The couple behind the popular Central Avenue restaurant Soul Gastrolounge has always tried to keep their thumbs on the pulse of Charlotte’s dining scene.
“There were very few tapas places when we opened Soul,” said Lesa Kastanas, wife of Soul’s owner, Andy Kastanas. (The couple also own the Diamond.) “Charlotte really wasn’t ready for small plates 20 years ago, but now we’re seeing it everywhere.”
It’s fitting, then, that Soul’s sister restaurant, which the Kastanases recently announced is tentatively set to open in Q2 of this year, is going to serve “Franco-Greco” cuisine. Over the past year, the Q.C. has seen an uptick in European-inspired concepts — Barcelona Wine Bar, Bulla Gastrobar, Mere’s, La Belle Helene, The Dunavant.
“We’ve had the lease on the space for a little over a year,” Lesa Kastanas said, adding that, since then, they’ve watched more and more restaurants with European influences open, particularly those that draw on French cooking traditions.
“French is the basis for a lot of food types,” she said. “It’s the background of everything.”
The yet-to-be-named restaurant, which will also have a cocktail bar and a rooftop space, will open below Soul, where art gallery Twenty-Two and a neighboring tattoo parlor used to be. Executive Chef Jay Pound and Bar Manager Kel Minton of Soul will oversee the food and beverage direction of both locations.
Like Soul, the new restaurant will serve small and shared plates. Kastanas said that although she’s using “Franco-Greco” to describe the menu, she wouldn’t call it a fusion restaurant. “It’s about how these two cultures work together,” she said.
If there’s a French chicken dish on the menu, for instance, it might include some kind of Greek seasoning. The menu will also have more plant-forward entrées because of the restaurant’s emphasis on Greek cuisine. (Andy’s family came to the U.S. from Greece in the 1950s, and resettled in Charlotte a decade later.)
Drinks will also be a big part of the dining experience. Kastanas said they plan to pay a lot of attention to Greek wine and classic cocktails. Quirky cocktail concoctions, however, will remain in Soul’s territory.
“We don’t want [this new restaurant] to compete with Soul,” Kastanas said. “The atmosphere in general is going to be a little more elegant, though not fine dining.”
For the interior, they’ve tapped Scott Weaver for his expertise; he also designed Soul for them. Weaver used a photo of an old London fashion store called Biba as inspiration for the restaurant’s “reinterpretation of ’70s glam.” The dining area will have a lighter look, the bar will be sleek and sexy, and a cute rooftop space will look out over Central.
Weaver will also be responsible for selecting local artists to feature on a rotating art wall. “We really want to be intentional about it by featuring up-and-coming artists,” Kastanas said, acknowledging that they’ll never be able to replicate the breadth of artists Twenty-Two brought to the strip.
Kastanas’ hope is that people just come out and enjoy themselves. After all, that’s what’s been happening at Soul over the past 10 years.
“Soul has been very good to us, and the neighborhood has been very welcoming,” Kastanas said. “We want food that people can share and have fun.”