Almost a decade ago, I started coming to Charlotte to see Erik.
It was the perfect case of fall-in-love-with-a-town-if-you-have-a-good-tour-guide syndrome - between he and his ex Whit, I got this awesome, rosy, ethnically diverse, enthused about independent bidnesses take on the Queen City that filed itself away in my future-plans brain lobe, and yup, here we are, permanently installed.
Lupie's, I remember, was a smack in the face. I'd never seen nachos that huge, or so proud to be the anti-healthy. Brunch at the Peaceful Dragon, that gorgeous Temple parked in the middle of the wilderness, with their individual French presses full of hellishly dark brew, vegan sausage, bringin' a little East to the South. Thrifting was fantastic, I'd always have a garbage bag to haul back to the city.
The Penguin, though, in 2002. Like the cool pre-hipster EV bars in NYC, but friendly. A jukebox that didn't have Is This It playing constantly. Burgers beyond gut busting proudly displayed next to the chili soy dog and the black bean burger. Just cuz you didn't eat meat didn't mean you couldn't hang with the bikers. Even then they were faux-bikers and rockabilly kids, but they were eating hummus! Moving on.
What I'm saying is that it was egalitarian without giving everyone a gold star. I always felt Ultimately Cool but Pantsless Comfy whenever we'd go, inevitably staying until several, or 4, maybe 5 pitchers had been chucked down the hatch. Swerving our way back across town, it was the reason anyone came to P/M, unless they were getting ink at Ace or meatloaf at Dish. Now you can't get a table for love nor money, but hey, I've got my fond memories. So it's going to break my heart watching it become the next Five Guys.
This isn't just anti-corporation me whining. This is cultural-fixture-defending, business-owner-rights-believing-in, P/M-loving me whining. Cloning the Penguin is just wrong, but it becomes loathsome when the kids that grew it from creepy, broken down bean into the Fried Pickle and Block Burger Castle get strong armed out of the way so that the Ballentines and Angry Chef can get the cut they feel entitled to.
So, I'm done. I'll sneak in for some pickles and dogs before the 24th, but that's it. It kicks ass that less than a block away sits the new place, 24hrs even, and that's where we'll be. You can keep your stolen Bird, Ballies. I'll be at the bar.