January and February (and even into early March) are my hibernation months. They’re the months that you’ll find me at home in my sweatpants on a Saturday night, cuddled with the cats on the couch in front of the fireplace and TV. AJ and I will discuss take out options at length (there are too many to choose from, but we’ve been on a Mexican and Vietnamese kick lately, and pizza is always a strong contender), open up a bottle of wine, and settle in for a movie or flip through the sports on TV (most recently watched: Inside Out. AJ’s pick). Don’t get me wrong; I love a good night out, whether a date night or with a group of friends, but much prefer soaking up the spring and summer sun on a brewery patio or socializing on a night where fall’s air just has a mild bite (maybe I’ve just become soft since moving to Charlotte 3 years ago).
Although I’m quite comfortable on my couch, with a little bribe, it’s not too hard to pry me out from under my fleece blanket on a Saturday night in February. Tickets to Charlotte Ballet’s Innovative Works and a plan to stop at two of my favorite spots in the Fourth Ward was just the push I needed to break up the February monotony (which makes us sound boring but I promise we’re not! we’re fun!) of debating over take out and Netflix options. We donned our date night finest, called ourselves an Uber (I know you don’t call an Uber but you get it) and cruised towards Uptown for a night of culture, cocktails and snacks.
Our first stop was at Charlotte mainstay, Alexander Michael’s, where we snagged the last two barstools (beating the Saturday rush at Al Mike’s was a truly triumphant moment). I love Alexander Michael’s; it was actually the first restaurant I ever went to in Charlotte when I moved here for an internship in 2011. Al Mike’s cozy, comfortable atmosphere makes me feel relaxed and at home, like an old, historic general store turned neighborhood watering hole with low ceilings, low lighting, friendly servers, beer on tap and delicious food is where I belong. We only stopped in for beers and appetizers, as we had a show to get to at 7:30, otherwise I would have ordered the What It Is, an Al Mike’s classic and, in my opinion, the best thing on the menu. We shared DC’s Potato Wedges (heaven definitely is French fries covered with cheese and topped with bacon, tomatoes, Cajun seasoning & sour cream) and hot wings, and washed everything down with a Birdsong Lazy Bird Brown and OMB Copper.
almikestavern.com / 401 w. 9th street, uptown
mon. through thurs. 11am-10pm
fri. & sat. 11am-11pm
It was less than a 10 minute walk from Alexander Michael’s to the Patricia McBride & Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux Center for Dance (home of Charlotte Ballet) so we strolled hand in hand down the brick sidewalks and past the pastel Victorian homes of the 4th Ward to Tryon Street (which was down right romantic). With enough time to spare, we picked up our tickets from will call and snagged a glass of wine from the cash bar in the lobby (where the bartender asked me for my ID in the most genuine way I thought it was the best compliment) before settling in our seats in the black box theater. I had absolutely no idea about Charlotte Ballet’s set up on North Tryon Street; I knew that they had a building there, but thought it was used solely for rehearsals and offices and they always performed at one of the Blumenthal theaters. The space is really cool; because of the small size of the theater (it holds about 2oo people) every seat is the best seat in the house. I love the arts, especially ballet and musicals, but usually am enjoying them from a second or third tier balcony in a performing arts center, so it was fun to be more up close and personal with the dancers (what’s also cool about Innovative Works is not just the small performance space, but the opportunity to meet and speak with the dancers over coffee and dessert after the performance.
Innovative Works was fantastic; the performance showcased works by three different choreographers, Mark Diamond, David Ingram and Sasha Janes, as well as a piece choreographed by one of Charlotte Ballet’s dancers, Sarah Hayes Harkins. I thought Innovative Works was a fantastic way to enjoy the ballet; I thought it provided a different connection with, perspective and appreciation for the ballet and the dancers (it really makes you appreciate their athleticism!). AJ also enjoyed himself; he liked that he could watch the ballet while sipping on a beer!