BY ANNE GLENN
The Innovation Quarter (IQ) is urban renewal at its finest. As the fastest growing area of Winston-Salem, this area is becoming the model for how to create modern spaces using old warehouses and historic buildings. Enjoy a full day in the Innovation Quarter to see why it’s become such a hot-spot in downtown Winston-Salem.
Start your day with a biscuit and coffee at Krankies. Krankies was founded before the IQ took off as a respite for independent thinkers and artists, and it still maintains its reputation for excellent coffee with a side of hipster edge. The menu at Krankies changes occasionally, but crowd favorites are the Krankies Classic, which features fried chicken on a biscuit with a honey + Texas Pete sauce, and the Redhead, which is a biscuit stuffed with fried chicken, bacon, goat cheese, and spicy red pepper jelly.
After fueling up for the morning, walk across 3rd Street to the entrance of the Long Branch Trail. This trail serves as a 1.7 mile connector, linking downtown to Salem Lake, so you can opt for a longer walk. There are also bikes for rent at the entrance to Long Branch, and the trail makes this a safe and easy selection. If you decide to walk, the loop that circles around the Innovation Quarter is easy and takes 20 to 30 minutes depending on speed. Make sure to stop at the murals along the way.
Once you’re ready for lunch, head over to Alma Mexicana for contemporary Mexican food. Like its sister restaurant, The Porch in the West End, Alma is known for its fresh menu. We can never pass up the Three Amigos as an appetizer – chips served with queso, guacamole, and salsa – but then it’s hard to choose a main dish. All tacos can be served as either a rice bowl or salad, so make the Las Carnitas your base and decide how you’d like to eat it.
Next, cross Patterson Avenue to Bailey Park for people watching and relaxing. Located in the heart of the Innovation Quarter, this park is hugely popular. Look for programming here year-round, with free outdoor movies, yoga, concerts, and more. The Winston-Salem Cycling Classic literally laps the park in one of the most exhilarating races to watch, and the Gears & Guitars festival will take over Bailey Park (this year both events will be September 9-11, 2022). There are frequently food trucks set up in the upper section, and there are always kids and dogs when the weather is nice.
For a sweet pick-me-up, stroll over to Black Mountain Chocolate Bar. Take a free tour of their factory, learn about how they create their chocolate bars, and sample cocoa nibs. This boutique chocolate factory uses minimal ingredients that are high quality and ethically sourced, so everything they make is intensely delicious. Black Mountain Chocolate Bar serves a variety of sweets, ice cream, and drinks, though our favorite thing to order is the cocoa nib brownie.
For the quintessential Innovation Quarter experience, it’s time to hit the Coal Pit. As soon as you see the Coal Pit, you’ll understand why people flock here. Grab a beer at Incendiary Brewery first, walk next door to Cugino Forno to order pizza, and snag a table outside for the best vibes. The Coal Pit was, well, a pit that once housed coal for the RJ Reynolds Tobacco factories, that has now been reimagined as an outdoor patio. The amount of kids riding bikes and scooters on a warm night is innumerable, but you’ll also frequently see outdoor yoga and concerts here, too.
End your night with either soft serve from Lill Dipper or a cocktail at Fair Witness, depending on your mood. Lill Dipper is renowned for its whimsical toppings, with everything from frosted flakes and crushed up cookies to gummy bears and cotton candy drizzle – just make sure to take a picture of your cone in front of their colorful backdrop. If you decide on a nightcap at Fair Witness, sit outside to soak up the stellar Innovation Quarter views. We recommend the Lavender Fantasy if it’s on the menu, though their handcrafted cocktails are always a delight.