Taking inspiration from Tyra Banks, legendary supermodel, businesswoman, and host of America’s Next Top Model, Charlotte Nightlife is on the search for our city’s next best rooftop bar with its premier season of Charlotte’s Next (Roof)Top Model. For our inaugural season, we are taking it downtown… or as any Charlottean who wants to make sure you know they’re “from Charlotte,” UPTOWN! 4 of Uptown’s best rooftop bars are in the running, but only one bar will continue on as Charlotte’s Next Roof(top) Model.
To impress the anonymous but impartial judge at Charlotte Nightlife* (*read: this writer), the bars will be judged on 5 categories: their views, their food & drinks, their atmosphere, their deals, and anything extra that sets them apart (like a great smize). The winner of this season of CNRTM will win a modeling contract with Elite Model Management, a photospread in Marie Claire, and…. Just kidding. The winner will only take home the satisfaction of knowing that they have the best views, brews, and to-dos of all the rooftop venues in the Queen City. And to me, that’s more valuable than any contract with Revlon or any photoshoot with Maybelline. Although I would definitely accept runway walk tips from Miss J.
So before we begin with our first round, I will only ask one question to Charlotte’s Uptown rooftops: You wanna be on top?
Contestant 1: City Lights Rooftop, 555 S McDowell St.
From their website: See the only award winning 360-degree view of the Queen City skyline and the largest rooftop bar in Charlotte. City Lights Rooftop serves an eclectic, street food inspired menu and hand-crafted cocktails. Dance and mingle next to our LED rooftop furniture and our weekly live music and rotating DJ roster. This is a casual fun spot to let your hair down and put your feet up to enjoy a sunset, cocktails, and bites. Vibe the night away next to our literally LIT décor!
View: 5/5. Uptown’s skyline is on full display at City Lights, which has a 360-view of Uptown Charlotte. The protective walls are opaque, so guests’ views of the Duke Energy Building, Bank of America Corporate, One Wells Fargo Center, and more are not blocked at all.
Food & Drink: 3/5. A small offering of food is available, including cheese & charcuterie boards, sliders, and fries. Good selection of wine and beer, but a smaller cocktail menu. Points for their Sparkle & Pop, which includes your choice of a locally-made pop from King of Pops, a drink selection that is very pop-ular in the summer (Get it?).
Atmosphere: 4/5. City Lights is definitely the place you go to see and be seen. The patio is expansive with many seating options, and there is almost always a live DJ spinning dance music. It’s definitely one of the most “club” atmospheres of all our contestants, which creates a lively, pulsating vibe. However, if you’re looking for a quiet, intimate spot to enjoy a drink and a view, you might find that elsewhere.
Deals: 4/5. City Light’s Facebook has occasional offerings for deals and events, including drink deals and holiday specials.
Extras: 4/5. As mentioned above, the Sparkle & Pop cocktails are Instagram-famous, and for good reason. They also recently announced on their Instagram that they are launching “Au Soleil: A Summer Soirée by Le Méridien.” This includes an expansive rose menu and other European-inspired touches.
Total Score: 21/25
Contestant 2: Rooftop 210, 210 E Trade St.
Photo via Rooftop 210 webpage
From their website: Perched high above Charlotte’s most popular nightspot, Rooftop 210 at EpiCentre is the Queen City’s Premier special events venue. Rooftop 210 is an open-air, rooftop venue that offers a spacious layout, contemporary design and breathtaking views of the Charlotte skyline.
View: 3/5. Being in the midst of the EpiCentre has its pros and cons: a big pro is that Rooftop 210 is easily accessible from many other uptown locations; but a con is that its view is limited to the buildings around it.
Food & Drink: 3/5. There are plenty of drink options, but no food; this is a true “bar”.
Atmosphere: 4/5. It’s always buzzing here, no matter if it’s for a private event or just a regular Friday night. The dance floor is lively and always crowded with patrons having fun. It’s your quintessential classic rooftop bar in the middle of a city.
Deals: 2/5. Drinks are relatively affordable. While Rooftop 210 doesn’t advertise many discounts or drink specials, their abundance of special events makes up for this limited offering.
Extras: 5/5. There are no shortages of special events at Rooftop 210, which keeps things lively and new. From “Alive After Five,” monthly Silent Discos and live concerts, to inclusions in many city-wide bar crawls, you can always expect something fun and exciting to be happening at Rooftop 210. Check their Facebook or Instagram for a running list of events.
Total Score: 17/25
Contestant 3: Merchant + Trade, 303 S Church St.
Photo via Yelp
From their website: On the 19th floor, with panoramic views of Uptown Charlotte, Merchant + trade is Broken into four distinct zones—indoor bar, outdoor terrace, private terrace and the lawn. Our carefully curated cocktail program is grounded in classic cocktails made with North Carolina-produced Spirits, house-made mixers and locally sourced produce paired with elevated bar bites from our dedicated rooftop kitchen. Pop in with a group of friends for shareable libations, or try the wealth of craft beers on tap brewed right here in Charlotte.
View: 3.5/5. Overlooking Romare Bearden Park, the view is great (not a 360-view, but still has some beautiful lookout spots). Merchant + Trade gets extra points for having a beautifully-equipped indoor bar with a great atmosphere and great indoor seating options as well.
Food & Drink: 5/5. This is the perfect place if you’re looking for a delicious cocktail and swanky small plates. They have an extensive seasonal cocktail menu with rotating selections, as well as classic offerings and a generous wine and beer list, with many local craft beers listed. Their small plates menu is also quite generous, listing everything from oven-baked lamb meatballs with tzatziki sauce to a spice fried chicken sandwich to honey sesame glazed salmon. Dinner and drinks are both taken care of here.
Atmosphere: 4/5. This is the epitome of rooftop fanciness in the QC; dress to impress. Seriously—they have a strict dress code and are known to deny patrons if their attire doesn’t comply. The atmosphere is therefore equally fancy and selective, so if that is what you’re looking for, Merchant + Trade fits the bill.
Deals: 3/5. Expect top-of-average drink prices (an Old Fashion runs at $13), and equally top-of-average food prices.
Extras: 3/5. Listed on their Facebook and Instagram are several upcoming events, including DJs and live music, but what really draws patrons to Merchant + Trade are its constants: a quintessentially-fancy vibe, delicious cocktails, and crafted plates.
Total Score: 18.5/25
Contestant 4: Fahrenheit, 222 S. Caldwell St.
From their website: “Fahrenheit is situated above the Skye Condos at 222 South Caldwell Street on the 21st Floor. Chef Rocco Whalen’s restaurant features amazing, unparalleled views of the Queen City and inventive new American cuisine. The wine list is extensive, cocktails are creatively crafted, and draft beers are local. Also featured on the roof are linear fire pits, a social pool and seasonal herb garden.”
View: 5/5. Chances are, if you’ve seen a photo of someone on a rooftop in Charlotte, they were at Fahrenheit. With opaque protective walls, the views of the city are unparalleled, and a perfect photo background. It’s especially lovely as the sun sets over the city.
Food & Drink: 5/5. An extensive wine list, great craft and domestic beer selections, and creative cocktails (my personal favorite is the Alexis Aviation, made with Hendrick’s Gin, Lxoardo, house-made Crème de Violette, and lemon juice) comprise the drink menu, while an expansive dinner menu caters to all appetites, from small plates to large sides to signature entrées.
Atmosphere: 5/5. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, or even a first date, Fahrenheit is perfect for everyone. It’s elevated, but not too fancy; you’ll see all types of people here who are enjoying the views and drinks. There is generally a celebratory vibe here, which makes it a great place to commemorate any occasion. Additionally, the fire pits contribute to an aesthetically-pleasing outdoor space.
Deals: 3/5. Expect top-of-average cocktail pricings, which are worth it, and generally top-of-average to pricey food options.
Extras: 4/5. Fahrenheit has a great brunch on Sundays from 11:00 A.M. to 2:30 P.M., with both delicious food options and “eye openers” (AKA hair of the dog) including a rolling bloody mary bar. Check their Facebook and Instagram for more details on their seasonal drinks lists and events.
Total Score: 22/25
After all the points have been tallied up, the winner of this season of Charlotte’s Next (Roof)Top Model is……. Fahrenheit!!!!
Which neighborhood should be the focus of our next season of Charlotte’s Next (Roof)Top Model? Plaza Midwood? SouthEnd? Let us know in the comments below!