Thick leaves covered the brick sidewalk in a cool shade – it was a welcome respite from the intensity of the summer sun. Silverware clinked on glass plates, and murmurs of conversation drifted through the air from the patio seating beneath giant colorful umbrellas. People meandered about with dogs in tow, children trailing behind, carrying bags of goods from local retail shops.
It would have been easy to look at the buildings lining the street and mistake it for Main Street in some small town. But, instead, it was Market Street in Baxter Town Center.
A 2003 advertisement in The Charlotte Observer laid out the amenities of Baxter Village – elementary school, public library, parks – and “just like in small towns of the past, Baxter’s Town Center is designed to be a center of attention, a gathering place filled with shops, restaurants, and offices.”
I parked behind a row of buildings, grabbed my camera bag and a notepad, and strolled down the brick sidewalks. It was my first visit to Baxter Town Center, and I could already see this place becoming a regular stop on my road trip adventures.
Insider Tip: All parking at Baxter Town Center is free of charge! Isn’t that a welcome break from the parking meter?
Restaurants at Baxter Town Center
Should I eat before or after exploring? I wondered. It was a common question that always runs through my mind. I decided it was best to have a full meal before spending a couple of hours walking around the pleasant community.
Fish Market has been an anchor of Baxter Town Center almost since the beginning – the doors opened in 2008. Owner Selena Kelemen wanted to create a place for “relaxed dining with an elevated cuisine level.” To do that, she hired the best chefs and let them loose with fresh seafood and local farm ingredients.
Sitting outside on the brand-new patio felt more like someone’s backyard than a restaurant. The comfortable tables were surrounded by plants and covered in the shade by ginormous market beige market umbrellas. The restaurant looked completely at home in Baxter Village with a covered porch, dormer windows, and white siding.
A bowl of creamy She Crab Soup arrived and set the tone for the meal – delicious, savory, prompting me to scrape the last remnants of soup from the depths of the bowl. The Chilean Sea Bass was one of their “signature dishes” – pan-seared and served over scallion risotto – and the second time that day I scraped the plate clean.
Other food choices exist in Baxter Town Center. A nice lady at Grapevine recommended Fratelli Ristorante and Pizzeria for their selection of pasta and New York-style pizza. Killington’s Restaurant & Bar’s menu looked inviting with Pepperjack Spinach Cheese Dip and a large selection of sandwiches. Although I’m not a fan of sushi, several locals recommended Akahana Asian Bistro. Tapas on Market – the latest addition to the food scene in Baxter Town Center – offers savory food along with local musicians every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night.
But when it came to my second visit to Baxter Town Center, I enjoyed lunch at The Lucky Duck. Locals still call it the Sixpence Pub after the previous restaurant to occupy the spot on Market Street – the iconic red telephone box is still outside. Inside, the brick floors and dark wood tables are accented by natural light flooding through large windows.
The menu selection was small – a handful of appetizers, burgers, and entrees – but with everything made in-house, it was savory to the last bite. I lingered around a bit before heading out again. The staff didn’t mind – the friendly waiter just kept refilling my sweet tea.
Shopping at Baxter Town Center
Walking out of The Lucky Duck, I heard the enticing trickling of a water fountain. I have always been fond of anything to do with water, so I followed the source to a beautiful fountain in a tiny grove of trees. Then, resisting the urge to doze off into a peaceful nap, I turned my back on the fountain and began the journey to explore the shopping at Baxter Town Center.
ChocolatBoutique was the temptation of the day – and the only one I successfully resisted. Fresh desserts are created daily in the small shop and displayed in a glass cabinet begging to be devoured. Around the corner, Grapevine Wine Shop was the place I couldn’t resist. A small bottle shop stocked with craft beer and wine from around the world offered a chance to take something home. But in the immediacy of a pleasant afternoon, I picked out a Doc’s Cider Hard Apple Cider from the bar and snuggled into a comfortable armchair to savor the beer.
The most surprising retail shop in Baxter Town Center was the Nailed It DIY Studio. The business was started in Fort Mill by a woman who wanted to create a public space for people to build their own arts and crafts for the home. Inside the store along Market Street, a large workspace in the back offered all the tools and supplies visitors would need to craft their own wares. In the front, a small retail shop offered the chance to take a few DIY crafts home with you.
At the other end of Baxter Town Center – a long walk that I needed to earn my final stop of the day – I found Cupcrazed Cakery. Inside the local bakery, large glass cases displayed the cupcakes, cookies, cake pops baked fresh every day of the week. All the baked goods had individual prices, but they had special offers for half a dozen and full dozen orders. I walked out the door with a box – though I’ll never tell how many goods I took with me that day.
Why You Need to Visit Baxter Town Center
It’s not often during my perpetual road trip across the country that I cross paths with family – but that’s exactly what happened in Lake Wylie, where my brother lives.
My brother, parents, and I met at his house for a few days around Father’s Day. Mulling about one morning, my mom broached the topic of taking my dad out for a Father’s Day dinner. I immediately snapped my fingers and said, “I know just the place!”
We had to make reservations at Fish Market to guarantee a table. Sitting outside on the patio, we enjoyed a dinner of appetizers, entrees, and drinks. Stories were shared – the more embarrassing, the better – while we enjoyed the pleasant afternoon.
Once dinner was over, I immediately thought, we can’t just leave. I guided everyone into Springmaid Park, where I had found the churning water fountain, and gave them the options. Drinks at Grapevine, shopping here and there, or dessert just up the street.
Everyone opted for a short walk to Cupcrazed Cakery. We arrived just twenty minutes before they closed for the day. Twenty-five minutes later – I was so thankful the staff hung it out with an indecisive family – we walked out with two dozen assorted goods that we would fight over for the next few days.
Baxter Town Center was developed as a small town of the past to bring together neighbors and create a community space. Today, it is a wonderful stop along Interstate 77 between Rock Hill and Charlotte for an evening of shopping, food, drinks, and dessert.
What kind of memory would you like to make on the off-Main Street destination in Fort Mill?