With the closing of the Athens Restaurant (which opened in 1964), Anderson's (1946) and possibly The Coffee Cup (1935), natives and long-time Charlotteans are starting to feel perplexed and sad. These mom-and-pop shops have become family traditions and are a beloved part of our culinary landscape.
But not all of our older restaurants face demise. Some restaurateurs bought their real estate; others passed the business down to second then third generations. Places like Price's Chicken Coop have been going strong since 1962 and the Ole Hickory House has been open even longer. Charlotte is still home to a sprinkling of these original restaurants. You should make a point to visit to take a bite of Charlotte's history.
George Fine once told me that he operated by the rule: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." He opened the Beef 'n Bottle in 1978. The name goes back to the brown bagging days of North Carolina. When liquor by the drink was passed in 1978, Fine obtained one of the first permits: number 34. Before opening Beef, Fine and his wife owned and operated the Amber House on North Tryon (another restaurant still in business). He owned a few more places downtown but decided to invest in real estate on South Boulevard and in 1982 relocated his restaurant to his land. His 90-seat restaurant reportedly served the first Oysters Rockefeller and Shrimp Scampi in town.
Beef 'n Bottle Restaurant, 4538 South Blvd. 704-523-9977.
The Copal Grill opened on Wilkinson Boulevard in 1948 and was bought in 1966 by Kleomenis Balatsias. Today it's still run by the family, but they, too, are living in the shadow of being closed -- in this case by the state. North Carolina purchased the property to have further access to the airport, so currently the restaurant is on a year-to-year contract with the state. Katina Balatsias said their current contract runs through 2007. So there's still time to get a daily fix of turkey and stuffing.
Copal Grill, 5923 Wilkinson Blvd. 704-392-2241.
The Diamond Restaurant has been operating in Plaza Midwood since 1945; owner Jerry Pistiolis has owned it for the last 25. Some may remember noticing the Diamond sign from Independence before that road became a highway. This restaurant is known for "home cooking" and specializes in fried chicken, chicken pot pie, biscuits and macaroni and cheese, among other items.
Diamond Restaurant, 1901 Commonwealth Ave. 704-375-8959.
Even if you haven't been inside, the sign "Fresh My Farm" beckons you. Gus's (at some point they dropped the second "s") Sir Beef opened in 1968 and was once a hang out like the Knife & Fork (closed) and Liberty East (still operating) nearby on Independence. Now the restaurant is run by descendents of Gus Bacogeorge. For a sure bet, try their fried squash.
Gus' Sir Beef Restaurant, 4101 Monroe Road. 704-377-3210.