Mill-era charmer: A day out in Belmont

Cuisine Travel

October 30, 2023

Hop in: We’re going to Belmont for the day.

story and photographs by Jennings Cool Roddey

Belmont feels like what I imagine Mayberry to be. The cottage-style houses, humble Main Street and good ole Southern hospitality paint a charming picture. However, this textile town didn’t always look this way. 

Belmont has weathered economic ups and downs, from the opening of The Chronicle Mill in 1901 to the cotton mill’s decline starting in the 1970s, and finally, to its transition into a town that embodies simplistic charm. But a spin around Belmont proves that history isn’t forgotten. Remnants of the town’s past are found in its architecture and woven into its overall character, an homage to the era that molded it.

“Given the rapid growth in such a short period of time, Belmont still has that special Southern small-town feel,” says Taylor Foulk, a longtime Belmont resident. As growth continues finding its way to Belmont — about 15 miles west of Charlotte — there’s still an endearing quality in its brick sidewalks, towering street lamps, small-town charisma and simple historic structures. Timeless.

Come hungry 

Honeycomb Café

Honeycomb Café is an inviting spot to start your day, serving breakfast classics — pancakes, waffles, French toast, eggs — along with a few specialty items like the Bumblebee Benny, served with honey-pepper bacon and herb hollandaise. At lunch time, sandwiches, wraps and salads are on the menu. (Don’t be afraid to get a little messy with the Buffalo Chicken Wrap; it requires a few extra napkins but is oh-so-delicious.)

The Bottle Tree serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday and Sunday brunch in a midcentury ranch that was once home to the mayor of Belmont. The menu here incorporates seasonal Southern ingredients in the globally inspired dishes, such as the Rohan Duck with a pandan apricot puree, blue oyster mushrooms and local greens. Seasonal cocktails and shareables are also on the menu. For a more casual meal, the restaurant’s food trailer, The Smoke Queen, serves up nachos and handhelds (tacos, burgers, sandwiches) featuring freshly smoked meats in the courtyard on Fridays and Saturdays.

Scenic haven

Left: Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is nothing short of magical. In the early 1990s, former textile executive Daniel J. Stowe established the botanical garden on 380 acres of pristine land. Thirty acres are open to visitors, including a children’s garden, cottage garden and perennial gardens, with walking trails throughout.

Enter through the light-filled visitor pavilion and immerse yourself in a day of tranquility, no matter the season. Watch butterflies float from flower to flower in the warmer months. Pick up a glass of wine from the Garden Shop and enjoy the sparkling fountains nearby. Or pretend you’re in a Jurassic Park movie (minus the T. rex) while strolling through the misty William H. Williamson, III, Orchid Conservatory. The 8,000-square-foot, five-story glass structure is home to enchanting orchids and tropical plants, like a cocoa tree, vanilla orchid and an orchid tree. During the holidays, a dazzling light display illuminates the garden.

Shop ’til you drop

Bargain hunters, take heed: You may wind up devoting much of your day to exploring a treasure trove of antiques, clothing and more at Belmont’s renowned Piccolo Antique Mall. Nestled in the town’s historic district, the dealer mall brims with eclectic collectibles, vintage wares, and unique clothing and accessories. With two stories chock-full of unique finds, it’s all too easy to get lost in the thrill of uncovering treasures, whether you’re searching for holiday decor, intricate glassware, a solid wood dining table with mismatched chairs, or a broken-in ’80s denim jacket.

Keep the shopping spree rolling with a stop at Jolie Boutique, which sells trendy women’s clothing and accessories. Or visit Catawba River Outfitters, where you can gear up for outdoor adventures at the Whitewater Center or Crowders Mountain — both are nearby. When it’s time to wrap up your retail therapy, give in to your sweet tooth cravings. The Cotton Candy Factory, located in an old 1880s hotel, honors Belmont’s cotton-mill history, serving the nostalgic sugary snack from restored cotton carts. Flavor choices are anything but dull, ranging from cheesecake and grape to creamsicle, champagne, lemon, watermelon, birthday cake and beyond. The shop is operated by Holy Angels, a local nonprofit that cares for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Piccolo Antique Mall and Primal Brewery

Raise a pint

Cheers to a day spent exploring. Sip a porter, IPA, Kolsch or pumpkin ale in the beer garden at Primal Brewery, just off downtown Belmont’s main drag. In the taproom, you’ll find a rotating selection of in-house brews, from the refreshing POG Grenade, a German-style gose, to the mighty Grim Creeper, an imperial IPA with a malty twist. If beer isn’t your thing, fear not; Primal also has a comprehensive wine list. The brewery — sibling to Primal’s flagship Huntersville location — also boasts a full-service menu with shareables, salads, flatbreads and sandwiches. Feeling competitive? Challenge a buddy to a game of cornhole in the game room.  SP

Featured image: Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden


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