Mornings have always appealed to me. Maybe it’s the memories of entering the woods in the pre-dawn dark for a day of hunting with my dad and granddad that built this fondness, or maybe it’s my own circadian rhythms driving me to thrive in the early morning hours. Whatever it is, morning is my favorite time of day. I love waking up early to write or go to the gym, and breakfast is my favorite meal. In Charlotte, I’ve found the 7th Street Public Market, a place I keep returning to for one of the best cups of coffee I’ve had in North Carolina, a creative (and tasty) gourmet breakfast, and a place that I find sets my day off right.
The 7th Street Public Market is an open space lined with booths and counters where shop owners sell everything from fresh fish, meat, and produce to gourmet chocolates and salts to wine, coffee, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
At Not Just Coffee, they serve “pour over” coffee as well as traditional café drinks. Pour over coffee allows you to control the temperature of the water and speed of the brewing process to accentuate the flavor in the beans you’re brewing. Plus, watching the baristas work the system is pretty cool.
For the price of a regular cup of coffee, you can watch someone grind and weigh freshly roasted beans and then put them into a cone that goes into a special cup fitted into a rack. There, they pour water over the ground beans with what looks like an orchid watering can, stopping to let it steep or to bring the water back up to temperature. The result is a beaker of coffee (about two cups) that’s brewed perfectly and brings the subtlety of each bean to the forefront. And it’s the perfect mate to breakfast from Local Loaf.
Local Loaf leverages Chef Ada Spears’ knowledge of pastry and his passion for creative flavors to create some awesome breakfast dishes. The pancakes are spot on, but for a real treat try going beyond the familiar and into something more artistic – something like the Croque Monsieur, made from Sunkist-glazed ham, Swiss cheese, Mornay sauce and a poached egg, served with a butter-toasted brioche. Or, better yet, the Chicken and The Egg. This is my go to. It is comprised of a perfect buttermilk biscuit topped with micro greens, fried chicken, white cheddar cheese, a poached egg, and, wait for it, chipotle-Cheerwine sauce. The sauce is one part spicy, smoky goodness; one part Cheerwine-sweet; and 100 percent delicious.
There are other eateries here too; sushi, pizza, cheese and nutrient-packed smoothies and juices are all options. In addition, the North Carolina produce, meat and seafood selection is wide and impressive, making this a great place to stop when you’re making a meal that’s all sourced from within the state.
Two of my other favorites in 7th Street Public Market are back-to-back booths that sell two things I can’t live without: chocolate and salt. barChocolate gets crazy creative with their sweets. They make bon bons and truffles in flavors like ghost pepper and dark chocolate to raspberry Lambic beer milk chocolate. They use ingredients that include rosemary, lemon, balsamic vinegar, coriander and even Pop Rocks. Salts of the Earth sells all sorts of flavor-infused salts – black truffle, smoked apple wood, Tuscan herb, lemon, garlic, and many other unusual salts. Forget your standard fleur de sel, I’m talking big hunks of Persian blue salt (ranging from deep cobalt to Tar Heel blue), slabs of pink Himalayan salt, and crystal-clear Halite salt.
I could go on about the 7th Street Public Market, but you really should experience it yourself. In the early morning, a cup of pour over coffee and a plate of breakfast go quite well with a good book or some writing time. Later in the day the place begins to fill and buzz with energy as every shop opens and folks filter in to eat and shop. Next time you’re in Charlotte, come hungry and bring a cooler so you can take a taste of this market home with you.