Who can stop them? Chef Greg and Subrina Collier are once again putting their stamp on Charlotte’s culinary scene with the opening of their juke joint restaurant concept, Leah & Louise.
At a sneak peek of the Camp North End eatery, the two-time James Beard-nominated chef and his wife/business partner talked about the inspiration behind their latest venture.
Sitting across from the dynamic duo, you couldn’t feel the anxiety expected from a pair who are days away from opening their second restaurant in two years.
The couplepreneurs manage to balance business and marriage while giving off #CoupleGoals #BlackLove vibes.
It’s in the details
While the couple caters to the breakfast and brunch crowd at their uptown eatery The Yolk, they want patrons to fall in love with dinner at Leah & Louise.
Three years ago, the idea of opening a dinner spot came to Greg while working at now-closed Loft & Cellar. According to Greg, Subrina wasn’t interested because of the time required.
“I worked those long nights and weekends as a waitress,” she said. “I didn’t want to go back there, but I know Greg loves the experience of dinner.”
Their thoughtfulness for each other extends into every aspect of the restaurant, starting with the name. Leah & Louise is named for Greg’s late sister and grandmother, respectively.
The 1,800-square-foot space with seating for 58 includes a large community table inside and 16 seats on its patio. Leah & Louise will be one of Charlotte’s first fully cashless restaurants.
Inside, the decor brings the feel of a modern-day juke joint to life with wooden tables and chairs, church pews and antique couches reminiscent of the ones that would’ve been covered with plastic at your grandma’s house — to be clear, there’s no plastic included.
Subrina, the mastermind behind the restaurant’s interior design, explained that she wanted the couches to serve as a comfortable waiting area that includes a desk and coaster to place your drinks on.
“If there’s a wait, I want people to have a place to enjoy their cocktail with blues playing in the background. I want people to encounter the vibe so that, even before they are seated to eat, they have already had an experience,” she said.
When it comes to the menu, Greg wants customers to experience its deep Southern flavors found in areas like Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
The one-page menu lists several “Bar None” small plates like the River chips, a plate of fried chicken skins mimicking New Orleans’ Voodoo chips served with a granch dipping sauce. Continue with “Where I’m From” entrees and “Sum Mo” sides.
In the dessert section titled “The Shugahs,” find selections like Greg’s granny-inspired “Arthur Lou” tart with a Tang-flavored filling hugged by an oatmeal crust and topped with a ginger meringue and dried orange.
No menu is complete without signature cocktails. In-house mixologist Justin Hazelton follows the modern-day juke joint theme with classic drinks with a twist like tiki cocktails and sours. The seasonal Zodiac Punch will represent the 12 zodiac signs. First up will be the Aries Punch, which features “seasonal ingredients that make sense.”
All about community
Hazelton isn’t the only familiar face from the popular Soul Food Sessions dinner series on staff at Leah & Louise. Joining him are up-and-coming female chefs Tchnavia “Tché” Carter (sous chef) and Jasmine Macon (pastry sous chef). The Colliers plan for the restaurant to be a platform for Black women and another space where on-the-rise culinary stars can be mentored and celebrated for their uniqueness.
The pair is also eyeing Charlotte’s young Black professionals.
“We want a space that everyone feels welcomed, but we feel in Charlotte, there is no space where young Black professionals can go wind down and listen to blues that is not a club. We wanted to create that space,” Subrina explained.
Each detail keeps the community in mind, from the community table of repurposed materials to the rotating PWYC (“Pay What You Can”) community dish.
In the coming months, patrons enjoying brews next door at Free Range Brewing will have access to order menu items from Leah & Louise. Its kitchen window serves as a pass-through to Free Range’s taproom.
Leah & Louise is a thoughtful gift to Charlotte from the Colliers. I thank them both for sharing their dream and keeping “us” — the community — in mind.
Leah & Louise is the first restaurant to open at Charlotte’s Camp North End, located at 301 Camp Road, Suite 101. It opens to the public on March 20. Due to limited seating, it’s strongly suggested to make reservations.
Restaurant hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. with a family-style supper on Sunday nights. Lunch and brunch will be added at a later date.
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