Food for thought

I’m sure you’ve noticed the recent proliferation of new restaurants taking up residence in south Charlotte. A pizzeria, a hot dog shop and a burger joint all have opened their doors, along with Thai and Japanese cuisine. The Rusty Onion, JJ’s Red Hots, Burger 21, Bahn Thai, Tsuki Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar, Bradshaw Social House and Broken Egg Café times two – to name a few.

(Above) Andrew Wilen and Alyssa Gorelick are teaching people how to have fun and eat healthy at the same time at the new Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen.

(Above) Andrew Wilen and Alyssa Gorelick are teaching people how to have fun and eat healthy at the same time at the new Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen.

Even if the economy continues to gain momentum, all of these restaurants will not be here in five years. Some of them won’t be open in a couple of years, and one may not even make it to its first anniversary. Examples include the recently closed Skillets and Rotelli Pizza & Pasta. What did they do wrong; or to be more positive, what do they need to do to get it right and be successful? Does it take an extensive menu, valet parking, an elaborately designed atmosphere, sharply attired staff, dozens of wines and 101 bottles of beer on the wall? How about a flashy website? The answer, of course, is none of the above. New restaurateurs and their staff, please take note.

I submit for your consideration an establishment that has been quietly building a strong, loyal following that has continued to grow for 24 years and counting. You won’t find advertisements about this successful and popular destination. In fact, there isn’t even a website. Can you believe it? I’m referring to the Selwyn Avenue Pub. Yes, it is a quaint old house with an enormous old oak tree in the center of the patio, with its fireplaces, couches and big screen televisions. And yes, there’s a full bar outside and another in the main room, with tables and chairs and plenty more flat screens. And, no, there’s not a lot of parking directly on the property, so you may have to walk. A big menu? Not really.

So, why the steady, long-term success? It’s Doc Foster, owner, and Coach Foster, his dad – they are directly responsible for all you see, hear and taste at Selwyn Pub. It comes down to implementing a very clear vision; it’s an attitude and philosophy. The right philosophy.

Doc opened the place with the intent of building the business by adding one family member after another, after another, listening intently to guests and implementing their ideas. You may come in as a guest; you’ll leave as one of the family. You’ll see Doc or Coach most every time you stop in, along with the same friendly, family-oriented staff. In short order, they’ll know you by name, and they’ll know what you drink and what you like on your pizza.

You’ll meet adults who have been coming in since they were children, and now are bringing in their own kids.

How many restaurants do you know that do not charge you more money for extra toppings on a pizza? Selwyn Pub allows you to add as many toppings as you choose to any pizza for no extra charge. And it’s very good New York-style pizza. If you like wings, you need to taste these. The special cooking process makes them crispy delicious. And the prices of the pizzas and the fresh jumbo wings are lower than most other eateries around the area.

Beer and wine are reasonably priced, and the draft beer is very cold and very fresh – you can taste it. No wonder the place fills up nightly; everyone working there cares as much as Doc and Coach to please you. Find out for yourself and visit the Selwyn Avenue Pub at 2801 Selwyn Ave. They are there to welcome you Monday to Friday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Newer to the neighborhood

Who’s cookin’? – Andrew Wilen, co-owner of Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen, along with Alyssa Gorelick. That’s who. Together they have launched a Hands-On Cooking Class company in Charlotte. They offer five different ability levels, and the classes are held inside Atherton Market in South End. Classes are in the evening on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Alyssa is a notable local chef and has been cooking in the restaurant industry her entire career. They will specialize in healthy and sustainable cooking, with an emphasis on using local produce. The goal is to provide a comfortable social environment that will allow guests to enhance their skills; the classes are designed for folks who love to cook and eat healthy. Grand opening classes are scheduled for Aug. 21, Sept. 12, 18 and 24. The school can fit up to 20 per class and is available for private and corporate events. Find more information at www.chefalyssaskitchen.com.

Hot diggety dog – If you have been to the original JJ’s on East Boulevard, you know why I am excited to have a second one here in south Charlotte. JJ’s Red Hots is now open in Ballantyne, formerly Creole’s Louisiana Kitchen (a poor excuse for New Orleans cuisine). The place has been totally remodeled with a great new look, offering the same delectable hot dogs, hand-spun milkshakes and cold draft beers. My favorite dog is the Char Heel – chili, slaw, diced onions and mustard. The house-made bratwurst also is scrumptious. See the entire menu at www.jjsredhots.com.

Break me two eggs – Not just one, but two Another Broken Egg Cafe restaurants have begun cracking and scrambling in south Charlotte. The first location opened Aug. 5 in Ballantyne where the Skillets recently resided, followed by another that opened in SouthPark on Sharon Road on Aug. 14. I’ll have to make an investigative field trip. Check them out at www.anotherbrokenegg.com.

Pizza and beer – As the email exclaims for this newest pizzeria and pourhouse – “After a little more than a year of planning, building, testing, more planning, building and testing, The Rusty Onion is finally open for business!

Thank you for choosing to keep up with us through email updates and for your patience during the long build-out. We appreciate you more than words can say, and we are so excited to open our doors and serve you. So, what are you waiting for? Come on over for a meal and drink!” I’ll accept the invite. They are located in the former home of Carmella’s Pizza in the Carmel Commons shopping center. I’m all for yummy pizza and a cold draft – another stop to add to the list. Learn more at www.therustyonion.com.

I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday… – The burger wars are heating up in south Charlotte. Burger 21, a new fast-casual burger company, opened its first North Carolina eatery in Ballantyne Village. The burgers are fresh, 100-percent

Certified Angus beef. The menu features some over-the-top concoctions like the Tex-Mex Haystack – lettuce, tomato, applewood-smoked bacon, Gouda, guacamole and onion strings with chipotle-jalapeño sauce on a toasted brioche bun. You’ll also find seafood burgers, veggie burgers, turkey burgers and chicken burgers. Gotta check them out, of course. You can check them out at www.burger21.com.

Just beyond the neighborhood

‘Que me up – Recently named Top 10 BBQ Joints in America by Relish.com, the newest Moe’s Original BBQ has opened in Matthews. There are currently 26 locations in all with three in North Carolina. After helping run the

Moe’s Original BBQ in Asheville, Brian and Janeen Fairhurst teamed up with Brian’s brother Craig to feature the Southern Soul Food Revival in Matthews. The Moe’s Original BBQ concept prepares meats smoked fresh daily complemented by traditional Southern sides and desserts from recipes passed down for generations. It also features a kids menu, take out and full service catering for business events and luncheons, as well as special events, parties and weddings of all sizes. The bar offers 12 local and regional craft beers on tap, bottled domestics, craft beer and wine. I’ve tasted several menu items and they were delicious. As they put it, “enjoy some good ‘Que and Southern hospitality.” Find out more at www.moesoriginalbbq.com.

Questions, comments, south Charlotte restaurant openings, closings and food news, email culinary@thecharlotteweekly.com.

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