Queen City Grounds – 644 North Church Street
Queen City Grounds is the coolest place I’ve found (yet) in Uptown Charlotte.
I know, that sounds like damning with faint praise.
Because Uptown Charlotte is not known for being “cool.” Its “coolness” is largely nonexistent. Manufactured and fabricated by middle aged white men in business suits. Including the name, “Uptown.” Any Charlotte native can tell you it was always “Downtown” until the 90’s, when the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce decided “Uptown” sounded more “upscale.” I worked in the relocation division of a major real estate chain in the 90’s, and we were all encouraged (ok, ORDERED) to start saying “Uptown” instead of “Downtown!”
How much cooler would my blog be if I could refer to myself as “Downtown Catherine Brown” instead of “Uptown Girl?”
For those of you too young to get the MTV references, we’ll just move on.
Anyhoo, Queen City Grounds is sort of an anomaly for “Uptown” Charlotte. It’s a throwback to those 90’s alternative coffee houses (think Friends).
Of course, Queen City Grounds has awesome coffee – roasted in-house, I believe. Complete with a variety of alternative “milks.” As well as smoothies and pastries. But they also have a small selection of breakfast and lunch items – many of which are VEGAN!
QCG has become my favorite lunch spot this winter – due to:
(1) A short walk from my office. I don’t mind walking in good weather; in rain it’s another thing. There’s no grass, so you are slogging through puddles and flooded streets. And passing by the homeless who are even more pitiful sitting on the steps of the church with boxes over their heads. And avoiding eye contact with the panhandlers and their outstretched hands and cries of “Miss, Miss …” It’s enough to suck the soul out of you – if you still have one.
(2) It’s an interesting and chill space to spend my lunch break. I can sit in a window and people-watch. While listening to eclectic music (everything from B-52s to the Drew Carey theme song (Cleveland ROCKS! Cleveland ROCKS!) to Sixpence None The Richer “Kiss Me,” to Ozzy Osbourne. I can sip my daytime wine – Cheerwine, made right here in NC. Available in GLASS bottles. Once you try an extra-carbonated Cheerwine, no other cherry cola will ever be the same.
There’s enough filling my eyes and ears – and enough making my tastebuds tingle – I don’t have to stare at my phone.
(3) The “Winter Menu” is AMAZING! And relatively inexpensive! I think every vegan item on the menu is less than ten bucks!
I will no doubt be writing MUCH MORE about this spot. Today, I wanted to share the “Winter Menu,” as it will not be Winter much longer AND it is rumoured the menu is being revamped! So try these while you can!
Award Winning Vegan Mac and Cheese
This vegan mac and cheese won the People’s Choice Award at the Mac and Cheese Smack Down in 2018. It’s easy to understand why. The sauce is creamy with just a hint of heat. The noodles are firm (nothing worse than a limp noodle – right, ladies?) There’s a generous sprinkling of garlicky bread crumbs which adds additional flavor plus texture. I’m not the biggest fan of mac and cheese, but I really liked this. So, if you ARE a big mac and cheese fan – there’s no doubt in my mind you will LOVE this! $5.00.
Definitely not yo mama’s chili!
It’s got large chunks of Beyond Beef crumbles, a decent kick of heat, and the usual chili seasonings. But instead of the usual red or pinto beans – or black beans – it’s got chickpeas and corn. It’s served on a nest of Frito corn chips (vegan and gluten-free) and then topped with a small scoop of vegan pimento cheese. It is warm, filling, very very tasty … and only $7.00 which is a STEAL in Uptown Charlotte.
TBH, I didn’t care so much for the spoonful of pimento cheese. (I am very weird and picky about my vegan cheese.) So after my first try I requested no pimento cheese and extra corn chips on top instead. The tattooed man taking my order (YES! Tattoos on display in “Uptown” Charlotte!) was accommodating.
Vegan Chili Mac
Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
This vegan Chili Mac proves it! ($7.00)
It starts with the Award Winning Vegan Mac and Cheese. Then it’s mixed with the Vegan Chili. Then it’s topped with Fritos corn chips and a small scoop of vegan pimento cheese.
And OH MY GOD this is the SH*T!
The mac and cheese is good. The chili is really good. Together, they were AMAZING! Plus, the chips were on top, so they didn’t get soggy. And, for some reason, in this instance, the vegan pimento cheese worked. Maybe because it had some noodles to melt into, and some crunchy chips to eat it with.
Whatevs. If you work on that end of uptown, run and try one – or ALL three – before they are gone!
More to come on this amazing spot from your roving reporter – Downtown Catherine Brown.