Any chance this country girl gets to head to the big city, I’m on it, especially Charlotte, North Carolina. Just a two hour drive from Greenville, SC (allowing for moderate traffic), the Queen City is full of enough to keep me busy all day and night. But a girl’s gotta sleep, ya know. And it might as well be a giant, fluffy, soft bed.
On this trip, I was a guest of the Charlotte Marriott City Center and decided to explore the onsite restaurant, Stoke, Coco and the Director (the coffee shop at the property), as well as returning to some of my Charlotte restaurant favorites.
One travel tip. Always look up.
I know, that sounds silly, but I’ve been to Charlotte three or four times now and as I wander around, I am always so focused on where I’m going that I forget to look up at the amazing buildings reaching far above my head. Check out the architecture, the lines, the shapes and the color. I caught this building reflected on another as I sat down for a minute to look around me. If I were on a mission I would have missed it and just passed it by!
Charlotte Marriott City Center.
The last time I was in town, I breezed through the hotel lobby and right away you can tell it’s a bit different than the rest. People are scattered about taking advantage of the comfortable lounge areas. Leather and wood accent the space with a reclaimed feel. It’s almost like being in someone’s home. You don’t feel rushed to get back to your room. You want to sit awhile. Congregate. The concierge lounge is on the first floor, as well, as opposed to tucked away on an upper floor somewhere.
My room had its own lounge area where I found myself reclining to play on my phone. And of course, that Marriott bed. Big, cozy, soft. It called me in for a nap with Travel Bunny (TB for short).
Send a little something to your traveling someone.
Let’s talk about hotel amenities people. Did you know that you can call a hotel and have a gift sent up for your special someone, client or business associate? Call the hotel front desk and ask for the concierge. They are happy to put together something on your behalf. They can send up a meat and cheese board, a piece of cake, or some wine, beer or champagne. I did this once for my best friend who travels a lot and I’d do it a lot more if I could covertly figure out where she’s staying! I like a good surprise, like this one delivered to my door during my stay. Thank you, Marriott!
Marriott purchased this as a pre-existing property and revamped the space as almost a flagship for future Marriotts. One of the highlights of my stay was dining at Stoke. They focus on locally-sourced food and the open kitchen design gives everyone a mesmerizing seat at the chef’s table. Be sure to look for the chalkboards along the outer walls with not just a list, but descriptions of the farms and purveyors Chef Chris Coleman uses for his menu.
When presented with Lusty Monk Mustard Butter, Cheerwine Butter and Honey Butter, which would you choose?
Of course, I hot to gauge the talent behind the bar with an Old Fashioned. Spot on. Then a parade of dishes came my way. I’m sharing pictures below, but do not think for a second I ate all of this. It wasn’t for a lack of desire, that’s for sure!
CHARRED OCTOPUS: Virginia chorizo, crispy fingerling potatoes, frisee, orange
WINTER ROOTS: Beets, radishes, caraway, buttermilk
Would you laugh if I said this was my favorite dish? No, really. I ate every single bite. I am a sucker for beets, and the dish was just so freaking beautiful! Sometimes the simplest thing can outshine the rest.
HOT TAMALE: Antebellum corn, duck confit, tomato jam, padron salsa
STICKY PORK SHANK: Chili-sorghum glaze, peanuts, benne
But this donut. #THEdoughnut if you want to be specific. Yes, it has its own hashtag. I was only able to eat a few bites, but just imagine a fluffy, warm, pillowy doughnut as big as a medium pizza, filled in the center with a light white chocolate cream and then topped with Heath Bar. All the noms.
Breakfast in bed.
I’ve given a few hints and tricks in this post that seriously come second nature to people who travel a lot, but for people who may stay at a hotel once or twice in their lifetime, you just don’t know these things, right? There are coffee makers in most hotel rooms, but hot coffee delivered to your door with cream and sugar first thing in the morning before you stumble to the shower? That is priceless. Okay, there is a price. It’s about $8. But totally worth not throwing on clothes to go down to the coffee shop. Think of it as pre-coffee coffee for those of us who are not functional before the first cup. You can also have muffins, eggs, cereal and a host of other things delivered if you are so inclined. Just check the boxes, hang the menu on the door the night before, it’s delivered to you, and it’s billed to your room.
Coco and the Director.
Yes, the name sounds like it should be a play, but this coffee shop happens to be one of the coolest coffee shops I’ve ever been in. Hands down. And I’ve been in a ton of coffee shops. I would have never guessed it was part of the hotel and owned by Marriott. These people need some kind of design award.
Again the reclaimed wood accents, warm lighting with a twist of Architectural Digest, and the restaurant focus on locally sourced carries over to the coffee shop as well. Downstairs you are surrounded with artisan food items, a wall cooler stocked with local beer and craft soda, handmade leather goods, jewelry, cards, and accessories.
The upstairs walls are covered with chalk art by Charlotte artist, Kent Youngstrom. Very neat!
Yes, the cronut was invented by New York City Pastry Chef, Dominique Ansel, and I’ll admit I’ve never had one of the originals, but I can almost guarantee they are not as good as the creations served here. No way. I pushed the gluten suffering aside (oh, it would come on later) but ate half of one of these buttery, layered towers of perfection. Let no one tell you I don’t suffer for the sake of research. Let’s just take a moment and take these in. Yes, they are magnificent.
If you are headed to Charlotte for a girl’s weekend, business trip, or romantic getaway, I think you’ll like this place.
A few notes: No pets allowed. (Sorry Sister!) And keep in mind there’s a $30 parking fee (plus you’ll need to tip the valet.)