John Jenkins knew he wanted to honor his late mother, Goldie Loretta Jenkins, but didn’t know when or how to do it.
In 2021, Jenkins decided to honor his mother by opening a restaurant. And in May 2023, Loretta’s Restaurant opened in south Charlotte. The homestyle restaurant offers New Orleans-style cuisine with a Southern twist.
His mother always dreamed of owning her own home, and they often talked about what it would look like, but in her lifetime, she wasn’t able to make that dream happen.
Jenkins created the restaurant’s design and ambiance to mirror what his mother wanted her home to look and feel like.
He chose table and chair styles and lighting fixtures based on decor his mom would choose from design books.
Although Loretta Jenkins didn’t live to see it, Jenkins says it’s a way to keep her alive and finally bring her dream to fruition.
Jenkins said he wants to own multiple locations and hopes to open the second Loretta’s next year.
How it’s going
Since opening, Jenkins told QCity Metro that “business has been very good,” and the restaurant has seen a lot of foot traffic.
“I think the biggest thing people rave about is the ambiance, which is what I was really looking for,” he said of guest feedback.
Loretta’s menu is inspired by the many trips his mother took to New Orleans during his childhood.
Jenkins, who has a 12-year background as a chef, said there are two styles of New Orleans cooking: cajun and creole.
The menu at Loretta’s focuses on Creole cooking style, which tends to be less spicy than Cajun and includes ingredients such as tomatoes, shrimp and oysters.
A popular choice among guests –, and Jenkins’ favorite — is Loretta’s Gumbo, a dish that features chicken and andouille sausage in a hearty red sauce over a bed of golden Carolina rice.
Jenkins wants to open additional restaurants and hopes to open a second location next year.
He said each restaurant would have the same New Orleans-style food and have specialty menu items inspired by the location.
“If you’re near the water, let’s say, Austin [Texas] or something like that, definitely [expect] more seafood,” Jenkins said.
Although Jenkins’ parents are no longer living, his siblings, as well as aunts and uncles, have visited the restaurant and noted feeling a sense of pride. Jenkins said some shared that it’s an “honor” to have a piece of their family tied to the establishment.
“My mother was always my best friend [and] she passed when she was young; she was only 62,” Jenkins said. “When I was building [the restaurant] out, I made sure that this was something she would have loved.”
If you go
Where: 8500 Pineville-Matthews Road
Hours: Wed.-Thurs. 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. | Fri.-Sat. 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.