When Optimist Hall first debuted, only six tenants were fully operational on opening day. Now, Charlotte’s first food hall rings in at 22 tenants, serving everything from bao buns to craft cocktails and gooey grilled cheese.
And while the food draws visitors, the rich history of the building adds to the experience. The 147,000 square-foot space — a turn-of-the-century textile mill involved in the manufacturing of the first Spanx shapewear — was originally owned by Highland Park Manufacturing Company. When Paces Properties and White Point Partners purchased the building, they retained many of the property’s original, 120-year-old elements. In addition to the hardwood floors, the 14-foot ceilings and industrial bricks and beams were preserved.
Now, Optimist Hall is well on its way to carving a new space in the building’s history — a space where ethnic dishes and comfort food favorites live side-by-side to bring together the community. In addition to weekly specials from the tenants, visitors can look forward to Concert in the Courtyard on weekends from 2-5 p.m., featuring live music from local artists.
Know before you go
Location: 1115 N. Brevard St., Charlotte, NC 28206
By car: Uber and Lyft are highly recommended, but if you’re driving, look for designated signs that point to parking.
By light rail: Take the rail and exit Parkwood Street Station, then turn right.
By bike: From uptown, take the Rail Trail pathway past the 9th Street Station. After you bike under 277, turn right onto 12th Street alongside Alpha Mill Apartments and then left on Brevard Street. You’ll follow the bike path the whole way. Head straight to Optimist Hall. Bike racks are available on site.
Monday-Thursday: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Get to know the tenants
Here’s where you can grab a bite, with more on the way:
If you’ve been to the Ponce City Market in Atlanta, you’ve likely strolled by this stationery and gift retailer inspired by the sport of archery. Look for greeting cards, desk supplies, pencils, art prints, gift wraps and books.
Having found success in Tampa’s Armature Works food hall (a similar restored, mixed-use space), this Italian concept serves hot-from-the-wood-fired-oven pizza made with fine Italian flour and hand-prepared dough.
Restaurateur Bruce Moffet and chef Larry Schreiber teamed up to offer Asian street food recipes, featuring everything from steamed buns and ramen bowls to sweet macaroons.
Known for its classic drinks, this award-winning, Chicago-based cocktail bar blends vintage spirits with a culinary approach to flavor to create a rich sip for food-hall-goers.
Dedicated to preserving cooking traditions and authentic cuisine, Botiwalla serves authentic Indian street food like kebabs and rolls wrapped in hot, buttered naan. There are even options exclusive to the Optimist Hall location, including butter chicken and saag paneer.
This Charleston-based fried chicken joint opened its fifth location in Optimist Hall, where you’ll find everything from The Boxcar (pimento cheese, peach slaw, house pickles, spicy mayo) to the Chicken “Not So Waffle” (bacon jam, maple syrup, pimento cheese, tomato). Vegetarian options are available, as well.
If you love old-fashioned candy, look no further. Collier Candy Company offers nostalgic treats including Chick-O-Sticks, Charleston Chews and Bubble Gum Cigars. Of course, you can also find classic favorites such as M&Ms and gummy bears. Look for special holiday-themed offerings throughout the year.
Serving traditional Sichuan family recipes, this popular food truck’s owner serves authentic, locally-sourced dumplings, noodles and Sichuan street food in a 500-square-foot brick-and-mortar location. Be on the lookout: The truck still serves food weekly.
This Greenville-based, all-day Mexican cantina offers everything you need for a fun night out, including authentic cuisine, craft cocktails and upscale gaming and entertainment. Look for weekly specials, including half-price margaritas on Mondays, $5 nachos on Thursdays and tableside tequila service on Fridays and Saturdays.
Dedicated to individuals “committed to carbs,” Felix Handmade Empanadas became a food truck staple in Charlotte by serving unique, homemade empanadas (think: pepperoni pizza, shepherd’s pie). Now, you can enjoy these same flavors at the Optimist Hall location, crafted with Peruvian, American and British influences.
It wouldn’t be a Charlotte party without a brewery in the mix, and North Carolina-based Fonta Flora Brewery serves brews inspired by English and Belgian traditions.
Papi Queso and The Plaid Penguin teamed up to serve old-fashioned hamburgers from a ‘50s-style diner stall. After much research and testing, this spot is said to serve the “perfect” hamburger with a mission to “just be good.”
The result of three friends’ passion project to “Be Sweet,” Honeysuckle Gelato serves scoops, pints, sandwiches and shakes with Southern-inspired flavors like Brown Butter Crunch, Lemon Raspberry Crumble and Bourbon Pecan Praline.
You can build your own twist on the “mezze” experience at Mezeh. All food is made in-house, from scratch and can be crafted into a bowl, flatbread wrap or pita pocket.
The wildly popular, cheese-inspired food truck and “streatery” now serves fan favorites from its brick-and-mortar location, including the gooey grilled cheese sandwiches as seen on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
You may recognize this all-natural pet food brand from local pop-ups. It offers retail options to purchase slow-cooked, small-batch food for your furry friend.
This “2.0 concept” from Suárez Bakery offers popular favorites such as pastries and doughnuts supplemented by a Cuban menu. Savory items include sandwiches, snacks and bowls.
Run by Billy Sunday mixologist Stephanie Andrews, this 18-seat cocktail bar serves drinks that you’re able to carry throughout the entire food hall (due to its unique liquor license).
This full-service coffee and espresso bar will fuel your travels throughout the hall with cold brew selections, lattes, cappuccinos and teas.
Founded on core beliefs that tacos can venture beyond basic Tex-Mex cuisine, this fast-casual restaurant selects ingredients with the same care used in fine dining, creating scratch-made tacos and boozy margaritas.
Based out of Winston-Salem, this family-owned concept couples the idea of healthy eating with a bounty of flavor and color. Look for cold-pressed juices, nut milks, smoothie bowls and dishes crafted with organic ingredients.
Born from a craving for Asian food, owners Joshua Walker and Duolan Li created Xiao Bao Biscuit (the brand’s original Charleston location) to share flavors from Li’s childhood and their travels. The Optimist Hall location hones in on Southeast Asian favorites from Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia. Expect dishes such as Okonomiyaki (a Japanese cabbage pancake), Som Tum Chicken (black-bean fried chicken with spicy papaya salad) and Pad Kra Pow (with Thai chili beef, basil rice and a fried egg).
At Zukku Sushi, the rice is your canvas. Create your own sushi roll, burrito, and poke bowl, or choose from curated selections on the menu.
Location: 1115 N. Brevard St., Charlotte, NC 28206