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Destination: Charlotte

Check out these Sapphire Six spots before you book

We know our Chase Sapphire Reserve cardmembers are pretty savvy when it comes to knowing great places to grab a bite, have some fun, or enjoy a drink…or two. So we took a cue from where our Sapphire Reserve cardmembers visit to develop our Sapphire Six Lists. The best part? You earn 3X when you use your Sapphire Reserve card on travel and dining. Check, please!

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Charlotte is now a hot destination for promising and established chefs. The city's food scene tells the story of Charlotte's evolution from a textile manufacturing town into a cosmopolitan, New South metropolis dominated by finance and energy. Charlotte is home to several professional sports teams. It's also home to the 2017 PGA Championship, at the Quail Hollow Club. Chase Sapphire is proud to be the Official Credit Card of The PGA of America. To learn more, click here.

Where should you go while you're there? Here are six places to add to your list:

drink on a table

Essex Bar & Bistro

Not long ago, Uptown became a ghost town after 5 p.m. At the corner of Trade and Tryon, Charlotte's literal midpoint, Essex Bar & Bistro personifies the shift to the live, urbane feel of today's city center. Essex serves about 250 for lunch every day and the evening crowds illustrate Uptown's prominence as a fine dining hub.

Haim Aizenberg, an Israeli immigrant who is co-owner and chef, prides himself on serving "mom-style food" with a cool vibe. This one-year-old gastropub and lounge puts as much emphasis on cocktails as its international cuisine, both with great results.

"Our food and cocktails touch the four corners of the globe," says general manager Jeff Wakem. "We have about 200 different wines from all over the world and the butter chicken is the most popular dish on the menu."

The tacos are also a favorite. The shells are made fresh by hand daily and filled with pork—or seafood from the restaurant's fishing boats on the South Carolina coast.

food and drinks on a table besides Chase Sapphire Reserve card

Ink N Ivy

Whether you call it a restaurant, bar or nightclub, Ink N Ivy operates on a simple concept: eat, drink and be social. The name comes from the tattoo-inspired interior decor and the ivy outdoors. Before CEO Britton McCorkle brought this edgy, eclectic eatery to Uptown, the Bottle Cap Group focused exclusively on smaller, neighborhood restaurants. Ink N Ivy follows that tradition.

"We wanted Ink N Ivy to be a more laid-back place that would appeal to a broad demographic," says marketing director Morgan Conroy. "Our menu had to be accessible and we felt comfortable featuring American cuisine with a wide beer and wine selection."

Lunch diners keep things busy during the day, while happy hour networkers consume much of the early evening bandwidth. The place takes on a decidedly different feel when its massive outdoor patio morphs into Vine Nightclub, featuring live music on Thursdays and a weekend DJ. Just steps from popular Romare Bearden Park and BB&T Ballpark, Ink N Ivy is also a prime location to catch the spillover crowds.

food on table with Chase Sapphire Reserve card

Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

Boston native John Marrino didn't mind that Charlotte lagged most metro areas in craft brewing when he opened Charlotte's first local brewery, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (OMB), in 2009.

"Beer is liquid bread—best when as fresh as possible," says Marrino, who became familiar with German Bierhalls during his four-year stint there.

In a renovated factory on 10 acres, OMB's brewhouse, restaurant, taproom and a massive beer garden have become an area attraction. It serves five year-round brews and at least eight seasonal or holiday beers. It operates on the Reinheitsgebot principle—using only water, malt, hops and yeast.

"Reinheitsgebot doesn't constrain our creativity, it refines it," says Marrino. "One of our proudest moments was winning the 2015 Gold Medal at the international European Beer Star competition the first time we competed in Germany."

Like the German beer gardens that date back hundreds of years, Marrino hopes to build something that endures. "We want OMB to be here 150 or 200 years from now."

hands holding three macaroons

Amelie's French Bakery

When Amelie's French Bakery sprang up on the edge of North Davidson neighborhood, few predicted the impact baked delicacies and bohemian decor would make on Charlotte.

As the bakery prepares to open its fourth location, the owners credit its success to round-the-clock hours and inspired offerings.

"We've sold over a million salted caramel brownies," the most popular bakery item, says assistant general manager Ali Sweiwert. "We are the only 24/7 coffee house in Charlotte and our full menu is always available."

Amelie's is now a household name and the only place in town to sate your 2 a.m. craving for a chocolate eclair or petits fours. You'll also find moms, fresh from morning yoga, grabbing a latte and college students mainlining espresso to cram for finals. Yet, despite its quasi-industrial location, it's busiest at lunch. Who can resist a good jambon et fromage sandwich?

soft tacos, corn, sandwiches and drinks on table next to hands holding Chase Sapphire Reserve card

Sycamore Brewing

In early 2014, husband and wife Justin and Sarah Brigham entered the world of craft beer with Sycamore Brewing. The name is a nod to the long-living trees so abundant throughout North Carolina.

Justin worked summers at Coors Brewing during college so it seemed logical to start his own brewery 14 years later. Sarah came along for the ride.

In just three years, Sycamore has worked with more than 270 different beer recipes. "We see beer as similar to cooking," says Sarah. "The fun is trying new recipes and combinations."

Sycamore considers itself a neighborhood pub where guests can relax, connect with friends and take part in one of its many activities, including music festivals and pet adoptions.

"We think the most important thing is the experience," says Sarah. "Ours is the place for people who aren't experts and our job is to get them as excited [about the experience] as we are."

The Brighams also take a less conventional approach to the food, pairing with food trucks and operating a pop-up kitchen with rotating chefs who create whimsical, seasonal menus to accompany the brews.

food and drinks on table

Midwood Smokehouse

Serial restaurateur Frank Scibelli isn't afraid to buck the status quo. The Massachusetts native had the temerity to open a Texas-style BBQ restaurant in a state where disputes over eastern versus western BBQ have ended marriages and divided families.

The gamble paid off, based on the ever-present lines at Midwood Smokehouse.

The key is making great food more than adhering to any particular tradition. "We're very culinary in what we do compared to most BBQ restaurants," Schibelli says. "We use all fresh meat and we cook exclusively with wood. We have chefs instead of kitchen managers. All that makes a big difference."

With three locations in Charlotte and one in Columbia, South Carolina, Midwood has developed a reputation far beyond the Carolinas.

Last year, noted BBQ connoisseur Barack Obama stopped in for a taste after receiving enthusiastic recommendations from his Secret Service detail. Word is the former president left a very satisfied customer.

Infographic: Your Sapphire Six Travel Guide to Charlotte

A quick note on methodology:

So how did we come up with the Sapphire Six? By pairing anonymous Sapphire Reserve cardmember spend data with feedback shared on social media, we were able to determine the most popular restaurants by unique visitors and category.

Inclusion on the Sapphire Six is not an indication of an affiliation or endorsement by JPMorgan Chase. The words or symbols used to identify the source of goods and services of a third party may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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