Observations on Plaza-Midwood
On Saturday, I drove over to Plaza-Midwood, parked in the convenient public lot (Dilworth, take note!) on Thomas Avenue, and walked around. I felt like I was walking around a New York neighborhood that had a Southern accent. Now, we in Charlotte like to try to compare ourselves to New York City entirely too much (OK, so pretty much every striving American city suffers from that syndrome), but I really feel like it's legit this time.
For one thing, nothing about the area around Central Ave and Thomas Ave feels manufactured–no Ballantyne or Birkdale (or uptown, for that matter) disease going on here. Each of the buildings looks a little different, there are mismatched tables and chairs on the sidewalks, and there is a European bakery and an international art gallery serving coffee, but no Starbucks. Jane Jacobs would have loved Plaza-Midwood.
First, I ambled on over to Common Market, where a few vendors had set up outdoor tables. The back patio of Thomas Street tavern was full of people having fun. I walked back on Central, past the library (!) and Zada Jane's a new restaurant open for breakfast and lunch only (for now). Its patio was crowded with folks enjoying the weather. I checked out a couple of the shops along Central (stopping short of the classic Dairy Queen walkup), then angled back through the shops on Thomas. There was a line of people outside The Penguin waiting for a table. I also wondered at the "late-night pawn" window behind the Central Ave shops–literally a walkup window with a floodlight and security camera, apparently open late at night. I guess for those times when the ATM machine just won't do.
So it was a good urban experience–evidence of what can happen when a neighborhood evolves. And it really did have a Southern accent. Restaurants Dish, Zada Jane's, Penguin, and John's Country Kitchen are all true Southern eateries. One complaint: some of the people I encountered could have been a little more welcoming. In two of the shops I entered, no one ever acknowledged me. I was surprised by this. In one stop, I was given a perfunctory hello, then the proprietors turned back to their conversation. It made the area feel a little insular, like because I wasn't recognized as being from the neighborhood, then I wasn't worth a greeting. But still, I've been in the Penguin and Thomas Street Tavern plenty of times and felt plenty welcomed. So maybe I just caught some places at the wrong times.