.