Since owner Jeff Tonidandel’s restaurant Crepe Cellar has been open for seven-and-a-half-years and his other concept Growlers Pourhouse just celebrated six years yesterday, it’s obviously time for him to open his next business.
Construction is well underway on Haberdish at 3106 N. Davidson St., which is set to open early November on the same street and in the same neighborhood (NoDa) as the other two.
“We love the casualness of it, that everybody’s welcome over here,” Tonidandel said of himself and wife Jamie Brown, on choosing NoDa as the place to embark on this restaurant-curation adventure. “We really wanted to do a neighborhood place.”
They started with the elegant-date-night-meets-European-gastropub vibe of Crepe Cellar after coming back from a backpacking trip to Europe.
“I look at spaces and I kind of have some ideas of some concepts that we’d like to do,” Tonidandel said. “The whole journey of creating the space and doing something new is the really fun part.”
Which is why they opened Growlers next door when that space became available through their landlord.
“Crepe Cellar was more putting our dreams together from our travels, the challenge of just getting a restaurant open and having people show up,” Tonidandel said. But with Growlers, he said they thought, “Let’s make a craft beer bar, let’s get food that goes with the craft beer. Let’s explore that.”
Tonidandel delved into the art of making charcuterie and got certified as a cicerone.
Now he’s ready for a new challenge with Haberdish: Frying chicken.
Since Tonidandel is a foodie who hails from Cleveland, he has spent a lot of time researching Southern ways of frying chicken, specifically to take the consumer back in time to the tastes of Charlotte’s textile mill days.
He is now armed with two pressure fryers and said he and his team have mastered the fried chicken they want on the menu. Other items to expect on the small entree list are North Carolina trout and a vegetarian(!) chicken-fried cauliflower steak brined in the same flavoring as the chicken. He’s taking a progressive approach to Southern sides with items like cast-iron skillet charred okra with bacon jam, homemade tater tots, sweet potato dumplings, coleslaw – and the rest is still evolving.
Tonidandel’s other challenge in the Haberdish space is building a craft cocktail program that is pre-Prohibition focused. To start, a 1950s soda fountain has been acquired to set into the bar as a cocktail-making station. He also wants to add in an apothecary element with amaro (Italian herbal liqueur) and other ingredients like Campari. Crepe Cellar bartender Colleen Hughes has jumped in on this exploration as well.
Atmospheric elements to expect at Haberdish include white wood tables, white and gray brick, a soapstone bar top, silverware and lights made of copper, sliding barn doors to a side patio and booths made from indigo-colored denim from a North Carolina mill. The name “Haberdish” was also inspired by the word “haberdashery,” in keeping with Charlotte’s textile mill history.
But the very best part is yet to come. “Growlers and Crepe Cellar, they have a soul now,” Brown said. “It takes a couple years for a place to really create its own soul because it happens with the employees, it happens with the owners, it happens also with the people who come and what they create in it.”
That sounds like a good excuse for me to venture in for that cauliflower steak.
Photos: Katie Toussaint, Jamie Brown