Your Guide to Optimist Hall, Charlotte’s First Food Hall
Headquartered in a former textile mill, this food hall blends the Queen City’s history with a vision for the future.
by Jessica Swannie
Optimist Hall, Charlotte’s first food hall, blends the city’s heritage with its spirit for innovation and urban renewal. The former textile mill now serves as 147,000-square-feet of gathering space populated by local restaurants, offices and retail companies.
Originally inhabited by Highland Park Manufacturing Company, the space occupied one of the largest gingham factories in the country. Developers Paces Properties and White Point Partners purchased the space from Sam Kaplan, an entrepreneur known for his involvement in the debut of Spanx shape wear.
Inspired by Kaplan, the developers designed their vision for the space. They consciously preserved elements of the turn-of-the-century mill to maintain its character and story, like hardwood floors, bricks and original lighting fixtures.
Communal tables designed by American artist Donald Judd offer ample seating and private spots to share thoughts over a meal or a cup of coffee. Outside, the courtyard offers views of Uptown under the shade of vibrant yellow umbrellas. The food hall’s proximity to the city affords ample transport options. There’s on-site parking for both cars and bikes available, but Uber and Lyft are highly recommended. If you’re taking the Light Rail, exit at Parkwood Street Station, then turn right.
Optimist Hall is open Sunday-Thursday from 10:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Note: Some tenants, like Undercurrent Coffee, open earlier. Ready to check it out? Confirmed current and future tenants include:
Optimist Hall is the sixth location for this eclectic stationery and gift retailer, featuring an array of stationery, greeting cards, writing utensils and books.
This concept from the celebrated local Moffett Restaurant Group serves Asian street food favorites inspired by Chef Larry Schreiber’s childhood desire to create the perfect recipe. Dine on ramen, baos with beef and pork belly and sweet macaroons.
Authentic Mexican cuisine meets upscale gaming at this Greenville-based concept. Expect favorites like carne asana and braised short rib along with a library of tequila and mezcal.
You’ll smell the alluring scent of sweet gelato before even reaching Honeysuckle Gelato’s stand. Staples include scoops of gelato and shakes, as well as sandwiches with options like butter pecan blondies and salted caramel brownies.
You’ve probably seen this celebrated eatery on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” or have ordered from the popular Charlotte food truck. The self-described “streatery” now serves its famous grilled cheeses inside Optimist Hall.
The founders of Pet Wants set out with a purpose to create small-batch pet food prepared with the highest-quality ingredients. Look for food, chews and treats for your furry friend.
From the team behind Billy Sunday, The Spindle Bar is an 18-seat cocktail bar serving beer, wine and cocktails with locally-sourced ingredients. Patrons can sip on cocktails throughout the entire food hall due to the bar’s unique liquor license.
The Dumpling Lady first graced Charlotte with Sichuan delicacies as a food truck in 2016. Three years later, executive chef Qian Zhang and sous chef Bea Vang, are now serving authentic family recipes in a 500-square-foot brick-and-mortar location at Optimist Hall. And don’t worry, the food truck still serves its famous dumplings, noodles and street food around Charlotte on a weekly basis.
The term “zukku,” meaning “canvas,” serves as the base for both the company’s concept and your meal. Combine fresh ingredients in a roll, burrito or bowl to create a colorful — and delicious — work of culinary art.
Designed to create a neighborhood coffee shop feel, Undercurrent Coffee specializes in creating coffees, teas and house-made sodas. Menu items include quiche, hummus toast, a greens and grains bowl and more.
This charming family-owned eatery serves signature cold pressed juices and nut milks as well as organic, photo-worthy dishes bursting with color.
Inspired by inner-city taquerias, Velvet Taco combines global flavors with modern execution to create bold menu items like spicy tikka chicken, “Elote” corn and fried paneer.
Former Aix en Provence owners will head up this authentic French rotisserie.
This Italian eatery serves authentic favorites like hand-made pasta, cured salami and pizza baked to perfection in a wood-fired oven.
Known for its ability to balance a menu of classic drinks and new creations, this award-winning Chicago cocktail bar will serve vintage spirits and an elevated bar menu.
This celebrated Charleston restaurant will make its debut in Charlotte complete with its award-winning chicken sandwiches. Try the signature “Boxcar,” prepared with pimento cheese, peach slaw, house pickles and spicy mayo.
Inspired by the late-night street food scene of Botiwalla, this space will serve authentic Indian cuisine including tikka rolls, kebab rolls and warm, fresh naan.
Unique empanadas and a community “committed to carbs” are at the heart of this homemade operation. Look for their celebrated food truck empanadas like shepherd’s pie and Nutella banana.
Based out of Morganton, NC, this space will serve house microbrews inspired by English and Belgian culture with a focus on local agriculture.
Anchored by cage-free, grass-fed proteins, this Northern-Virginia based concept will offer signature Western interpretations of Mediterranean foods. Create your own bowl, flatbread wrap or pita pocket with nearly 30 fresh toppings.
This local Instagram-famous bakery will combine its signature sweets (pastries, cookies, doughnuts) with a Cuban menu in its newest concept.