NoDa’s newest restaurant is serving up Sleek Southern Charm.
Charlotte has long been a New South city. Since its early transition from an agricultural town to an industrial city booming with the bulk of the Piedmont’s textile industry, the Queen City has aimed to become a contemporary Southern metropolis. That growth, built on industry, has often come at the expense of our city’s more historic charm. Charlotte likes new things, and discards much of its historic bones for more glittering structures. But it’s nice to remember where we came from, and more importantly, to honor it. After all, a city’s cultural identity is the sum of its parts. That desire became the impetus for Jeff Tonidandel’s new NoDa hotspot, Haberdish—a concept inspired by Charlotte’s mill town past.
The owner of Crepe Cellar and Growler’s Pourhouse has created a veritable restaurant row for hungry diners on the lively strip of North Davidson Street. His three concepts are on the same small block as you enter the heart of the eclectic NoDa neighborhood.
Tonidandel and Jamie Brown, his wife and business partner, spent a considerable amount of time exploring Charlotte’s history to create their new restaurant and bar concept, which leans on the days when NoDa was a mill community centered on the nearby Highland Mill. Back then, the food was simple and sustaining. In fact, the brick building that houses Haberdish was at the heart of the early community and served as the original general store.
The menu at Haberdish is Southern, inspired by the food of mill workers, but updated, in true Charlotte fashion, to more contemporary standards. You will find regional dishes like livermush, a classic Carolinian food tradition, and sonker, the pie and cobbler-like hybrid made popular in Surry and Wilkes counties. Both are elevated to a standard suitable to the palates of the hip, savvy diners that fill the soapstone-lined bar and reclaimed-wood dining tables. Tonidandel shied away from typical Carolina fare (read: barbecue), and opted to focus on fried chicken for the restaurant’s signature dish. The result, served atop retro-patterned plates, is a well-seasoned and juicy version of the classic comfort food. Don’t dismiss the smoked chicken with tangy Alabama white sauce, the family-style sides like the macaroni and cheese with crispy chicken skin, or the perfectly fried hushpuppies with sweet tea butter. The bar program, led by mixologist Colleen Hughes, takes its cues from pre-Prohibition cocktails, and its Amaro-heavy focus is reminiscent of the days when the apothecary served up fine elixirs for mind and body.
Tonidandel delves thoughtfully into Charlotte’s past to create a neighborhood atmosphere typical of his establishments—comfortable, well-designed spaces for easy gathering. From the selvage denim, sourced from Greensboro’s White Oak Mill, that lines the seats, to the bar taps made of former textile spindles, Haberdish takes a look back with an aim to create something new. How very Queen City. And by the looks of the wait at the door, it’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
Photos by Michael C. Hernandez