By Leah Hughes
West of the skyscrapers and on the edge of the Interstate 277 loop, FreeMoreWest is a neighborhood that mixes old and new. Industrial buildings are being preserved and given new life as modern offices and inventive eateries move in. Newcomers, both business and residential, are intrigued by this borough that’s close to Uptown amenities and South End happenings, yet maintains an understated, insider vibe. If you haven’t spent some time here, we recommend it.
Kick off the day at Bank of America Stadium, which teeters on the edge of FreeMoreWest and Uptown. The stadium offers regular behind-the-scenes tours on Wednesday and Friday mornings. Walk the same storied halls and tunnels as the Carolina Panthers and hear insider stories about the team.
For lunch, pull into Bar-B-Q King, a golden oldie and city staple since 1959 that has been featured on popular foodie shows like “Food Rush.” Place your order from the comfort of your car. You can’t go wrong with a chopped pork sandwich or the barbecue fried chicken and a homemade apple or strawberry pie for dessert.
In the afternoon sun, soak up the neighborhood’s interesting history as you stroll the grounds of the Dowd House. The house was built in 1879 on what was then a 250-acre farm. It was once the childhood home of Willis Frank Dowd, founder of Charlotte Pipe and Foundry, and William Carey Dowd, former publisher of The Charlotte News. The house served as the U.S. Army headquarters during the construction of Camp Greene, which was inhabited by more than 60,000 soldiers during WWI.
Enjoy pre-dinner culture with a visit to Latin American Contemporary Art (LaCa) Projects, where you can explore the gallery’s rare works. The three-year-old space is committed to promoting Latin American art and culture through exhibitions and special events. In May, you can view the current exhibition, “Collective II: Latin American Perspectives,” which features artists, like Carlos Estéves and Juan Dolhare. The exhibit runs through June 4.
Dinner fare with plenty of flair calls for a stop at Savor Cafe and Catering, a colorful neighborhood spot devoted to working with local farmers, growers and purveyors. Start with a savory cocktail at the bar. Then order one of the specials from the chalkboard, which often include fresh seafood, or pick a favorite from the menu, like the Carolina Shrimp & Stone Ground Yellow Grits or the Drunken Collard Greens. Save room for banana pudding or a towering slice of pineapple coconut cake for dessert.
Rhino Market & Deli is the envy of any neighborhood. Order a breakfast sandwich or burrito, sip your coffee and purchase some local provisions. Plus, it’s never too early to pick up your favorite six-pack of local brews.
Get a free workout in at the Bette Rae Thomas Recreation Center’s Fitness Zone. The outdoor gym equipment is part of a national plan to benefit communities.
Pinky’s Westside Grill is a funky burger joint housed inside a former automotive shop. Creative bites in a casual atmosphere make for a fun and memorable meal.
Top off the evening at Draught. This gathering spot offers local beer and craft cocktails. Keep an eye out for drink specials, guest DJs and karaoke.