New hotels are cool, but unless it’s where you plan to put up your guests when they come to town, there is not much of a reason for the average Charlotte resident to be too excited when a new hotel opens its doors.
Unless, of course, it has food or dining options worth visiting.
The first time I went to IRO, now open inside the now-open Hyatt Centric SouthPark Charlotte, I’m not going to lie — I was there for a glimpse at Mizu, the new rooftop restaurant opening in August (more on that later). IRO is billed as the Hyatt’s lobby bar, and when I heard “lobby bar,” I thought — Oh, that’s just for hotel guests. You know, to grab a quick coffee from the self-serve station or a bagel and some soppy scrambled eggs on the way to the first corporate meeting of the day.
I’m about to tell you why I was wrong.
How to get there
If you haven’t been exploring SouthPark’s side streets lately, you may have been as confused as I was when looking for IRO. Here’s what you need to know:
This may help: We’ve told you about some new restaurants nearby: Steak 48 and Just Salad. If you’ve been to either of those, you’re getting warmer.
- If you’re coming from SouthPark Mall, turn right on side street past Just Salad, then follow the curve to the left, and you’ve found the Hyatt Centric hotel. Get street parking if you can or park in the lot just past the hotel, head up the winding staircase to the second floor, and you’ve found IRO.
From breakfast to cocktails
IRO means “color” in Japanese, and the bar has colorful signature cocktails to match the theme. It has — cocktails, local craft beer and globally inspired wine. You’ll be able to snack on seasonal small plates as you enjoy live music and weekly activities.
“The food is Japanese-style influenced food, from pickled vegetables to koji ketchups to using gingers and fresh ingredients … from burgers to hummus platters to Japanese-style barbecue wings to pork belly,” Dustin Hildebrant, IRO’s executive chef, told CharlotteFive.
But first, breakfast (7 a.m.-11 a.m.):
- If, like me, you were picturing self-serve coffee in the lobby, check out this latte art on IRO’s Instagram account.
- The menu includes items such as Milk Bread French Toast (with local Cloister vanilla honey, butter, blueberry compote) for $12 or Steak & Eggs (with eggs your way, NY Steak, breakfast potatoes) for $18.
- The surprise: North Carolina-based Duck Donuts are on the menu for $3.
Lunch/dinner options (11 a.m.-10 p.m.):
- Start with the Tangy Chicken Wings for $14 (Gochujang hot sauce, black sesame, scallions). These are French-style wings with a Japanese-style barbecue sauce.
- For a main, check out the Poke Bowl for $21 (Ahi tuna, salmon, seaweed, edamame, cucumbers, radish, rice, pickled ginger, sesame seeds, yuzu ponzu, siracha mayo, wonton chips) or the SouthPark Beef Skewers for $17 (Coca-Cola and lemongrass glazed, pickled daikon radish).
- Save room: The Dark Chocolate Passion Fruit Bar for $9 (brownie, passion fruit cremeux, meringue shards and edible flowers) was still on my mind for days after I tried it.
PRO TIP: Looking for a new space to do some remote work? Come for breakfast, then linger while sipping on cappuccinos during your virtual meetings. If you stay until you’ve worked up an appetite for lunch, you’ve reached next-level status and you’ve earned that Crispy Chicken Sando you were eyeing all morning (with milk bread, honey mustard and Japanese pickles, for $15).
What about the rooftop restaurant?
In August, you will be able to dine at Mizu, the Hyatt’s new rooftop restaurant, which will offer live-fire cooking atop the new hotel. Mizu means water in Japanese and the dinner-only spot will open at 5 p.m.
You can expect a seafood-forward menu by by executive chef Michael Chanthavong, featuring ancient Japanese cooking combined with Southern influences and Asian flavors. The restaurant is named after the Japanese word for water.
Also expect libations from a cocktail program that will feature Japanese spirits and seasonal ingredients.