It's spring. Finally. Prime time for good food and music on Charlotte's quintessential patio at RuRu's Tacos & Tequila. It's the current and most compelling rustic incarnation at The Villa, the Tuscan-style home built in the 1920s by heiress Blanche Reynolds, now divided into multiple businesses. (And for long-term Charlotteans who remember drinking by the swimming pool late into the summer nights, the pool is still buried.)
RuRu's is the product of Martin Sprock, an experienced restaurateur and entrepreneur known for franchising companies he founded — and sold — like Raving Brands (Shane's Rib Shack, Planet Smoothie, Flying Biscuit Cafe, Monkey Joe's). For now RuRu's, which opened in early November 2014, is an only child.
Sprock knows the mind of the neighborhood, and by that I mean the people who live in the venerable Myers Park. But then, Sprock lives in Myers Park. He has spent money where he needed to — like the Steelite tableware. The plates, made in Stoke-on-Trent, the historic British pottery district (think Wedgwood), have a rustic elegance and just enough fun. Sparkling salsas and luscious guacamole are served in free form bowls. Though the classic palladium windows still frame the patio here, a long bar, exposed beams and an original fireplace help warm the interior.
RuRu's is a place to hang out. Tables are filled with families, work groups, friends — a cross section of the neighborhood.
The menu, served all day, is fun as well. Dishes bear the phrases from iconic movies: "That's not Snowflake," "I'll have what she's having," "Stage Five Clinger." The roster includes tacos, burritos, fajitas, salads — the usual suspects. But these are not your abuela's tacos. Sure there's a tasty rendition of a pork carnita paired with crisp chicharrónes and a piquant slaw, but chef Andy Caswell does a jazzy riff on a Korean-styled skirt steak taco, and the fried oyster taco is slathered with a creamy horseradish sauce with a pickled jalapeno float. Tacos are cheap: either $3.50 or $4. What more can you say about tacos than one is a snack, three is a meal. Expect a platoon of dishes to crowd the tables if you do not order carefully, or serially.
Some may quibble with the amount of cheese on the smothered-style steak burrito ("Clarence Beeks"), but nobody has a problem with the quesadilla section, which includes a tripled stacked cheese and a double stack with mushrooms and peppers. In a large ravenous group, you can supplement these choices easily with RuRu's excellent guacamole, salsa and warm, crisp tortilla chips.
For a casual spot, RuRu's has an inspired and very brief wine list. There are only a dozen wines by the glass, yet you can get Landmark Vineyard Overlook Chardonnay. Again, a nod to the neighborhood. The signature cocktail, The Friend Zone, is a margarita, of course. Beers on draft include OMB and NoDa seasonals, and Birdsong Jalapeno.
RuRu's service is good-natured and efficient. The live music is diverting. Prices are reasonable. I can count the restaurateurs who have moved into Myers Park touting expensive interiors, expensive dishes and wine lists, assuming that residents of Charlotte's most prestigious zip code buy into that extravagance regularly. In truth, though, neighborhoods in any zip code want causal neighborhood joints. The beauty of this unassuming spot is you can just drop in on a whim or whenever the craving for a taco strikes.