Carolina Dine Around - January 28, 2022

Pandemic rebrandings and a deluge of doughnuts

Greek pastries at Sister are among the notable new arrivals this week
Greek pastries at Sister are among the notable new arrivals this week (Peter Taylor Photography)

By Robert F. Moss

It’s time once again for the Carolina Dine Around, your digest of the latest food and beverage news from the Carolinas.

Since the Southeastern Dispatch is based in Charleston, we tend to turn to the Lowcountry first and then move outward from there. Despite the Holy City’s ongoing efforts to subsume the rest of the Carolina dining scene, though, there’s been a lot going on in Charlotte lately, so we’ll start there this week.

Let’s dig in.


Pandemic-Era Rebrandings

Breakfast bowls, matcha, and phyllo handpies are in the new breakfast lineup at Sister
Breakfast bowls, matcha, and phyllo handpies are in the new breakfast lineup at Sister (Peter Taylor Photography)

The conversion of the former KiKi Bistro on Central Avenue in Plaza Midwood into a new all-day café is complete, and the new restaurant, called Sister, opened today (January 28th.) Owners Andy and Lesa Kastanas, the same team behind Soul Gastrolounge, are sticking with the Greek and Eastern Mediterranean theme but have adapted the offering quite a bit.

In a press release, Andy Kastanas attributes the transformation to “changes that are coming to this neighborhood, and the influx of newcomers” and cites requests from guests that they “offer our product and services to more people.” By “more people,” he seems to be referring at least in part to early risers, for Sister will now offer breakfast service with coffee, matcha, breakfast bowls, Greek pastries, and “phyllo handpies,” triangle-shaped takes on traditional phyllo-based pastries like spanakopita and tiropita.

But it may also mean ”people with more conventional tastes,” for the new menu steps back a bit from KiKi’s edgier offerings—sweetbreads with potato latkes, lamb neck roulade, the “cheeksburger” with braised beef cheeks on a brioche bun—in favor of Greek-themed small plates like baked feta with honey, pork gyros, and feta-stuffed lamburgers. Included in the mix are several menu favorites from Soul Gastrolounge, like Asian glazed pork belly tacos, lamb lollipops, and anchovy fries.

But not everything has changed. Sister will still feature live DJs on the weekend, and the adjoining Tattoo Liquor Lounge remains unchanged.

Kiki Bistro, we should note, opened in November 2019, and its owners aren’t the only restaurateurs to rethink the their formats during the pandemic and decide a rebranding was in order.

In the Unpretentious Palate this week, Shannon Blair says goodbye to Crêpe Cellar, the NoDa crêperie, which will close after brunch service on Sunday and reemerge in a few weeks as Ever Andalo. Blair gets the inside scoop from owners Jamie Brown and Jeff Tonidandel about the shift to the new format, which Brown describes as “a super vibey, fun, one-of-a-kind, highly-curated Italian restaurant.”

The Crêpe Cellar, which opened in 2009, had already expanded far beyond its original crêperie offering, styling itself “a European gastropub” and adding handmade pasta, roasted chicken cassoulet, and daily seafood specials. After getting hit hard by the pandemic, Brown and Tonidandel decided a more radical overhaul was in order. That will include a brighter decor, an “elevated” Italian menu accompanied by a deep Italian wine list, and a cocktail program focused on negronis and martinis.

Doughnut Daze

Some of those newcomers arriving in Charlotte are bringing a bunch of doughnuts with them. The Salty Donut, a small Miami-based chain, just announced it will open a Charlotte location this summer on the ground floor of the Dimensional Funds tower in the South End. Also coming this summer is Mochinut, an LA-based chain featuring its eponymous rice cake-meets-doughnut mashup, which will open its first North Carolina location in Pineville.

But the influx outsiders isn’t scaring locals away from the doughnut game. Joe and Katy Kindred, the restaurateurs behind Kindred and Hello Sailer, opened Milkbread in Davidson last weekend featuring glazed doughnuts based upon the recipe for their famous milk rolls at Kindred. How was the response? Kathleen Purvis reports for Eater Carolina that four times as many customers as expected descended upon the new shop and “almost broke it.”

The Kindreds decided to shut down for two days to catch their breath, but the shop reopened Wednesday and will keep its regular hours going forward, opening at 7:00 am and running all the way until 9:00 pm, for those who need their bedtime doughnuts.


A Spicy Takeover

Meherwan Irani is bringing the spice to the Post House on February 15
Meherwan Irani is bringing the spice to the Post House on February 15 (Tim Robinson)

Restaurateur, chef, and spice evangelist Meherwan Irani is heading down to the Lowcountry on Wednesday, February 16 to seize control of the kitchen at the Post House in Mount Pleasant. He’ll be teaming up with Post House Chef Nathan Hood for the Spicewalla Restaurant Takeover with a four-course Indian-inspired menu.

Irani’s restaurants include Chai Pani in Asheville and Decatur, GA, Botiwalla in Atlanta and Charlotte, and Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville. Spicewalla is his small-batch spice company, which he founded in 2017 to supply chefs and home cooks with “explosively flavorful” spices.

Tickets for the Spicewalla Takeover $75 per person and include a set of Spicewalla’s premium spices. Cocktails, beer, and wine will be available a la carte. Details and reservations available on Resy.

Lunch Like a Banker

Steak frites are on the new lunch menu at Brasserie la Banque
Steak frites are on the new lunch menu at Brasserie la Banque (Andrew Cebulka)

Brasserie la Banque, which opened for dinner service just after Thanksgiving, has now gotten its legs under it and will be adding lunch service next week from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. each day. Menu highlights include shellfish in croute, steak frites, Croque Madam sandwiches, and French onion grilled cheese.

Picking Your Grits

Ten years ago I would have chuckled if you told me someone was thinking about opening an entire restaurant centered on grits. Here in 2022, Frank Kline is having the last laugh. The chef/owner of Mount Pleasant’s Grace & Grit has been packing them in for flights of grits in an array of flavors since 2017 (and for good reason—they’re delicious.) Now he’s expanded to North Charleston, where the Grit Counter just opened on Montague Avenue. Guests can assemble their own grit bowls or choose from a slate of six signature combos along with burgers, sandwiches, and salads.

Magnolia’s Returns

Magnolia’s, one of the OGs of Charleston fine dining, reopened for service this week after being forced to shutter five months ago due to a kitchen fire.

Words of the Week

This week for the Post & Courier Parker Milner talked to a range of Charleston restaurateurs about how the staffing situation is panning out in the early days of 2022. Notable phrases include “temporary closures”, “dialed back hours”, “tough to navigate,” “hard decisions,” “mental beatdown,” and “this really dynamic, confusing time.”

The Triangle

Slow Boom

It didn’t happen all in one big bang like was originally expected, but Raleigh keeps steadily adding to its expanding barbecue scene. The latest arrival is Lechón Latin BBQ, which just opened next to the Barnes & Noble at the Triangle Town mall. In the lineup are Peruvian chicken, pernil pork, ribs, and Argentine sausages along with an assortment of empanadas, tacos, and barbecue-topped flatbreads.

Mead Moves

Charlotte may be losing a crêperie, but Durham has gained a meadery. Indy Week profiles Moon Dog Meadery, a combination bottle shop, craft meadery, and board game café on Broad Street. It’s still a work in progress—their first batch on on-premise-brewed mead won’t be ready until March—but until then there’s plenty of wine, beer, cider, and bottled mead from other meaderies for sale.

Elsewhere in the Carolinas

The Charleston Export Economy

Charleston-based restaurants continue their kudzu-like march across the rest of the Carolinas. Carmella’s Café and Dessert Bar, which sells gelato and pastries on East Bay Street in Charleston, announced this week that it has leased a 2,400 square-foot spot in the downtown Greenville overlooking Falls Park and the Reedy River, with plans to open by August.

There was one small setback in the colonization effort this week, though, for Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, citing staffing issues, closed its outpost in Charlotte’s South End after two years in business.

Wade Into the Columbia Food Scene

Columbia’s Free Times was without a food writer for a while after David Clarey got promoted to Managing Editor, but that gap has now been filled. Earlier this month the paper announced that Hannah Wade has been hired for the role, and she’s already filed a dozen stories on topics ranging from a profile of food trucks making the jump to brick and mortar to the backlash faced by pizzeria Il Focolare when it began requiring vaccine cards.

Wade is a native of Chester and a recent graduate from the University of South Carolina. More important, she has a cat named Bagel and while “a broke college kid” developed a fondness for “the barbecue buffet at Little Pigs.” She appears well qualified for the job.

About the Author

Robert F. Moss

Robert F. Moss is the Contributing Barbecue Editor for Southern Living magazine, Restaurant Critic for the Post & Courier, and the author of numerous books on Southern food and drink, including The Lost Southern Chefs, Barbecue: The History of an American Institution, Southern Spirits: 400 Years of Drinking in the American South, and Barbecue Lovers: The Carolinas. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina.